Month: December 2012

Rankin

Rankin, the county seat of Upton County, is in the southeast part of the county at the junction of U.S. Highway 67 and State Highway 349, ten miles west of the Reagan county line.  It is in the heart of the Permian Basin and is the oldest town in the county, having been established in 1911.  The town, named for early day rancher F. E. Rankin, was founded after Upland, then the county seat and eleven miles north, was missed when the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway was routed south instead of following the Butterfield Overland Mail route along Centralia Draw to the north.  Rankin received a post office in 1912.  Most Upland homes and businesses were moved to the new railroad town of Rankin, but it was not designated county seat until March 20, 1921. Rankin remained a small ranching community until the mid-1920s, when oil was discovered in the surrounding area.  Santa Rita, McCamey and Yates fields opened up and the population soared.  It was estimated at 1,500 in 1928.  During this boom period, electric, telephone, and water systems were enlarged.  Two forty-six room hotels, an $80,000 brick school building, a courthouse, and a two-story office building were erected.  A bank was established, and a weekly newspaper, the Upton County Journal, started publication. The city was incorporated in 1928.

The year before the city was incorporated, rancher/oilman Ira Yates (a newly minted millionaire) built a three-story hotel in Rankin out of sand-colored brick.  The hotel had 46 rooms, one of which was kept by Yates for frequent games of poker.  There were no en suite bathrooms at the Yates.  Guests had to walk down the hall to a shared facility.  Due to its construction, the Yates Hotel was the only fireproof hotel at the time between Fort Worth and El Paso.  It even housed a restaurant and a barber shop.  One can imagine the business deals made and the hands of poker played at the Yates during its heyday.

When no oil was discovered close to Rankin, people left and the boom was over.  By 1931 the population had dropped to 935.  The Great Depression took its toll, and in 1940 the population had dropped to 672.  In the late 1940s the Benedum field north of town came in, and the economy was again on the upswing.  This boom period brought a hospital, a community building, three new school buildings, a country club, and a library.  The population doubled by the 1950s to 1,132.  Rankin remained stable with a total of 1,121 residents and thirty listed businesses in 1970 and 1,278 residents and twenty-four businesses in 1980.  In the 1990s the city had six churches, four parks, a nine-hole golf course, a swimming pool, and a roping arena, and the Yates Hotel housed the Rankin Museum. The area had pecan orchards and irrigated farms, but oil, sheep, and cattle continued to be the base of the economy.

REFERENCE:  Ann M. Clark, “RANKIN, TX (UPTON COUNTY),” Handbook of Texas Online(http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hjr04), accessed December 09, 2012.  Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Panhandle

Panhandle, the county seat of Carson County, is on U.S. Highway 60 in the south central part of the county.  It derives its name from its location in the Texas Panhandle and was initially named Carson City (for the county) and then later, Panhandle City.  The community obtained a post office in 1887 and was platted in January 1888 as the terminus of the Southern Kansas (Panhandle and Santa Fe) Railway, on a site almost surrounded by several large cattle ranches. Over the next few months Panhandle acquired a school, a mercantile store, a bank, a wagonyard, and three saloons.  In July 1887 Henry Harold Brookes began the Panhandle Herald (during the 1980s the region’s oldest extant newspaper).  Edward E. Carhart assisted Brookes in printing the Herald and also served as postmaster, banker, and druggist.  Many early settlers made extra money hauling bones of slaughtered buffalo to the railroad to be shipped east to fertilizer plants (see Bone Business).  When Carson County was organized in 1888, Panhandle became the county seat, and a wooden frame courthouse was completed there. Subsequently, several law offices were opened at the community, and the colorful Temple L. Houston frequented Panhandle as an attorney for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. Townsmen built an interdenominational community church building in 1892.  A sanatorium and several doctors’ offices made Panhandle a haven for health seekers.  The John Callaghan hotel hosted such distinguished guests as Buffalo Bill Cody and rancher Murdo Mackenzie.  Frank N. Bishop managed the town’s ice and coal business and the grain elevators along the tracks.  At times as many as 65,000 cattle were held in the loading pens awaiting railroad shipment.  In 1897 the community was scandalized when the Methodist pastor, George E. Morrison, poisoned his wife because he was in love with another woman.  This murder, which received widespread attention, resulted in Morrison’s trial and subsequent execution on the gallows in Vernon in 1899.

