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Donley County Towns

Source: The Handbook of Texas Online

CLARENDON, TEXAS
HEDLEY, TEXAS
HOWARDWICK, TEXAS
ASHTOLA, TEXAS
JERICHO, TEXAS
LELIA LAKE, TEXAS
GILES, TEXAS
BOYDSTON, TEXAS
ROWE, TEXAS
ELMORE, TEXAS



CLARENDON, TEXAS


Clarendon, on U. S. Highway 287 in central Donley County, is the county seat and chief commercial and shipping center of the county. Rev. Lewis Henry Carhart, a Methodist minister, promoted the colonization of the town through a partnership with his brother-in-law, Alfred Sully, of New York. The promoters bought railroad land scrip entitling them to 343 sections of land, most of which was in
Donley County.

In 1878 the Clarendon Land Investment and Agency Company, an English firm, began backing Carhart. The original site of Clarendon was on a flat at the junction of Carroll Creek and the Salt Fork of the Red River. There, on October 1, 1878, Carhart and his brother-in-law, W. A. Allen, established a "Christian Colony."

Although tradition maintains that Clarendon was named in honor of Carhart's wife, Clara, it has also been argued that the name was borrowed from Clarendon, England, to compliment the British backers. The townsite was platted, and construction from such available materials as rock, adobe, and pickets began immediately.

A post office was opened, and stagecoach communication with Mobeetie and Tascosa established. Supplies were freighted down the cattle trails from Dodge City. Soon Carhart and his associates attracted a substantial population.

The church atmosphere in Clarendon (at one time the town had seven Methodist ministers) and the absence of bars caused the rowdier Panhandle inhabitants to call it "Saint's Roost." Indeed, the first edition of Edward E. Carhart's Clarendon News (August 2, 1879) declared the town "a sobriety settlement."

A public school was opened, and W. A. Allen made plans to establish a Methodist college, initially called Allenton Academy. In 1880, after L. H. Carhart left to resume his ministerial duties in East Texas, another of his brothers-in-law, attorney Benjamin Horton White, provided equally effective leadership for the colony.

When Donley County was organized in 1882, Clarendon became the county seat and White was elected the first county clerk. A rock building originally used as a hotel was converted into a courthouse. White subsequently built a two-story frame hotel. Several stores, a meat market, a blacksmith shop, and a doctor's office were among the town's businesses by 1885.

In 1887, when the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway planned its line six miles south of the townsite, Clarendon's citizens voted overwhelmingly to move their homes and businesses to the tracks. Clarendon became a railroad division point and cultural center for the Panhandle, complete with an opera house.

The first bank was organized in 1889, and a permanent brick-and-stone courthouse was completed in 1890. Homer Mulkey opened a photography studio in 1895. Although saloons and gambling dens flourished briefly in the Feather Hill section of town, these were shut down and cleared away in 1898 to make room for Clarendon College, which opened in the fall of that year.

At about the same time, the Catholic populace built St. Mary's Academy. By then Clarendon had 200 residences, forty-six business establishments, six churches, and forty-five windmills. The town's reputation as a conservative bastion and the "Athens of the Panhandle" continued into the twentieth century.

In 1901 Clarendon was incorporated. The last legal hanging in the Panhandle occurred there on June 3, 1910. The city's independent school district purchased Clarendon College in 1927 and made it into a junior college.

Since the town is located in a draw, its streets were frequently flooded until the 1930s, when the Work Projects Administration built dams and terraces to turn the water away.

The building of several gins and hatcheries attested to the town's increased importance as an agribusiness center. In 1950 Clarendon had eighteen businesses, ten churches,
and a population of 2,577. By then the manufacture of cotton bags and covers had been added to the local light industry.

In addition, Clarendon was a manufacturing center for farm and road equipment and leather goods. The population decreased from 2,172 in 1960 to 1,974 in 1970. In 1980 Clarendon had a population of 2,220 and seventy business establishments.

Clarendon Lake is located to the northeast, and a small municipal airport is located southeast of town. The Clarendon Press, longtime publisher of western Americana, is in Clarendon. The two-story ranch home and studio of Clarendon's most famous citizen, western artist-illustrator Harold Dow Bugbee, which was built by his father in 1912, is northeast of town.

Pete Borden's Boot and Saddle Shop contains an antique gun collection. The Donley County Museum features prehistoric specimens of local "Clarendonian Age" fossil beds, in addition to geological and historical artifacts.

The original Saint's Roost townsite was inundated in 1968 by Greenbelt Reservoir. At that time the old cemetery was moved south on State Highway 70. In 1990 the population of Clarendon was 2,067.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Virginia Browder, Donley County: Land O' Promise (Wichita Falls, Texas: Nortex, 1975). Willie Newbury Lewis, Between Sun and Sod (Clarendon, Texas: Clarendon Press, 1938; rev. ed., College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1976).

H. Allen Anderson

HEDLEY, TEXAS

Hedley, on U.S. Highway 287 in southeastern Donley County, had its beginning in controversy. It was said that Isaac (Nat) Smith, who owned a large parcel of land and had given the land for the townsite of Rowe, had stipulated the kind of house that should be built when someone bought a few acres for a homestead.

