White Deer Land Museum

Gray County Wheat Left Pampa In 1906

The first agricultural activities in Gray County were along the creek beds where families were relatively self-sufficient with their gardens and fruits from their orchards supplemented by wild berries, plums and grapes. The first real farming was in the area of Laketon where grain crops were raised to feed stock that furnished milk and dairy products. Also grains were crushed to make a combination feed to sell to stockmen.

Photo of Eloise Lane

Eloise Lane

Before the White Deer Land Company began to promote Gray County as a farming region, the land was used primarily for ranching. In 1904 interest in wheat as a money-making crop was aroused by the success of early farmers. However, until 1906, there were no elevators in the area nor any wheat buyers. Wheat had to be loaded by hand shovel into boxcars and sent to market in Kansas .

The first two carloads of wheat left Pampa in 1906. Banners with “Gray County Wheat” in bold letters emblazoned sides of the boxcars that left Pampa with great ceremony. The wheat, which sold for 60 cents a bushel, was raised on the D.C. Davis farm about 12 miles east of Pampa . This was the location of the Pampa Army Air Force Base that stood from 1942 until 1945.

In the early days horse-drawn “walking plows” were used to cultivate, plant and work the land. Occasionally oxen were used instead of horses. Wheat was harvested at first by machinery equipped almost entirely by farmers themselves.

About 1904 Sam and Charlie Thomas were responsible for getting the first tractor in the area. The tractor, an International Harvester Mogul, worked on one cylinder. Both the first tractors and combines were introduced by the Thomas brothers who pioneered machinery of all types.

The first harvesters used extensively were called header barges. They were huge and required a driver and six additional men to operate them. Threshing machines, with a crew of about 20 men, followed the barges and completed the harvest. When wheat was tall and threshed from bundles, a full 20-man crew was needed to do the job.

In custom harvesting a crew would include a bookkeeper and a cook and meals would be prepared in an improvised cook shack. Great quantities of hot biscuits and cornbread, red beans, potatoes and cold bread pudding were needed to satisfy growing boys and working men. Women and girls cooked on ranges heated by coal, wooden corn cobs, or cow chips. In addition they tended gardens, raised chickens and milked cows. Water boys and general flunkies looked forward to harvest time for they had a lot of fun for awhile.

Crop nesters from the breaks planted their row crops early so that they could come to help harvest and some would stay to help plow the stubble land before they went back to gather their own crops. In the southern part of Gray County where the land is sandy, cotton has played a prime role in farming. Pampa boomed each year and the area looked like a tent colony during harvest time. Hands swarmed into the town and farmers would pick crews from freight trains.

A type of combine, pulled by a tractor, appeared about 1914. It featured a threshing attachment that worked on the saame basis as an old fashioned binnder. Wheels were geared to work the thresher. A Pampa hardware dealer is said to have sold more tractors in 1919 that anyone west of Kansas .

A second type of combine carried a motor to work the thresher. A crew for the new selfpropelled combine consisted of two men, one operator and one truck driver.

By 1926 Gray County was an agricultural region of considerable resources. This had a stabilizing effect during the population explosion of the oil boom during the late 1920s and the miseries of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl in the early 1930s.

Henry Lovett, southwest of Lefors, broke out the first farm on Block B-2 with a rod bottom walking plow. In 1906 the Lovetts bought a block of property in Pampa .

Coming to Gray County soon after 1900 and settling near the Wheeler County line, Jeff and Pink Seitz raised cotton, corn, kafir and other row crops, as well as wheat for 58 years.

In 1901 J.C. Farrington, a successful wheat farmer who was noted for his beautiful flowers and shrubs, moved to a farm several miles east of Pampa.

In the summer of 1903, Charley Gatlin bought 640 acres at $2.50 an acre. The land was 14 miles south of Miami and 8 miles west of Mobeetie.

In 1903 John W. Eller bought a section of land north of Laketon and lived there until 1908. He paid $3 an acre and sold it for $15 an acre.

W.D. Stockstill came to the Panhandle in 1905 and bought land halfway between Pampa and Miami. It has been reported that Mrs. Stockstill and Joe Bowers planted the first wheat in the area.

J.B. Bowers, Sr. filed on four sections of land north of Laketon on the line of Gray and Roberts counties. John Thomas Bowers was born there in 1904. In 1908 the Bowers began to buy land eight miles south of Pampa. They bought a section at a time, as they could pay for it, at $3.75 to $5 an acre at 10% interest on the loan.

In 1904 John T. Benton bought a farm near Laketon for $4 an acre. While living in a tent, he secured lumber and, with the help of neighbors, built a house in one day. Following the house raising, a large dinner was held at the home of William Gillis. The Gillis family was of the Dunkard persuasion and were considered the finest of neighbors and friends.

In 1906 W.D. Benton, son of John T. bought land east of Pampa. He and his brother Bert plowed sod when the land was first put into cultivation.

Soon after 1905 Alfred and Nancy Ann Holmes bought a half section of land two miles south of Pampa for $5 an acre. They acquired several more farms south and east of their original purchase and also land on what is now South Cuyler Street, extending from the Santa Fe Railroad to Highway 60.

J. Frank and Leona (Lewis) Meers moved to a farm three miles south of Pampa in 1906. Their son, Lewis Franklin Meers, now lives on the farm.

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.

Closed Accordian Default Hidden

Your content goes here. Edit or remove this text inline or in the module Content settings. You can also style every aspect of this content in the module Design settings and even apply custom CSS to this text in the module Advanced settings.

error: Content is protected !!