White Deer Land Museum

The Southern Kansas Railroad

A house which served as one of the first ranch headquarters in the Texas Panhandle can be seen at the southeastern edge of the town of White Deer, Texas . The old ranch house has a history dating back for more than one hundred years.

Photo of Eloise Lane

Eloise Lane

In 1886, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe announced that its subsidiary, the Southern Kansas Railway Company of Texas, would build 200 miles of new track from Kiowa, Kansas, southwest through Indian Territory to Panhandle City in the Texas high plains. The vast cattle ranches and agricultural prospects of the high plains motivated the AT&SF as did the potential threat represented by the expansion of a local Texas railway, the Fort Worth and Denver City .

An Act of Congress, which had been approved on July 4, 1884, gave the railroad company the right to locate, construct, own, equip and operate a railway-telegraph and telephone line through the Indian Territory . The company was given the privilege to construct its line, with a right-of-way 100 feet in width and with an additional strip 200 feet long and 3,000 feet in length every ten miles for stations.

No country could have been much wilder than the Indian Territory was at the time the railroad was constructed. There were no towns, nor even legal settlers, and curious Indians frequently put in appearances.

The final segment of the Kiowa Extension, a distance of 50.2 miles from Miami to Panhandle City , crossed the pasture of White Deer Lands. The progress of the railroad was reported in many of the letters which George Tyng, manager of WDL, wrote to Frederic de Peyster Foster, trustee, and Russell Benedict, Foster’s assistant, in New York City . Excerpts follow.

November 4, 1886- “Nothing very interesting to communicate to you beyond the filing at Austin of a charter for Texas of the Southern Kansas Railroad (SKRR).”

December 8, 1886 -“It is yet too soon to declare absolutely that the SKRR will adopt the line now surveyed through our pasture; or, that the road will be constructed through here next year – 1887; yet my present belief is that both of these suppositions will be verified.

“One thing is now settled; the SKRR is being graded to a point on the Canadian 281-2 miles from our east fence, to which point the permanent location has been decided and to which, I believe, contracts are already let.

“I camped one night last week with the engineers (pleasant fellows) near our west fence, since which they have returned to a camp near our Mobeetie gate, near which they are working upon their prior line up Red Deer . They declare this Red Deer line to be one of cheap construction, more direct than the Canadian line, and passing through more of fertile country.”

January 3, 1887 – “The line up the north bank of the Canadian has been given up, and that up Red Deer and through the White Deer pasture has been definitely adopted.”

January 22, 1887 – “The SKRR desires right-of-way through White Deer Lands Because of benefits to WDL, the railway asks WDL to donate right-of-way and several sections of land.”

January 25, 1887 – “The SKRR has just let a contract for grading 38 miles of their road southwest from its crossing of the Canadian River . This contract extends for some 10 miles into WD pasture — or about to Fire Guard Dam. From the latter point, across our lands, the line of the railroad is entirely upon the plains — presenting no difficulties and very light expense, to construction of the road.

( Fire Guard Dam is about a mile east of the Pampa city limit, on land owned by Mrs. L.L. Stovall).

“The contractors have already established their main camp on Red Deer at a point some ten miles southwest from the Canadian. They have at work a strong force of men and teams, and a much stronger force en route from completed contracts to the northeast.

“Two hundred miles of materials (rails, ties, etc.) have been delivered (using 180 wagons) at Kiowa, the present operating terminus of the SKRR. Two hundred miles from Kiowa carries the SKRR across our lands and to the center of Carson County to the point at which it is expected to effect a crossing of the Fort Worth and Denver and to ‘boom’ a big town into existence!”

March 2, 1887 – “The Right-of-way Agent of the SKRR requested a conference for securing the right-of-way through the WDL and for acquiring lands for depot grounds. In filing its maps at Austin for approval, the railroad company must designate on said maps the sites selected by it for stations and depots, which must in no case be more than 25 miles apart and which can not thereafter be changed.”

April 1, 1887 – “The engineer-in-charge informs me that work has progressed so well, that no doubt is now entertained of having track laid to the Canadian by the end of next month. The Canadian is to be crossed by a temporary timber pile trestle bridge, whose construction is not expected to consume over three weeks. The track from the Canadian to the WDL pasture can be laid by the third week in July.”

April 1, 1887 – “Contractors’ employees are already camped on Red Deer inside our fence. Immediate condemnation proceedings are inevitable and desirable, if friendly. Condemnation appears to be the only proceeding by which the railroad can acquire the right-of-way, which, I judge, you consider proper for the bond holders to acquiesce in yielding.

