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Carson County Towns

PANHANDLE, TEXAS

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 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.

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 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. Among the thirty-six businesses reported in 1980 were aluminum-window and athletic-equipment plants. 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 around 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. In 1990 the population was 2,353.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Buckley B. Paddock, ed., A Twentieth Century History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis, 1906). Jo Stewart Randel, ed., A Time to Purpose: A Chronicle of Carson County (4 vols., Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1966-72). Fred Tarpley, 1001 Texas Place Names (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1980).

H. Allen Anderson



GROOM, TEXAS

Groom, on Interstate Highway 40 forty-two miles east of Amarillo in southeastern Carson County, was named for B. B. Groom, the first general manager of the Francklyn (White Deer) Ranch (see FRANCKLYN LAND AND CATTLE COMPANY), whose cottonwood log house was located on White Deer Creek, eleven miles to the north. The townsite was laid out on the route of the Chicago, Rock Island and Gulf Railway in 1902. In that year Frank S. Dysart established the first general store-post office. In 1903 C. R. (Lum) Slay opened a second mercantile store and took over operation of the post office. By 1906 a barbershop, a bank, a hotel, a lumberyard, a school, and several stores had been established. In 1911, when Groom was first incorporated, it reported a population of over 250. It survived fires in 1912 and 1915 to grow as a shipping point for area ranching and agriculture. The population rose to 564 by 1931, after an oil boom in the 1920s. In 1928 the town paved its main street and installed a water system and electricity and natural gas utilities. A sewer system was added in the late 1940s. By 1960 a modern community hospital replaced an earlier, ten-bed osteopathic unit. After a decline in the early 1940s, the population rose over the next two decades, reaching 808 in 1972. By 1984 Groom had five churches, a state bank, a modern school, thirty businesses, and a population of 736. In 1990 the population was 613.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Jo Stewart Randel, ed., A Time to Purpose: A Chronicle of Carson County (4 vols., Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1966-72). Lester Fields Sheffy, The Francklyn Land & Cattle Company (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1963).

H. Allen Anderson



WHITE DEER, TEXAS

White Deer, on U.S. Highway 60 in east central Carson County, is named for nearby White Deer Creek, where, according to local legend, an Indian saw an albino deer drinking. The town's history began in 1882 when the British-owned Francklyn Land and Cattle Company, later reorganized as White Deer Lands, occupied the area and began stocking it with cattle. George Tyng, general manager of the property, built headquarters for the White Deer or Diamond F Ranch at the site in 1887. The county's first water well was drilled nearby. In 1886 and 1887 the Purcell Company, made up of Kansas capitalists, purchased land in the vicinity as a right-of-way for the Southern Kansas Railway of Texas, which arrived in 1887. Because of the well the railroad chose the site for a depot and built it in 1888. Initially named Paton (after John Paton) and then Whig, the town was renamed White Deer in January 1889. In December 1888 the first general store and a lumberyard were established, and a post office was opened. By 1891 a school district had been established.

In the 1890s White Deer Lands, the trust of British bondholders, began leasing its holdings to ranchers, and during the following decade, the company started subdividing and selling its holdings for small farms and ranches. Soon settlers arrived in large numbers. The town was originally a half mile east on the railroad line, but it moved in 1908. White Deer rapidly grew as a supply town for settlers and by 1910 had a population estimated at fifty. Local organizations like the White Deer Literary Society brought culture to the community. White Deer's ethnic diversity was heightened in 1909, when Henry Czerner and Ben Urbanczyk established a community of Polish farmers from Central Texas at the northeast edge of town. These colonists erected the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in 1913. A Methodist church had been organized in 1911, when a Presbyterian church was already functioning. The First State Bank (later the First National Bank) of White Deer opened in 1916.