This, plus the gyp water and sandy soil, may have prompted the populace in 1906 to propose moving the townsite a mile southeast, despite the fact that a depot, a church, a school, a bank, a gin, and several stores had already been erected. By 1907 the move had begun; houses and stores were mounted on blocks and tackle and hauled by horse and mule teams.

That same year a post office opened, and the new settlement was incorporated and named for J. E. M. Hedley, who was influential in getting the Fort Worth and Denver Railway to move its depot and loading pens from Rowe to the new location around 1909. Rowe subsequently was abandoned.

In 1908 Thomas Durham started the Hedley Herald, which later became the Hedley Informer, the only hand-set weekly newspaper surviving in Texas in the 1980s. The community's first school building was erected in 1910. Three churches were also built there. Fraternities and civic clubs were organized, and several doctors opened practice in the town.

By 1935 Hedley reported a bank and some seventeen other businesses. It also emerged as a cotton-producing center. The West Texas Cotton Oil Company built a new gin complex there during the 1950s.

Improved highways and economic changes influenced Hedley's population decrease from 807 in 1930 to 380 in 1980, and its number of businesses dropped to seven by 1984. Hedley, however, in the 1980s continued to host a Cotton Festival every October. In 1990 its population was 391.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Virginia Browder, Donley County: Land O' Promise (Wichita Falls, Texas: Nortex, 1975).

H. Allen Anderson

HOWARDWICK, TEXAS

Howardwick, known originally as Sherwood Shores, is just off State Highway 70 seven miles north of Clarendon in west central Donley County. It began in the late 1960s as a resort development on the north shore of Greenbelt Lake.

The resort, which includes a senior citizens' trailer park, was struck by a tornado on April 18, 1970. Fourteen residents were killed, and several mobile homes were destroyed or severely damaged.

The community built a marina and other facilities for fishing, sailing, boating, swimming, and picnicking. Trailer hookups and campsites are available for campers at various lakeshore locations.

The Clarendon Country Club, which features an eighteen-hole championship golf course, is located nearby. Howardwick had a population of 185 in 1984 and 211 in 1990.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Virginia Browder, Donley County: Land O' Promise (Wichita Falls, Texas: Nortex, 1975).

H. Allen Anderson



ASHTOLA, TEXAS

Ashtola, on U.S. Highway 287 nine miles northwest of Clarendon in western Donley County, was established in 1906 as a section house on the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway. The townsite was originally named Southard and was granted a post office in March 1906, with Thomas F. Lewallen as postmaster.

Two stores and a one-room schoolhouse were added by 1908. In 1916 W. A. Poovey, acting on the request of postal authorities, sought to have the town's name changed to Poovieville, but the name Ashtola was chosen instead. The town served the SJ and other area ranches.

By 1930 it had three stores, a brick school building, and a population estimated at twenty-five. About that time the local ladies organized a home demonstration club, which later became the Ashtola Needle Club.

After automobiles became popular, Ben Lovell opened a filling station and a gristmill. The mill remained in operation until 1973. The post office was discontinued in 1956. In 1958 the Ashtola school district was consolidated with that of Clarendon, and the school building was subsequently remodeled into a community center.

Between 1949 and 1966 Ashtola had an estimated population of fifty. In 1968 the population was estimated at twenty-five. From 1970 to 1990 it was estimated at twenty.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Virginia Browder, Donley County: Land O' Promise (Wichita Falls, Texas: Nortex, 1975).

H. Allen Anderson



JERICHO, TEXAS

Jericho, just off Interstate Highway 40 in northern Donley County, was established in 1902 as a station on the Chicago, Rock Island and Gulf Railway.

It was granted a post office that year and was named for the biblical city in Palestine. At its height in the 1930s, Jericho had three stores, a grain elevator, a tourist court, and a garage and filling station.

Jericho's population was estimated to be 100 in 1933 and fifty by 1939. Its post office was discontinued in 1955, and by the 1980s little remained at the townsite.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Virginia Browder, Donley County: Land O' Promise (Wichita Falls, Texas: Nortex, 1975). Fred Tarpley, 1001 Texas Place Names (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1980).

H. Allen Anderson



LELIA LAKE, TEXAS

Lelia Lake, on U.S. Highway 287 in central Donley County, was established in the late 1880s as a flag station on the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway. It was originally named Lelia after Lelia Payne, the sister-in-law of G. A. (Gyp) Brown, the town's founder and the first judge for Donley County.

When the community's post office was established in December 1906, however, the word Lake was added to its name to distinguish it from Lela, Texas, in Wheeler County. The railroad section house and depot were the townsite's first buildings.

In 1894 the first school was opened at the community. By 1915 Lelia Lake had several stores, two banks, two gins, a lumberyard, a barbershop, and a resident physician. In 1925 its population was estimated at 150. Two years later the estimate had risen to 300, and by 1929 it was 500. Four churches were established by 1930.

The Great Depression closed the banks, however, and by 1933 the population had dropped to 150. Lelia Lake gained some publicity in 1940, when the family of D. E. Leathers, son of one of the town's pioneers, was selected as the Typical American Family by the Texas Chamber of Commerce in Fort Worth.

