Reagan County History
Reagan County is in West Texas at the northwestern edge of the Edwards Plateau on U.S. Highway 67 and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. It is bounded on the west by Upton County, on the north by Glasscock County, on the east by Sterling, Tom Green, and Irion counties, and on the south by Crockett County. The county's northwestern corner lies on the Llano Estacado. Big Lake, the county seat, is seventy miles southwest of San Angelo. Other towns include Best, Stiles, and Texon. Reagan County comprises 1,173 square miles of flat to gently sloping sandy terrain in the northwestern and north central regions and flat to sharply dissected limestone and rolling caliche in the remaining sections. Soils are dark, calcareous stony clays and clay loams
Though early inhabitants remain undocumented, it is likely that Paleo-Indians lived on the land that became Reagan County. Spanish expeditions probably traversed the area; local Jumano Indians encouraged the Spanish to establish missions there on several occasions in the seventeenth century. Kiowa and Comanche Indians used the area as a hunting ground and later raided local ranches, but it remained largely unsettled country until the nineteenth century. An important source of water for prehistoric peoples and early travelers was Grierson Springs, which once flowed substantially in southwestern Reagan County.
Reagan County was carved from Tom Green County in 1903 and named for Senator John H. Reagan, the first chairman of the Railroad Commission. Stiles became the first county seat. After constructing two temporary frame courthouses, county officials built a striking two-story white stone building in 1911. A wooden school building was constructed adjacent to the courthouse. At one time the Stiles school employed a faculty of six certified teachers for an estimated enrollment of seventy-five students. The original school was replaced by a brick building in 1926, but enrollment dropped to eight in 1930, and the Stiles school closed in 1947. Early in the twentieth century post offices opened at two other small communities in Reagan County. Reaganview, fifteen miles northeast of Stiles, operated a post office from 1905 through 1910 and a one-teacher school from 1902 to 1915. The second community, Isaac, maintained a post office from 1907 through 1909. In 1905 the P. H. Coates family settled in southern Reagan County on the west side of Big Lake. The T. H. Taylor family took up residence on land on the east side of the pond. In 1911 Taylor sold 320 acres of land to the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient of Texas Railway for a station and townsite, which was named for the local landmark and promoted by the railroad. The railroad chose a route through Big Lake rather than Stiles, because a large landowner near Stiles failed to grant a right-of-way. A post office, public school, newspaper office, and various stores were established by 1912. In 1913 a Methodist church was formed, and in 1915 a Baptist church was organized with fifteen members. A red brick ten-grade school opened, and the Big Lake Hotel was completed in 1915. In 1910 the county population numbered 392, of which eleven were foreign-born and two were African American.
In 1930 the Reagan County population reflected the oil boom rather than the Great Depression. Of a total of 3,028 residents, sixteen were foreign-born. African Americans numbered sixty-four and Hispanics 101
In 1990 the county population was 4,514, including 1,941 Hispanics and 127 African Americans. The major communities were Big Lake (1990 population, 3,621), Texon (35), Best (25), and Stiles (16). The economy continues to revolve around oil, gas, and ranching, and the price and demand for petroleum are important economic concerns. Reagan County celebrates stock shows in January and July and a Chili Cookoff in October at Big Lake. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Grace Bitner, "Economic History of the Concho Country and Tom Green County," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 9 (1933). Gus Clemens, Jr., The Concho Country (San Antonio: Mulberry Avenue, 1980). Julia Cauble Smith, The Early Development of the Big Lake Field, Reagan County, Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Texas of the Permian Basin, 1988). J. L. Werst, Jr., ed., The Reagan County Story (Big Lake, Texas: Reagan County Historical Survey Committee, 1974).
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© Copyright 2015 Angela Hartman