Under the protection of Fort Elliott, Hidetown—a trading post established by buffalo hunters and later called Sweetwater or Sweet Town, became the economic and cultural center of the Panhandle.

Wheeler County was one of twenty-six counties created out of Clay County Territory in 1876, and named for Supreme Court Justice Royal T. Wheeler. The county was organized in 1879 by a petition signed by one hundred fifty qualified voters and was assigned jurisdiction over the Panhandle counties.

In 1879, Wheeler County was formally organized and Sweetwater, renamed "Mobeetie," became the county seat and the center of government for the twenty-six counties of the Texas Panhandle.

For the first time, settlers in the Texas Panhandle began the task of building a permanent community and developing a vast empty region.

Beginning as a buffalo hunters’ rendezvous, in 1875, the settlement near the Sweetwater Creek was known as Sweetwater, Sweet Town or Hidetown. The settlement was at first dominated by Charles Rath and Lee Reynolds of Dodge City, Kansas, who picked up hides and dropped off supplies there. The settlement covered 40 acres on the south side of the Sweetwater Creek. When it was discovered the settlement was located on the Military Reserve, the town had to relocate. Sweetwater moved about 2 miles northwest to section 45, closer to Fort Elliott.

Sweetwater was the first town in the Panhandle. It was built on Sweetwater creek 2 miles east from [the later] Mobeetie. It was built the same year that Fort Elliott started to build – 1875. There were about 150 persons living there, Chinese laundry, and a restaurant. The saloon men were Henry Fleming, Joe Mason and W. H. Weed. The dance hall man was Bill Thompson, brother to the noted Ben Thompson, gunman of Austin who was killed in San Antonio.

The restaurant was run by Tom O’Loughlin, and his wife, Ellen, the only virtuous woman in the town at that time. There were about 15 dance hall girls there then. There also was a barbershop and a big store that sold goods to the buffalo hunters. The store was owned by Bob Wright, Charles Rath, and a man by the name of Reynolds. They claimed they bought 150,000 buffalo hides.

Also in the town lived bullwhackers, mule skinners, buffalo hunters, and gamblers galore. Now this was the first town in the Panhandle.

W. L. R. Dickson was wagon master of a bull train – ten 7-oxen teams of three wagons to the team. I think he was running it for Lee Reynolds and company. I am not sure of this. His outfit brought lots of goods to Sweetwater and took back loads of buffalo hides to Dodge City, Kansas.
1931 letter from George A. Montgomery,
Postmaster, Mobeetie, 1878-1886
Pampa Daily News,
Tuesday August 7, 1934

Mobeetie was patronized by outlaws, thieves, cut-throats, and buffalo hunters, with a large per cent of prostitutes. Taking it all, I think it was the hardest place I ever saw on the frontier except Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Charles Goodnight
Frontier Times, December 1929

Henry Fleming built a stone building at Old Mobeetie and it was a saloon. Mobeetie was a tough place. As soon as saloons and gambling houses got started in Mobeetie bad women came in.
John Woods
Buffalo Hunter


Pink Pussy Cat Paradise
Cattleman’s Exchange
O’Loughlin’s Saloon
Lady Gay (owner – Fleming)
Buffalo Chip
Mint (owner – J. J. Long)
White Elephant (owner – Berry)
Pendleton & Co. (owner–a Buffalo hide shipping Co.)
Ring Town Saloon (for blacks only – was 2 ½ miles NW of Mobeetie)