White Deer Land Museum

Laketon – Early Farming Community

The first furrow of sod that was broken for grain in Gray County was plowed in the area of present Laketon by Frederick William Jahns. He was a Polish immigrant who came first to Illinois and then to Bell County , Texas , before he came to the Panhandle on a prospecting trip in 1885.

Photo of Eloise Lane

Eloise Lane

The year 1885 was a wet year. The lakes were full and all over the plains the buffalo grass was ankle high. Jahns filed on four sections of land two miles north and one mile east of present Laketon. At that time it was possible to file on as many as four sections if they touched at the corners.

The next spring Jahns tilled 40 acres and planted corn. A seven-year drought period began in the summer and the hot winds dried up the corn crop.

Jahns’ family joined him in December 1886. The family of six lived in two half dugouts with dirt floors and roofs. All supplies, which had to be freighted from Dodge City , were very expensive. However, the family had milk, butter, eggs and meat, and there was always an abundance of wild plums and grapes for making jams and jellies.

The prairies were covered with bones of buffaloes slaughtered by hunters who killed only for the hides. Jahns would let his children take the wagon and horses to gather bones. If they were stacked, freighters would pay two or three dollars a ton for them.

In 1885 Mrs. Elizabeth Jackson, a widow, and two of her sons, Jim and Burl, moved from Bell County to the area. Another son, Frank, was a student at Vanderbilt University . Homesteading was not easy in those days but Fort Elliott and Old Mobeetie were near and offered a good market for produce, butter and eggs.

In April 1886 A.J. Jasper brought his sons, J.N. and J.P., and his daughter, Mrs. Susie Brown and her daughter, Gertie.

About 1886 John Austin Paris made a trip to the Panhandle to look over the country. He stayed with his brother-in-law, Ben F. Williams, who had come the previous year. Paris purchased two and one-half sections of land three miles west of future Laketon. Two years later his family came from Cooke County with an 18-wagon train and about 2,500 head of cattle. This was a trip lasting two months as they advanced only ten miles a day at the most.

Probably in the fall of 1887, the men of the community started to build a schoolhouse. They had just erected the frame when they had to stop because of severe winter weather. Early the next spring a terrific wind and dirt storm blew down most of the building and scattered lumber for a mile or more down the road. Thus, the school acquired the name “Highwindy.”

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Because of problems of transportation in winter and lack of funds, the first school session was held during the summer months from about May to October. Ben F. Williams, the first teacher, was paid $65 a month to teach the 13 pupils.

Hover Over Camera Icon To Reveal Photo (Photo Of First Teacher)

The 20×30 foot building was moved several times and known as Plaines, Snowden Lake and Davis . Gray County School District I, created in 1889, was abandoned in 1928-29. The building was purchased in 1943 by the Zion Lutheran Church in Pampa . In 1983 it was purchased by the Pampa Trap and Skeet Club and is now at the club’s skeet range north of the Top 0′ Texas Rodeo Ground.

By 1889 there were at least eleven families living in the Laketon area. Parson John Stump, J.N. Stump (a cousin), J.A. Boney, L.O. Boney, J.C. Short and John Robert-Henry had joined those who came previously. J.R. Henry and Mrs. Mary Walter “Susie” Brown were married in 1890.

The first church service in the Laketon area was held in the home of Permillia Jahns. She told Frank Jackson, who was home on vacation, that she would furnish the congregation if he would furnish the sermon.

Later, church services were held in the school building which served as the community house as well as the school. Permillia Jahns would load her organ in the wagon and take it to church. Sometimes Susie Henry, a music teacher, would bring her organ. People brought basket lunches and stayed all day. Cowboys from the southern part of Gray County frequently attended.

The first wheat crop in the county was harvested in 1891. As there were no binders, the grain was cut with a mower and rake, and then stacked. Jahns, who had planted about 40 acres in oats, threshed his oats with a flail.

Jahns died in 1892, soon after the drought was broken. His wife, Permillia, and sons, George and Herman, maintained the farm. The old stagecoach trail from Mobeetie to Tascosa ran by their property. On this the coach made the trip twice a week.

John N. Stump brought in the first piece of machinery that was an improvement over the rake and mower. This self-rake had a platform and a reel that would carry the grain on to the platform as it was cut, and push it off on a pile. He was very busy with his self-rake and would loan it to his neighbors or else cut their grain for them.

Burl and Jim Jackson brought the first threshing machine into the country. One year Lee Cunningham sowed 100 acres and people wondered how in the world he was going to handle that much wheat. There were no elevators to buy it or store it, and the stockmen would come and buy it from the farmers for feed at fifty cents a bushel.

Adam Renner, who came in 1896, brought in one of the first steam threshers. On March 12, 1893, Flora Belle Jahns was married to Francis William Hoffer, a Texas Ranger.

George Dennis Jahns and Nettie Virginia Renner received the first marriage license issued in organized Gray County. They were married in Miami in October 1, 1902.

Joseph Franklin and Minnie (Hahns) Jones, who were acquainted with the Stump family, came from a farm in La Plata , Missouri , to Miami in November, 1905. In the spring of 1906, Jones bought land from Permillia Jahns and moved a house he had bought in Miami.

There were no fences, no roads and no telephones. In 1906 one of the Stumps went to Chicago and purchased two telephones — one for himself and the other for the Jones family. The phones provided so much pleasure that Stump purchased five more telephones and an exchange box. The exchange box was placed in the Jones home and Minnie Jones was the first and only telephone operator in Laketon.

On July 29, 1907, Minnie Jones was appointed Postmaster of Laketon. She thought of that name because of the many lakes in the community. “Lacus” and “Stumpville” were also submitted, but were rejected.

The first families receiving mail from the Laketon post office included Stump, Gillis, Eller, Renner, Hoffer, Gray, Benton, Gething, Elliott, Webster, Christopher, Byrum, Jahns, LeFors and Smith. Permillia Jahns was the mail carrier from Laketon to Miami . She used a buggy and team of horses to make three trips each week.

Established to supply a population of 150, the post office was discontinued October 15, 1910, with mail thereafter sent to Miami . It was reestablished February 11, 1929, and discontinued June 30, 1954, with mail thereafter sent to Pampa.

After Frank Jones died in 1908, his daughter, Florence , took care of the mail and telephone when her mother and brothers worked in the fields. When she needed help, she signaled her mother by standing on the cellar door and waving a white flag.

Florence taught school at Snowden Lake and Laketon before 1930, when she came to Pampa and taught until she retired in 1968.

About 1910 a one room frame school building was erected on a corner of land owned by Dr. John Powell. In 1929 it was moved to a location one mile north of present Laketon and remodeled to become the Church of Christ . A new two room brick building was erected for the school.

The townsite of Laketon was created about 1928 when the Clinton and Oklahoma Western Railroad was constructed. For a brief time, Laketon had a spurt of growth. In 1982 the track was removed and the right-of-way was sold back to the land owners.

From 1971 to late 1984, Charlie’s Laketon Store at the intersection of highways 152 and 748 was a gathering place for area farmers and a source of information for anyone who stopped there. The owner, Charlie Jordan, is a brother of former Gray County Sheriff Rufe Jordan . After Charlie moved to Pampa several years ago, the store was operated by Bob Howard but is now closed.

There are residents in the two houses left at Laketon, and church services and weddings are still held in the Church of Christ . Farmers now take their grain for shipment to Miami or Hoover instead of to the three abandoned elevators that dominate the landscape.

Approximately 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. Hover Over Camera Icon To Reveal Photo indicates a topic appropriate photo link.

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