Hutchinson County, Texas Ghost Towns, Extinct Towns, & Company Camps

Hutchinson County, Texas Postal Map 1948.

Hutchinson County, Texas Postal Map 1948.

Over the years, Hutchinson County, Texas, supported numerous towns, post offices, and school districts important to early settlers. Later, several company camps supported the many folks involved in the Panhandle Oil Boom. Of most of these places, there is not a trace, of others, perhaps a few foundations, and yet more, marked only by a cemetery. There are a couple of ghost towns in the county; but, none that display the “typical appearance” of what we are accustomed to seeing in many old towns, such as an overgrown Main Street, lined with abandoned businesses and side streets with lifeless falling homes.

Old Towns & Places:

Adobe Walls, Texas

Adobe Walls, Texas

Adobe Walls – Adobe Walls was the name given to several trading posts and later a ranching community located 17 miles northeast of Stinnett in Hutchinson County. The first trading post in the area was established in early 1843 by Bent, St. Vrain, and Company, which hoped to trade with the Comanche and Kiowa tribes. The site was the location of two Indian Battles known as the First and Second Battle of Adobe Walls. Nothing is left of the town today, but monuments, historical markers, and the grave of famed buffalo hunter and Indian fighter William “Billy” Dixon. See the article HERE.

Alhambra – Like other early “communities” in Hutchinson County, Alhambra was not an official town but a group of area residents taking its name from the local post office. Located in southeast Hutchinson County, the post office was established on May 29, 1901, with Silas M. Brown serving as the postmaster. Less than a year later, the position was assumed by Cambell S. Terry in April 1902. The Terry family first lived in a half-dugout on Spring Creek but farmed at the Turkey Track cowboys called “Nubbin Ridge.” Before long, the Terrys moved closer to their farm on “Nubbins Ridge,” bringing the post office with them. Here, postmaster Campbell Terry also ran a small general store where he sold staples and would order other items such as equipment, boots, and household items for area residents. Pleasant and Sara Read Meadows donated land for the first school in the Alhambra Community, known as the White Deer Creek School District No. 3. The Alhambra community was known for its baseball team. The post office was discontinued on July 15, 1919, at which time area residents received their mail from Isom. Bessie M. Terry re-established the Alhambra post office on February 8, 1922, and it continued to operate until October 31, 1928. The mail was received from Roxana, an oil camp in the northeast corner of Carson County. In 1949, the White Deer Creek School was consolidated with The Spring Creek School.

Hutchinson County, Texas Oil Production by Kathy Alexander.

Hutchinson County, Texas Oil Production by Kathy Alexander.

Alpha/Parksdale – Located west of Pringle, this small community was centered around the Alpha School. The one-room school was built by William Henry Parks and Bill Pike in 1905 and was first called Parksdale. The school building was approximately 30×60 feet, with a curtain in the middle for a partition. Its earliest teachers were Alma Mae Parks, Irene Shanks, Nona Beck, and Ona McCormick. The community of Parksdale gained a post office on November 2, 1906, with John W. Mayfield serving as the first postmaster. On October 1, 1909, the post office name was changed to Alpha, and the school’s name followed. The post office closed on November 15, 1915, when the mail for the community was then received at Plemons. The Alpha School not only served area students but also was used for church services and community events. In 1913, the school was attended by 27 children. By 1926, it had only 12. The Alpha School and the Lieb and Holt Schools were later consolidated to form the Pringle School.

Antelope – A small camp once located on the east edge of Antelope Creek Canyon. Children who lived here attended the Johnson Ranch School, located about halfway between Sanford and Fritch on Antelope Creek.

Armstrong Camp – A small camp once located near Borger.

Barksdale – Located in Northwestern Hutchinson County, this settlement is listed on a 1907 postal map.

Bugbee – Some of the first settlers in Hutchinson County were free-range cattlemen, including Thomas S. Bugbee, who settled here in 1876. Bugbee started the Quarter Circle T Ranch with some 1,800 head of cattle. The Bugbee’s first lived in a dug-out home before building a rock home north of the Canadian River, about five miles west of the site of Adobe Walls. Fearing the return of hostile Indians, they built the walls 25 inches thick and had two gun ports in every room. It was named Bugbee Fort. Thomas Bugbee’s daughter, Ruby, was the first white child born in Hutchinson County. In 1881, the ranch and its 12,500 head of cattle sold for $350,000. Years later, a post office opened in the ranch headquarters in April 1900, with Willis P. Hedgecoke serving as postmaster. That same year, a part-time school was established, and the settlement had a small general store. The post office closed on August 31, 1910, and the mail then went to Plemons.

