The Man Who Named Pampa

by Eloise Lane

George Tyng was an organizer and manager of economic ventures into railroad, mining and land interests in Mexico, Honduras, Canada, Arizona, the Texas Panhandle and Utah. From 1886 to 1903, he was the manager of White Deer Lands, which was later called the White Deer Land Company.

Tyng was born of Scottish ancestry in Newburyport, Massachusetts. At the age of 14, he ran away from home and went with another boy to Germany on a freighter. Later, he was educated at Dummer Academy and at Hanover, Germany. As a young man he spent several years in Cuba and South America, where he learned to speak and write Spanish fluently. His travels took him to the pampas (vast grassy, treeless plains) of Argentina.

For a time Tyng settled in Santa Barbara, California, where, in 1869, he married Elena Carrillo Thompson, a member of an old aristocratic Spanish family. After the birth of their first son, the Tyngs moved to Yuma, Arizona. There Tyng became a court clerk, district recorder, and then sheriff. In 1874, he was appointed United States Marshall in Arizona. In January 1877, he purchased the Yuma Sentinal, and the paper acquired a reputation for unusually accurate and unbiased coverage of military and Indian affairs.

In November 1879, Tyng helped to organize the Tehuantepec Inter-Ocean Railway Company, of which he became managing director. Two months later he sold his newspaper and moved to Mexico City where he supervised railroad construction.

On a business trip to Florida, Tyng passed through Victoria, Texas, and was so impressed by that town that he moved his wife and three sons there in 1885. The three sons of George and Welna Tyng were Charles, George McAlpine, and Francis Carrillo. The Tyngs had a pecan farm seven miles east of Victoria and developed a cattle ranch.

Tyng made and lost several good fortunes. About 1886, he put his savings of six years, about $40,000, into the development of a Mexican town, and when it became valuable, the Mexican government appropriated it. Possibly this loss influenced him to accept employment from his intimate and trusted friend, Frederic de Peyster Foster.

Frederic de Peyster Foster and Cornelius C. Cuyler, New York lawyers, were trustees for an English syndicate which was taking over the insolvent Francklyn Land and Cattle Company. For four years, the Francklyn company had operated the Diamond F ranch, consisting of 631,000 acres in Hutchinson, Carson, Gray, and Roberts Counties, and the Bar X in Greer County.

In June 1886, Tyng came with Russell Benedict, Foster's assistant, to examine books and accounts of the Francklyn company and to make an actual account of the cattle on the range. He had difficulty in locating and identifying cattle, and he found equipment in poor working order. But he felt that the lands were the best he had seen in twenty-seven years of going through new states and new countries, and on September 21, l886, he assumed management of the new company.

It was appropriate that the new company would take the name of the fertile White Deer Valley that had nurtured the Francklyn company throughout its shortlived history, and it came to be known as White Deer Lands.

It was decided to sell the cattle and then to sell the land in a manner that would afford some profit to the British bondholders. Tyng's work included selling cattle, making surveys, clearing titles, drilling wells, installing windmills, building fences, and leasing and selling land.

On November 4, l886, Tyng wrote to Benedict from Vernon that the Southern Kansas Railroad was to be extended from Kiowa, Kansas, into Texas. It was believed that the railroad would follow the line of Red Deer Creek through the Diamond F pasture.

On March 2, l887, Tyng wrote to Foster from Mobeetie that one of the requests of the right-of-way agent was for four sections of land in Gray County on which to create a town that would become the county seat of that county, and to establish a depot.

On April 1, l887, Tyng wrote to Foster from Mobeetie:

"Your suggesting of 'Tyngston' as the County Seat for Gray County, tickles: but it won't work; my great unwashed co-sovereigns would spell it 'Tingstown'...that would make the Tyngs frantic. Thanks all the same."

On June 6, l887, John Hetherly contracted to haul bones to stations on the Southern Kansas Railroad. One of these stations, in Gray County, has been designated by the railroad as Glasgow. (A blueprint, dated June 22, l887, for station grounds at Glasgow, is in the Square House Museum in Panhandle.)

On February 28, l888, Tyng wrote to Foster from White Deer Headquarters near the present town of White Deer:

"At Glasgow (where you saw the bone piles), a few days ago a cellar had been dug and a lot of lumber side-tracked. By this time there is there a building of some kind."

(This was the same dugout home for the family of Thomas H. Lane, section foreman and station agent for the railroad. Emma (Case) Lane and sons, Ray H. and Thomas V., came from Woodward, Indian Territory, on February 29, 1888. This was the first family to live at the railroad station.)

