PYOTE, TEXAS. Pyote, originally called Pyote Tank, is on Farm Road 2355, State Highway 115, U.S. Highway 80, Interstate Highway 20, and the Missouri Pacific line, seven miles southwest of Wickett in central Ward County. In 1881, before the Texas and Pacific Railway laid its tracks through the area, the company opened a telegraph office at Pyote Tank. The name for the town has been credited to the Chinese railroad workers' pronunciation of coyote. Other sources indicate it was named for the peyote cacti common to the region. In 1885 J. A. Stewart established the 7S Ranch, covering forty sections, three miles south of the community. In 1907 a post office was established with Albert D. Pigman as postmaster. Also in 1907 Cicero S. Sitton and his sons opened a store, a three-day barbecue was held, and most of the town lots were sold. A school petition was circulated at the barbecue, and later a one-room school building was constructed. Eventually, a $100,000 school building was erected on land donated by Otey Nockells Rogers. By 1925 the population of Pyote was reported at 100. In 1926 oil was discovered in Hendrick oilfield in nearby Winkler County. By 1928 Pyote became the trading and shipping center for area oil activity, and its population soared to 3,500. Thirty-one rooming houses and hotels were quickly built. City services could not meet the needs of the increased population. However, the boom ended in the 1930s when the railroad built a spur to Monahans, eliminating Pyote from oilfield shipping. In 1931 Pyote declined to a population of 1,097 and 115 businesses. The town incorporated before 1933 and maintained its population through 1939, by which time the number of businesses had declined to thirty-six. By 1941 the population was reported as 201 and the number of businesses as fifteen. In 1942 Pyote Air Force Station was constructed at Pyote south of Highway 80 on land owned by the University of Texas; it was used for bomber training. After World War II more than 4,000 bombers and fighter planes were sent to the Pyote base for melting into scrap metal. Among those stored there were the Enola Gay, which dropped the first atomic bomb, and Swoose, General MacArthur's plane. However, those two famous planes were rescued from destruction by the Smithsonian Institution. In the early 1960s Pyote had a population of 420 and eight businesses. Throughout the 1970s it had fewer than 200 people and either one business or none. In the 1980s it had a population near 400. Pyote is the site of the West Texas State School and the Rattlesnake Bomber Base Museum, which displays World War II memorabilia in an old building from the base. In 1990 the population was 348. The population dropped to 131 in 2000.
Wylene Kirk, "Early Post Offices and Towns in the Permian Basin Area," Texas Permian Historical Annual 1 (August 1961). Texas Permian Historical Society, Water, Oil, Sand and Sky: A History of Ward County (Monahans, Texas, Junior Chamber of Commerce, 1962). Ward County Historical Commission, Ward County. (Dallas: Taylor, 1980?).