|The Royal Theatre
in the courthouse squre
Price, November 2007
|Archer City is
hometown of Larry McMurtry, famous Texas novelist and bibliophile.
The town was the setting for two movies written by McMurtry. The ruins
of the theater of "The Last Picture Show" remain across the street
from the courthouse.
is twenty-five miles southwest of Wichita
Falls in the center of Archer
County, of which it is the seat. It was named for Branch Tanner
Archer, a leading figure in the Texas Revolution and Republic
of Texas. The county was established and Archer City designated
county seat by the state legislature in 1858, but the county was not
organized until after the removal of the Kiowas and Comanches from
the area. The townsite was originally surveyed in 1876 and was intended
to lie on the projected paths of three railroad lines—the Fort Worth
and Denver, the Houston and Texas Central, and the Red River and Rio
Grande. A local post office opened in 1878, and in about 1879 C. B.
Hutto settled nearby and platted the town; he donated land for a town
square, a lot for a county jail, and lots for the construction of
Protestant churches. He also donated a "frameless wooden building"
to be used as a county courthouse.
first church, the First Baptist Church, was organized in the town
in 1880 with eight members meeting in a building intended as a saloon.
The town soon after voted to ban the sale of alcoholic beverages,
so the building continued to serve as a church; from 1881 to 1886
it was the first school building. In 1884 the estimated population
of Archer City was 150, and the principal business was county administration.
Cotton was the most important
shipped product, although the railroad had not arrived yet.
By 1890 the population was an estimated 250, and a weekly newspaper
was being published. The town now had daily mail and a daily stage
Falls. In 1892 the post office name, Archer, was changed to match
the town's name. An ornate stone courthouse had been built, two more
churches had been organized, and a brickyard and a hotel had opened.
By 1900 the town had a bank and three livestock dealers, although
cotton remained the staple of outside trade.
The first oil well in the county, twelve miles from town, began producing
in March 1912. Although it never produced great amounts it continued
in operation at least into the late 1970s. By 1914 Archer City had
two railroads, the Wichita Falls and Southern and the Southwestern,
and the population was estimated at 825. Archer City was incorporated
in 1925 and continued to grow as more oil wells were opened nearby.
By late 1926 there were seventeen fields with 411 wells within thirteen
miles of Archer City. The largest field by far was Oldham, with 103
wells. Archer City was also a milling and market point for wheat and
other grains and had about seventy businesses, including three banks.
By 1930 the town's population was 1,512, and the county hospital had
been built there. The county's fiftieth-anniversary celebration had
been held in Archer City the year before, a year early in honor of
the opening of the county's first highway, State Highway 79. By the
1930s researchers from Harvard University were collecting fossils
in Archer County.
Two of the best fossil pits are near Archer City, and from one of
these came a fossil that was named Archeria in honor of the county.
Archer City continued growing slowly despite the loss of some businesses
War II. The population peaked at 2,025 in 1970; the number of
businesses had begun falling off in the 1960s. In Larry McMurtry's
novel The Last Picture Show (1966), which derives its setting from
Archer City, the closing of the Royal Theater is a major symbol. McMurtry
is a native of Archer
County. In 1986 the town had a post office, forty-nine businesses
including a bank, and a population of 1,862. By 2000 the population
was 1,848 with eighty-six businesses."
Lewis, “Archer City, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 18,
Landmarks & Attractions
ruin of the Royal Theater
featured in The Last Picture Show
Price, November 2007
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