Month: May 2013

Lipscomb

Lipscomb, Texas Bank

In what is a rarity among Texas counties, the county seat of Lipscomb County (Lipscomb, TX) is the smallest town in the county, is off the main highways, and lacks rail facilities.  The stately Classical Revival courthouse, designed and constructed in 1916 by William M. Rice, still stands in its original courthouse square surrounded by a lawn full of trees.  It is still the hub for county government in the northeast corner of the Panhandle.  Interestingly, the actual northeast corner of the Panhandle border between Texas and Oklahoma, established by law in 1850, remained in dispute for 79 years and was finally settled by the US Supreme Court.  Nine surveys were made to locate the corner on the ground and none of them coincided – much to the consternation of landowners in the area.  Three blocks were annexed into Texas from Oklahoma in 1903 and again in 1929, prompting a man to claim he went to bed in Oklahoma and woke up in Texas.

Originally its site in Wolf Creek Valley was deemed a cattleman’s paradise.  In 1886 J. W. Arthur, anticipating the arrival of the Panhandle and Santa Fe Railway, established a combination store and post office at the site.  Arthur named his townsite Lipscomb, after pioneer judge Abner Smith Lipscomb.  Frank Biggers, the county’s leading developer, organized the Lipscomb Town Company, which sold land for $3.00 an acre.  The next year, Lipscomb was elected county seat after a heated contest with the rival townsites of Dominion and Timms City.  John Howlett operated a general store;  John N. Theisen took over the Gilbert Hotel after its move from Dominion;  H. G. Thayer managed a saddle and harness shop.  A school district was established for the community in 1888.  The first school, located in a church, had 25 pupils.  Liquor flowed freely at the Alamo Saloon until 1908, when the county voted to go dry.

As it turned out, the railroad routed its tracks south of the townsite. Subsequent attempts to get a railroad line to Lipscomb were unsuccessful, as was the attempt of local businessmen to develop a coal mine in 1888, after a five-inch vein was discovered in the area.  The present courthouse was built in 1916.  The community’s position as the county seat, coupled with the success of W. E. Merydith’s real estate ventures, has enabled the town to survive.  By 1910 several churches, a bank, a drugstore, and various other businesses had been established there.  Lipscomb has had two newspapers, the Panhandle Interstate and the Lipscomb County Limelight.  Only two businesses and the post office remained at the community by 1980.  Nevertheless, the importance of the town as a farming and ranching center, along with oil and gas explorations in the vicinity, kept Lipscomb’s economy alive.  For most of the twentieth century, its population level has remained fairly stable: population was reported as 200 in 1910, 175 in 1930, 200 in 1940, and 190 in 1980.

Lipscomb is on State Highway 305 in the central part of the county.

REFERENCES:

1.  A History of Lipscomb County, Texas, 1876–1976 (Lipscomb, Texas: Lipscomb County Historical Survey Committee, 1976). F. Stanley [Stanley F. L. Crocchiola], The Lipscomb, Texas, Story(Nazareth, Texas, 1975).

2. H. Allen Anderson, “LIPSCOMB, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hll48), accessed May 15, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Archer City

Archer City is twenty-five miles southwest of Wichita Falls in the center of Archer County, of which it is the seat.  It was named for Branch Tanner Archer, a leading figure in the Texas Revolution and Republic of Texas.  The county was established and Archer City designated county seat by the state legislature in 1858, but the county was not organized until after the removal of the Kiowas and Comanches from the area. The townsite was originally surveyed in 1876 and was intended to lie on the projected paths of three railroad lines—the Fort Worth and Denver, the Houston and Texas Central, and the Red River and Rio Grande.  A local post office opened in 1878, and in about 1879 C. B. Hutto settled nearby and platted the town; he donated land for a town square, a lot for a county jail, and lots for the construction of Protestant churches.  He also donated a “frameless wooden building” to be used as a county courthouse.

Archer County’s first church, the First Baptist Church, was organized in the town in 1880 with eight members meeting in a building intended as a saloon.  The town soon after voted to ban the sale of alcoholic beverages, so the building continued to serve as a church; from 1881 to 1886 it was the first school building.  In 1884 the estimated population of Archer City was 150, and the principal business was county administration. Cotton was the most important shipped product, although the railroad had not arrived yet.

By 1890 the population was an estimated 250, and a weekly newspaper was being published.  The town now had daily mail and a daily stage to Wichita Falls.  In 1892 the post office name, Archer, was changed to match the town’s name.  An ornate stone courthouse had been built, two more churches had been organized, and a brickyard and a hotel had opened.  By 1900 the town had a bank and three livestock dealers, although cotton remained the staple of outside trade.  The first oil well in the county, twelve miles from town, began producing in March 1912.  Although it never produced great amounts it continued in operation at least into the late 1970s.  By 1914 Archer City had two railroads, the Wichita Falls and Southern and the Southwestern, and the population was estimated at 825.  Archer City was incorporated in 1925 and continued to grow as more oil wells were opened nearby. By late 1926 there were seventeen fields with 411 wells within thirteen miles of Archer City.  The largest field by far was Oldham, with 103 wells. Archer City was also a milling and market point for wheat and other grains and had about seventy businesses, including three banks.

By 1930 the town’s population was 1,512, and the county hospital had been built there.  The county’s fiftieth-anniversary celebration had been held in Archer City the year before, a year early in honor of the opening of the county’s first highway, State Highway 79.  By the 1930s researchers from Harvard University were collecting fossils in Archer County.  Two of the best fossil pits are near Archer City, and from one of these came a fossil that was named Archeria in honor of the county.  Archer City continued growing slowly despite the loss of some businesses during World War II.  The population peaked at 2,025 in 1970; the number of businesses had begun falling off in the 1960s.  In Larry McMurtry’s novel The Last Picture Show (1966), which derives its setting from Archer City, the closing of the Royal Theater is a major symbol. McMurtry is a native of Archer County.  In 1986 the town had a post office, forty-nine businesses including a bank, and a population of 1,862. By 2000 the population was 1,848 with eighty-six businesses.

REFERENCES: Monte Lewis, “ARCHER CITY, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hja11), accessed July 21, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.