Gray County Towns

Source: The Handbook of Texas Online

McLEAN, TEXAS
ALANREED, TEXAS
BACK, TEXAS
BELCO, TEXAS
BOYDSTON, TEXAS
COLTEXO, TEXAS
DENWORTH, TEXAS
ELFCO, TEXAS
HOOVER, TEXAS
KELLERVILLE, TEXAS
KINGS MILL, TEXAS
LEFORS, TEXAS
WESCO, TEXAS

WILCOX, TEXAS

McLEAN, TEXAS

McLean, on Interstate Highway 40 in southeastern Gray County, is the second largest town in the county. In 1901 the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Texas Railroad Company dug a water well and built a switch and section house three miles inside Gray County.

Around this switch the following year Alfred Rowe, an area rancher, laid out a townsite. The town was named for a Texas legislator and railroad commissioner, William P. McLean, and was granted a post office in 1902 with C. C. Cooke as postmaster. By 1904 McLean had three general stores, a bank, two wagonyards and livery stables, a lumberyard, and a newspaper, the McLean News.

A windmill pumped water from a well drilled in the middle of Main Street, and citizens hauled the water in barrels and buckets. The town was incorporated in 1909 with C. S. Rice as mayor. Soon McLean became a center for area agriculture. Several hundred carloads of hogs and watermelons were shipped annually. Four telegraph operators were required to handle the messages of the railroad business.

In 1908 and again in 1919 McLean made an unsuccessful bid against Lefors to become the county seat. During the 1920s the town profited from the oil boom and became a shipping point for area livestock, gas, and oil. By 1940 McLean had six churches, a newspaper, fifty-nine businesses, and a population of 1,521.

The growth of Amarillo and the emergence of Pampa as the county's industrial center helped to reduce the population to 1,447 in 1950, 1,330 in 1960, and 1,183 in 1970. In 1970 McLean had a hospital, a library, a bank, and fifty businesses.

The number of businesses dropped to twenty-five by 1980, when the population was 1,160. In addition to a garment factory, McLean has had several industries connected with petroleum and its products. In 1990 the population was 849.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: F. Stanley [Stanley F. L. Crocchiola], The Lefors, Texas, Story (Nazareth, Texas, 1975).

H. Allen Anderson



ALANREED, TEXAS

Alanreed is on Interstate Highway 40 and U.S. Highway 66 in southern Gray County. In the early 1880s a group of farmers clearing timber from the basin of McClellan Creek selected the site, which was on the stage line from Mobeetie to Clarendon. By 1884 the Clarendon Land and Cattle Company began selling townsite lots. F. R. McCraken and R. P. Reeves were among the first settlers.

In 1886 a post office called Eldridge was established six miles north of the present site of Alanreed. At various times the town was also called Springtown or Spring Tank, for a large spring-fed tank; Prairie Dog Town, for one located nearby; and Gouge Eye, for a saloon fight. The present townsite was laid out in 1900 by a surveyor for the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Texas Railroad. The town's present name was reputedly derived from the name of the contracting firm, Alan and Reed.

In 1901 the first school was built. In 1902 the post office was moved from Eldridge and renamed Alanreed. After the Rock Island line was completed in 1903 the town became a shipping point for cattle. G. E. Castleberry's land company sold parcels at $2.25 an acre. By 1904 Alanreed was the largest town in Gray County.

In 1907 it had a bank, a hotel, a depot, Baptist and Methodist churches, a saloon, two grocery stores, a hardware store, a livery stable, and a blacksmith shop. Watermelons became a major crop; the town shipped an average of 500 cars annually. In 1912 a two-story school was built. By 1917 the town had telephone service and an estimated population of 250.

Like its neighbor McLean, Alanreed made several unsuccessful bids to be the county seat. The oil boom of the 1920s led to a temporary increase in population, but it also shifted development to other towns in the area. Although the population was estimated at 500 in 1927, by 1929 both the hotel and the bank had closed. In 1930 the Alanreed school was consolidated with three other area schools. In 1933 the number of residents was estimated at 150.

By 1939 the population had grown to 200, and fifteen businesses were reported. In 1947 Alanreed reported eleven businesses and a population of 300. In the early 1960s the Alanreed school district merged with that of McLean, and a new school was built in 1964.

The town reported a population of 200 and five businesses in 1967, but over the next decade both continued to decline. In 1977 the population was estimated at sixty, and no businesses were reported. In 1990 the population was still reported as sixty.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Gray County 50th Anniversary, 1902-1952: Souvenir Program (Pampa, Texas: Pampa Daily News, 1952). Gray County History Book Committee, Gray County Heritage (Dallas: Taylor, 1985).