In April 1888, Tyng wrote that the railroad had to put in a small station and telegraph operator at Glasgow for operating the road. Also he wrote that an office for keeping records of White Deer Lands would be at Paton (White Deer) or Glasgow, close to the railroad, the mails, and to telegraph.

Soon after the railroad had opened for operation on January 15, l888, it was discovered that freight shipments were being confused with those for Glasgow in western Kansas. On August 15, l888, Tyng wrote that the railroad had changed the name of Glasgow to "Sutton," (on the blueprint a line was drawn through "Glasgow" and "Sutton" was substituted.)

(Emily [Townsend] Case and daughter Hallie came to Sutton in 1889 to join Sam Case, brother of Mrs. Thomas H. Lane. Case was also section foreman, and his family was the second to live at the railroad station.)

On December 1, l889, Tyng wrote to Foster:

We want some kind of village from which to sell land in Gray County and Roberts County. These lands could be very easily got at from a village at Sutton on the railroad laid out on survey 102, block 3 in Gray County....It will not cost very much to plot and survey a town at Sutton, and not so very much more to drill a well there."

After considerable delay in obtaining approval from the trustees and British bondholders, Tyng began, in the fall of l891, to prepare for moving the headquarters to Sutton. Soon he wrote that the railroad persisted in sending necessary materials to the other Sutton (on the Edwards Platieu in Southwest Texas). This was a source of great irritation both to Tyng and to the railroad officials.

On October 28, l891, Tyng wrote to Foster from White Deer:

"The name of Sutton is to be changed when the next R.R. time-card is issued. Robinson (A. A. Robinson, Chief Engineer of the Santa Fe) did not like any of the names I suggested and proposed to call the station 'Tyng'.

"This of course would not do: some of the owners might suspect vanity rather than duty prompts the outlay I have been making at Sutton."

On December 22, l891, Tyng wrote from White Deer P.O., Sutton, Texas. (The new headquarters were nearing completion.)

"This place (Sutton) will have its Post Office next spring...after the officials of the Santa Fe system have selected a permanent name for this station."

It has been reported that Tyng said to a friend:

"I have the right word. When I was in South America, I learned that level plains like these were called 'Pampas,' which is the Spanish word for plains. We will take the 's' off of it and call it Pampa."

The Santa Fe officials accepted Tyng's suggestion and on April 15, 1892, Tyng wrote to Foster:

"A couple of months ago (February, l892), the Railway Co. changed the name of their siding from Sutton to 'Pampa,' there being already in Texas an older town named Sutton."

On May 16, l892, Tyng wrote to Foster that he was circulating a petition for establishment of a post office in Pampa. This petition of interested citizens was forwarded to the U. S. Post Office Department on September 22, l892.

On October 29, l892, the post office was established at Pampa with Thomas Lane, station agent for the railroad, as postmaster. There were 24 inhabitants in the village, and the post office was to serve a population of 43 and new settlers coming.

For several years, affairs at White Deer Lands were at a standstill because of the financial panic of 1893, economic changes in ranching operations, controversy over the gold-and-silver question, and a change in the national party control. It was difficult to retain leases at prices sufficient to maintain the property and to pay for improvements that would enhance land values sufficiently to justify land sales.

Occasionally Tyng took leave of absence (without pay) to visit his family and to attend to business interests in Montana, Honduras, and elsewhere. At such times he made arrangements for others to take care of the affairs of White Deer Lands. He relied on J. C. Paul (Panhandle banker), Henry Taylor, A. A. Holland, W. S. Frazier (employees of White Deer Lands), and Sam Case and Tom Lane of Pampa.

Better days for White Deer Lands came in the opening years of the twentieth century. Land sales and leases began to move rapidly in 1900 with settlers closing in fast on lands adjacent to the White Deer spread.

Foster sent Benedict to Texas to investigate the possibility of establishing a town in Pampa. Benedict and Tyng spent a month in traveling over the White Deer property and adjacent territory in the Texas Panhandle. They went carefully over the ground at Pampa to decide how the town should be laid out.

In his New York office, Benedict worked out a detailed plat of the townsite of Pampa and sent it to Tyng, requesting him to get James L. Gray of Panhandle to make a survey of the site. Gray certified his survey in February 1902, and it was filed and recorded in Roberts County on April 14, l902. (Gray County was attached to Roberts County on that date.)

(A. H. Doucette, who first came to Pampa in April 1906, surveyed many of the additions to the original plot of Pampa. Also he laid out the townsites of Hoover, Kingsmill, White Deer, and Cuyler.)

