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About Texas County

Source: The Oklahoma Historical Society

 One of three Oklahoma Panhandle counties created at 1907 statehood from Beaver County (formerly the Public Land Strip), Texas County is the state's second largest, encompassing 2,048.82 square miles of land and water area. It is bounded by Cimarron County on the west, by Beaver on the east, and by the states of Kansas and Texas on the north and south, respectively. In the late 1880s the area was also included in the proposed Cimarron Territory.

Since 1907 Guymon has been the seat of county government. In addition to Guymon, incorporated towns include Goodwell, Hardesty, Hooker, Optima, Texhoma, and Tyrone.

The county's topography, in the High Plains of the Great Plains physiographic region, is generally flat, with some rolling hills. The original vegetation comprised various short grasses, mostly bluestem and gramma. Arable sections are now farmlands, and the remainder generally serves as rangeland for grazing.

Texas County has been a transportation corridor. In the mid- and late-nineteenth century various Plains Indian tribes traversed the region, including the Apache, Comanche, Kiowa, Cheyenne, and Arapaho. In the 1880s two cattle trails extended from Texas to Kansas, passing near Hardesty. Along one that wound its way from south to north, drovers took their herds from Hansford County, Texas, to Kansas. An east-west trail, called the Montana Trail or the National Trail, developed after the state of Kansas banned Texas cattle, because they might carry fever ticks.

Before and after statehood, cattle raising was a significant economic activity in the Public Land Strip and later in the three counties. In the 1870s and 1880s cattlemen used the free-range federal lands and after the creation of Oklahoma Territory in 1890, leased much of it, including both common school and common school indemnity lands.

Farming's impact began slowly and in the 1890s. A land office opened for Beaver County, Oklahoma Territory, at Buffalo (near the center of present Texas County) on June 11, 1890, and homesteads were claimed during the next decade. The arrival of the railroad in 1901 attracted many settlers, especially to the area around Sanford, soon renamed Guymon. By 1910 the population stood at 14,249.

During the pre-Depression years the population remained stable, with most of the population involved in farming, ranching, or agricultural support services. The 1930 census counted 14,100, but after the droughts of the Dust Bowl era devastated High Plains agriculture, by 1940 only 9,896 remained. The county was at the center of the infamous "Black Sunday" dust storm of April 14, 1935.

Through the first three decades of the twentieth century small farms and ranches prevailed, and most people raised both crops and cattle. In 1920 more than half of the county's 2,266 farms were under five hundred acres in size. Consolidation during and after the 1930s increased farm size but decreased their numbers. 

Texas County produced 984,000 bushels of wheat in 1957, and by 1990 it was the state's fourth-largest wheat-producing county, harvesting 10.3 million bushels. It led the state in producing grain sorghums, with 4.2 million bushels, or one-quarter of the state's harvest. Generally, more than half of all crops are produced on irrigated land.  

Petroleum exploration began in Texas County in 1922, and after the first natural gas well of the giant Hugoton-Panhandle gas field was completed, oil and gas production increased rapidly thereafter around Guymon. Four carbon-black plants operated near Optima from the mid-1930s through the 1940s. The county remains the nation's largest producer of gas, and gasoline extraction plants provide employment.

The county's population rebounded in the post-World War II years, reaching 14,235 in 1950 and 16,352 in 1970. By the end of the twentieth century it was 20,017, of whom 76.6 were white and 29.7 percent Hispanic. The economy remains largely based on agriculture, and 37 percent of employed residents work in agriculture-related manufacturing. U.S. Highways 54 and 64 intersect with State Highway 3 in Guymon, which also has a municipal airport. State Highways 94, 95, and 136 provide access to the major thoroughfares.

by Dianna Everett

© Oklahoma Historical Society

For an expanded History of Texas County, please visit the Oklahoma Historical Society website at http://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/T/TE021.html

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