The town has been noted for watermelon production and as a grain-shipping point. The population of Lelia Lake decreased from 500 in 1947 to 300 in 1950 and 125 in 1970. In 1984 the community had three businesses, a town hall, a gin, a church, and a post office. In 1990 the community's population was still reported as 125.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Virginia Browder, Donley County: Land O' Promise (Wichita Falls, Texas: Nortex, 1975).

H. Allen Anderson

GILES, TEXAS

Giles, just off U.S. Highway 287 in southeastern Donley County, grew up around water tanks and stock pens on the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway near Browder Springs. During droughts in traildriving days, these springs offered the only watering place between the Red River and the Canadian River.

The settlement was reportedly named for Giles Flippins, a pioneer rancher who was later killed in a gunfight in Indian Territory. With the advent of the railroad in 1887, cattle-shipping pens were built on the site to accommodate the needs of the Diamond Tail, Shoe Bar, and other area ranches. R. E. Montgomery, townsite agent for the railroad, surveyed the area early in 1888.

A section house was built one mile northwest, and Edgar L. Mevis, a railroad employee, opened a general store. A post office opened at the community in 1888. Annie Rhone Mevis served as postmistress and became legendary for her kindness to those in need. Once she allegedly hid the notorious Tom (Black Jack) Ketchum when he was on the lam.

By 1895 Giles had the store, a depot, a pump station, a hotel, and several residences. At its height the community comprised some twenty buildings, including a small saloon across the tracks from the store. This saloon was later turned into a one-room schoolhouse, which doubled as a church until a church building was built in 1906. A gin opened at the community in 1912. In 1927 Giles had an estimated population of thirty-six.

After the advent of automobiles and improved roads, Giles declined as a shipping point. Its post office closed in 1939. In 1968 its population was estimated to be twenty, and in 1970 it was estimated to be twelve. Nevertheless, in 1984 the community still hosted an annual picnic.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Virginia Browder, Donley County: Land O' Promise (Wichita Falls, Texas: Nortex, 1975). Virginia Browder Rogers, The Giles Chronicle: Vignette of Panhandle History, 1887-1956 (Clarendon, Texas: Clarendon Press, 1956).

H. Allen Anderson



BOYDSTON, TEXAS

Boydston, near Interstate Highway 40 and the Donley county line twenty-four miles south of Pampa in southwestern Gray County, began in northern Donley County. Henry S. Boystun was the first settler in the area. A post office named Boydston opened in 1891.

In 1903 the Chicago, Rock Island and Gulf Railway built through the area and constructed a siding just across the county line from the settlement; the community's post office was subsequently moved to the new Gray County location.

Sources disagree upon whether the town was named for Boystun or for H. S. Boyd, an official of the railroad. John Fraser had opened a general store in Boydston by 1910.

In 1930 the community had a store and a population of ten. By 1941 it reported two businesses and a population of forty, figures that remained stable through 1964. After 1940 local residents' mail was sent through Groom.

The completion of Interstate Highway 40 led to the community's demise. By 1980, when the railroad ceased operations there, only a cow shed and two abandoned grain elevators remained at the site.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Arthur Hecht, comp., Postal History in the Texas Panhandle (Canyon, Texas: Panhandle-Plains Historical Society, 1960).

H. Allen Anderson



ROWE, TEXAS

Rowe, in southeastern Donley County, was established in 1890 as a shipping point on the Fort Worth and Denver City railroad. It took its name from Alfred Rowe, the English immigrant owner of the RO Ranch. The townsite was boosted by Isaac Smith, who first farmed this area. A post office was granted in April 1892.

In 1903 R. E. Montgomery, townsite agent for the railroad, platted and named the streets. Soon the town had a church, a schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, a general store, a hardware store, a bank, a gin, and a newspaper, in addition to the depot and cattle-loading pens. Two doctors had opened practice in Rowe by 1902.

Overall, the town showed great promise as a business center. However, disputes arose between Smith and other town leaders, probably concerning use of the land and Smith's degree of control over the community. These disputes, gyp water, and over-sandy soil prompted many residents to propose moving the town a mile to the southeast.

By 1907 the populace had begun moving their homes and businesses, including the post office, to this new location, which they named Hedley. Rowe thus passed into oblivion.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Virginia Browder, Donley County: Land O' Promise (Wichita Falls, Texas: Nortex, 1975).

H. Allen Anderson



ELMORE, TEXAS

Elmore was established as a post office in extreme northwestern Hall County on May 4, 1891, with Andrew J. Jasper as postmaster.

This office was discontinued on August 31, 1898, and mail sent to Clarendon in Donley County after the community failed to develop.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Inez Baker, Yesterday in Hall County (Memphis, Texas, 1940). Arthur Hecht, comp., Postal History in the Texas Panhandle (Canyon, Texas: Panhandle-Plains Historical Society, 1960).

H. Allen Anderson

(information from The Handbook of Texas Online --
a multidisciplinary encyclopedia of Texas history, geography, and culture.)

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