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Shafter Lake, TX

Paul H. Carlson General Entry

The town of Shafter Lake was on the shores of Shafter Lake, four miles west of U.S. Highway 385 in north central Andrews County. It developed as part of a turn-of-the-century boom in West Texas. J. F. Bustin, a local entrepreneur, persuaded the firm of Pierce and Powers to establish a village on the north shore of a shallow alkali lake lying fifty feet below the elevation of the surrounding countryside. Originally the town was named Salt Lake. Later the town and lake were named after William R. Shafter, an army officer who had discovered the lake in 1875.

The most active supporter of Shafter Lake was James T. Cumley, editor of the Shafter Lake Herald. His editorials sparkled with praise for the community. He spoke highly of the area's rich soil, the recreation potential of the lake, and the kind words that visitors had for the village. He sent thousands of copies of the Herald across the country, particularly to the Midwest.

Shafter Lake was platted in August 1907 and was a busy town by early September. Wagon trains of freight could be seen leaving for Lubbock, while others hauling lumber for new homes were pulling in from Midland. Still others, some comprising several wagons hitched together and pulled by sixteen mules, rested a day or two before heading south. Within another couple of months, over fifty homes dotted the townsite, a city school was ready to open, and newcomers scurried about trying to get settled. A post office was also established in 1907, and in 1908 a community cemetery was begun on the opposite side of the lake. In 1907 there was talk of the Llano Estacado, Mexico, and Gulf Railroad coming through town. Surveyors came to Shafter Lake, and the line was scheduled for completion in 1909, but only one mile was ever graded.

Shafter Lake reached the peak of its growth in 1910, when it had a population of 500, a bank, three churches, a rock schoolhouse, a general store, a blacksmith's shop, and two hotels. In 1910 a feud developed between Shafter Lake and the nearby town of Andrews as both vied to become the Andrews County seat. An election was held in June, marked by controversy over the efforts of both towns to acquire eligible voters, and Shafter Lake lost by a narrow margin, after which it rapidly declined. Two years later most of the townspeople had moved to Andrews. By the 1980s only a dilapidated cemetery of twelve known graves and one original building indicated the existence of a once booming community. The descendants of the first postmaster, Bert M. Irwin, still had a ranching operation at the old townsite.

T. Lindsay Baker, Ghost Towns of Texas (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986). Paul H. Carlson and Michael Stark, "The Llano Estacado, Mexico and Gulf: West Texas' Phantom Railroad," Texas Permian Historical Annual 15 (1975). Paul H. Carlson and Michael Stark, "Shafter Lake, Boom Town Bust," Southwest Heritage, Winter 1974–75.


  • Communities

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

Paul H. Carlson, “Shafter Lake, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed March 06, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.