H. Allen Anderson



BACK, TEXAS

Back, originally Pumpkin Ridge, is a rural community at the junction of State Highway 273 and Farm Road 1321, in eastern Gray County. The area was first settled by farmers in the late 1890s. In October 1899 a post office was opened there and named Northfork because of its proximity to the North Fork of the Red River.

John J. Simpkins was the first postmaster. Many of the Pumpkin Ridge farmers built their homes out of lumber procured from the abandoned Fort Elliott near Mobeetie. A one-room school, opened in 1899, was originally taught by Miss Fannie Womble and later by T. M. Wolf, future Gray county judge. The community received its present name after John David Back arrived in the fall of 1904 with his wife and ten children from near Van Alstyne, in Collin County.

Back, who became a pillar in the community, gave land for a new school building after the first one was mysteriously plundered for its lumber. The Back school, which served as a church building on Sundays, quickly became a local gathering place. For recreation, area residents enjoyed hunting in the breaks of the North Fork, and in 1905 a local baseball club was organized.

Oil and natural gas discoveries in the area during the 1920s led real estate men to begin platting lots for a proposed Back City in 1927, and roads were graded to the local oil wells, some of which reportedly produced as much as 6,000 barrels a day. A new brick schoolhouse was completed in 1928.

The proposed town failed to materialize, however, after the Phillips Petroleum Company constructed a plant on the North Fork and the Fort Worth and Denver Northern Railway completed its line from Childress to Pampa in 1932. The Northfork post office, which had closed in 1928, was reestablished at the oil camp of Denworth in September 1932. Most people found it cheaper to live in either McLean, to the south of Back, or in Denworth, to the north.

The Back community school remained in operation until 1950, when its district merged with that of McLean. Afterward the building was used as a community center. The area still produces oil and gas.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Arthur Hecht, comp., Postal History in the Texas Panhandle (Canyon, Texas: Panhandle-Plains Historical Society, 1960). S. G. Reed, A History of the Texas Railroads (Houston: St. Clair, 1941; rpt., New York: Arno, 1981). F. Stanley [Stanley F. L. Crocchiola], Story of the Texas Panhandle Railroads (Borger, Texas: Hess, 1976). L. M. Watson, Jr., Back Community (MS, Interview files, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, Texas).

H. Allen Anderson



BELCO, TEXAS

Belco, in northwestern Gray County, was established as an oil camp in 1929, during the height of the local boom. It sprang up around the refinery erected by the Bell Oil and Gas Company a mile east of Pampa. Mail came through the Pampa post office.

During the 1930s Belco reported four businesses but had no population listings until 1945 and 1947, when the Texas Almanac recorded a population of eighty. In 1932 Danciger Oil and Refineries, manufacturer of Roadrunner Gasoline, took over the plant and hired as many as 200 people. A year after the takeover the capacity of the refinery was increased by 4,000 barrels.

During World War II Danciger produced high-octane gasoline as aviation fuel for area bases. The refinery also was known as the sponsor of the Pampa Road Runner baseball team, which included Sammy Baugh of subsequent football fame. The Phillips Petroleum Company bought the refinery in 1946 and later closed it. That move, in addition to the growth of Pampa, resulted in Belco's rapid demise.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Gray County History Book Committee, Gray County Heritage (Dallas: Taylor, 1985).

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



COLTEXO, TEXAS

Coltexo, an oil camp on Farm Road 1474 three miles northeast of Lefors in north central Gray County, was established in the late 1920s. The camp was named for the Col-Tex Refinery Company, which erected a carbon black plant on a spur of the Panhandle and Santa Fe Railway.

Earl and Thelma Butterick operated a store there, and local mail came through Lefors. After the improvement of transportation in the area, many of the plant's employees moved to Lefors.

The Coltexo community declined when carbon black lost its importance in the petroleum industry. In 1990 the population of Coltexo was recorded as five.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Gray County History Book Committee, Gray County Heritage (Dallas: Taylor, 1985). Carl Coke Rister, Oil! Titan of the Southwest (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1949).

H. Allen Anderson



DENWORTH, TEXAS

Denworth, near Farm Road 2857 three miles east of the Wheeler county line in eastern Gray County, was laid out in 1919 as a townsite for the Fort Worth and Denver Railway, for which it was named.

Although it thrived for a time as an area shipping point during the oil boom days, its isolated location eventually caused the town to fail. A post office was opened in 1932 with Mrs. Ina Marshal as postmistress, and by 1939 the number of residents was estimated at fifty.

