White Deer Creek, an intermittent stream, rises in eastern Carson County several miles north of the town of White Deer. It flows northward twenty-six miles to join the Canadian River in eastern Hutchinson County.
In the days when Apaches, Comanches, Kiowas and Kiowa-Apaches roamed the area, an Indian saw an albino deer drinking at the creek, and the creek became known to the Indians as "the creek of the white deer." The early Spanish explorers translated this into their language: "El Rito del Venado Blanco." The Spanish name was anglicized by the early American traders and explorers and that name has remained "White Deer Creek."
One of the early American explorers was Captain Randolph Barnes Marcy, who was sent to chart the best route to Santa Fe wholly along the south bank of the Canadian River. With 500 civilians led by Captain Dillard and a military escort of 80 men, Marcy left Fort Smith, Arkansas, on April 4, l849.
On June 6 Marcy reached White Deer Creek, which he called "Timbered Creek." There the travelers found an exceptionally beautiful, inviting campground. Since some of the wagon tires were loose and needed resetting, Marcy decided to "lie over" at this especially delightful place for another day.
On June 8, Marcy pushed ahead for ten miles, leaving the emigrant company on "Timbered Creek." Later he learned why the emigrants stayed behind at the campground and wrote in his journal:
"They were detained in consequence of the illness of the wife of an emigrant...and we have learned this evening that the result of the detention has been an addition to the company of two promising boys (twins) which the happy father has done Captain Dillard and myself the honor of calling 'Dillard' and 'Marcy'."
Beyond all reasonable doubt, the twin boys were the first Anglo-American children born in the Texas Panhandle; but Marcy, apparently elated by the arrival of his namesake, neglected to record the family name of the twins.
In 1859, Marcy published The Prairie Traveler: A Handbook for Overland Expeditions. The book contained maps, illustrations and itineraries of the principal routes between the Mississippi and the Pacific. For twenty years this volume was used as a basic manual by westward-bound wagon trains and travelers. An excerpt follows:
"Route I - From Fort Smith, Arkansas to Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Miles: From branch of Washita River to
101/2. Dry River (Red Deer Creek at Mendota). - Road descends a very long hill, and crosses the dry river near (the) Canadian (River). Water can be found by digging about a foot in the sand of the creek. Good grass on the west bank.
17. Branch of Canadian (Indian Creek), - Road winds up a very long and abrupt hill, but is smooth and firm.
22 1/2. Timbered Creek (White Deer Creek) - Road passes over a very elevated prairie country. and descends by a long hill into the beautiful valley of Timbered Creek.
11 1/2 Spring Branch (Bear Creek). - Good camp.
14. Spring Branch (Antelope Creek). - Good Camp.
"On February 10, 1882, Colonel B. B. Groom, an experienced cattleman near Lexington, Kentucky, leased from the New York and Texas Land Company 592,920 acres of land in Hutchinson, Carson, Gray and Roberts Counties in the Texas Panhandle, He had the right to purchase the entire tract at any time before February 10. 1883.
As a result of this transaction, the Francklyn Land and Cattle Company was organized in 1882 with Charles G. Francklyn as president and most of the stock being held by British investors.
B. B. Groom left immediately for Texas to inspect and evaluate the lands on the western plains. Traveling with horse and buggy, he inspected the property with E. B. Spiller, a surveyor. After having viewed the Travis Leach homestead near present Lefors, they journeyed northwestward. On August 8, 1882. Groom wrote:
"Crossing over the river (North Fork of Red River) several times, we enter the plains on the regularly traveled road from Mobeetie to Tascosa. There I think (is) one of the most beautiful and picturesque sights I have ever seen. Looking off for miles at the meandering line of the river (White Deer Creek) as pointed out by the cottonwood trees which border its course, the valley below with its hills and vales, (furnishes) ample protection for stock in case of cold or storm, and the plains off in the other direction as far as you could see (makes) by its level and even surface a beautiful contrast with what we had, for the last eight miles, been coming over ... White Deer Creek near our western line running north to the Canadian River ... is valuable, having eighteen miles of lasting water on our land. ... The stream, White Deer ... has a bottom of splendid land fully one-half mile wide, very rich and a good deal of beautiful cottonwood timber. ... On this bottom and near the northwest corner is over 2,000 acres of meadow, the best grass and suitable for making all the hay we shall ever want for our blooded animals and work stock. ...
"Antelope in large numbers are found all over the property ... where by means of the field grass, they can he seen grazing for miles away. ...
..Bands of wild horses, numbering from sixteen to twenty in each band, (are) watched over and directed by a masterly stallion, who studiously guards his harem, not allowing any others to come in or any of his band to escape. On the approach of danger, he drives his family before him, always bringing up the rear himself.
... Flag Tail Deer, wild turkeys, thousands of wild ducks and geese, coyotes, grey wolves, wildcats. raccoons and beaver are found in the region. ... (It would be an easy) matter to kill a wagonload of wild turkeys on our property any night, and kill ducks, Geese and quail until tired of doing so.
"It is my firm belief and judgment that we have the finest and most desirable cattle ranch in the United States, possessing as it does the happy medium between hot and cold, and being covered with the most nutritious grass, and with thousands of acres of the best meadow lands."