At the end of 1901, Foster began urging Tyng to secure the county seat at Pampa. Tyng explained that it would first be necessary to have Gray County organized on petition signed by 150 voters qualified by residing twelve months in the state and six months in the county.

He informed Foster that Pampa had 71 votes, Choctaw (Alanreed) had 84, and Center (Lefors) had 20, making a total of 175 votes. It would take two-thirds of the entire vote cast to locate the county seat at any one point more than five miles from the center of the county. Pampa was nearly twelve miles form Center, and Choctaw was nearly sixteen.

Although Tyng campaigned diligently, Lefors was elected to be the county seat when Gray County was organized on May 27. l902. Tyng had evidently believed that with the votes uncertain at Lefors and the rapid increase in settlers along the Santa Fe Railway, he would be able to carry the two-thirds vote for Pampa.

Several factors caused Tyng to leave White Deer Lands: he was disheartened by his failure to secure the county seat for Pampa; he and Benedict had differed on the method of selling land; his wife was in poor health and he felt that he should provide more financial security for this family.

On March 8. 1903, Tyng published a public farewell in the Miami Chief. Some excerpts follow:

"This people is my people; the kind I like; the kind I have been with from boyhood; with this difference that the hard times of a few years ago weeded them out and left here a more select community than is usual in a frontier country...this is not taffy, but is only a fact that a great many other people have also noticed...

"Last year, in circulating a petition, I went around to our people's houses for the first time; it was just like visiting kinfolks. Now, with all that experience, how could I help taking away with me the warmest kind of friendship for you folks?

"I do take it and sincerely desire God's choicest blessings on you. Goodbye."

After Tyng left Pampa, his adventuresome spirit and his desire for raw unclaimed lands led him to the far west. By 1906, he owned a mine, twenty miles southeast of Salt Lake City, that was paying enormous profits.

On January 30, l906, T. D. Hobart (Tyng's successor at White Deer Lands) received a telegram from American Fork, Utah:

"George Tyng was in his office at Wyoming Mine, American Fork Canyon, when a snow slide came and smashed the office building killing him instantly. He is being buried today near the mine. This was his request some time ago."

Shortly after noon on January 19, George Tyng had been working on papers in his office, a lean-to some distance from the camp. Outside snow was falling heavily, and the wind was blowing a blizzard. Suddenly there was a deep rushing roar that could mean only one thing . . . an avalanche. A tremendous cascade of snow swept over the lean-to, smashing it down on Tyng and burying him under fifteen feet of packed snow.

The entire crew at the mine, more than a hundred men, hurried to search for their employer even though visibility was limited because of blowing snow, and there was danger of more avalanches. As darkness fell, the miners found Tyng's body, badly bruised, with a pencil still clasped between frozen fingers. A nail from a falling roof had penetrated his skull, killing him instantly. His friend, Jesse Wynne at Pampa, later said it was characteristic of Tyng that he died while working.

Several men carried the body to a cabin. As they entered, a strong wind ripped the door from its hinges. The tired miners stood guard all night for they were afraid that wolves would mutilate the corpse if they left. Early the next morning, the miners built a crude sled to carry the corpse from the mountain top down to American Fork, a difficult journey of 18 miles.

Mrs. Tyng and her three sons arrived several days later. When George Tyng's will was read, everyone was surprised that he asked to be buried high on Miller Hill where he had spent many hours admiring the view. He had often remarked:

"What grander monument could a person wish than to be surrounded by the beautiful hills and scenery."

In American Fork, Tyng's kindness and energy were well known; he had raised the mortgage of more than one man in danger of losing his home, and his miners remembered him as a real gentleman. In later years, one of them said: "There wasn't one of us that wouldn't work his head off for the old man." Tyng was thought to have been about 72 years old at the time of his death.

In his book, The Francklyn Land and Cattle Company, Lester Fields Sheffy wrote of George Tyng:

"He was an honest, hard-working man, dependable and efficient in every way. He was a 'rugged individualist', a sage philosopher, a prolific letter writer, and self-made linguist, and master of frontier lore that few men ever attain. He was patriotic and he was a true friend. Perhaps his finest qualities were strict devotion to the task at hand and absolute loyalty to Foster and the British bondholders."

Old timers of the Panhandle pampas who know George Tyng remembered him with a reverence born of high type of personal friendship. His vision of making Pampa the county seat of Gray County became reality in 1928. His name will always be associated with Pampa, the village he named and predicted would some day become the "Queen City of the Plains."

Return to: Home Page || Historical Details

Last Update: 05/14/97