Despite a reported population increase to 100 in 1945, the post office closed in March 1946. The completion of Interstate Highway 40 has subsequently caused the community to fall almost into oblivion. A pump station was still at the site in 1988.

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

H. Allen Anderson



ELFCO, TEXAS

Elfco was on the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway three miles southeast of downtown Pampa in northwestern Gray County. It was the site of the Texas Elf Company carbon black plant, established during the 1930s. The company erected several houses near the plant for its employees.

A county highway map for the 1940s shows Elfco as fourteen dwellings along dirt roads and the railway, on the edge of the Panhandle oilfield. The same map shows a second cluster of seventeen dwellings and one business, labeled "Texas Elf Company Settlement," a mile south of Elfco on a dirt road and a spur of the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway.

Mail for Elfco was routed through Pampa. When local highways were improved, most of the plant employees were able to live in Pampa. After carbon black lost its importance in the petroleum industry during the late 1950s, the plant was abandoned and eventually dismantled. Almost nothing remained at the site in the 1980s.

H. Allen Anderson



HOOVER, TEXAS

Hoover, near the Roberts county line in northern Gray County, was named for Harvey E. Hoover, a prominent lawyer and landowner of Canadian. It began in 1887 as a switch on the Panhandle and Santa Fe Railway.

E. D. McClain became postmaster after an office was granted in January 1910. It was discontinued in 1914 but reestablished the following year. By then Hoover had become a livestock shipping point with a population of twenty-five.

By 1930 the town had three businesses and two churches. Oil discoveries in the area during the early 1930s brought more people to Hoover. Its population reached seventy-five by the mid-1940s. For several years the town sponsored a boy scout troop. Hoover declined as a result of Pampa's growth.

In 1972 the post office was discontinued, and only the general store remained in business. In 1980 Hoover reported a population of thirty-five and no businesses. A grain elevator, erected in 1954, continued to be used during harvest season. The population in 1990 was recorded as five.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Gray County History Book Committee, Gray County Heritage (Dallas: Taylor, 1985). Arthur Hecht, comp., Postal History in the Texas Panhandle (Canyon, Texas: Panhandle-Plains Historical Society, 1960). Fred Tarpley, 1001 Texas Place Names (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1980).

H. Allen Anderson



KELLERVILLE, TEXAS

Kellerville, on Farm roads 1443 and 2473, near the Gray county line in western Wheeler County, began in the late 1920s as a result of the discovery of oil near Shamrock.

A post office was established in 1935 with Mrs. Frankie Buford as postmistress. An influx of oil money resulted in the founding of a school district and the construction of a modern building, which for a time had six teachers.

In 1940 three businesses, three churches, and a population of 150 were reported. In January 1949 the Baptist church burned, and the people rebuilt it in seven months. Since that time improved transportation and an economic recession caused a population decrease.

In 1984 Kellerville reported 107 residents, the church, a store, a post office, and a service station. In 1990 the population was fifty.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Sallie B. Harris, comp., Hide Town in the Texas Panhandle: 100 Years in Wheeler County and Panhandle of Texas (Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1968). Arthur Hecht, comp., Postal History in the Texas Panhandle (Canyon, Texas: Panhandle-Plains Historical Society, 1960). William Coy Perkins, A History of Wheeler County (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1938).

H. Allen Anderson



KINGS MILL, TEXAS

Kings Mill is on U.S. Highway 60 seven miles southwest of Pampa near the western border of Gray County. It is on land formerly owned by the White Deer Lands Trust, a syndicate of British investors which assumed the assets and debts of the Francklyn Land and Cattle Company when the latter failed in the mid-1880s.

It is named for Andrew Kingsmill, London banker and representative of the British investors. Kingsmill was instrumental in reorganizing the company after its bankruptcy and in hiring George Tyng as manager of the White Deer lands in 1886. In 1902 Lord Rosebery, former British prime minister and largest holder of Francklyn and White Deer bonds, instructed Kingsmill to return to Texas in order to check up on the bondholders' interests and on the possibility of the sale of land in and near Pampa.

During this trip Kingsmill, acting on Tyng's recommendation, hired Timothy Dwight Hobart as manager to replace the retiring Tyng. At this time Kingsmill also purchased, at five dollars an acre, a section of land on Rosebery's behalf and ordered that a water well be drilled on it.

Because foreigners were not allowed to own land in Texas, the acreage was held in trust for a time by the Foster and Cuyler law firm of New York, which had originally purchased the White Deer lands for the British syndicate and which assisted Kingsmill in representing their interests. A small community of homesteaders and cowboys subsequently grew on Rosebery's land.