Carbon Black Plant in Bunavista, Texas by Kathy Alexander.

Carbon Black Plant in Bunavista, Texas by Kathy Alexander.

Bunavista – Located just west of Borger in southern Hutchinson County, this community was established in 1942 to house employees of a federal government synthetic rubber. It was allegedly named after the “Buna S” process for manufacturing synthetic rubber. When World War II cut off the supply of natural rubber, the Phillips Petroleum Company supervised the construction and operation of this plant, which produced butadiene, an essential ingredient of synthetic rubber. A settlement grew up very quickly around the plant. In 1955, Phillips bought the facility, which became its Copolymer Synthetic Rubber Plant. In 1960, the population of Bunavista was given at 2,067. But, over the next several years, many of the government houses were sold and removed. By 1970, the population had been reduced to 1,402, and in 1979, the town was officially incorporated into the city of Borger.

Capps – A tiny community once located northwest of Pringle on the now-abandoned Texas Northwestern Railroad line.

Centerville/Womble – A school district located northwest of Pringle, a school built here in 1907 by William Carson Womble on land he donated. After the Womble family moved to Stinnett, the name of the school was changed to Centerville. The enrollment was usually between 15 and 20 students, and teacher salaries from 1912-1915 were $60 per month.

Coble Lease – An early Phillips Petroleum Company camp was once located on the W.T. Coble Ranch.

Combined Carbon Camp – A small United Carbon Company camp located about two miles west of Sanford.

Continental Camp – This site was first the company camp of the Marland Oil Company and later the Continental Oil Company. It was located very near Borger.

Cosmos Camp – A small camp once located near Borger.

Devonian Camp – Named for the geologic period during which many oil reserves were formed, this small camp was once located near Borger.

Dial, Texas Area by Kathy Alexander.

Dial, Texas Area by Kathy Alexander.

Dial – Also known as “Gulf Dial,” this small town was located on Farm Road 2277 southeast of Stinnett in central Hutchinson County. It was named for the Dial Ranch, where it was established in 1925. The Gulf Oil Company drilled its Dial No. 1 well, the first in the county north of the Canadian River. By 1926 a sizable oil town, complete with a post office, was flourishing on the site. However, as highways improved, many of the “camps” declined, including Dial. In the 1960s, the town was still called home to about 80 people, but the post office had been discontinued by the 1970s. Today, there are several producing oil wells in the area and a few homes.

Electric City Texas

Electric City –  Established on the south bank of the Canadian River in south-central Hutchinson County, this community started in July 1926 with the construction of the Panhandle Power and Light Company’s Riverview Power Plant, three miles north of Borger. Men worked day and night until the plant was completed, so that electricity could be made available to neighboring oilfields as soon as possible. The plant’s turbines began turning in November. Soon a subsidiary camp grew around the facility as the county’s oil boom gained momentum. Within weeks, plant employees and oilfield workers had formed a sizable settlement, complete with dirt streets. On June 2, 1927, a post office was established, with Nadine Woody serving as the first postmaster. During the brief time it was open, three more postmasters followed. It was discontinued on January 31, 1929, at which time the mail was received from Borger. However, with the improvement of local highways and transportation, employees no longer found it necessary to live next to the plant. By 1948 Electric City’s population numbered only five. The plant was owned by Southwestern Public Service by the mid-1980s. There was no longer a population at the site since the plant was an easy commute from Borger. Today, the power plant is owned by Xcel Energy.

