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.
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.