Wheeler County

Wheeler County was named for Royal T. Wheeler. Mr. Wheeler was the second Chief Justice of Texas Supreme Court.

The center of the county is at 35°25’ North latitude and 100°15’ west longitude.

The city of Wheeler is 3 miles NW of the center of the county.

Wheeler County contains 914 square miles of rolling prairies and rough river breaks

Elevation ranges from 2,000 to 2,800 feet above sea level.

The North Fork of the Red River and Sweetwater Creek are the two major streams. Sweetwater Creek starts in Wheeler County. It is fed by springs.

The average rainfall is 23.7 inches a year. The average minimum low temperature is 26 degrees and the average high is 97 degrees. The average growing season is 208 days.

The native trees are Cottonwood, Black Walnut, Chinaberry, Willow, Hackberry, Mesquite, and Shin Oak, which are found around the creek beds.

The minerals are caliche, gypsum, petroleum, and natural gas.

The Plains Apache Indians first occupied the county. A modern Apache followed them. The Kiowas and Comanches ran them out around 1700 A. D. The Kiowas and Comanche dominated the county until they were defeated in the Red River War of 1874.

Buffalo Hunters moved into the county in the spring of 1874. They started Hidetown or as it became known later as Sweetwater City on the Sweetwater Creed. This town later moved about a mile and became known as Mobeetie.

In 1875 Fort Elliott was established and stayed till 1890.

The first post office was established in 1878 at the Fort.

In 1876, Texas State Legislature established Wheeler County from lands that had been assigned to Bexar and Young district.

April 12, 1879 Wheeler County became the first organized county in the Panhandle of Texas.

In 1880 Mobeetie was chosen as the county seat. Throughout the last half of the 1870’s and the 1880’s and the 1890’s, the ranching and Fort Elliott dominated the economy.

The 1890 census counted 46 ranches or farms in the county. There were 33,000 cattle and 900 sheep. There were only 600 acres that was planted in corn and ten acres in cotton. There were 512 people living in the county in 1880 and 778 in 1890. When the Fort left there were only 636 people in 1900 census.

The ranching industry began to give way to farming around 1900 as a rush for school lands beginning in 1898 and 1899 led to a substantial increase in cultivation.

1902 the Rock Island Railroad build westward across the Panhandle from Oklahoma to Amarillo. These towns build up along the line, Crossroads, Lela, Shamrock, Norrick and Benonine.

Sam Pakan, a Czech from Illinois arrived in Western Wheeler County in 1904 and started the Pakan community. He bought in 13 more Czech families during the year.

1910 census showed that there were 736 farms and ranches in the county. There was 43,000 acres planted in corn, 4,000 acres in cotton, 5,000 acres in sorghum and 2,000 acres in wheat. There were 32,000 cattle. There were 5,258 people in the county.

The first gas well was drilled in 1923 near Shamrock. The first producing oil well was drilled in 1924. By the end of the 1920s the entire southwestern part of the county was honeycombed with oil and gas wells, tank batteries and pipelines. Magic City and Kellerville developed as small oil centers.

The oil and gas discoveries also led to more railroad construction. The Santa Fe extended a line from Clinton, OK to Pampa in 1929. Town sites on this line to develop were Allison, Zybach, Briscoe and New Mobeetie. New Mobeetie was a little over a mile from Mobeetie. Shamrock emerged as the only successful railroad town. This helps to make Shamrock as the most successful town.

In the late 1920s an unusual boundary adjustment on Wheeler County eastern border occurred. This was due to a boundary conflict between Texas and Oklahoma led to a resurveyed of the line. This led to a United States Supreme Court decision in 1930. As a result the eastern border of the Texas Panhandle was moved 3,800 feet to the east to the true 100th meridian. A strip of 132 miles long expanded the Wheeler and other border countries of Texas at the expense of adjacent countries of Oklahoma.

The agricultural progress was reversed during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Low prices, federal crop restrictions and other factors combined to drive thousands of acres out of production. The cropland harvested declined from 185,000 in 1930 to 167,000 acres about 1949.

Road system was started in the 1900s. In 1916 the county initiated construction of US Highway 66 across the southern part of the county. There was also a road started from Shamrock to Wheeler to Mobeetie. The paving of major roads began in 1928 and continued through the 1940s. In the 1940s and 1950s a network of farm-to-market roads were built. This complemented already existing roads and highways.

The county supported the Democratic candidates in every presidential election between 1880 and 1948 except for 1928. The party loyalties began to shift during the 1952 election when Dwight D. Eisenhower took the county. The county returned to the Democratic fold in 1956 till 1960. Between 1960 and 2000 except for 1964 and 1976 the Republican took back over.

In 1982 about 95 percent of the land was in farms and ranches of which 26 percent was cultivated with 7 percent in irrigation.

1990 there were 5,879 people living in Wheeler County. The city of Shamrock had 2,286 population with Wheeler 1,393 and Mobeetie 154.

There are two museums in the county. Pioneer West Museum is in Shamrock and the Old Mobeetie Jail Museum in Mobeetie.