Hotel

Catarina

Catarina Hotel

 The name Catarina has been associated with the area since at least 1778; legend holds that it is the name of a Mexican woman killed by Indians on or near the site.  Today, tractor-trailers hauling oilfield equipment and pickups carrying workers barely slow down as they pass through what was once the town of Catarina.  The Catarina Hotel sits forlornly on a sweeping curve of U.S. Highway 83 as it enters the town.

The town was established after Asher Richardson, a rancher, decided to build a railway link from Artesia Wells to his planned town of Asherton. In return for an easement through the nearby Taft-Catarina Ranch, Richardson agreed to allow the ranch to establish a railroad depot, with cattle-shipping pens, on his railroad. By 1910, when the Asherton and Gulf Railway began operations, these cattle pens had become the nucleus of a small community built by Joseph F. Green, the manager of the ranch. Green moved the ranch headquarters to the depot and added a bunkhouse, a commissary, a hotel, a post office, and a small schoolhouse. By 1915 the little town had twenty-five residents and had become famous in the area for the Taft House, an expensive mansion that Charles Taft, the owner of the ranch, supposedly built with oversized bathtubs to accommodate his brother, President William Howard Taft.

Catarina Farms, a development project, built roads, sidewalks, and a waterworks and an impressive new hotel and installed electric power and a telephone exchange. Agent Charles Ladd imported entire orchards of fruit-laden citrus trees to impress prospective investors with the area’s agricultural possibilities. By 1929 Catarina had between 1,000 and 2,500 residents, a bank, at least two groceries, a lumber company, and a bakery. Short supplies of water, marketing problems, and the Great Depression hurt the town. By 1931 the population had dropped to 592, and many of its businesses had been forced to close. In 1943 Catarina had 403 residents and seven businesses; in 1956 it had 380 residents and three businesses. By 1969 some of the town’s most picturesque old buildings had been abandoned, and the population was 160. Catarina is on U.S. Highway 83 ten miles southeast of Asherton in southern Dimmit County.

REFERENCES:  John Leffler, “CATARINA, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hnc25), accessed May 08, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Teague

Teague Hotel

Teague is at the junction of U.S. Highway 84, State Highway 179, and Farm roads 80 and 145, nine miles southwest of Fairfield in western Freestone County. The area was first settled around the time of the Civil War. During the latter half of the nineteenth century a small community known as Brewer, grew up at the site.  When the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railway was built through the county in 1906, it located its machine and car shops at the site.  The town, renamed Teague after Betty Teague, niece of railroad magnate Benjamin Franklin Yoakum, was incorporated in 1906.

Benjamin Franklin Yoakum, railroad executive, was born near Tehuacana, Texas, in Limestone County on August 20, 1859, the son of Narcissa (Teague) and Franklin L. Yoakum. At age twenty he became a rodman and chain bearer in a railroad surveying gang, laying the International-Great Northern Railroad into Palestine, Texas.  He later became a land boomer and immigration agent for the Jay Gould Lines. He drilled artesian wells and brought European immigrants from New York to farm the land of the Trans-Mississippi and Rio Grande valley.  In 1886 he became traffic manager of the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway.  In 1887 the town of Yoakum, Texas, was named for him. In 1889 he was promoted to general manager of the railways, and in 1890 he became receiver.  For three years he was general manager and third vice president of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe.  In 1897 he became general manager of the Frisco (St. Louis and San Francisco Railway Company).  Under him the lines grew from 1,200 to 6,000 miles.  In 1905 the Frisco and Rock Island lines were joined, and Yoakum was the chairman of the executive committee.  This line was known as the Yoakum Line and at the time was the largest railroad system under a single control.  His career was one of the most colorful of the many men in railroad history.  He knew each branch of work: engineering, traffic, operating, and finance.  In his later years he became very interested in the farm problem.  He was an advocate of an agricultural cooperative society, growing and marketing farm products to reduce the spread between farm and consumer.  It is said that his genius made Hidalgo and Cameron counties into agricultural communities. In 1907 Yoakum moved to New York, where he had a farm in Farmingdale, Long Island.  He became president and later chairman of the board of the Empire Board and Mortgage Company.

The community served as a shipping center for area cotton farmers and grew rapidly. By 1914 it had Baptist, Catholic, Disciples of Christ, Methodist, Episcopal, Methodist Episcopal, and Presbyterian churches, as well as public schools, waterworks, an electric light plant, an ice plant, three banks, two cotton gins, a cottonseed oil mill, a cotton compress, the Teague Daily News, two weekly newspapers, and a population of 3,300. Teague continued to prosper during the 1920s.

The onset of the Great Depression and plummeting cotton prices, however, began a slow decline that continued until the 1980s. The number of businesses dropped from 140 in 1931 to 100 in 1936. After World War II many other stores and businesses closed, and by the early 1980s only forty-six rated businesses remained. The town also witnessed a decline in population during the same period; it reached a low of some 2,800 in 1975. After the mid-1980s, however, the population grew steadily, and in 1990 Teague had 3,268 residents. The population was 4,557 in 2000. The area has large coal, lignite, sand, and clay deposits. In recent years natural gas production has become an important industry.

REFERENCE:  Christopher Long, “TEAGUE, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hgt04), accessed July 28, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association;  Mary M. Orozco-Vallejo, “YOAKUM, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN,” Handbook of Texas Online(http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fyo01), accessed July 30, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Blessing

Blessing is west of the junction of State Highway 35 and Farm Road 616 and twenty miles west of Bay City in northwestern Matagorda County. The town was promoted by Jonathan Edwards Pierce, on whose land it was established. In 1903, when Pierce gave the right-of-way to the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway, the future of the unnamed settlement seemed assured.  A grateful Pierce hoped to designate the place “Thank God,” but the United States Postal Department rejected his proposal.  As a compromise, the place was named Blessing, and a post office opened in 1903, with James H. Logan as first postmaster.  Between 1903 and 1905 a library building was attached to the train station.  In 1905 the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway also built through Blessing.  D. A. Wheeler’s hotel soon followed.

On September 1, 1907, residents platted the townsite, and the townsite company made provisions for school and church sites.  In 1909 P. Ansley established a local newspaper. B y 1914 Blessing had 500 inhabitants, two churches, a bank, a hotel, a telephone connection, and a weekly newspaper, the Blessing News. In 1925 Blessing’s population was still recorded at 500. In 1931 the town had a population of 450 and twenty-two businesses.  During the 1937–38 school year, nine teachers instructed 251 white students in eleven grades, and two teachers instructed thirty-eight black students in seven grades.  By 1949 the Blessing district had been consolidated with the Tidehaven Independent School District.  In 1945 Blessing’s population had risen to 600, served by thirteen businesses. Though in 1966 the population was reported as 1,250; in 1968 it had dropped to 405. In 1990 the town had 571 residents and twelve businesses.

REFERENCE:  Stephen L. Hardin, “BLESSING, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hlb36), accessed December 10, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association

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.