Wheeler County History 1922
Wheeler County History Written in 1922
Wheeler County. The oldest organized county in the entire Panhandle, Wheeler, has had rather more than its proper share of the vicissitudes of growth and progress, and only in recent years has it begun to develop on a substantial basis. The figures of population would indicate one phase of its history. In 1880 there were 512 inhabitants, probably more than all other Panhandle counties combined. By 1890 the population was 778, and then followed a decline so that only 636 inhabitants were found in 1900. Since then a new era has been inaugurated, and in 1910 the population of the county was 5,258, in 1920, 7,397.
As elsewhere noted, the pioneer stockmen began operations in the Panhandle about 1876. A year or so later Fort Elliott was established as a military garrison in Wheeler County, and in that general vicinity a number of stockmen established their headquarters. One of the results of this settlement in the Panhandle was the organization in 1878 of Wheeler County, parent county of all the Panhandle counties. The organization was effected by the Commissioner's Court of Clay County, to which all the Panhandle counties had up to that time been attached. Then Donley and Oldham counties were organized by the Commissioner's Court of Wheeler County, and soon the Thirty-first Judicial District was formed, its court being the only one in the Panhandle for a long time and its seat being Mobeetie, which is a town with many pioneer associations, and practically all the old time lawyers practicing in Northwest Texas, and many of the cattlemen and merchants have many recollections of that old court town. Wheeler County was the nucleus of settlement in the Panhandle until the railroad came. After the Fort Worth & Denver City began building from Fort Worth, it was expected that the line would pass through Wheeler County, and a considerable impetus to building was given to Mobeetie. When the railroad did reach the Panhandle in 1888 its line was many miles south of old Mobeetie, and no railroad penetrated Wheeler County until 1903, when the Choctaw, Rock Island & Gulf, now a division of the Rock Island System, was completed along the southern border to Amarillo.
A statistical report on the county in 1882 estimated that about 1,000 acres were in cultivation, while stock raising was the almost exclusive pursuit of the inhabitants, and the assessment rolls for that year indicated about 65,000 cattle in the county. The same report said : "Mobeetie, the county seat, has about 200 inhabitants, a good free school and a number of general merchandise stores. Religious conveniences are meager, and the population is as yet so scattered that free schools have not been thoroughly organized." Wheeler County in 1882 had an aggregate of taxable property valued at $764,838, over two-thirds of which was represented by live stock; the valuation in 1903 was $1,302,120; in 1913, $3,811,538; in 1920, $4,914,370. The principal shipping points in the county are Shamrock, Benonine and Ransdell.
The rather rapid development of the county in recent years is indicated in the increase of "improved land," as designated by the United States census, from about 12,000 acres in 1900 to about 169,000 acres in 1910. In 1900 there were about 119 farms, and in 1910, 736. The total area of the county is 572,800 acres, of which 458,080 acres were reported in farms or ranches in 1910. In 1920 there were enumerated 38,767 cattle, 6,866 horses and mules. The county is well watered, with both a surface and underground supply, and there are splendid possibilities for agricultural development, which, up to the present time, has only fairly begun. In 1919 the acreage in the principal crops was as follows : Corn, 43,198 ; hay and forage crops, 10,638, including about 950 acres in alfalfa ; kafir corn and milo maize, 4,777: cotton, 3,590 ; wheat, 1,631 ; also a limited acreage in oats; about 550 acres in potatoes, sweet potatoes and other vegetables, while considerable progress has been made in horticulture ; about 19,000 orchard fruit trees have been enumerated, besides a number of vineyards and small fruits. - History of Texas, 1922, by W. Barrett Travis.