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

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

Gewhitt – Located between Borger and Stinnett on the north side of the Canadian River, GeWhitt flourished from 1926 to 1928. The town was named for George Whittenburg, son of James A. Whittenburg, who managed the family’s ranch properties. One of many small oil towns that sprang up on the heels of Borger’s success, it gained a post office on May 26, 1927, with Lewis A. King as postmaster. The town quickly boomed to a population of 500 people and, at one time, boasted a two-story hotel, filling stations, a dry goods store, four cafes, and an oil company. However, its success was immediately rivaled by two other nearby boomtowns, Oil City to the southwest and Signal Hill to the northeast. Within just a couple of years, most of its citizens began moving away, many to the booming town of Borger. In October 1942, the town officially ceased when its post office closed. The postmaster moved his family into Borger to find employment, and later, the building that housed a gas station, grocery store, and the post office was torn down and sold for scrap lumber. A few people remained in the town for several years, but there is nothing left of it today. Gewhitt was located five miles south of Stinnett, just off the west side of Highway 207.

Gibson-Whittenburg Camp – A small Phillips Petroleum Company camp once located north of Borger.

Hutchinson County is dotted with still active oil pumps, even though many of its old towns and old company camps are long gone, by Kathy Alexander.

Gulf Camp – A small Gulf Oil Company camp once located South of Borger on Hwy 207.

Holt – See Jeffrey

Horace – A postal stop in west-central Hutchinson County, Sylvester McWhorter served as the first postmaster when it opened on January 3, 1903. It was discontinued in February 1909, and the mail was then sent to Plemons.

Huber Camp – Also known as Marlin Camp, this site was located southeast of Borger.

Huber Premier Camp – A small J. M. Huber Co. camp once located West of Bunavista.

Ideal – A one-time postal stop in Northwestern Hutchinson County, shown on the 1907 postal map. The first postmaster was Bessie Craig when the post office opened on April 8, 1902. Eden Sumner and Leander O. Boney followed her. The post office closed in February 1907, at which time the mail was received from Sherman County.

IngertonSee Oil City.

Isom TX

Isom – Located in south-central Hutchinson County, this community was founded in 1898 by rancher John F. Weatherly, who built a dug-out on the site for his family. He first called the site Granada, and before long, other settlers began to move into the area. A post office was established on June 30, 1900, with Lutie S. Ford serving as the first postmaster. John F. Weatherly opened the town’s first store in the basement of his stone ranch house. Postmaster Ford was followed by Effie Whiteside in 1901, Maggie Cannon in 1904, and Maggie Weatherly in June 1905. About a year after holding the position of postmaster, Maggie Weatherly changed the name of the town from Granada to Isom on July 7, 1906. She named it for a now-defunct town in her home state of West Virginia. A school was established in 1907, and Maggie Weatherly opened a cafe. Maggie Weatherly continued to hold the position of postmaster until March 1916, when Marion E. Cox took it over. The post office remained in operation until October 1919, when the mail was directed to Plemons.

Weatherly Dugout Home Replica in Borger, Texas by Kathy Alexander.

Weatherly Dugout Home Replica in Borger, Texas by Kathy Alexander.

Three years later, the Weatherly’s moved to the town of Panhandle in 1922, but they retained ownership of the townsite of Isom. In May 1926, after the oil boom resulted in the founding of Borger, Weatherly’s interest in the town he founded was renewed. He soon moved the townsite to the Santa Fe Railroad’s oilfield branch line near Borger. First Street marked the dividing line; all lots south of the street were in Isom. From June to December 1926, Borger and Isom were rivals, each fighting for the coveted role of capital of the county’s oilfields. Although the town had a railroad depot, several oil-well supply warehouses, and no shortage of would-be citizens, 1,200 residents signed a petition to merge Isom with Borger in early December. In 1927, the consolidation of the Isom school with that of Borger made the merger complete, driving the last stake into Isom.

A replica of the original Weatherly dug-out home now sits on the edge of the campus of Frank Phillips College.

Jeffry/Holt – Located in northeast Hutchinson County, the area began to be populated when Texas enacted colonization and Homestead Laws in the late 1890s. A post office called “Jeffry” was established on March 25, 1902, with John M. Archer serving as the first postmaster. In 1903, early county settlers Benjamin and Birda May Kirk Holt donated seven acres to be used as a community schoolhouse and cemetery. Five acres were set aside for school purposes and 2 acres for the cemetery. The first schoolhouse, a one-room structure, was built in 1906 and called the Holt School. In 1916, the one-room building was replaced with a two-room schoolhouse built of lumber and materials hauled in from Texhoma, Oklahoma. This school reported 57 students around 1916-18 but only seven in 1928. The Jeffry post office was discontinued on August 31, 1918,  and the mail was then sent to Adobe Walls.

