White Deer Land Museum

Kingsmill Was First Known As Ontario

A map of the Santa Fe Route in 1888 shows a siding designated as Ontario, which was seven miles southwest of Glasgow (soon changed to Sutton and then to Pampa).

Photo of Eloise Lane

Eloise Lane

Ontario was located on a section of land which Andrew Kingsmill, London banker, bought in the fall of 1902 for Lord Rosebery, principal stockholder of White Deer Lands. The land, purchased for $5.00 an acre, was to be held in trust by Frederic de P. Foster and Cornelius C. Cuyler, New York lawyers. Kingsmill, who had been sent from London to Texas by Lord Rosebery, had a water well drilled on the land where the village of Kingsmill was eventually located.

Some of the early settlers in the area were the families of J.M. Bell, Sr., W.J. and W.C. Archer, Brady Cobb, J.C. McConnell; Garland, Elmer and Oscar Frashier, John Mongole; William McKay and J.L. Noel.

The area farmers formed a cooperative grain company and built their own grain elevator named Ecla Grain. Garland Frashier was president and his youngest brother, Oscar, was secretary.

Garland organized a rural telephone company, the first in that area. The telephone was the crank type.

In the winter of 1915-16, Garland built a one and one-half story house over a full basement. In 1916 he bought his first tractor, and in 1917, his first car, a Studebaker. In 1917 he purchased an Edison phonograph, one of the first in that area, and people came from miles around to listen. On Christmas Eve, 1922, one of the first radios was in their home. It was a Atwater-Kent with a loudspeaker, earphones and a 30-foot aerial.

A post office was established as Ecla on April 4, 1916, with Ida Barbee as the first postmaster. Presumably the post office was named for the grain elevator. However, there was an Ontario in Oldham County , and that name could not be used by any other post office in Texas.

The name of the post office was changed to Kings Mill on May 18, 1922. Although the name was chosen to honor the family of Montagu Kingsmill Brown’s mother — each of Margaret Kingsmill Brown’s twelve children had “Kingsmill” as a middle name — the U.S. Postal Service required that the name should be “Kings Mill” to avoid confusion with ” Kingsville ” in south Texas.

(The U.S. Postal Service may have helped its workers with name changes, but it certainly caused confusion in Gray County with LeFors (family) – Lefors (post office); Boydstun (family) – Boydston (post office); Kingsmill (family) – Kings Mill (post office).

The 1920 census listed the population of Kings Mill as 25, and it remained a small farming community until the oil boom of the late 1920s.

With construction beginning about 1927, the world’s largest tank farm, a collection of large-volume storage facilities, was located at Kings Mill. Using fresnos (large scoops), slips and three-mule teams, Frank Jordan helped to build fire guards around the tanks. In case of fire, a small cannon was available to shoot holes out of the bottom of the tanks so that they would not explode and spread fire.

Much of the equipment for the fire guards was bought from Travis Lively in Pampa and hauled to Kings Mill on 8-wheel wagons, using four or five drivers.

Magnolia had fifty 55,000 barrel tanks; Sinclair Prairie had from forty to forty-five 55,000 barrel tanks and Champlain had from eighteen to twenty 55,000 barrel tanks. In all, there were about 1800 tanks.

Because harnesses were constantly breaking, harness men could work 18 hours a day. Riveters and other workers looked forward to pay day when they had money to spend. At these times, when an eastbound train reached the bend at Kings Mill, the engineer would reduce the speed and someone would yell, “Freight train’s comin!” Like a swarm of honey bees, the men would run to hop on the train coming to Pampa.

Kings Mill was then a “tent city,” and women cooked outside the tents in which their families lived. However, most of the men were unmarried and Ate their meals at Larry Spicer’s cafe at the end of Main Street . Spicer was a large man, and if any of his customers caused a disturbance by drinking or fighting, he would throw the offenders outside.

Ray and Mickey had a large two-story grocery store that was well stocked. Bob Burgess, Bee’s brother, had a barber shop.

The Cabot Carbon Company, having built its first carbon black plant in the Panhandle at Bowers City , built a second plant near Kings Mill. Coming into production in 1929, this second plant was located about two miles northeast of Kings Mill on the north side of US 60.

Newcomers to the Panhandle were in awe at the immense plumes of black smoke that emanated from the “channel black” plant. These plumes were early-day landmarks and beacons to aircraft pilots approaching Amarillo , Pampa and Borger.

Some people believe that the population of Kings Mill may have reached from 1500 to 1800 during the oil boom days and that the town might have become the largest in the Panhandle. However, the tanks were abandoned for storage and the Texas Pipe Line moved. The 1930 census showed 400 residents, and the 1940 census reflected a further decrease with a population of 150. The number of businesses operating in the town dropped from 16 in 1930 to five in 1940.

In 1951, W.T. Nolan, a retired chief engineer for Phillips Petroleum in Pampa , opened the Top 0′ Texas turkey farm. He retailed about 2,000 turkeys a year throughout the U.S. The special diet for the turkeys was peanut meal and Panhandle “meat scraps.”

On Friday, April 13, 1951, Celanese Corporation announced that Pampa was to be the site for a new multi-million dollar chemical complex. The site was about one mile northeast of Kings Mill on the south side of US 60. Production of acetic acid (vinegar) began on October 25, 1952. About 120 workers were employed.

The plant, now Hoechst Celenese Chemical Group, experienced a disastrous explosion on November 14, 1987. It has been reconstructed and now has about 400 employees.

The oil storage tanks were bought by Harvest Queen Mill and Elevator Company of Plainview , and wheat was stored in them from 1952 to 1971. At one time the company was using about 154 tanks for grain storage in Texas.

During the oil shortage scare in 1973 and the rise in steel prices, the tanks were dismantled and moved elsewhere.

The school at Kings Mill closed in 1933 and students were transferred to Pampa . The post office was discontinued in 1963 with mail going to Pampa , and the name of the town reverted to the family name of Kingsmill. The Kingsmill Grocery Store, which had housed the post office, closed in May, 1973. The Santa Fe depot, which handled Celanese and Cabot business, closed on September 9, 1984.

The land in the area of Kingsmill is being farmed. Grain sorghum and wheat are grown on irrigated and dry-land farms surrounding the area. Only a few houses and the Wheeler-Evans grain elevator remain as reminders that there was ever a town at Kingsmill.

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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