White Deer Land Museum

McLean, The Largest Town In Gray County

The town of McLean is located on Section 22 of Block B of lands deeded to Alfred Rowe on March 17, 1884, letter Patent number 344. deed signed by John Ireland, Governor of Texas.

Photo of Eloise Lane

Eloise Lane

During the late 19th century, most cattle were taken to market on trains. Shipping points on the Fort Worth and Denver Railroad were Memphis , Clarendon and Childress — all 70 to 80 miles from the Rowe ranch headquarters which, at that time, was about six miles southwest of present McLean .

In 1901, the Rowe Brothers (Alfred, Vincent and Bernard) donated an 80 acre tract of land to the Rock Island Railroad for construction of a spur, loading pens and cattle chute. From this loading switch, cattle were shipped from the Rowe, Morse, Pyron and Gething ranches.

The railroad stop was named McLean for William Pinckney McLean, secretary of the Texas Railroad Commission. He had been instrumental in determining the route of the railroad, Early residents described McLean as a rather small man, an immaculate dresser who always wore a derby hat. Although he was small, he had great dignity and was referred to as a sort of “banty rooster” type.

In a dedication deed dated November 28, 1902, Alfred Rowe gave one section of land for the original townsite of McLean . All streets and alleys were set apart as public domain. The townsite was separated from the rolling prairies by a barbed wire fence, and residents utilized all of the vacant lands inside the fence as public pasture. This practice continued until the town was incorporated.

Charles A. Watkins, who came to the Whitefish area in 1895 when future McLean was only a grass-covered glen on the Rowe ranch, thought that the first resident of McLean was Tommy Biggers who operated a store on the outskirts and sold supplies to the railroad construction crew.

Tom McCarty, who drilled water wells and built windmills, came to the Rowe ranch in 1895. With Jim Cristel and Charlie McMurtry, he laid out the town of McLean . J.R. and Mary (Forte) Hindman, who came to a ranch south of McLean in 1902, bought a half-dugout in McLean for $400 so that their children could attend school with 15 other children in the first McLean school building, a one-room structure built about 1903 in the south part of town.

In 1904, the Hindmans started a hotel in their dugout. When the Rock Island began running mixed trains, the conductor would stop the passenger coach in front of the hotel. At first, passengers were reluctant to go inside the dugout to eat, but once inside, they enjoyed the food. The diners ate at long tables, made from boxing planks, that would seat twelve people.

Soon the Hindmans built a two-story hotel on the east side of Main Street at the corner of Railroad. The building housed a combination store, hotel and cafe; the half-dugout was at the back. In 1916, the Hindmans acquired the O’Dell Hotel across Main Street on the west side.

In 1902, Mary Hindman’s brother, Rev. G.R. Forte, organized the First Methodist Church in McLean and served as the first pastor. The congregation met in the one-room schoolhouse until 1904 when a sanctuary was built at the present site, 219 North Gray (in McLean ). This was the first denominational church in Gray County , and a Recorded Texas Historical Landmark marker was dedicated April 26, 1987.

The post office at McLean was established on August 4, 1902 to supply an estimated population of three hundred. William E. McLaughlin, the first postmaster, was succeeded by Christopher C. Cook on January 23, 1904.

C.S. Rice came to McLean in 1904 when fewer than a score of families inhabited the town. Among these were C.C. Cook, general store; Dr. J.A. Green, physician; Gosch Bros., lumber company; James F. Heasley, blacksmith; J.R. Hindman, half-dugout hotel; W.F. Harrell, livery stable and W.E. McLaughlin.

Other residents included L.O. Floyd, W.T. Wilson, J.H. Chambers, A.A. Christian, J.L. Collier, H.J. Pettit, R.H. Collier, C.M. McCullough and W.B. Upham.

In addition to persons already mentioned, some of the other families in the McLean area by 1904 were those of John D. Back, J.C. and Sam Biggers, Jim Burroughs, Charles and John Milton Carpenter, Jeff Christian (who helped with the organization of the First Methodist Church), S.A. Cousins, Sr., Raymond Glass, Douglas Graham (cousin of Alfred Rowe), Sam Morse, Henry Neill, Thomas W. Petty, W.C. Phillips, David Veach and L.H. Webb.

Two old-time cowpunchers who later lived in McLean were “Uncle” Ben Pierce and J.T. Lovelace, “the kid” who lived to be 101 years old.

The McLean News began publication in 1904 with a Mr. Boswell as editor, but no files were kept until about 1906 or 1907.

The water supply was from a well drilled in the middle of the present intersection of Main and I-40 (business). A windmill did the pumping and people hauled water in barrels or carried what they needed in buckets.

In the early days of the town, boots and spurs of the neighboring cowboys were often heard clicking. There was never a saloon, and the sale of beer was legalized for only about six months. Nevertheless, the cowboys found entertainment congregating in the barber shop, livery and wagon stables, around the town well and at dances in homes of McLean residents.

The period beginning about 1905 was a prosperous time for McLean , and farming replaced cattle ranching to some extent. There were three general stores all carrying everything that a farmer or rancher would require. From 300 to 400 cars of watermelons were shipped each season and about the same amount of corn and grain sorghums were also shipped. The area southeast of the railroad station was used as an assembling area for shippers. Corn and maize heads were hauled in and dumped there by farmers, and when all of the crops were gathered, corn shellers were set up and threshing machines brought in and the grains were processed for shipment.

Swine production in the area filled several hundred railroad cars each year as farmers sent the animals to market. The business of the railroad was so great that four telegraph operators were needed to handle the messages. (Cotton as a big crop did not amount to much until the middle or late 1920s).

The assembling area was also used for community baseball games and other forms of recreation. Since there were no movies, radio or television, the early day people had to make their own recreation and the practical joke was a popular form of amusement. Many newcomers were “entertained” by being the honor guest on a snipe or badger hunt.

McLean was the first town in Gray County to be incorporated. The Handbook of Texas states that this occurred in 1907 with W.R. Patterson as the first mayor. However, other sources give 1909 as the date of incorporation with C.S. Rice as first mayor.

By the time of incorporation, the town had two banks, Citizens State Bank and American National Bank, two livery stables, two wagon yards, a post office, lumber yard, several grocery stores and cafes and a newspaper and furniture store.

Early day lawyers were H.W. Mullins and S.E. Boyett. Pioneer doctors included C.E. Donnell and J.A. Green. Social life consisted of church festivities, hay rides, taffy pulls, baseball games, square dancing and drinking sodas at the corner store.

Charles Turman, pioneer teacher and principal at McLean in 1907-08, remembered that McLean had 330 students and Pampa had about 100 students enrolled.

At an election on March 17, 1908, an unsuccessful attempt was made to move the county seat from Lefors to McLean.

By 1910 McLean, with a population of 663, was the largest town in the county. Although the population climbed over the next ten years, by 1920 Pampa was the largest with 978 population whereas McLean had grown to only 741.

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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