Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Features / Living

July 8, 2007

Jersey Isle of Texas

Some may remember that nearly 60 years ago a sign stood on the court house lawn proclaiming Johnson County “The Jersey Isle of Texas.”

The county had more registered Jersey cattle than any of the other 253 counties in the state.

But Johnson County — an island?

A little checking reveals that the cattle were named for the English Channel Island of Jersey, where they were bred. The Jersey apparently descended from cattle stock brought over from the nearby Norman mainland and was first recorded as a separate breed about 1700.

It appears the oldest settlers in Jersey were Danish Vikings who brought cattle with them that resembled the Jersey.

By 1910 more than 1,000 head were exported annually from England to the United States — and some of those found their way to Johnson County.

Gracie Southerland, born in 1916, remembers well the Jersey cattle her father, Lloyd C. Jones, had on their dairy farm in Bono, west of Cleburne.

“They were registered, and we were very proud of them,” she said. “They were shipped in from another state. I remember showing a Jersey heifer at the county fair when I was a teenager. Most dairy farmers had Jersey cows because the milk was so rich.

“Papa bottled the milk and sold it to stores in Cleburne and delivered it to people’s homes in glass milk bottles. He called it the ‘best Grade A raw milk’ anywhere.

“My husband, Eaphy, and I bought my dad’s remaining cattle after he decided to sell. We used his facilities until we bought our farm in 1951. I was a full-time dairy maid, caring for the calves. In 1983, our youngest son, Randy, became the new dairy owner, and we all worked together.”

She said dairy families gradually replaced the Jersey with Holstein cattle. Their milk was not as rich, but they produced a lot more — which meant more income.

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