Mobeetie, on State Highway 152 in northwestern Wheeler County, is considered the "mother city" of the Panhandle. It developed from Charles Rath and Bob Wright's supply store on Sweetwater Creek at a buffalo-hunters' camp called Hidetown, established in 1874, and grew to 150 residents the following summer as a trading post for nearby Fort Elliott, which had been opened in May of that year. Bat (Bartholomew) Masterson, Patrick F. Garrett and Poker Alice were among the famous visitors to Hidetown, which was so named because residents used buffalo hides in the construction of their dwellings. Henry Fleming, later the first sheriff of Wheeler County, built his rock house across the creek from the camp. The village was located at the southern end of the Jones and Plummer Trail and was a center of activity for the buffalo-hide trade. After the buffalo slaughter waned, many transient hunters stayed. Some made a living catering to the soldiers at the fort, and in 1878 the town was moved a short distance closer to the post. At first the community was called Sweetwater, but when a post office was applied for in 1879, duplication in names caused the Indian word mobeetie, possibly meaning "sweet water," to be chosen. George A. Montgomery served as the first postmaster.
Mobeetie was elected county seat when Wheeler County was organized in 1879. Throughout the 1880s it was the commercial center of much of the Panhandle, connected by a mail route with Tascosa, to the west. Rath and Hamburg's mercantile store catered to area ranches. The main street was jammed with various businesses, including livery stables, wagonyards, a barbershop, a drugstore, a Chinese laundry, a blacksmith shop, two hotels, and boarding houses. Several saloons-Fleming built the first-were available. Like other open whiskey towns, Mobeetie had its share of gamblers, rustlers, and prostitutes. However, Capt. George W. Arrington and his Texas Ranger company proved an effective deterrent to the lawless element. Arrington was elected county sheriff in 1882 and throughout his term made his home in the two-story stone jail. In 1881 Mobeetie became the judicial center of the Thirty-fifth District, which comprised fifteen counties. Several lawyers set up shop, including Temple Houston, who served as district attorney before his election to the state Senate. By 1882 the Texas Panhandle, the region's first newspaper, was in operation. It became the Wheeler County Texan in 1889 and was discontinued by 1900. A rock schoolhouse, which also served as a union church and community center, was built in 1889, replacing an earlier wooden structure. At Christmas and other major holidays residents held horse races and dances. In 1893 the saloons were closed after a revival meeting resulted in 300 conversions. Baptist and Methodist churches were constructed soon afterwards.
Mobeetie began a period of quick decline after Fort Elliott was abandoned in 1890, and its attempts to secure a railroad ended in failure. The town's troubles increased on May 1, 1898, when a cyclone took seven lives and leveled many of the buildings. Another blow occurred in 1907 when a controversial election made Wheeler the county seat. Nevertheless, Mobeetie survived, with its school, a bank, a lumberyard, and various other businesses. In 1929 the town suffered a major setback when the Panhandle and Santa Fe Railway built its line from Pampa to Clinton, Oklahoma, across the north end of the county, missing the town by two miles. The post office and most of the businesses moved to the railroad, and the settlement of New Mobeetie was born. Old Mobeetie was subsequently incorporated into the new town. In its heyday, Old Mobeetie's resident population fluctuated from 300 in 1886 to 400 in 1890, 128 in 1900, and 250 in 1910.
In the heart of a ranching and agricultural area, New Mobeetie quickly showed promise as a shipping point. During the 1930s modern school facilities, including a gymnasium-auditorium, were constructed. The school building in the old town continued to function. The local Women's Civic Club, later known as the Blue Bonnet Club, was organized. By 1940 the population of the incorporated town of Mobeetie numbered around 500. By 1980 this figure had decreased to 291, mainly because of improved highways and the proximity of Pampa and other towns. In 1984 Mobeetie had nine businesses, a bank, a post office, three churches, and modern school facilities for twelve grades. Although a few people still resided at the old townsite, many of its houses were abandoned and falling down. The old county jail is a museum. A crude flagpole, Fort Elliott's sole surviving remnant, is nearby, and the original rock schoolhouse is now a private residence. In 1990 the town's official population was 154. The population dropped to 107 in 2000.
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T. Lindsay Baker, Ghost Towns of Texas (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986). Sallie B. Harris, comp., Hide Town in the Texas Panhandle: 100 Years in Wheeler County and Panhandle of Texas (Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1968). William Coy Perkins, A History of Wheeler County (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1938). Millie Jones Porter, Memory Cups of Panhandle Pioneers (Clarendon, Texas: Clarendon Press, 1945). Frederick W. Rathjen, The Texas Panhandle Frontier (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1973). Lester Fields Sheffy, "Old Mobeetie-The Capital of the Panhandle," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 6 (1930).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
H. Allen Anderson,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed July 07, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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