By 1907 the Southern Kansas Railway of Texas had established a station, known as Kings Mill, at the site. The post office, established in 1916, was initially named Elca but was renamed Kings Mill in the early 1920s. The discovery of oil at about the same time attracted additional settlers; by 1931 the town had a school, sixteen businesses, and 400 residents.

The population dropped to 150 by 1947. The proximity of Pampa and its emergence as an industrial center led to the demise of Kings Mill. The post office was closed by 1966, and from 1968 to 1990 the population was listed at sixty-five.

During some of this time Kings Mill had a store and two grain elevators. The Cabot Company's Kings Mill carbon plant is on the highway two miles northeast.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Arthur Hecht, comp., Postal History in the Texas Panhandle (Canyon, Texas: Panhandle-Plains Historical Society, 1960). Lester Fields Sheffy, The Francklyn Land & Cattle Company (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1963).

H. Allen Anderson



LEFORS, TEXAS

Lefors is on the North Fork of the Red River and State Highway 273, twelve miles southeast of Pampa in central Gray County. The town was named for Perry LeFors, who traveled with his father to the Panhandle in 1878 and later became foreman of the Diamond F Ranch, part of the White Deer Lands.

The first homestead (1882) on the future townsite was that of Travis Leach, a rancher and surveyor, whose log cabin served as a stagecoach stop on the mail route from Fort Elliott and Mobeetie to Tascosa. Henry B. Lovett, a former buffalo hunter, and Henry Thut, a Swiss immigrant whose sister-in-law, Emma Lang, married LeFors, also settled in the vicinity during the 1880s.

George Henry Saunders had a ranch camp headquarters nearby. Other settlers soon moved into the area, and in 1892 a post office was opened at Lefors with Thut as postmaster. (Postal officials required that the F be lowercased.) Four years later a combination school and church building was built.

When Gray County was organized on May 27, 1902, Lefors was elected county seat. A two-story frame courthouse was built for less than $2,500, and Thut, who became the first county treasurer, erected a hotel. Perry LeFors served as the town's first constable.

The population reached 150 in 1910, and despite its small size and the lack of a railroad, the town managed for a time to remain the county seat. When the oil boom hit the county during the 1920s, three oil pools were discovered in the vicinity. Lefors profited handsomely from the boom, especially in real estate, but Pampa became the county seat in 1928 after a special election.

Nevertheless, the boom resulted in the establishment of an independent school district and the bringing of electricity and other modern utilities to the town. By 1931 Lefors had incorporated, and in 1932 the town finally got a railroad, when the Fort Worth and Denver extended its line from Pampa.

The population increased to 809 by 1940. Several Protestant denominations established churches in the community. The town suffered a flood in 1961, unemployment from the closure of several area carbon black plants in 1964, and a tornado in 1975.

In 1984 Lefors had eleven businesses and a population of 829. In 1990 its population was reported as 656.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Gray County 50th Anniversary, 1902-1952: Souvenir Program (Pampa, Texas: Pampa Daily News, 1952). Gray County History Book Committee, Gray County Heritage (Dallas: Taylor, 1985). Elleta Nolte, For the Reason We Climb Mountains-Gray County, 1902-1982 (Pampa, Texas: Gray County Historical Commission, 1982). Millie Jones Porter, Memory Cups of Panhandle Pioneers (Clarendon, Texas: Clarendon Press, 1945). Lester Fields Sheffy, The Francklyn Land & Cattle Company (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1963). F. Stanley, The Lefors, Texas, Story (Nazareth, Texas, 1975).

H. Allen Anderson



WESCO, TEXAS

Wesco is at the junction of Farm roads 1321 and 1474, two miles east of Lefors in central Gray County.

Originally it was the location of a carbon black plant owned by the Western Carbon Company.

Since the 1950s the community has declined with the carbon black industry and the growth of both Lefors and Pampa.

H. Allen Anderson



WILCOX, TEXAS

Wilcox is a rural community in northwestern Gray County five miles southeast of Pampa. It was founded in the late 1920s when the Wilcox Oil Company leased a section of land on the Combs-Worley Ranch and began drilling wells.

By 1940 Wilcox reported a population of fifty. Dane Cambern, later a noted area cattle raiser, resided there in the early 1940s and worked as the company's production foreman. Mail and supplies were received from Pampa.

The decrease in oil production resulted in the decline of Wilcox, and in 1990 it had a population of five.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Gray County History Book Committee, Gray County Heritage (Dallas: Taylor, 1985).

H. Allen Anderson

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

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