The discovery of oil and gas in Carson County in 1919 contributed to the growth of White Deer. The city was incorporated in 1921, and by 1925 White Deer had a population estimated at 200. The peak of the oil boom at Skellytown, in the White Deer school district, occurred in 1926, and in the same year White Deer businessmen established a Board of City Development. The Skellytown boom greatly increased the population in White Deer, which peaked at 3,000 in 1928 and then began to decline. White Deer suffered a disastrous fire in 1931, and tornadoes struck in 1947 and 1951. By 1954 the town's population had shrunk to 629. In the late 1950s White Deer began a period of moderate growth, serving as a shipping point for grain and cattle produced in the area. The 1980 White Deer population was 1,210, and in 1984 the town had twenty-one businesses, five churches, two schools, and a weekly newspaper, the White Deer News. A statue of a white deer stands on a concrete pedestal in the middle of the town's main intersection. In 1990 the population was 1,125.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: T. Lindsay Baker, "The White Deer Polish Colony," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 56 (1983). Jo Stewart Randel, ed., A Time to Purpose: A Chronicle of Carson County (4 vols., Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1966-72). Lester Fields Sheffy, The Francklyn Land & Cattle Company (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1963). F. Stanley [Stanley F. L. Crocchiola], The White Deer, Texas, Story (Nazareth, Texas, 1974). Fred Tarpley, 1001 Texas Place Names (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1980).

H. Allen Anderson



PANTEX, TEXAS

The Pantex Plant, a component of the Albuquerque Operations of the United States Department of Energy, is located in southeastern Carson County between U.S. Highway 60 and State Highway 293 seventeen miles northeast of Amarillo. The government established an army ordnance plant at the 16,000-acre site in 1942 to produce bombs and shells for the armed forces during World War II. A post office was established in November 1944 for the plant employees, who lived in government housing nearby. The plant remained in operation until the war ended in August 1945, and the employees subsequently dispersed. In 1949 the War Assets Administration sold the plant for one dollar to Texas Technological College for use in agricultural research and experimentation, but the government retained the right to repossess the facility under a national-security clause.

The Atomic Energy Commission reclaimed 10,000 acres in 1951 and converted the plant to the production of chemical explosives and nuclear weapons. Throughout the next two decades the resident population of Pantex fluctuated; it was 958 in 1966 and 205 in 1970. The post office remained in operation until 1969, when it became a rural branch of the Amarillo post office. In 1990 Pantex reported a population of 115. The Pantex Plant, administered by the Department of Energy, assembled nuclear and thermonuclear warheads from components manufactured at other facilities and was the site of pacifist demonstrations. After the end of the Cold War and the conclusion of an arms reduction agreement with Russia (June 1992), the Pantex Plant was to disassemble thousands of warheads each year, a process expected to last through 2003.

The plan to store 110,000 pounds of plutonium in bunkers at Pantex was of concern to nearby residents, who feared that the Ogallala Aquifer, which is used for irrigation throughout the Panhandle and supplies 40 percent of Amarillo's water, might become contaminated. A 1988 Department of Energy report rated Pantex the second most hazardous of its sixteen weapons plants and laboratories. Other unfavorable environmental reports have been filed. In 1988 cleanup was under way for exposed asbestos and other substances. Underground storage tanks that leaked gasoline and an unlined pit used to dump solvents and other toxic substances were slated for cleanup. Carson County residents state that there has been little pressure on Pantex to protect the environment because it is Amarillo's largest employer, having 2,700 employees.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Austin American-Statesman, December 8, 1988. Dallas Morning News, July 19, 1992. Ray Miller, Eyes of Texas Travel Guide: Panhandle/Plains Edition (Houston: Cordovan, 1982). Fred Tarpley, 1001 Texas Place Names (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1980).

H. Allen Anderson



SKELLYTOWN, TEXAS

Skellytown, on State Highway 152 in northeastern Carson County, is named for the Skelly Oil Company, which brought in the surrounding oilfields during the 1920s. In 1926 the company purchased a 320-acre lease from Henry Schafer, a local rancher on whose land the Roxana oil pool was located. Schafer platted a new townsite, which he named Skelly in honor of the company's founder and president, William Grove Skelly, of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Since it was between the neighboring oil camps of Roxana to the north and Noelette to the east Skellytown experienced only limited growth. The first businesses were company-owned supply houses. There were no utilities, and the populace was compelled to buy water hauled in tanks and burn wood for fuel.

