Vanishing Texas Vernacular Architecture

Posts tagged “Panhandle


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.


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 (, accessed May 15, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.


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 (, accessed December 15, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.


The elementary school building is all that remains of the small Panhandle community of Pringle that once served as a railroad supply point.  Walls were constructed of brick and structural clay tile.  The roof over the classrooms was wood-framed and the roof over the cafeteria/gym/auditorium was framed with steel trusses.  All of these materials were typical of school construction in the late-1920s and into the 1930s, so the school was built to withstand the sometimes turbulent weather of the Panhandle.  In the thirty-five years since the school closed, it has been abandoned and left to the destructive powers of weather and time.

Pringle is at the intersection of Farm Road 1598 and State Highway 136, on the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad nine miles north of Stinnett in northern Hutchinson County.  It began in 1929 when the Chicago, Rock Island and Gulf Railroad built between Stinnett and Hitchland.  The Pringle post office opened in 1929, and a school was organized that year.  William H. Pringle, for whom the community is named, donated land for a school building.  By 1933 Pringle had three businesses and a population of twenty.  The post office closed about 1947, and the school was consolidated with the Morse schools in 1977.  The population rose to sixty in 1947, dropped to forty-six in 1968, and has been estimated at forty from 1974 to 2000.

REFERENCE:  Mark Odintz, “PRINGLE, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed November 23, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.


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