by Delbert Trew
most settlements in the Llano Estacado, buffalo hide hunters were
the first Anglos to camp or pause for a spell at the site. From 1873
to 1878, hunters hunted illegally in the eastern Texas/Oklahoma panhandles,
which was supposedly Indian Territory.
In 1874, one of the area's first settlements was established as a
resting place for hunters and travelers going south from Fort Supply.
The stop was called The Commission Creek Stage Station and known locally
as Polly's Hotel.
After Fort Elliott was established in 1875, creating a new military
road to Fort Supply, the future of the Stage Station seemed assured.
Further promises for the future arrived as a mail route began passing
through the settlement, which was sold and renamed The Latham House.
All bets on the future evaporated when in 1887, the Atchinson,
Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad laid track four miles north of the
Stage Station, naming the new settlement Higgins
in honor of a wealthy railroad stockholder. In 1888, The Latham House
closed and was moved to the new town site of Higgins.
Immediately, the Commission Creek Stage Station became a ghost town.
Like all early and some later settlements in the Panhandle, railroads
and highways made or condemned the sites without regard to the people
and investments involved. During the Big Ranch Era, when "checker-board"
settlement was devised, the state gave the railroads 32 million acres
of land to encourage building new trackage in the Panhandle. Most
of this acreage was bare, unsettled, unsurveyed prairie.
land making up today's Lipscomb County was divided and given to three
railroad companies with all odd-numbered sections going to the railroads
and even numbered sections kept by the state to sell to provide money
for the State Education Fund. As the land sold and the population
grew, Lipscomb residents banded together and were able to retain their
county seat of Lipscomb.
Higgins lost its bid for county seat to Canadian,
which organized in 1887 and named new county Hemphill in honor of
Judge John Hemphill.
For every small settlement bypassed and condemned to die by the railroads,
another settlement was usually created. This was because the tracks
always needed repair and section repair crews needed to live near
their respective section. Telegraph signals of the time would not
travel far without re-amplification, so settlements were needed every
few miles of track for many purposes. Most of these settlements were
built at a convenient sidetrack.
These sidetrack locations became especially attractive to local ranchers
who needed loading facilities for their livestock. Higgins
eventually acquired large livestock loading facilities along with
a livestock sale barn, all of which contributed to its reputation
as an important shipping point in the eastern Panhandle. By 1888,
the town had two saloons, three hotels and other businesses to serve
the cowboys who brought the livestock to town.
The progression from The Commission Creek Stage Station in 1874 to
the modern-day town of Higgins
is an extremely interesting saga of Panhandle
of Texas history.