The school building, which still stands today, is a simple wood structure with classical revival style details, oversized windows, and decorative wood shingles. Regular school classes were held here until 1935, when students began attending school in Spearman. The building remained a gathering place for area families serving as a church for services, weddings, funerals, and a Community Center for local events. The school and grounds were deeded to the Holt Cemetery Association in 1949. The cemetery, which continues to serve the local community, contains the gravesites of many of this area’s first settlers and those of veterans of World War I, World War II, and the Korean Conflict. Both the school and the cemetery were recorded as Texas Historic Landmarks in 1989.

Johnson Camp – A small camp once located on Antelope Creek between Sanford and Fritch. Children were taught at the Johnson Ranch School. The first teacher was Anna Schowe Wilson. Six children were attending the school in 1925.

Lieb Cemetery Marker

Lieb – Though the “town” of Lieb appears on historic Hutchinson County maps, the “Lieb Community” wasn’t a “town” in the sense of modern-day understanding. Instead, it was a group of area ranchers and farmers who called themselves a “community.” The area was named for W.M. Lieb, who immigrated from Germany when he was just a boy, settling in Galveston with his family. When he was about 15 years old, he made his way north, working as a cowboy. Along the way, he married and eventually settled in Hutchinson County in 1899. Lieb first built a half dug-out home for his family. Later, the dug-out was replaced with a three-room structure, built with lumber hauled from Channing, located some 70 miles to the southwest of Lieb and Pringle. The Lieb children first attended school in Zulu, a stage stop and trading post situated in Hansford County, about 11 miles north.

Soon more people moved into the area, and the “Lieb Community” began to organize. Land for the establishment of Lieb Cemetery was donated by Will Blakey and W.O. Jarvis in the spring of 1902. The first person buried in the cemetery was 24-year-old Frank L. Fox, who was killed by lightning in August 1902. That same year, the community gained its own post office on October 6, 1902, which was first housed in the home of the Tompkins family, with George W Tompkins serving as postmaster.

Area residents also wanted to build their school, and soon after the cemetery was established, they held a meeting in the Lieb home to make plans. The school would be built next to the cemetery. The men joined together and took their teams and wagons to Channing to get lumber and supplies to build the school, completed in April 1903. A two-month school term was held that spring, with the first teacher being Birdie Hendrick, who boarded at the Tompkins’ home.

The school also served as a non-denominational church and community building. At the first church gathering, the building was named for W.M. Lieb as he had been in the area the longest. Most students who attended walked about two miles in all weather conditions to attend school. The social epicenter for the “Lieb Community,” numerous events and social gatherings were held in the building, such as parties, dances, literary meets, and baseball games on the school grounds.

Lieb’s post office was discontinued on October 31, 1921, and the mail was then sent to Spearman. Classes at the Lieb School continued until 1929, when the district was consolidated with two new districts in Pringle and Morse. The building continued to stand for decades until it finally deteriorated and collapsed. Of Lieb, the only thing left today is the cemetery.

McIlroy Camp 1946

McIlroy Camp – A small United Carbon camp once located southeast of Borger.

Morse Junction – A railroad station was located in northern Hutchinson County at the junction of two Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad tracks. It was situated north of Route 281 and west of State Highway 136.

Oil City 1927

Oil City – Situated on Big Creek in southwestern Hutchinson County, this place was first known as Ingerton when a rural school was here, located on the Henry Yake ranch. During the Panhandle oil boom of the 1920s, a small camp called Oil City sprang up and grew as a stop on the Chicago, Rock Island, and Gulf Railroad line between Stinnett and Fritch. In addition to a depot, a new school was built, and in 1927 a post office was established on April 12 with Miram K. Reck as the first postmaster.

However, the Oil City boom days were short-lived, and the post office was discontinued just two years later, on December 31, 1929. Mail was then routed to Stinnett. However, its school remained active until 1949, when the Ingerton district was consolidated with the s. By 1940 Oil City had only one business and a population of 25. Though very small, it managed to survive until the Rock Island Railroad abandoned its line between Amarillo and Stinnett in 1972. The growth of nearby towns and the advent of the Lake Meredith National Recreation Area also figured in its demise.

