Monday, May 9 would be the last day of my 9 year trip around the 254 counties of Texas. I left Amarillo and followed US 60 to Panhandle, turned north on Texas 207 and headed towards Borger. From Borger, I continued north, passing through Stinnett and its grand courthouse and then angling northeast towards Hansford County, #251. This area at the top of the panhandle is rolling prairie, supporting cattle and crops alike. Spearman, the seat of Hansford County is also the windmill capital of Texas. There's a fascinating collection of historic and contemporary windmills in a park on the south side of town.
Lunch in Spearman was at the ubiquitous Dairy Queen, my "restaurant" of last resort on the Texas courthouse trail. Heading west on Texas 15 I crossed some very productive farmland. It was a beautiful afternoon and the wind was blowing "not too much." Two weeks later I saw pictures of a massive tornado crossing this area. Not on my trip, thank goodness. I arrived in Stratford, Texas, seat of Sherman County, #252, in mid-afternoon. I had started to photograph the exterior of the Sherman County courthouse (1922) when the County Sheriff crossed my path in front of the building and introduced himself. When I explained my courthouse project he offered to give me a tour of the courthouse, beginning with the county jail, which is in the basement. I spent the next 45 minutes learning all about the courthouse and jail, including a photograph, taken in the courthouse in January 1938. The photograph documented the presentation of a Thompson submachine gun to the Sherman County Sheriff's Office by the FBI. I'm told by the sheriff that the FBI gave one of the guns to each county sheriff in Texas...
Leaving Stratford in my rearview mirror, I pointed the car southwest on US 54, the straight as an arrow road leading to Dalhart, Texas, the seat of Dallam County, #253. Dalhart is barely in Dallam County -- the south side of Dalhart is in neighboring Hartley County. The Dallam County courthouse is located on a small square in the downtown area.
And then my trip, my circuit of the state's 254 counties, was over. I stood outside of the Dallam County courthouse and thought about my courthouse trail experiences for a while. My reverie was broken by a call from my colleagues at Chelsea Architects in Houston, congratulating me. After the call I was overcome with emotion and fatigue. But, soon enough it was time to get back in the car and find my way back to Amarillo. After all, I had one more day left on this road trip...
Sunday morning. I headed west from Amarillo on IH 40. My first stop was Vega, Texas, seat of Oldham County, #247.
Vega is the second county seat of Oldham County. The original seat was the community of Tascosa, on the Canadian River. Tascosa is no more, but in its place is Cal Farley's Boys' Ranch. On the property is the 1884 Oldham County courthouse, now a museum. A ranch staff member was kind enough to open the building for me. The museum contains many historic objects, among them an impressive collection of barbed wire. There's also a Boot Hill Cemetery; a reminder of Tascosa's wild west days in the 19th century.
Leaving the Canadian River valley behind, it was only a few miles north to Channing, Texas, seat of Hartley County, #248. Channing is a very small community, but it's on the former Santa Fe Railroad and is home to the XIT Ranch general office. The courthouse "square" is just another block on Main Street.
Northeast of Channing is Dumas, Texas, seat of Moore County, #249.
Traveling east from Dumas on Texas 152, I soon entered Hutchinson County, #250. Stinnett, Texas is the seat of Hutchinson County. There's a large, grand courthouse in Stinnett, but most of the county's population lives a few miles south, in Borger, Texas.
As I drove back to Amarillo Sunday afternoon I couldn't help but be excited about Monday's courthouse road trip. I had only three counties left to visit: Hansford, Sherman, and Dallam.
Saturday, May 7, I headed northeast on US 60 from Amarillo through Panhandle and Pampa. My first stop was Miami, seat of Roberts County, #243 on my chronological list. Miami is located in the southeast corner of Roberts County, on the former Santa Fe, now BNSF railroad. Miami isn't pronounced like the city in Florida. It's "my-AM-uh," Texas. Whatever. The little community of about 600 is on the south slope of the Red Deer Creek valley, a tributary of the Canadian River. I arrived mid-morning of a beautiful spring day. The little courthouse is a jewel; one of my favorites.
Leaving Miami, I continued on US 60 northeast to Canadian, Texas, the seat of Hemphill County, #244. Like Miami, the town of Canadian is located in the Red Deer Creek valley, just south of the Canadian River. Canadian is a delightful town, with many historic buildings and views that go on forever. I truly enjoyed my visit and look forward to returning soon to this idyllic part of Texas.
