Cactus is on U.S. Highway 287 near Etter and thirteen miles north of Dumas in northern Moore County. It began as a company town to produce ammunition for World War II. The Cactus Ordnance Works, one of the largest plants in the county, was established there as a government project by the Chemical Construction Company in May 1942. About sixteen sections of land were purchased; the cactus and other prickly plants were cleared, and huge dormitories were hastily erected to house construction workers. After its completion in 1943, the plant began production of ammonium nitrate to be used in explosives. Housing was built for the plant employees, who at one time numbered 6,000, and many of whom lived in trailer houses. With the easing of the emergency after several months, officials of the Chemical Construction Company received orders to close the plant. Operations were suspended, and some of the residential structures were sold as surplus before the Shell Union Oil and Gas Corporation assumed control of the plant in early 1944 and began manufacturing aviation gasoline. This arrangement lasted until August 1946, when the Emergency Export Corporation took over and reconverted the plant to the production of ammonia. This company continued production until August 15, 1948, when Phillips Chemical, a division of Phillips Petroleum Company, assumed management. Phillips had erected another plant near the ordnance works in 1943. The Cactus post office was established in 1948, by which time the local population had decreased to 2,000. In the early 1980s Cactus had a population of 898 and fifteen businesses, including a large beef-packing plant. In 1990 the community's population was 1,529, and in 2000 it grew to 2,538.