Panhandle Camp – A small Phillips Petroleum Company camp once located south of Borger.

Panhandle Eastern Camp – Also called Sneed, this small Panhandle Eastern pipeline booster station camp was once located near Fritch.

Pantex – This town was at the site that Phillips Petroleum Company completed its first plant in the Texas Panhandle in 1927. Called the Alamo Refinery, the Phillips Petroleum Company developed permanent housing and other facilities. Just next to Pantex was the town of Whittenburg. Pantex had its own post office for a brief time, established on May 21, 1925, with Robert F. Smith serving as postmaster. It was discontinued on January 15, 1927. The Pantex School was built on land purchased from the J.M. Huber Co. In 1928 the school had only 14 students. The school district would later consolidate with Borger in 1943, at which time the school supported 155 students. In 1938, Pantex and Whittenburg merged to form the town of Phillips.

Patburg Camp – A small Phillips Petroleum Company camp now incorporated into the city of Borger.

Patton Camp – A small Phillips Petroleum Co. camp once located west of Phillips near the Borger Airport.

Peacevale – A postal stop once located in eastern Hutchinson County. Its post office was established on August 22, 1903, with Carrie L. Coffee as postmaster. It was discontinued on February 15, 1915, when the mail was sent to Adobe Walls.

Phillips – Located just two miles northeast of Borger in south-central Hutchinson County, it started early in 1926 after oil was discovered in the area. Pioneer rancher James A. Whittenburg sought to cash in on the coming boom by founding a community named Whittenburg, after himself. Whittenburg’s townsite was eagerly promoted by P. R. Williams of Amarillo, who predicted a population of 10,000 within a year. Soon, it had a next-door rival in the community of Pantex, which was a Phillips Petroleum Company camp. Phillips completed its first plant in the Texas Panhandle here in 1927. It was called the Alamo Refinery. As the company developed, the boomtown shanties and overcrowded rooming houses gave way to more permanent housing. Soon, there were several churches, a hospital, several businesses, and a progressive school system. In 1935 a new $77,000 school building replaced an earlier brick structure. In 1938 the townsites of Whittenburg and Pantex voted to merge under the name of Phillips. Railroad service for the refineries was provided by a spur of the Panhandle and Santa Fe line.

Early Phillips Refinery and Company Camp.

In 1947 the population of Phillips numbered 4,250. By that time, the Frank Phillips Foundation had contributed thousands of dollars for scholarships for the children of employees who worked for Phillips Petroleum. The company also provided housing for teachers. After a fire razed the high school on March 19, 1950, classes were held in the Baptist and Methodist churches until the structure was rebuilt. In the 1950s and 1960s, improved highways and faster local transportation resulted in the loss of most of the town’s businesses to nearby Borger. The population of Phillips decreased to just about 2,500 people in 1960, and the Phillips post office was discontinued by 1970. Along with the decreased population, businesses also began to close.

Though the town of Phillips is gone today, the plant still operates. By Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Though the town of Phillips is gone today, the plant still operates. By Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

On January 20, 1980, a hydrocarbon explosion wiped out two gasoline-producing units and a steam-generating facility, causing millions of dollars worth of damage to homes and businesses in both Phillips and Borger. The glow could be seen for miles. Dave Alexander, co-owner of Legends of America, lived in nearby Pampa at the time, about 30 miles away.  Dave says, “I was a kid laying in my front yard looking at the sky when all of a sudden the Sun started coming back up from the west..or at least I thought it was the sun”.

Phillips survived as a residential area for company employees until Phillips Petroleum Company forced the remaining homeowners to remove or abandon their homes in August 1989. At that time, Phillips was called home to about 1600 people. The refinery still operates today, and the only original buildings from the town,  those of the school, are used for offices. The town of Phillips no longer exists, and the site is behind the closed gates of the Phillips Petroleum Company.

Philrich Camp – This site was located northwest of Bunavista on the north side of Highway 136. Later, it became part of Borger.