In 1927 the Panhandle and Santa Fe Railway built a branch line north from White Deer to the oilfields and established its depot at a site just north of Skelly. Subsequently, all three camps moved their businesses to the new site and formed the Skellytown Townsite Company. Within four months Skellytown had two refineries, a carbon black plant, and over 100 oil wells in its trade territory. Soon the new town's Main and Roosevelt streets boomed. In addition to machine shops, warehouses, and lumberyards, Skellytown had seven grocery stores, three drugstores, a hotel, a pool hall, a dance hall, a movie house, several rooming houses, beauty parlors, barbershops, cafes, dry cleaning shops, furniture and hardware stores, filling stations, and garages.

A post office was opened in January 1927, and a weekly newspaper, the Roxana-Skellytown News, was launched. Panhandle Power and Light provided utilities, and Dr. F. S. Coolen opened a four-room emergency hospital. The White Deer Ice and Cold Storage Company erected a plant in Skellytown. An elementary school was also begun during this time. It had two grades in each room, two pupils in every seat, and only three teachers.

The population of Skellytown fell from 450 in 1931 to 154 in 1933. By 1943, however, it had risen to 650, due mainly to the growth of war industries. In 1958 the citizens of Skellytown voted to incorporate with a mayor-commission form of government. Subsequently the city built a modern sewer and water system. By 1984 Skellytown had ten businesses, four churches, a town hall, a fire station, a modern school, a library, a ballpark, a small airport, and a population of 899. In 1990 the population was 664.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Jo Stewart Randel, ed., A Time to Purpose: A Chronicle of Carson County (4 vols., Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1966-72). F. Stanley, The Skellytown, Texas, Story (Nazareth, Texas, 1974).

H. Allen Anderson



DEAL, TEXAS

Deal, in northwestern Carson County, was established during the oil boom of the late 1920s as a flag stop on the Chicago, Rock Island and Gulf Railway. The name of the community was adapted from that of George Washington Deahl, who owned the ranchland near Antelope Peak on which the town was founded. A post office was established in 1926 but was discontinued two years later. A district school was opened in 1936. Although the population swelled to 200 soon after its inception, Deal failed to survive, as oil and gas development moved on north and east. Eventually the site returned to prairie land. By 1949 trains no longer stopped at Deal, and the school was closed.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Jo Stewart Randel, ed., A Time to Purpose: A Chronicle of Carson County (4 vols., Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1966-72). Fred Tarpley, 1001 Texas Place Names (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1980).

H. Allen Anderson



NOELETTE, TEXAS

Noelette was one of three small oil camps built at the Roxana oil pool in northeastern Carson County during the mid-1920s. First located south and east of the Roxana and Skelly communities, Noelette moved its businesses to the new Skellytown townsite after the Panhandle and Santa Fe Railway completed its oil branch line there from White Deer in 1927. On June 29 of that year a post office was opened at the village. By the time the Great Depression stifled the boom in 1930, Noelette reported one store and a population of thirty. In 1944 the post office was discontinued and its services replaced by delivery from White Deer. Subsequently, the community merged with Skellytown.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Arthur Hecht, comp., Postal History in the Texas Panhandle (Canyon, Texas: Panhandle-Plains Historical Society, 1960). Jo Stewart Randel, ed., A Time to Purpose: A Chronicle of Carson County (4 vols., Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1966-72).

H. Allen Anderson



CUYLER, TEXAS

Cuyler was a rural school community on the Panhandle and Santa Fe Railway between Panhandle and White Deer in eastern Carson County. The school district was organized sometime between 1907 and 1910 and was named for Cornelius C. Cuyler, one of the New York owners of the White Deer lands. According to former students, classes were held in a one-room frame house until 1913, when a two-room schoolhouse, complete with a horse shed and other outbuildings, was opened there. The school also served for other community purposes, including as a church and Sunday school. After a long succession of teachers, the Cuyler school was consolidated in 1934 with those of Panhandle and White Deer. The building remained on its original site until the early 1960s, when its new owners had it moved to Pampa. Although the community is gone, in the early 1980s the Cuyler Siding grain elevator remained near the railroad track, just off U.S. Highway 60.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Jo Stewart Randel, ed., A Time to Purpose: A Chronicle of Carson County (4 vols., Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1966-72).

