Hutchinson County, Texas – Panhandle Frontier

 

Hutchinson County, Texas by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Hutchinson County, Texas by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

 

Hutchinson County, Texas Map, courtesy Texas Almanac

Hutchinson County, Texas Map, courtesy Texas Almanac

Hutchinson County History & Information (See Below)

Native Americans

Explorers & Trail Blazers

Settlement

Oil Boom

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument

Borger – Rip Roaring “Booger Town”

Fritch – Panhandle Railroad Town

Lake Meredith National Recreation Area

Sanford – Another Railroad Town

Stinnett – Hutchinson County Seat

Extinct Towns, Ghost Towns & Company Camps

 

Hutchinson County History & Information:

Canadian river in Hutchinson County, Texas by the National Park Service.

Canadian River in Hutchinson County, Texas by the National Park Service.

Located in the north central section of the Texas Panhandle, Hutchinson County, named for pioneer jurist Anderson Hutchinson, comprises 871 square miles of plains and broken terrain along the Canadian River, which angles cross the county from southwest to northeast.

Long before white settlers came to the area, now very dry by most appearances, it was fed by many springs, especially along the Canadian River. In the last half-century, the water table has declined drastically, causing most of these old springs to dry up. Once, where they flowed abundantly, the area was lush with cottonwood, willow, salt cedar, and hackberry trees, as well as grapevines and plum thickets. Numerous sawmills cut many of the cottonwoods in the early 1900s, and though the trees returned, they never came back in their former size and numbers. Here also once roamed buffalo, bear, and panther. Though these animals are long gone, much wildlife remains including mule and white-tailed deer, antelope, turkey, coyote, and several types of birds.

Native Americans:

These springs and abundant wildlife provided a home to various ancient peoples for thousands of years. The first known natives were the Paleoindians more than 12,000 years ago. These ancient Indians made the well-known Clovis points and were known to have been mammoth hunters. The Folsom culture followed the Clovis and were likely their descendants. They hunted a form of Bison that stood ten feet high at the shoulder. Following these Paleoindian groups, the Texas Panhandle entered a phase known as the Archaic. The giant animals were gone and conditions had deteriorated to such a degree, that at times, droughts which lasted for centuries, prohibited settlement.

About 2,000 years ago, two new cultures moved into the Texas Panhandle, including the Woodland culture, which came from the east, bringing with them, their cord-marked pottery and the bow and arrow. From the Southwest, the Palo Duro people, with their deep corner-notched arrow points and thick brown-ware pottery, also came to the Panhandle. One of these groups that arrived in this vast grass-covered land where great herds of buffalo, are known as the “Antelope Creek” culture in Hutchinson County. These people built “apartment style” buildings, more commonly found in New Mexico, along the banks of the Canadian River. They were also known to have utilized the red bluffs above the Canadian River for the high quality, rainbow-hued flint, which was vital to their existence. These people utilized these quarries from about 1200 and 1450 AD.

Alibates Flint Quarries, courtesy National Park Service

Today, the site of the Antelope Creek people is known as the Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument. It is the only U.S. National Monument in the State of Texas. The flint usually lies just below the surface at ridge level in a layer up to six feet thick. The quarry pits were not very large, between 5 to 25 feet wide and 4 to 7 feet deep. The area, an integral part of Lake Meredith National Recreation Area, is protected by the U.S. National Park Service and can only be viewed by ranger-led guided tours, which must be scheduled in advance.

Around 1500 AD, early Apache tribes came to the region, followed by the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, and Comanche, who would eventually force the Apache out of the region.

Today, Hutchinson County has more excavated archeological sites than any other county in the Texas Panhandle. At the Lake Creek site in northeastern Hutchinson County, pottery, stone tools, and the remains of bison and other animals dated from 950 to 1300 AD. At the Black Dog Village site between Borger and Stinnett, were there were also small springs, the remains of dolomite slab houses and petroglyphs have been found. Dating indicates the village was occupied from 970 to 1670 AD. Yet more evidence of ancient people have been found in various old springs and creeks in the county.

Explorers & Trail Blazers:

In 1541, the first Europeans ventured into the area on an expedition led by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, who was destined for Quivira in his quest for the mythical Seven Cities of Gold. This elusive search was repeated by Spanish Conquistador Juan de Onate, who passed through in 1601. As had Coronado, Onate encountered Apache in the area as he and his men marched to the northeast, following the Canadian River into Oklahoma.

The first Anglo-American expedition to come through Hutchinson County was led by Stephen Harriman Long, U.S. army explorer and topographical engineer, who mistook the Canadian River for the Red River, in August 1820. In 1792, Pedro Vial, French explorer who worked for the Spanish government as a peacemaker, guide, and interpreter, came through the area as he was blazing trails across the Great Plains to connect the Spanish and French settlements in Texas, New Mexico, Missouri, and Louisiana.

Josiah Gregg

Josiah Gregg

After the Texas Revolution, Americans began to explore the area. One of the first was Josiah Gregg, in 1840. Seeking a shorter, more southerly route from Santa Fe, New Mexico to the Mississippi River Valley, he decided to follow the south side of the Canadian River and left Santa Fe on February 25, 1840, with 47 men, 28 wagons, two canons, 200 mules, and 300 sheep and goats. As the group crossed the Panhandle in March, Gregg’s expedition fought off an attack by a band of Pawnee near Trujillo Creek in what is now Oldham County, and a few days later, had to endure a blue norther (a rapidly moving cold front) that scattered most of the sheep and goats permanently across the Llano Estacado. In his journal, Gregg carefully noted the terrain, the abundance of game, and the unpredictable Panhandle weather. The expedition crossed the 100th Meridian on March 23 and moved on through Indian Territory (Oklahoma) to Fort Smith and Van Buren, Arkansas. He would later describe his impression of the area:

“After three or four days of weary travel over this level plain, the picturesque valley of the Canadian river, burst once more upon our view, presenting one of the most magnificent sights I had ever beheld. Here rose a perpendicular cliff, in all the majesty and sublimity of its desolation; — there another sprang forward as in the very act of losing its balance and about to precipitate itself upon the vale below. A little further on a pillar with crevices and cornices so curiously formed as easily to be mistaken for the work of art; while a thousand other objects grotesquely and fantastically arranged, and all shaded in the sky-bound perspective by the blue ridge-like brow of the mesa far beyond the Canadian, constituted a kind of chaotic space where nature seemed to have indulged in her wildest caprices.”

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