Sanderson, TX

By: Swanya Howell Pitts

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: July 18, 2015

Sanderson, the county seat of Terrell County, is on U.S. Highway 90 in Sanderson Canyon in the southwest part of the county. It was founded by Charlie Wilson as Strawbridge. The site served as a division point for the Southern Pacific Railroad, and in 1882 when a roundhouse was built, the name was changed from Strawbridge to Sanderson, after Thomas P. Sanderson, the engineer in charge of construction. A post office was opened in 1883. In early days, Sanderson was an unruly frontier town: Roy Bean operated a saloon there for a short time; Charlie Wilson's Cottage Bar was a favorite spot for railroad workers, cowboys, and local ranchers. When Terrell County was demarked from Pecos County in 1905, Sanderson became the county seat as a result of a countywide election.

On June 11, 1965, Sanderson was devastated by a flash flood. A wall of water roared down Sanderson Canyon into Sanderson, destroying numerous homes and businesses. Twenty-six people died in the flood. Eleven flood-control dams were constructed to protect Sanderson against another such catastrophe. The region is devoted to the raising of livestock, including cattle, horses, polo ponies, burros, sheep, and Angora goats. In 1970 over one million pounds of wool and mohair were shipped out of Sanderson. The town had a population of 1,500 in 1980 and 1,128 in 1990. The population dropped to 861 in 2000 and further declined to 837 in 2010. On July 4, 2015, the town held commemoration ceremonies for the fiftieth anniversary of the 1965 flood to honor the victims as well as the Boy Scouts who performed noteworthy flood relief efforts during and in the aftermath of the disaster. Events included the dedication of a memorial garden.

Terrell County Heritage Commission, Terrell County, Texas (San Angelo: Anchor, 1978). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Communities

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Swanya Howell Pitts, “Sanderson, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 01, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 18, 2015

Currently Exists
Place Type
Town Fields
  • Has post office: Yes
  • Is Incorporated: No
Belongs to
  • Terrell County
Associated Names


  • Latitude: 30.14240830°
  • Longitude: -102.39403240°
Population Counts
People Year
112 1900
500 1920
1,500 1930
1,875 1940
2,150 1950
2,350 1960
1,229 1970
1,500 1980
1,128 1990
861 2000
837 2010
719 2019