History of Pampa

Early Day Picture
Some Pampa pioneers are shown here.

Left to right they are Tom Crawford, first Gray County Sheriff; Alice Wynne (on horse), Mrs. Riley Crawford; Mrs. Jesse Wynne, C.A. Tignor (Standing), W. T. (Will) Wilks, Andrew Kingsmill (banker from London, England and uncle of Pampa pioneer M. K. Brown), and George Tyng, first White Deer Lands manager. This picture was developed in England and sent back to Pampa.

The beginning of Pampa dates from the building of the Santa Fe Railway, which was completed in 1888. Pampa is located upon the territory that comprises a part of what was known as the White Deer Lands, which belonged to an English syndicate and which was actively controlled by Frederick de P. Foster and Cornelius C. Cuyler of New York. Two of the principal streets of Pampa are named for these gentlemen. In 1886 they acquired the historic White Deer Creek and lands which latter belonged to the White Deer Land Corporation, from Carson, Gray, Hutchinson, and Roberts Counties. Many of the pioneer men worked for the White Deer organization. Mr. George Tyng, for whom a street in Pampa is named, was an interesting character who managed the White Deer Lands from 1886 to 1903.

After the building of the railway, Mr. Tyng laid out the townsite of what is now Pampa. First known as Glasgow, the town was later called Sutton, then Pampa. Mr. Tyng had been in South America where he noted the similarity of the grass on the Argentine "pampas" to that in his own region. He wrote the railway company suggesting Pampa as the name, from the Spanish word "Pampas" meaning plains, and it was accepted February, 1892.

In 1888 Pampa was a very unpretentious place. The first citizen to live in Pampa with his family was Thomas Lane, the Santa Fe section foreman. At that time, there was no railway station building; a box car was used which was called an "open station". In the fall of 1891, Mr. Tyng began construction of the first building in Pampa, a frame house located on the present site of the Schneider Hotel (presently the Schneider Apt.). It was first used as a section house for the railroad. A portion of it was later known as the "Old Schneider Hotel". The Schneider Hotel (now apt) was built across the street from this location.

The first wheat crop was planted in the Panhandle of Texas in the fall of 1891. The crop was a failure, and it was twenty years after that before much farming was done on the plains. The Panhandle at that time was largely a cattle country, and farming came much later. Today the average annual output of wheat in the Top O' Texas area is over 2,800,000 bushels. Supplementing wheat as the chief agricultural products are grain sorghum, barley, corn, hay, oats, & rye.

Pampa was fortunate in having a man greatly interested in its future from the beginning. This citizen was the late T. D. Hobart. Mr. Hobart has often been called "The Father of Pampa". He was interested in selling land only to settlers and not to speculators. Most of the land was sold in small plots of 160 to 640 acres, and it was stipulated on the contract that improvements were to be made on this land.

On April 14, 1902, one-hundred and fifty-two qualified voters living in the area of what is now Gray County, filed a petition for an election to organize the county. The petition was granted, and on June 30, 1902, the first Commissioners Court of Gray County convened at Lefors, that town being the first county seat of Gray County. Judge B. M. Baker was the first judge to preside at the newly erected county seat. The present B. M. Baker School was named for him.

In the spring of 1905, Mr. C. P. Buckler moved to Pampa to assist in the development of the White Deer Land Corporation. Mr. M. K. Brown, who came in 1903, and Mr. Buckler later succeeded Mr. Hobart in the management of the White Deer lands. Prospective settlers became interested in this section in 1903 when some eastern speculators bought Texas land and sent carloads of farmers into Texas to look at their land. They paid all expenses of the prospective buyers and charged them $25 and acre. Some of the trains bearing these prospective purchasers had to come through Pampa. At that time, Mr. Brown and Buckler were selling land around here for $10 to $15 per acre. The trains had to stop here for water, and they had a little exhibit house built on the railroad right-of -way. Then they had booklets printed in 1907 which gave information on the kinds of crops grown here and the possibility of future development. This attracted a large number of these farmers, and they told their friends back east. In this way the country was first settled with farmers.

The opening of the great Panhandle oil and gas field was the result of an accident in the performance of another task. Mr. C. M. Gould, then professor of geology at the University of Oklahoma, was given a commission by Theodore Roosevelt to trace the water sources of the Canadian River drainage area. While engaged in this work in Potter and Hutchinson counties during the years 1903, 1904, and 1905, he noted and mapped the structure that later was to produce such valuable quantities of oil and gas. Mr. Gould reexamined his reports in 1916 and told Mr. M. C. Nobles, of Amarillo, of the structure discovery along the Canadian River. Mr. Gould was then employed by Mr. Nobles and several Amarillo associates to map out the structure and make a location for a test well. This task was completed in October of 1916 and work started on the first well in the Texas Panhandle. It was completed in December, 1918, at a cost of $70,000. The well drilled to a depth of 2,605 ft. and had an initial production of 10,000 cubic feet of gas daily. It was in Potter county about thirty miles north of Amarillo, and was designated the Amarillo Oil Company Number 1 Masterson. It was not until three years later that oil was discovered.

The first oil well was drilled by the Gulf Oil Company on the Burnett Ranch in Carson County, a few miles east of several completed wells. The first production in Gray County was gas, and the first oil well for the area that was to dominate the whole field in production and number of wells, was the Number 1 Worley-Reynolds drilled by the Wilcox Oil and Gas Company. From that time, Gray County forged ahead, soon overtaking other counties in the production of oil and gas.

The oil boom swept over the Panhandle, leaving in its wake new towns, railroads, industry, and prosperity. Pampa is located in the heart of this 150 mile long oil field which stretches in a northwest and southwest direction through Wheeler, Gray, Carson, Hutchinson, Potter, and Moore Counties in the Panhandle. It is headquarters for many of the oil companies, industries, and other activities in the oilfields.

At one time, there were approximately 75 industrial plants around Pampa, and in the field there were more than 6000 oil producing wells, 2000 natural gas wells, 25 carbon black plants, which manufactured 75% of the world's supply of carbon black.

Looking back to 1902, we see a small village with practically no houses on what is now Cuyler St. Among its early citizens were Dr. V. E. von Brunow, the first doctor; Mr. Charles Cook, the first lawyer; and Mr. J. N. Duncan, the first mayor. By 1910, there were 500 inhabitants, and the schoolhouse was a red brick building located on north Cuyler which was erected at a cost of $15,000 and staffed with six regular Teachers. The first schoolhouse was located at 513 East Francis in 1903. A one room over dug-out in the middle of Cuyler St. housed the first post office in 1892-1902. The present post office cost $100,000 to build. In 1927, Pampa adopted the home rule form of government with a special charter and incorporated therein a Board of City Development supported by taxation.

Development in Gray County was slow and steady until 1926. Then the discovery of oil and growth of the oil business caused the sudden and almost unbelievable rise in population, wealth, and institutions to the enviable position which the county enjoys today. It must be kept in mind that Gray County does not owe all its success to oil. Before 1926, Gray County was an agricultural region of considerable resources, unlike most oil districts. It is still considered an agricultural and ranching county of great importance. The boom of 1926 did not leave Pampa crippled as was the case of so many towns suddenly possessed with oil wealth. On the contrary, it has given her impetus in growth continuously since that time into a city of fine homes, churches, and schools.

"The History of Education in Gray County". Zenobia McFarlin Halloway, 1937.

Additions. Eloise Lane. 1990

Courtesy of the White Deer Land Museum, Pampa, Texas Anne Davidson, Curator

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Last Update: 06/14/97