Philview Camp – A small camp once located west of Borger

Plemons, Texas, during the time it was the Hutchinson County Seat. There is nothing left of Plemons today but a small cemetery.

Plemons – Once the county seat of Hutchinson County, Texas, there is nothing left of the old town today but a small cemetery. The site started when Barney Plemons, the son of Amarillo judge and state legislator William Buford Plemons, filed on 80 acres on either side of a bend in the Canadian River in 1893. At that time, crossing the Canadian River could be dangerous, sometimes even fatal, as the river was surrounded by invisible quicksand bogs that could swallow up a man, a horse, or even a wagon in a matter of minutes. In the meantime, Barney Plemons had discovered that his horse had an uncanny ability to recognize the quicksand traps and was able to find its way around them. Seeing a great opportunity, Plemons started a business guiding people across the river, and the site became known as Plemons Crossing.

Plemons School 1971

Barney Plemons ‘ business was very successful with the Canadian River as a barrier to the northern rangelands and Plemons Crossing, one of the only safe places to make the traverse the river. Before long, other people moved into the area, and a few businesses sprang up, including a blacksmith, general store, harness shop, livery stable, and a boarding house. About 50 people lived in the vicinity when Hutchinson County was established in 1901. One of these was a rancher named James A. Whittenburg, who built his dug-out home on a hill overlooking Plemons Crossing in 1898. Whittenburg would later be instrumental in developing other sites in the county.

At that time, Plemons Crossing was the only “town” in Hutchinson County and became the county seat. On May 29, 1901, the name was shortened to simply Plemons when it gained a post office. Mattie Sams served as the first postmaster. A school was also established with family names of Churchill, Hedgecoke, Whittenburg, Christain, Pitts, Owenby, Bryan, Sessions, and many others appearing on the teacher registers.

The first courthouse was temporarily held in a box-car structure until E.E. Ackers built a two-story frame courthouse. His wife was the first to be interred in the Plemons Cemetery in 1902. Plemons experienced slow growth as a river-crossing town for area ranches, including the Turkey Track and Tar Box outfits. Between 1902 and 1905, a wagon yard, a barbershop, a doctor’s office, a drugstore, and a mercantile store were established. Initially, at least 15 families made Plemons their home. William “Billy” Dixon, former buffalo hunter, scout, and Hutchinson County’s first sheriff, moved his growing family to Plemons and for three years operated a boarding house there. Even though his three oldest children went to school in Plemons, Dixon claimed that he “found living in town worse than it could have been in jail.”

Although a permanent church building was never constructed, a parsonage was built, and services were held either in the school or the courthouse. Plemons declined when the Amarillo branch line of the Chicago, Rock Island, and Gulf Railway bypassed it. A special election in the fall of 1926 made the new town of Stinnett, ten miles to the northwest and on the railroad, the county seat. Having lost the election and knowing how it would affect the town, Plemons residents threatened a court suit. The newly elected county commissioners responded by holding a midnight meeting and then backing a truck up to the Plemons courthouse, loading up all the county records, and driving off to Stinnett in the middle of the night.

Though losing the county seat was a blow to Plemons, the town continued to survive for two decades, hoping to profit from the Panhandle oil boom. One of the most significant events in the town’s history occurred on March 18, 1932, when W. J. “Shine” Popejoy, known as the “King of the Texas Bootleggers” and a notorious member of the Borger criminal element, held up the Plemons town bank.

Plemons Bridge to Cemetery by Kathy Alexander.

By the early 1940s, the town was comprised of only a handful of houses, the post office, the school, and the cemetery. It wasn’t long before the remaining residents moved to neighboring communities and the town began to fall into oblivion. The post office was closed in June 1952. Plemons’ remaining buildings stood for years; however, when a new owner purchased the property, everything was razed, including the substantial two-story brick school building. The old townsite is on private property, and all that’s left of Plemons today is the cemetery, and it can’t be entered without making a phone call first. The last burial in the Plemons cemetery was that of Charles Ray Sesions in 1953.

Prairie Johnson Camp – A small Phillips Petroleum Company camp that is now a part of Borger.