By 1900 Panhandle had a population of 300. In 1909 the town voted to incorporate with a mayor-council government. By then it had several grain elevators, three churches, two banks, telephone service, and a population of 600. The oil boom of the 1920s brought its population level to 2,035 by 1930, and Panhandle became the center of a natural gas field.  During the 1920s and 1930s, Panhandle was home to the second largest shipping yard in the United States, second to Chicago.  In 1924, Panhandle’s business leaders formed a committee to build a hotel intended to become “Panhandle’s Meeting Place” and indeed it did.  Designed by Amarillo architect E.F. Rittenberry and financed by General Ernest O. Thompson, an acknowledged leader in petroleum conservation, Panhandle Inn served business travelers associated with the oil, gas, and cattle industries.  Its unique pueblo revival-style architecture added to hotel’s prominence as a place to meet and do business during the oil boom.  The 20,000 square foot hotel also housed businesses such as a drug store, cafe, and barbershop.

Also during the 1920s boom, bonds were voted to install a modern water and sewage system, pave the streets, and provide utilities for the rapidly growing populace.  Consequently the onset of the Great Depression in 1932–33 almost caused the city to go bankrupt because of its inability to pay the interest on these bonds; though emergency measures were taken, not until 1965 did Panhandle entirely rid itself of its “Boom Bond” indebtedness.  In 1934 the Southwest Race Meet and Agricultural Fair erected new buildings for the annual stock show in Panhandle. A new county courthouse was completed in 1950.

In the 1980s Panhandle continued to thrive as a regional marketing and shipping center for wheat, cattle, and petroleum products. Its population increased from 1,958 in 1960 to 2,226 in 1980.  Panhandle also had six churches, a modern school system, and a children’s home and a home for the aged, both run by the Catholic Church. The Carson County Square House Museum, in Pioneer Park on State Highway 207, is considered one of the nation’s finest small museums.  Centered on the 1887 Square House, a small wooden frame residence with a rooftop captain’s walk, the museum complex also features pioneer implements, a Santa Fe caboose, a half-dugout, and a memorial exhibition dedicated to man’s quest for freedom. The Square House is listed in the National Register of Historic Places

REFERENCE:  H. Allen Anderson, “PANHANDLE, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hjp03), accessed December 15, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Kosse

Kosse is located southwestern Limestone County on State Highway 7 approximately eighteen miles east of Marlin.  Settlers made homes by nearby Duck Creek in the mid-1840s and ran a stage stop for the Franklin-Springfield and Waco-Marlin stage routes.  In 1869 Kosse became the end of the Houston and Texas Central Railway and was named for Theodore Kosse, a chief engineer for the railroad and the man who surveyed the road for the town.  Businesses moved to Kosse from Eutaw, two miles west, and the Eutaw post office was moved to Kosse in 1870.  Development of a town government began in 1871 and within ten years had reached a population of 500.  Union, Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches were organized.  The New Era, the first newspaper, was published before 1880.  The Cyclone was begun in 1885 by James O. Jones.  That year the town had several cotton gins, two sawmills, and three gristmills.  John Dimelow, an Englishman, opened a ceramics lab in 1870.  Kosse also had the first brickyard in the county.

Limestone County historically supported numerous pottery producing kilns.  This industry succeeded near area outcroppings of kaolin, or potter’s clay, within the Wilcox geologic formation.  Alberry Johnson began the first county pottery in 1859 near Dooley Creek.  Like most other regional potteries, Johnson’s kiln was of the groundhog variety, a subterranean design with a doorway leading to a long underground passage lined with brick or rock.  At the end of the corridor, a chimney rose out of the ground, drawing heat from a firebox outside the door which baked pottery within the passageway.  William Curtis Knox later moved Johnson’s operation and established the town of Pottersville (later Oletha).  The pottery was one of the largest in Texas, remaining active until 1912; today, Pottershop Cemetery marks the site.  Several other kilns in the area provided work and income to supplement residents’ farming efforts. Near this site, German immigrant Lee Kimik built a kiln active in the 1870s and 1880s. Records indicated that the business remained in fulltime operation eight months of the year. The kiln, similar to other groundhog examples, had longer and deeper sidewalls, possibly indicating European design influences. Unlike other area potters who marketed their work collectively, Kimik sold his wares directly to the community of Headsville. He also marked his pottery, a rare feature among his Texas peers. In 1984, archeologists documented the Kimik Kiln site reviving the story of Lee Kimik through archival research and archeological investigation. The historic site has made significant contributions to understanding the industry and artistry of 19th-century Texas.

