BACK, TEXAS. Back, originally Pumpkin Ridge, is a rural community at the junction of State Highway 273 and Farm Road 1321, in eastern Gray County. The area was first settled by farmers in the late 1890s. In October 1899 a post office was opened there and named Northfork because of its proximity to the North Fork of the Red River. John J. Simpkins was the first postmaster. Many of the Pumpkin Ridge farmers built their homes out of lumber procured from the abandoned Fort Elliott near Mobeetie. A one-room school, opened in 1899, was originally taught by Miss Fannie Womble and later by T. M. Wolf, future Gray county judge. The community received its present name after John David Back arrived in the fall of 1904 with his wife and ten children from near Van Alstyne, in Collin County. Back, who became a pillar in the community, gave land for a new school building after the first one was mysteriously plundered for its lumber. The Back school, which served as a church building on Sundays, quickly became a local gathering place. For recreation, area residents enjoyed hunting in the breaks of the North Fork, and in 1905 a local baseball club was organized.
Oil and natural gas discoveries in the area during the 1920s led real estate men to begin platting lots for a proposed Back City in 1927, and roads were graded to the local oil wells, some of which reportedly produced as much as 6,000 barrels a day. A new brick schoolhouse was completed in 1928. The proposed town failed to materialize, however, after the Phillips Petroleum Company constructed a plant on the North Fork and the Fort Worth and Denver Northern Railway completed its line from Childress to Pampa in 1932. The Northfork post office, which had closed in 1928, was reestablished at the oil camp of Denworth in September 1932. Most people found it cheaper to live in either McLean, to the south of Back, or in Denworth, to the north. The Back community school remained in operation until 1950, when its district merged with that of McLean. Afterward the building was used as a community center. The area still produces oil and gas. In 2000 the population was six.
Arthur Hecht, comp., Postal History in the Texas Panhandle (Canyon, Texas: Panhandle-Plains Historical Society, 1960). S. G. Reed, A History of the Texas Railroads (Houston: St. Clair, 1941; rpt., New York: Arno, 1981). F. Stanley [Stanley F. L. Crocchiola], Story of the Texas Panhandle Railroads (Borger, Texas: Hess, 1976). L. M. Watson, Jr., Back Community (MS, Interview files, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, Texas).