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Stories outlive Texas ghost towns' ambition

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew

A town once called Best located in Reagan County is mesquite and buffalo grass country. Named for Tom Best, a railroader, the settlement boomed from 1924 to 1932 with oil discoveries.

Like most oil booms it was wild and woolly with the law trying hard to retain control. For its motto, the town once boasted, "The town with the Best name but the worst reputation."

Today, deserted houses and numerous concrete foundations tell of the boom and bust of Best.

Ever hear of Circle Back
? In 1944, this Panhandle ghost town boasted a population of 100. Located southeast of Muleshoe in eastern Bailey County, it had a post office from 1931 to 1954. The name Circle Back has been explained in many stories. But the truth is, the name is honest, nothing mythical but attributed to a large early-day ranch in the area which branded a simple circle on the backs of its cattle.

Of interest, the U.S. Postal Service created many early town names. Postal rules stated, "No two towns in the same state could use the same name." In the days of crude communications, the applications of outlying communities seeking a post office were slow in transit as letters crossed the mail many times, with new settlements seeking official names. Often the postal officials suggested names somewhat near those on the applications and were accepted.

An example of this name search occurred in Cross Cut. Originally named Cross Out by its pioneers, by the time the postal authorities finished searching, the name became Cross Cut. According to local legend the reason for the original name of Cross Out was: "It was across the country, out of the way, and 28 miles from the county seat of Brownwood in Brown County. The post office there operated from 1931 to 1954.

In 1882, Judge Roy Bean established Langtry, named after a popular singer and actress of the time, and began dealing out his own brand of justice. Unlike some of today's justice and although unlettered in the legal profession, Judge Bean did exhibit a brand of "common sense justice that made sense." For example, a dead man was found on the prairie with no identification, $25 in his pocket and carrying a pistol. The judge fined the man $25 for carrying a weapon and burial expense.

In the absence of a local jail, Langtry prisoners were held and served sentence handcuffed to a log chain fastened around a tree with no facilities for shelter or hygiene available. This assured there were no repeat offenders returning to the judge's jail. The term "death row" did not exist, as those convicted of serious crimes were hanged immediately. The site can be visited today as a Texas rest stop along the highway and features a beautiful cactus garden.

Though early towns had avid supporters with ambitious agendas, most fell by the wayside as progress arrived and highways and railroads passed them by. Most live today only in historical notes and stories.


Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"
February 8, 2011 column
Delbert Trew is a freelance writer and retired rancher. He can be reached at 806-779-3164, by mail at Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002, or by e-mail at trewblue@centramedia.net. For books see DelbertTrew.com. His column appears weekly.
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