On October 1, 1884, an acre of land was granted for a public school.  Kosse’s school became an independent school district with J. Thomas Hall as superintendent around 1892–93.  In 1893 one school in Kosse had 225 students and six teachers, and another school had eighty black students.  In 1914 Kosse had three businesses, two banks, and a population of 700.  In 1921 the chamber of commerce was organized.  By 1931 Kosse the population was over 1,500 and the town had fifty-eight businesses. After that the population and number of businesses slowly began to decline.

REFERENCE:  Stephanie A. Panus, “KOSSE, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hlk14), accessed August 25, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Monahans

Sunset Motel - Monahans, TX

Monahans is at the intersection of Farm Road 18 and Interstate Highway 20, thirty-six miles southwest of Odessa in northeast Ward County.  The town was named for Thomas John (Pat) Monahan, who dug the first water well between the Pecos River and Big Spring at Monahans in 1881 and selected the site for a water tank, around which a ranch supply point later developed.  The town was originally called Monahan’s Well. The Texas and Pacific Railway reached the site in August 1881.  A post office was established at Monahans in 1883, and in 1900 James R. Holman opened the Monahans Hotel, a landmark for prospectors and land agents.  Growth was slow.  A public school was begun in 1898; the following year thirty-six students attended.  The precinct that included Pyote and Monahans had 222 residents in 1900; by 1905 Monahans itself had an estimated population of eighty-nine.  In 1910 the precinct had a population of 378, two churches, and several businesses.  Monahans did not begin to grow more rapidly until the opening of the nearby Hendrick oilfield in 1926.  The town was incorporated in 1928, and Fred G. Gipson was elected the first mayor.  In 1929 the Texas-New Mexico Railway completed tracks from Monahans to Lovington, New Mexico, to handle the increasing transportation demands of the oilfields.  By 1930 the population had increased to 816.

The 1930s were boom years.  A carbon black plant opened in 1937 at Monahans, and a chemical plant opened the following year.  In 1938 Monahans became the county seat in place of Barstow, which was becoming a service and supply center for oil activity.  By 1940 the population of Monahans had grown to 3,944.  The Texas Electric Service Company’s Permian Basin Generating Station began in 1948 and developed into a large plant.  The population increased to 6,311 in 1950 and 8,567 in 1960. As oil activity subsequently declined, the population of Monahans also decreased; it was 8,333 in 1970 and an estimated 8,397 in 1982.  In 1990 it was 8,101. The population dropped to 6,821 in 2000.

REFERENCE:  Glenn Justice, “MONAHANS, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hfm05), accessed March 14, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Pep

Much of the Texas Panhandle was once part of the vast XIT Ranch - created by the Texas Legislature in 1879 to finance construction of a new state capitol building.  And like similar small towns in that part of the state, Pep was created after the XIT was subdivided and sold to investors.  I think that this building is a service station, but it could have been a small car dealership.  Design of the building - using Art Deco motifs - would more likely have been used for a car dealership, but I’m not sure that a small town like Pep could have supported one.

Pep is on Farm Road 303 near the Lamb county boundary in northwestern Hockley County.  The site was part of the Yellow House Ranch of the XIT Ranch.  It passed to the Littlefield estate and was then sold by the Yellow House Land Company in 1924.  Much of this farmland was sold to Germans interested in establishing a Catholic colony, which they originally named Ledwig for Rev. Francis Ledwig, their pastor. Settlers at the community included John Andrews, John Stengel, and Pete Herring. J. G. Gerik opened a store there in 1925.  The first Catholic church in the county was built at the community in 1930.  A post office was established in 1936 with M. A. Burt as postmaster.  Reportedly the name Ledwig did not suit the post office department, and Pep was chosen as the town’s new name, to reflect an admired characteristic of its residents.  Since 1945 an annual community Thanksgiving dinner, including a savory Czech sausage, has drawn crowds of visitors to the small community.  Its population was sixty in 1950 and by 1980 had declined to fifty, where it was still reported in 1990. By 2000 the population had dropped to thirty-five.

REFERENCE:  William R. Hunt, “PEP, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hnp18), accessed November 21, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.