Pringle – Located nine miles north of Stinnett in northern Hutchinson County, Pringle started in 1929 when the Chicago, Rock Island, and Gulf Railroad built its line between Stinnett and Hitchland. On September 13, 1929, a post office opened with Benjamin F. Cook serving as the first postmaster. The same year, a school was organized on land donated from William Pringle, for whom the community is named.  By 1933 Pringle had three businesses and a population of 20 people. The post office closed about 1947, and the school was consolidated with the Morse schools in 1977. The area population at that time was about 60 but dropped to just about 46 people by 1968. Since that time, the area population has been estimated at about 40 people, though it appears that only one family remains in the “town” of Pringle. Today, there are but a few remnants of the former town – a couple of falling wood buildings, an abandoned home, the shell of the burned-out Elementary School, a field of debris and rusting trucks, and the grain elevator. The old town site is located at the intersection of Farm Road 1598 and State Highway 136.

Welcome to Pringle, Texas. The grain elevator is still operational. Kathy Weiser-Alexander, June 2013.

Pringle’s substantial school building is a burned-out shell today. Kathy Weiser-Alexander, June 2013.

Riverview Camp – A small camp once located near the Borger power plant.

Rock Creek Carbon Camp – A small Phillips Petroleum Company camp once located west of Borger.

Salome – A postal stop that was established on January 16, 1908, with Benjamin Eiland as the postmaster. Lasting just a little more than a year, it closed on May 31, 1909, and the mail was then sent to Plemons.

Santa Fe Camp – A railroad camp for Santa Fe Railroad employees once located near Borger.

Starting in the 1920s, Hutchinson County, Texas was filled with oil rigs, company camps, oilmen, roughnecks, and, unfortunately, a bevy of lawless elements. Photo by John Vachon, 1942.

Starting in the 1920s, Hutchinson County, Texas, was filled with oil rigs, company camps, oilmen, roughnecks, and, unfortunately, a bevy of lawless elements. Photo by John Vachon, 1942.

Signal Hill – A small oil boom camp located about four miles east of Stinnett, this town was founded in 1926 by Earl Thompson, of Amarillo, on a tentative survey of the Panhandle and Santa Fe Railway.

Shortly before founding the town, Earl Thompson had visited some friends in California who lived in a mansion near Long Beach in a section called Signal Hill. When he returned to Texas, he dreamed of establishing a similar community for the new oil-rich Texans of the area to build their mansions. Joining with Thompson were W. P. Sullivan and C. D. Armstrong. The trio set out to find a similar hill in Hutchinson County, finding the perfect location about four miles east of Stinnett. They purchased a quarter section of land and began platting a new townsite which they named Signal Hill after the one in California. However, they made a huge mistake in platting the lots just 25 feet wide by 80 feet deep. The width of these lots would obviously not support a mansion.

Though the size of the lots appears to have been poor planning on their part, the lots did come with several helpful selling points. First, the lots came with mineral rights; second, they could be purchased for just $100 down and $25 per month for a year; and third, buyers could finance their building supplies from Earl Thompson’s lumberyard for a third down and the balance over the rest of the year. Mr. Armstrong began selling lots on Friday, May 14, 1926, while the surveyors were still driving marker stakes for the townsite. By nightfall, several tents and a few partially finished shacks dotted the grassy hillside. The town grew quickly; but, there were no mansion builders. Evidently, the oil-rich men preferred to live in Borger, Amarillo, area ranches, or in many cases, not even in the state of Texas. On December 4, 1926, a post office was established with Benjamin W. Brown as the first postmaster. And by the end of the year, the population had reached nearly 10,000 people, and numerous businesses lined Signal Hill’s Main Street. These included four drug stores, a movie house, a dozen or so filling stations, several hotels and rooming houses, an automobile dealer, oil well supply houses, welding shops, a boiler factory, and the only bakery and ice house in Hutchinson County. A hospital and a newspaper building were in the planning. However, of these more than 50 businesses, all but a two-story brick bank building were wooden frame structures or hastily erected tent structures.

Signal Hill in Hutchinson County, Texas by Kathy Alexander.

Signal Hill in Hutchinson County, Texas by Kathy Alexander.

