White Deer Land Museum

History Wall Painted By Grandview Resident

The history wall of the White Deer Land museum, dedicated on June 25, 1983, was painted by Jan Nelson Ragsdale of the Grandview community. The Gray County portion pictured with this article shows some early Texas Panhandle history.

Photo of Eloise Lane

Eloise Lane

The horse and rider at the extreme left are part of Coronado ‘s expedition in 1541. Castaneda, Coronado ‘s historian, wrote that “it was impossible to find tracks in this country because the grass straightened up again as soon as it was trodden down.” The Spaniards thought that the region was not worth exploring, but they wrote excellent accounts of their expedition and left many names, such as Llano Estacado (Staked Plains) and Palo Duro (Hard Wood).

The Great Plains was the natural habitat of millions of buffalo. Army officers once reported that it took three days to travel through a herd. At one time a train had to wait eight hours for a herd to cross the track.

The principal Indian tribes who followed the buffalo were the Comanches, Kiowas, and Kiowa Apaches. The Comanches, who were of the Shoshonean linguistic family, came from the mountains of Colorado and Montana . Sometime in the seventeenth century, they became acquainted with the horses left by the Spaniards, and by 1750 they had driven the Apaches from the Panhandle and were in control of the region. The Comanches, who had no equal in riding skills, were known as “Lords of the Plains.”

The Kiowas, who became partners of the Comanches, probably originated near the sources of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers in western Montana. By about 1765, they had acquired horses, learned the use of buffalo skin tepees and become Plains Indians.

The Kiowa Apaches, noted for being friendly and peaceable, are historically associated with the Kiowas as a single tribal group except linguistically. The alliance between the Comanches, Kiowas and Kiowa Apaches resulted in their domination of the plains until 1874 when most of the buffalo had been slaughtered and the Indians driven to reservations.

An old legend relates that the Great Spirit descended and said to the Kiowas: “Here are the buffalo. They shall be your food and raiment, but in the day you shall see them perish from off the face of Earth, then know that the end of the Kiowas is near — and the sun set.”

Anglo-Americans entered the Panhandle in 1820, when the party of Major Stephen Harriman Long explored the area south of the Canadian River and made the region a reality to Americans. From 1820 until 1858, all maps showed “The Great American Desert” from the present Canadian border, through the Great Plains into Texas .

In 1840 Josiah Gregg blazed the first trail across the Panhandle — the Fort Smith-Santa Fe Trail. Because of the publicity given the route in his Commerce of the Prairies, wagon trains of California gold seekers used the trail.

Gregg’s company passed through the sites of present Borger and Phillips and pitched camp on the east side of Spring Creek in Hutchinson County. Aerial photographs taken about 1955 showed ruts of Gregg’s trail cutting across the campus of the new Palo Duro High School in Amarillo. The Josiah Gregg Memorial was erected on the spot and dedicated March 16, 1960, by Governor Price Daniel of Texas .

In 1845 Lieutenant James William Abert was assigned to make a reconnaissance from Bent’s Fort (near La Junta, Colorado ) southward and eastward along the Canadian River through the country of the Kiowa and Comanche. In his report Abert described the area now known as Alibates Flint Quarries, the only national monument in Texas. Abert did not realize that he was treading upon a 12,000 year-old industrial complex.

Abert crossed the Llano Estacado from a point on Red Deer Creek near present Hoover to the North Fork of Red River near present Lefors. At North Fork he met friendly Kiowas and learned that “Goo-al-pa”(Buffalo Creek) was the name by which the Kiowas knew North Fork .

In 1849 Captain Randolph Barnes Marcy was instructed to find, measure, map and describe the best route to Santa Fe wholly along the south bank of the Canadian River. He left Fort Smith, Arkansas with 500 civilians and a military escort of 80 men.

The party reached a beautiful spot on White Deer Creek in Hutchinson County (on the Flying W ranch owned by Buddy and Ida Ruth Price). Marcy decided to “lie-over” for a day, and on June 8, twin boys were born to the wife of one of the civilians. Undoubtedly these were the first Anglo-American children born in the Texas Panhandle.

Three years later Marcy was ordered to examine the country between the mouth of Cache Creek (near Fort Sill ) to the source of Red River. After camping near the site of future Fort Elliott, Marcy’s party reached the head of North Fork of Red River and camped in a grove of cottonwood trees. On the largest tree he carved an inscription: “Exploring Expedition, June 16, 1852,” and buried a bottle containing that date under the tree.

Marcy realized that he was near the Canadian River which he had explored three years previously. With a few men he traveled 28 miles northwestward, coming very near present Pampa. He reached a point on the Canadian River which he immediately recognized and thus established the relationship between the Red and Canadian Rivers .

Moving southward toward the Salt Fork, Marcy came to a small stream of sweet water that he named McClellan’s Creek. He believed that Captain George Brinton McClellan, his second-in-command, was “the first white man that ever set eyes on it.”

Ranching and farming are represented at the upper right. Although Charles Goodnight and Tom Bugbee, who came in 1876, are credited with establishing the first big ranches, they were not the first cattlemen. James Hamilton Cator, who came as a buffalo hunter in 1873, remained in Hansford County as a merchant and rancher.

In 1875 A.G. “Jim” Springer established a bar-ranch-restaurant in the lower part of Hemphill County to cater to the soldiers of Fort Elliott. That fall he brought in a herd of 300 to range near his restaurant.

The first agricultural endeavor in Gray County was in garden farming along the creek beds. One of the earliest farming communities was in the area of present Laketon. Alfred Ace Holland is said to have planted the first wheat crop near present White Deer in 1891.

The Southern Kansas Railroad of Texas ( Santa Fe ) was constructed across Gray County in 1887 and opened for operation on January 15, 1888.

The little building in the extreme upper right is Highwindy, the first school in Gray County. The school was later known as Plaines, Snowden Lake, and Davis. The building was moved to Pampa and used by the Lutheran Church and is now (1990) at the Top o Texas Rodeo Grounds.

The building below Highwindy is the first courthouse in Gray County. Built at Lefors, then the county seat, it was dedicated on October 18, 1902.

The little flags below the train and extending below the courthouse show Gray County towns and communities. These include Alanreed, Bowers City, Boydston, Denworth, Eldridge, Glasgow (Pampa), Gouge Eye (Alanreed), Grandview, Hopkins, Hoover, Kingsmill, Laketon, Lefors, McLean, Pampa, Paul Reed (Alanreed), Prairie Dog Town (Alanreed), Springtown (Alanreed) and Sutton (Pampa).

The building below and to the right of the engine is the second office building of White Deer Lands at 124 South Cuyler. The figures in the windows represent the four managers: George Tyng, T.D. Hobart, M.K. Brown, and C.P. Buckler.

Over 200 Articles, written by Eloise Lane, were published in the Pampa News. These articles may be accessed by clicking on each section below. A list of articles will be revealed that are linked to a page containing the text of the article.

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