A sepia-tone historic photo of a town

Photo courtesy DeGolyer Library at Southern Methodist University

Photographer M.C. Ragsdale, who took this photo of San Angelo with the newly built Tom Green County Courthouse in the background, found his photography business taking off in tandem with the nascent town. Born in 1849, Ragsdale moved from his native South Carolina to Texas after the Civil War. He bought a camera in 1870 and became an itinerant photographer whose circuit included Menard, Belton, Brownwood, and Fort McKavitt. In 1882, Ragsdale moved permanently to San Angelo and opened a photography business. It was a momentous time: In August of that year, a devastating flood in Ben Ficklin, the county seat at the time, killed 65 citizens and necessitated the county seat’s move to San Angelo. The town flourished and so did Ragsdale’s business—he operated it for 36 years until he sold it and retired. Ragsdale’s photography consisted mainly of portraits and landscapes. Tragically, almost all of his photographic plates were destroyed, but the prints that survive allow us to glimpse a bygone Texas.

Know of any fascinating vintage Texas photographs? Send copies or ideas to [email protected].

From the August 2023 issue

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