H. Allen Anderson



LARK, TEXAS

Lark, on Interstate Highway 40 (U.S. 66) in southern Carson County, was platted at the time of the building of the Chicago, Rock Island and Gulf Railway line in 1903 and named for Lark Stangler, an area rancher. The brothers Q. W. and Joe Krizan operated the first store in town. A post office was opened in 1909, but after 1915 the mail was delivered to Conway, seven miles west. By that time Lark had a population of ten, which remained stable through the 1930s. The post office was reestablished in 1925, and by 1940 the town reported one business, a church, a school, and a population of twenty. However, improved transportation and the proximity of neighboring towns resulted in the decline of Lark. The post office was closed for the final time in 1957, and mail thereafter was sent to Groom, eight miles east. Lark reported a population of twenty-six, a community center, and two grain elevators in 1984.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Jo Stewart Randel, ed., A Time to Purpose: A Chronicle of Carson County (4 vols., Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1966-72).

H. Allen Anderson



ROXANA, TEXAS

Roxana was the first and, for a time, the largest, of the oil camps to be built at the newly discovered pool in the northeast corner of Carson County during the mid-1920s. Roxana was named after the oil company that first drilled the site. It grew rapidly after fourteen rigs were erected around the Roxana discovery well. A post office was opened there on February 7, 1927. When the Panhandle and Santa Fe Railway completed its oilfield branch line from White Deer later that year, Roxana moved most of its businesses to the new Skellytown townsite, where the depot was located. Yet Roxana maintained for some time its separate identity as a small industrial village with several loyal residents. By 1930, when the Great Depression stifled the boom, Roxana consisted of four businesses and a population of ten. In 1944 the Roxana post office was discontinued and mail sent to Skellytown, and by the late 1940s Roxana's population of ninety had been absorbed by that of Skellytown.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Arthur Hecht, comp., Postal History in the Texas Panhandle (Canyon, Texas: Panhandle-Plains Historical Society, 1960). Jo Stewart Randel, ed., A Time to Purpose: A Chronicle of Carson County (4 vols., Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1966-72). F. Stanley, The Skellytown, Texas, Story (Nazareth, Texas, 1974).

H. Allen Anderson



CONWAY, TEXAS

Conway, on Interstate Highway 40 in southern Carson County, traces its beginnings to 1892, when the Lone Star School, said to be the first rural school that endured in the Panhandle, was established for the children of area ranchers and homesteaders. A post office opened in the area in 1903. Perhaps inspired by the previous arrival of the Chicago, Rock Island and Gulf Railway, J. D. Delzell and P. H. Fisher platted a town, which they named in honor of former county commissioner H. B. Conway in 1905. The one-room schoolhouse was subsequently moved there. Edward S. Carr opened a mercantile store in 1907 and assumed the duties of postmaster. A railroad depot, a grocery store, and a blacksmith shop were soon added, and a steam-operated threshing machine served area wheat farmers.

An interdenominational community church was erected in 1912. During the 1920s the town formed a community club and began an annual community fair. In 1943 the Conway school district was merged with that of Panhandle. The old brick school building was subsequently used as a community center. From a low of twenty-five persons in 1925, the town reached an estimated population of 125 in 1939. In 1969 it had 175 residents, but by 1970 it reported a population of fifty, two grain elevators, four service stations, three cafes, and a general store. The post office was discontinued by 1976, and some of these businesses have since closed. The population was still listed as fifty in 1990.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Jo Stewart Randel, ed., A Time to Purpose: A Chronicle of Carson County (4 vols., Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1966-72).

H. Allen Anderson

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