Post Builds His Fortune
In 1897, in a little white barn in Battle Creek, Michigan, the energetic C.W. Post changed the cereal world when he introduced Grape Nuts, one of the first ready to eat cold cereals in the world. He had already gained notoriety from his invention of Postum, a coffee substitute, 2 years earlier. Prior to that, Post had built a fortune inventing and patenting such devices as the cultivator, steam pump, and suspenders. Not content to rest on his laurels after his success, in 1907 he created a new corn flake cereal named Elijah’s Manna. After much public uproar over the blasphemous name, the cereal was rechristened Post Toasties which quickly became (and still is) one of the top selling cereal brands (in 1980, Post made over $2 million profit on Post Toasties alone). His product line grew to over 60 products within 20 years and the parent company was renamed General Foods Corporation. Consequently, C. W. Post became one of the richest people in the world even though his extreme work ethic took a terrible toll on his health and mental stability.
Most people who knew C. W. Post thought of him as a dreamer and perhaps a little eccentric (and in his later years, very much peculiar). He created many of our modern day marketing techniques including blitzkrieg advertising campaigns, coupons, product demonstrations, and free samples – Post has been called the “grandfather of advertising”. Most people are familiar with his name, but few people are aware of his unusual project to create a perfect, utopian town – Post, Texas. His project, meant to be a means of relaxation for him, would end up further diminishing his health and eventually would be a contributing cause of his death.
Post Moves to Texas
In the early 1900’s, Post, upon the advice of his doctor, moved his entire family to Fort Worth, Texas where the warm, dry climate was suggested to improve his health. Upon arriving in Fort Worth, the energetic Post began envisioning a utopian city that could strive and survive on its own resources. His effort to achieve this dream was a stop and go adventure to say the least. It seemed that each time he attempted to start his project, he would suffer a nervous breakdown and would be forced to postpone his ostentatious plans.
C.W. once said, “the welfare work I believe in is that which makes it possible for man to help himself, but does not include holding the milk bottle after he is weaned.” This statement was one of the basic doctrines Post followed when designing and creating his idyllic town. Post’s model town would allow the common man making ordinary wages, the opportunity to purchase a home and live in a community offering all the amenities the laborer could want for. There would be no handouts and the homeowner was expected to be self-sufficient. His Utopia would be self sustaining, free of crime, affordable, and above all – unique.
In 1906, Post hired a Texas rancher to look over some property in the desolate West Texas area. Texas offered wide open spaces, plenty of natural resources, very good agricultural potential, and a sparse population with plenty of room to grow. Post then bought over 250,000 acres of land (formerly Curry Ranch) including a huge plot in Garza County where he would commence the development of his utopian dream and begin colonization of his new town. His grand scheme was kept secret and for whatever reason, only small details were disclosed to the public as the project progressed.
In 1907, Post formed the Double U Company (Double “U”topia Company) and named W.E. Alexander as manager. Post then purchased over 2 dozen wagons and nearly a hundred mules. The trails into Garza County were almost impassable and no other means of transportation were available in that region of the state at that time. The wagons were painted bright red and blue and loaded with all the provisions needed to create his promise land. The wagons passed through Snyder, Texas and into the majestic Caprock where new trails were blasted for the journey. Upon arrival, a tent city was created to house the workers and the construction of the town began.
Post kept a hand in all aspects of the venture and oversaw the design and construction of all the homes under the banner of the Double U Company. There were only two designs of homes available: a 4 bedroom model and a 5 bedroom model. The square shaped houses were modest abodes with a large sloping roof and wrap around porches. Homes were built on 80-160 acre plots with the houses built on the corners of the adjacent lots. Post thought placing the houses close together would help relieve the loneliness of the women in this desolate place. This placement of the houses was soon changed when Post discovered how unpopular this concept was with the squabbling neighbors.
Soon, 35 homes were completed. Concrete block buildings were constructed to house the commissary store, workmen’s dining room, and office buildings. Everything seemed to be going as planned until May 10th when an urgent wire was sent to Post. A survey of Garza County had been completed and it was discovered that Post’s town was 8 miles east of the center point of the county. The laws in Texas stated that the county seat must be located within 4 miles of the geographical center of the county and Post was insistent that his new city become the county seat of Garza County. The word went out – the town must be moved.
Let’s Start Over
All moveable buildings were relocated to a spot 2 miles east of Caprock. What could not be moved, now called Close City, was abandoned. New construction began and upon blasting trails, a white sandstone lode was discovered. Taking advantage of the new find, a quarry was built and the new material was used in subsequent construction of rock buildings, a find that substantially lowered the costs of construction.
Post, who continued to carefully monitor all details of the construction efforts, completed construction of the Algerita Hotel in 1908. The new hotel was needed as people began pouring into the new utopia faster than homes could be built. A restaurant, drug store, grocery store, machine shops, lumber yards, and necessary businesses were constructed. Post created a mail route to nearby Snyder and also bartered with Santa Fe to have a rail route relocated to pass through the city. In the midst of all this construction, Post’s ideals grew.
More Grand Ideas
Despite the dry climate and desert like conditions, Post had water wells dug and a water transport system constructed to route water from the nearby Caprock (where the two heads of the Brazos River meet). He began to foresee a town with flowers growing in every yard and fruit orchards providing needed fresh food to residents. Parks were built as models of how residents should construct the gardens around their homes.
Post conducted extensive experimentation with crop techniques on hundreds of varieties of plants and found that corn and cotton were best suited for the area. Awards were given to residents for the prettiest yards in an effort to persuade them to follow the guidelines for flower planting and the 3 acre required fruit plots. Post even conducted rainmaking experiments with some reported success (until 1913 when rain became plentiful and the experiments were halted).
Post took every opportunity to discover any viable means of making his town self-sustaining. At one point he brought in a geologist to test for oil. When the tests proved positive, oil wells were drilled beginning in 1910. After several failed tries the oil drilling was halted. Years later is was discovered that if Post had drilled just a few hundred feet deeper he would have hit on of the largest oil deposits in the state of Texas.
With a self sustaining society in place, social changes were soon implemented. Schools and churches were formed. A baseball team was created to provide amusement for the families. A bank was formed with Post seeding it with 70% of the money. A hospital was built with doctors brought in from neighboring areas. A huge, man-made lake was built on the outskirts of town.
By 1913, the exhausted Post was satisfied with his creation and began to retreat from the town of Post to Santa Barbra, California. Left alone, the town continued to prosper. One year later, on May 9, 1914, Post died.
Today, the city of Post, Texas is still alive and kicking with a population of 5,143 residents. There are striving restaurants, including a McDonalds, and 2 movie theatres. You can visit Post and explore 31 historical markers scattered throughout the city or visit one of the two local museums. During your visit you’ll probably notice that most of the buildings look strangely similar in appearance with only minor changes in facades. It’s not a coincidence – Post planned it that way.