“It is apparent that the SKRR line through WDL is to be a part of the Santa Fe transcontinental trunk line from Chicago to San Francisco . Contracts have been let to a point nearly 10 miles west of WDL’s Block 7 — entirely across WDL.”

April 24, 1887 – “The SKRR line goes through WDL for 33 miles. It is compelled by law to establish stations not greater than 33 miles apart; thus the law compels the SKRR to make at least one station within the 33 miles of their line across WDL.”

(On May 16, 1887, Foster recommended that the bondholders of WDL grant one section of land at or around each of the stations of Glasgow [Pampa] and Paton [White Deer]).

May 21, 1887 -“Shipping from here (WD farm) by rail will be easy within a couple of months, and will help sales of all stock now on the ranch. “The SKRR is pushing its construction. Graders are now strung out entirely across the pasture. One camp with 45 teams is at Survey 54, Block 7 (near Cuyler); from there to the northeast, the line is quite covered. The engineer in charge of this division estimates that the grade will be finished by the first week in July from our west fence in Carson County to our east fence of Block 2, except for a few spots on Red Deer Creek, to which, the engineers say, it is expected to bring the track within 60 days.

“It is rumored that grading will be suspended-for a while in Carson County west of us to enable the track to be brought to the front, thus reducing expenses of transporting forage and supplies to grading parties. A possible reason also may be conjectured to be an invitation to boom a town in Carson County by making it a temporary terminus. I have not yet learned whether or not the Fort Worth and Denver has been definitely located 12 miles southeast of Claude.”

(On June 6, 1887, John Hetherly was authorized to collect bones on the Diamond F, or WD pasture, and to haul these bones to stations on the railroad. Hetherly was to receive three-fourths and Foster one-fourth ‘of the profit from the sale of bones. One early settler reported that two or three dollars was received for a ton of bones).

(June 22, 1887, is the date on the blueprint for the station grounds at Glasgow [Glas-ko], the first name for Pampa . The blueprint is in the Square House Museum at Panhandle. ” Glasgow ” was a name chosen by construction engineers to honor a British banking firm).

August 18, 1887 – “The first locomotive of the SKRR is positively due on the south side of the Canadian tomorrow night. It will soon thereafter be determined whether rails will be laid on into Carson County this winter or not till spring. The graders are now out of our pasture, the grade having been completed.”

September 2, 1887 – “A man from Red Deer reports track laid for some 12 miles this way from the Canadian. He also brings the report as current that track-laying is to continue to Carson City (Panhandle).”

September 7, 1887 – “The ‘Frisco’ engineers ran a line up North Fork through the northern part of our Block 2, to intersection at the station in our Block 7.”

(The Frisco line did not materialize. The Fort Worth and Denver City built into Amarillo , missing Panhandle by 13 miles).

November 15, 1887 – “The SKRR track is at last inside-our pasture — about a mile.”

November 30, 1887 – “The SKRR track now lacks only 30 miles of reaching its immediate terminus in Carson County . Mr. Harvey expects to get there in 20 working days. If not too many stormy days intervene, the tracklaying will be complete to Carson (Panhandle) before Christmas.”

December 19, 1887 – “Arrived here (WD farm) this morning, getting off the construction train at a point about one and one-half miles southwest and in sight of the farm. The SKRR is now within eight miles of “Panhandle,” the projected new town in Carson County — four to five miles from our west fence. The townsite agent of SKRR with a surveying party went out this morning to Panhandle to lay out the new town and-to begin selling lots as soon as surveyed. About 250 people are said now to be at Panhandle, and more are coming in daily.”

(The construction of the railroad was completed at the end of 1887, and the railroad was opened for operation on January 15, 1888).

January 21, 1888 – “The SKRR is completed entirely across our pasture. They are booming the town of Panhandle three and one-half miles west of your west line. They claim to have sold $55,000 worth of lots to the present time.

February 28, 1888 – “The side track has been put in at Paton [White Deer], and its name in large black letters on a white ground, hangs on two poles 10 feet high. “By speaking to the conductor, you can be set off from the train within one-half mile and within sight of the (WD) farm on the plains, from which Paton is fully two or two and one-half miles distant. At Paton, there is nothing yet except the side-track and a large sign. At Glasgow [ Pampa ], where you saw the bone piles, a few days ago a cellar had been dug and a lot of lumber side-tracked.”

At its inception, the SKRR from the Oklahoma-Texas line to Panhandle City was said “to start nowhere and go nowhere.” However, it was the means of transportation by which many early settlers came to the area of White Deer Lands; it became a part of the Santa Fe main line from Chicago to San Francisco; and, in 1989, freight trains are still rolling across the route laid out by the Southern Kansas Railway Company of Texas.

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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