The first improvements on the Francklyn spread bad to be made quickly to get the lands ready for cattle. The work consisted of cutting and stacking prairie hay, building fences and cross fences, erecting tanks and dams, boring wells, riding fences, building tables and corrals, setting up a headquarters camp, locating line camps and experimenting with farm operations.
Materials were hauled from Dodge City, Kansas, in wagon trains drawn by mules. Cimarron, Beaver and Crooked Creeks and the dangerous quicksands of the Canadian River ran directly across the Dodge City freight trail; at times it was impossible to get goods across.
On September 16, 1882, B. B. Groom, who had been joined by his son, Harrison Thomson Groom, made a lengthy report:
"The teams reached the ranch (from Dodge City) on September 12 with our tools and supplies. very tired but looking well for so hard a trip. Having no place for our work stock and ourselves, we have had to put up some cheap improvements for them. ... We must have some lots for our horses ... the range is ton large to have them run over it. We will also fence our corn fields, and ground for millet, hay, etc. Harrison has had a plain strong stable built for our work horses and mules 25x100 feet and built two log (houses) which gives us seven rooms, a cook room and a sitting room where we all sit together around the same table. (There is) also, (a) room for prominent stockmen who stop on their way to their ranches, one for my cook and his wife, one for myself and one for storage. The other is a large room for employees of the ranch. ... We prefer to use these buildings until the railroads are located and building material is reduced in price. The commonest lumber now costs $25 per thousand and other materials in proportion. ... 1 have now moved 1,500 corral poles all of which I have used up on the corral for branding. It will hold 1,500 head of grown cattle, and is the best one in the Panhandle, as all the material is number one with no fancy work, only good work. It is about eight feet high, all the poles are peeled cedar posts and wired at the top with wire saved from the bales of barbed wire. I have also built a corral at the house three miles below the house and will shed it.
"At this time I have fourteen men besides Arnold haying; (Perry) LeFors with ten driving from Greer County; seven inside the fence line and one at headquarters, making a total of thirty-five men on the ranch. (R. H. Arnold, the bookkeeper, was the brother-in-law of Harrison Groom.)"
As a preliminary to stocking the White Deer pasture, Colonel B. B. Groom. in September, 1882, purchased the O. C. Cantwell herd of well blooded cattle. then grazing on the range. It consisted of an estimated 1,300 head of sixteen imported shorthorns, all carrying the Keno brand, which had been recorded in Wheeler County on June 18, 1881. Groom wrote: "They are exactly where we want them at home on our range ready to become the nucleus around which to build our herd."
In order to distinguish its cattle from other cattle, it became necessary for the Francklyn company to select a brand of its own. Colonel Groom decided on OF to be known and called and read "Diamond F'. The Diamond F was approved by the Francklyn officials and was filed as the company's brand in October, 1882.
On November 8, 1882, the Francklyn Land and Cattle Company bought from the New York and Texas Land Company 637,440 acres of land for $887,654.40. On March 27, 1883, the company acquired an estimated 75,000 head of mixed cattle on a 50x75 mile spread in Greer County (then in Texas). B. B. Groom managed the Greer range and Harrison Groom managed the White Deer pasture.
Unfortunately. B. B. Groom's vision of the finest and most desirable cattle ranch in the United States did not materialize for him. The Francklyn Land and Cattle Company became insolvent in 1886. The bondholders fore- closed and organized a new company known as White Deer Lands (later White Deer Land Company).
Harrison Groom had put in a new camp at the edge of a little lake just west of the present town of White Deer and was planning to build a home there. White Deer Lands moved its headquarters twenty miles south to this new location and set up a demonstration farm for the purpose of attracting prospective land buyers. The bondholders of White Deer Lands had decided to sell all of their cattle and then to offer the land for sale. Because land sales were slow for several years, portions of White Deer Lands were leased to various companies for ranching.
Joe Shelton remembered working on the U-Brand Ranch owned by the Wilson-Popham Cattle Company and being in the old White Deer Lands headquarters on White Deer Creek. At the end of April in 1908, he was with eight men who drove 1,400 head of cattle from the ranch to the railroad cattle yard north of the present Hobart Street underpass in Pampa. They came south on present Hobart Street which at that time was a dirt path. A fence in the center of the path turned to the east at present Kentucky Street and made a corner of the cow pasture.
All afternoon the cowboys had been watching a storm coming from the northwest. It was an "all hands in the saddle" kind of storm which reached Pampa about ten that night. Joe was very grateful to have a good night horse that knew more about cattle than he did. Miraculously the cattle stared in the corner and did not knock the fence down.
The next owner of the old log house headquarters was Harry Byers Price. He was the son of Thomas Jones and Louisa Jane Price who came, in 1867, from Illinois to Reading, Kansas, in Osage and Lyon Counties.
About 1899 Thomas Jones Price and H. B. Price lost a large number of cattle in a bad snow storm near Liberal, Kansas. They gave the water rights to Bobby Davis whose descendants still live on that land.
The Log House on White Deer Creek, Page 2
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