After a BBQ lunch at the Cattle Exchange restaurant in Canadian I followed US 60 across the Canadian River and on to Glazier, Texas where I turned north on Texas 305 and soon entered Lipscomb County, #245, the northeastern most county in the panhandle. This lightly-populated county has few towns. The small (population about 38) community of Lipscomb serves as the county seat. It's located near the center of the county in a shallow valley.
Turning left, I then drove west on Texas 15 to Perryton, Texas, seat of Ochiltree County, #246. Perryton is located on US 83, a major highway that, unlike Texas 305, does enter Oklahoma.
Leaving Perryton, I drove south on Texas 70, crossing the Canadian River valley again before taking Texas 283 back to Miami for another look. Approaching the community from the northwest the Roberts County courthouse stands out above the canopy of trees along Red Deer Creek. After some more photography in Miami I headed back to Amarillo on US 60, through Pampa and Panhandle.
Headed east on IH-40 from Amarillo on the morning of Friday, May 6. At Shamrock I turned left on US 83 and drove 16 miles north to Wheeler, Texas, seat of Wheeler County. The courthouse is located in the center of town in a green, tree shaded square. This is county #240 in my courthouse chronology.
Heading west, northwest on Texas 152, I crossed the rolling prairie of Wheeler County and soon arrived in the small crossroads community of Mobeetie, Texas, known as the "mother city" of the Texas panhandle. (I'm not kidding.) Mobeetie was the first seat of Wheeler County. A storm destroyed the town in 1898 and a few years later Wheeler, the town, became the seat. The 19th century jail is the only remaining county building in Mobeetie.
West of Wheeler County is Gray County, #241 on my courthouse trail. The county seat is Pampa, Texas.
Lunch time is always an important moment on the courthouse trail. On this day I was fortunate to drive by the Coney Island Cafe in downtown Pampa and noticed the sign. I stopped and had a memorable meal at this iconic Pampa eatery. What you should know before dining here is that everything they serve (except for the pies) comes with chili, mustard, and onions. Be forewarned!
The man sitting next to me at the counter strongly recommended the ham sandwich. So, that's what I ordered, without the onions. I ate it and a piece of pie and left with the reassuring knowledge that I'd probably never have another ham sandwich like that again... On the way out of town I stopped for a Cherry Lime at Ted's Drive-in. Then, it was on to Carson County, #242 on my list. The county seat is Panhandle, Texas, an original name if there ever was one.
I visited the Carson County courthouse late on a Friday afternoon. Needless to say, it was deserted, except for a few county employees. My standard approach when visiting courthouses is to walk around and through them and photograph whatever is visible, with the exception of people, particularly any prisoners. So, following an exterior walk-around, I made my way through the building, including the dark, but not locked district courtroom on the second floor. I could see that people were watching me, but I don't stop and greet the employees unless they approach me first. I've found from experience that stopping to talk always results in a rather lengthy chat. Not that I don't want to visit, but I'm typically on a schedule that doesn't allow for that much time. However, as I left the front door of the courthouse that afternoon, I was followed by a gentleman onto the front porch. He introduced himself as the County Judge and asked what my interest was in the Carson County courthouse. I gave him my card and explained my visit. We then had a pleasant conversation about the courthouse, it's upkeep, and other issues of common interest to us both. I told him how impressed I was by the courthouse lawn and he gave credit to a county employee who tends it. Without a doubt, the courthouse lawns in the northern panhandle are the best in Texas! Especially so when they've had sufficient rains.
Southwest Airlines got me from Houston to Amarillo on time. I rented a car and drove into town; downtown, to be exact. I had a reservation at the Marriott Courtyard in the historic Fisk Building (1928). It's a wonderful hotel. I had a splendid room on the southeast corner of the 7th floor. The views were terrific: to the south was the historic Santa Fe Building (1930), now a Potter County office building. Looking northeast, I could see the Potter County courthouse, too. After a pleasant walk around this downtown neighborhood I had a delicious Tex-Mex dinner and a good night's sleep. The next morning I began my visits to the counties of the northern panhandle, beginning with Wheeler County.
Leonard G. Lane, Jr., AIA
- Chronological Order (of my visits)
- County List (alphabetical)
- Texas Courthouse Blog
- James Riely Gordon, Architect
- Eugene T. Heiner, Architect
- Henry T. Phelps, Architect
- Alfred Giles, Architect
- Corneil G. Curtis, Architect
- Wesley Clark Dodson, Architect
- Lang & Witchell Architects
- Voelcker & Dixon, Architects
- Wyatt C. Hedrick, Architect
- David S. Castle, Architect
- Page Brothers, Architects
- James Edward Flanders, Architect
- Pierce, Norris, Pace & Associates, Architects & Engineers