As quickly as the town began, it already started to die. Town developers never planned for a school or a church. Even the bank building, which townsite developer Earl Thompson built, was never opened. Its only use was as an office of the Signal Hill Town Company. The promised water and sewer system never came and the town soon filled with the many criminal elements that were so prominent in the oil boom panhandle. Painted ladies plied their trade at the hotels and rooming houses. It was said that every business in town, except for the post office, sold beer and whiskey.

When the railroad was routed through Stinnett, the folks of Stinnett built a fence between itself and Signal Hill, and armed guards patrolled it to stop anyone from Signal from entering what they saw as a far better city. As law enforcement, at the time, was far more involved in the wickedness in Borger and were thought to have been corrupt anyway, they ignored the feud between Stinnett and Signal Hill. People began to carry guns on both sides of the fence, and the legitimate residents of Signal Hill fled. The post office closed on September 30, 1927, at which time the mail was routed to Stinnett. By that time, the population had fallen to just about 300 people.

Most of the people that were left in Signal Hill were criminals who had fled from Borger, as the Texas Rangers had taken control of the larger city. Some of these shade characters included such folks as Ray Terrill, Mat Kimes, Whitey Walker, Blackie Thompson, Ace Pendleton, who spent their time planning bank robberies in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico and were known to make night raids on drilling crews, robbing them of anything of value. However, by 1928, the authorities were beginning to get control of the criminal element in Hutchinson County, and by the end of the year, most of the outlaws had been arrested or fled. There were only two residents left by the end of the year — a town watchman hired by town developer Earl  Thompson and gas station operator. Before long, they were also gone. The buildings were moved or dismantled for the lumber for the next several years, leaving only the brick bank building. However, in 1934, it too was razed and its bricks salvaged.

To access the old townsite, take Broadway Street east out of Stinnett about three miles and cross Cottonwood Creek. About half a mile on the east is a seldom-used dirt road that turns left towards a flat-topped mesa. It was here that Signal Hill once stood. There is absolutely nothing left today.

Skiatex Camp – One of the first major camps, this site was located on Dixon Creek about three miles east of Borger. Built by Jake Phillips in 1925, it was one of the first camps where wooden structures replaced tents. It was also one of the few camps that had a dependable water supply.

Stekoll Camp – A small camp once located Northeast of Borger.

Sunset Heights – An oilfield camp of approximately 50 homes built in the late 1940s. It was inhabited by Phillips Petroleum Company employees until the 1980’s when the camp was closed and the buildings sold or razed.

Supreme Camp – A small Phillips Petroleum Company camp once located North of Stinnett.

Texroy – A small oilfield community located five miles southeast of Borger in southern Hutchinson County, it was established in the late 1920s during the height of the oil boom. It was named for S. D. “Tex” McIlroy, the Dixon Creek Oil, and Refinery Company founder. The Texroy community reportedly had 50 people in 1948 and was on a mail route from White Deer. Borger eventually absorbed it.

Western Columbia Camp – A small carbon black workers’ camp once located near Borger.

Whittenburg – Located in southern Hutchinson County one mile northeast of Borger, the town was founded in 1926 by rancher James A. Whittenburg to cash in on the impending oil boom. It was meant to house employees of the Phillips Petroleum Company, which began constructing its first Panhandle plant nearby — the Alamo Refinery. As the boom increased, shanties and overcrowded rooming houses were soon replaced by more permanent houses and businesses. A post office was established on May 19, 1926, churches were founded, and a school system was organized. The post office was short-lived. On April 14, 1927, it was discontinued, and the mail was then routed to Borger. By 1936 Whittenburg reported a population of 200. In the meantime, the neighboring community of Pantex, which had a modern hospital facility and for a brief time its own post office, reported a population of fifty. In 1938 the two townsites voted to merge under the name of Phillips.

© Kathy Weiser-Alexander/Legends of America, updated November 2021.

Also See: 

Borger – Rip Roaring “Booger Town

Hutchinson County – Panhandle Frontier

Hutchinson County Photo Gallery

Stinnett, TX – Hutchinson County Seat


Hutchinson County Historical Commission; History of Hutchinson County, Texas: 104 years, 1876-1980, 1980.
Jim Foreman Stories
Jim Wheat’s Postmasters & Post Offices of Texas, 1846 – 1930
National Park Service
Panhandle Nation
Phillips School Alumni
Texas Escapes
Texas State Historical Association