Mother Road westbound, Old
will cross under I-40 at Exit 146 and enter McLean,
66. McLean is one of the few real
time capsules of the
where you will be transported back in time for a true
Route 66 experience. You will not be disappointed.
McLean started as nothing more than a cattle loading site
along the Rock Island Railroad when, in 1901, a water well was dug and a
switch and section house was built. But, among the railroaders, a large
rancher had a vision. Alfred Row, an Englishman, saw greater opportunity
for the area and donated land near the switching station to lay out a town
Naming the town for W.P. McLean of
Legislature and Railroad Commission, the town quickly grew, gaining a
post office by 1902. Just one year later the town was
incorporated and boasted two banks, two livery stables, two wagon
yards, two cafes, a post office, a lumber yard, newspaper called the
McLean News, and a furniture store. A windmill pumped
water from a well drilled in the middle of Main Street, and residents
hauled their water from the mill home in barrels and buckets.
had became a center for area agriculture, as several hundred carloads
of hogs and watermelons were shipped from the rail station annually.
In fact, it became so busy that four telegraph operators were required
to handle the messages of the railroad business.
In 1912, Alfred Rowe, the
town’s founder, left McLean to visit his native
England. Tragically, he would never see McLean again as, upon his
return to the United States, he met his death on the Titanic when the
grand ship sank in the Atlantic in the early morning hours of April
15, 1912. Legend has it that rescuers found him hugging his
briefcase, frozen to death atop an ice floe, with his gold watch still
1927 the town profited from the oil boom, becoming a major shipping point
for area livestock, gas, and oil. And, in the very same year, the
Mother Road arrived in McLean, further insuring the town’s growth for the next
several decades. During the Golden Age of
Route 66, McLean boasted 16 service stations, six
motels and numerous cafes.
Oklahoma based Phillips Petroleum Company
built its first
Texas service station in McLean in 1927. By 1940 McLean had six churches, a newspaper,
fifty-nine businesses, and a population of more than 1,500.
In September of 1942, an area northeast of
chosen to serve as the McLean
Permanent Alien Internment Camp during WWII. During its operation, the
camp boasted twenty to thirty buildings and housed 3,000 prisoners-of-war.
The first prisoners were German troops captured in North Africa, who
arrived in early 1943. A second group of Germans captured in their
Homeland were also retained at the camp. During its time, there were
several escape attempts from the camp, but on the bare plains of the
panhandle there was nowhere to go. All were recaptured and seemed
glad to return to the prison. The camp continued to operate until
July 1, 1945.
growth of nearby
and the emergence of Pampa as the county’s industrial center, McLean's
population began to fall. In the late 1970’s Interstate 40 began to
bypass many of the small towns of the
Panhandle. McLean business owners fought hard to keep McLean
alive, knowing that a bypass would draw away the tourist trade for which
the many service stations, motels and cafes thrived. Doing their
best, the town fought to stop, or at least, slow the eventual building of
Interstate to no avail. Construction of the bypass started in March
of 1982 and was completed in the summer of 1984. Though McLean
was the last
66 town bypassed by Interstate 40, the move further reduced its
is called home to just over 800 citizens.