Seven miles west of McLean on old Route 66 is the town of Alanreed. When Superhighway I-40 plowed through the Texas Panhandle, Alanreed’s glory days were over. However, it’s well worth the side trip to visit this almost ghost town, envisioning what it must have been like during its heydays as a bright spot on the old Mother Road.
Along the stage line from Mobeetie to Clarendon in the early 1880’s, a group of farmers decided that it would be a fine site for a town. By 1884 the Clarendon Land and Cattle Company began to sell lots and in 1886 a post office was established in nearby Eldridge, some six miles north of the present site of Alanreed. Evidently, those early farmers and cow-punchers must have had a heck of a time figuring out what to call the town because it was also called Springtown, Spring Tank, Prairie Dog Town, Rusty Shanks and Gouge Eye.
Finally though, the present town site was laid out in 1900 by surveyors of the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Texas Railroad, naming the settlement Alanreed, derived from the name of the contracting firm, Alan and Reed. In no time, G. E. Castleberry’s Land Company began to sell parcels for $2.25 an acre.
In 1901 the first school was built and just one year later, the post office was moved from Eldridge and renamed Alanreed. After the Rock Island Railroad was completed in 1903, Alanreed became a major shipping point for cattle and by 1904 the settlement was the largest town in Gray County. That same year, the Alanreed Baptist Church was founded. It continues to stand and serve congregations today. It is the oldest church on Texas’ stretch of Route 66.
By 1907, the town boasted a bank, a hotel, two churches, a saloon, two grocery stores, a hardware store, a livery stable and a blacksmith shop. In 1912 a new two-story school was built and by 1917 the town had a population of 250 complete with telephone service. In 1927 with the Panhandle Oil Boom and the coming of the Mother Road, Alanreed was called home to some 500 residents. Like its neighbor McLean, Alanreed made several unsuccessful bids to be the county seat.
However, even though the oil boom and Route 66 had served to boost the population for a short period, by 1929 the hotel and the bank had both closed. In 1930 the Alanreed school was consolidated with three other area schools and by and by 1933 Alanreed’s population had dropped to just 150.
The number of residents ebbed and flowed over the next several decades but by 1977 only about sixty residents and no businesses remained. Today, Alanreed is all but a ghost town with about 50 residents and only one operating business.
As you approach Alanreed, you will pass by the oldest cemetery on Texas Route 66 to the south. Continuing down the curving road, keep your eye out for the restored gas station on your left-hand side. Maintained by the Texas Historic Route 66 Association, the Bradley Kiser Super “66” Service Station, built in 1930, is a great photo opportunity. Next to the gas station is an unmarked brick automotive garage. Throughout this small community a number of abandoned homes and buildings can be seen in various states of disrepair.
A bit further up the road, on your right is the oldest church on the Texas Route, founded in 1904. Unfortunately, the once popular Regal Reptile Ranch is gone. A bit further, as you near I-40, is the Crockett Service Station and Motel, which also serves as a small trading post and a post office.
Alanreed is located on Old Route 66 at I-40 and FM 291, seven miles west of McLean, Texas and 59 miles east of Amarillo in Gray County. West of Alanreed just beyond the I-40 on-ramp, Route 66 continues paved for 2.3 miles arriving at Johnson Ranch Road (exit 132) where you should re-enter I-40.
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This was once the first section of the infamous Jericho Gap that during Route 66′ heydays, trapped numerous travelers on its 18 mile swath of muddy black soil. Bypassed in the 1930’s, the original stretch of road is now missing segments and is partly on private property.
Locals often benefited from the many stranded vehicles on this stretch of the Mother Road, pulling stranded cars out of the quagmire, to such a degree that there were rumors that some locals watered down the road to increase their business.
Beyond Johnson Road (exit 132), old Route 66 continues paved for a while, before turning to gravel, turning paved again, and back to gravel for about two miles. At that point, it becomes a rutted dirt road and enters a private ranch.
The old site of Jericho can be accessed by taking exit 124 south on Highway 70 about one mile. Here you can see the endings of both the Jericho-Alanreed and Groom-Jericho sections of the Jericho Gap at County Road B.
The area that would become Jericho was first inhabited when a stage stop was established in the late 1880’s along the stage route that carried passengers and mail from Saint’s Roost (modern day Clarendon) to Fort Elliott (today’s Mobeetie). There was little here at that time as the station was composed of just a dugout and drinking water had to be hauled in from a nearby spring.
When the Indians were removed to reservations, more people began to settle the area and in 1894, when an unusual outbreak of Malaria killed several settlers, the Jericho Cemetery was established.
When construction on the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Texas Railroad began through the area, even more people settled there and the town was officially established in 1902 when the railroad established a station there. A post office was founded that same year and the town was named for the biblical city in Palestine. In no time, the small town began to grow as cattle where shipped from here and passengers could take the train to the area. When Route 66 was established through Jericho, it brought with a number of gas stations, stores, and a motel. It was then that the town gained its infamous reputation as the Jericho Gap helped the locals to prosper.
Jericho peaked in the 1930’s when it boasted a population of about 100 souls, a post office, three stores, a grain elevator, a tourist court, a service garage and a filling station.
However, Route 66 was moved one-half mile north, by-passing the town and by 1939, its population had dropped in half to just 50 people. The post office was discontinued in 1955, and by the 1980s little remained at the townsite.
Today, Jericho is a ghost town, surrounded by cattle and ghost farms. The ruins of the old tourist court can still be seen, as well as a house and another unidentified brick building. What little is left is located on County Road B, just west of Highway 70. The cemetery also remains about two miles west of the old townsite, south of County Road B.
Return to the frontage road where you will pass by the Leaning Water Tower to the north before entering Groom, Texas.
Britten Truck Stop
Next to the leaning water tower was once the busy Britten Truck Stop, garage and restaurant. Though the business is long gone, the vestige remains of the tall sign still stand next to the tower. Many people have often wondered how this water tower came to stand this way, some thinking that one leg of the tower is shorter than the others. Not true, nor was the tower swept to one side by a raging Texas tornado. Quite simply, it was planned that way, making for a good gimmick and lots of traffic at the Tower Restaurant when travelers stopped to inquire.
The water tower was once a functioning water tower, which was slated for demolition until Ralph Britten bought it and moved it to its current location to draw attention to his truck stop and tourist information center.
After taking advantage of the photo opportunities at “Britten, USA”, travel on to Groom, Texas.