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  Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Higgins was stage station

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
At 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.

The 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.
Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"
May 14, 2007 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.

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