Terry County full of history

October 9, 2017

(First in a series on the Historical Markers of Terry County)

Terry County is county full of history. From the early days of  Indians and grasslands to the current days of internet and grapevines, life has always been interesting in Terry County.

We are beginning a series on the historical markers of Terry County, in order to educate and entertain you with some of the rich history that made Terry County what it is.

We will start at the beginning.

The “Terry County” marker is located 10 miles east of Brownfield on U.S. 380/82 on a granite monument in the road side park. It was erected in 1936.

The text states, “Formed from Young and Bexar territories; created August 21, 1876, organized June 28, 1904. Named in honor of Colonel Benjamin Franklin Terry 1821-1861. Leader of the famous Terry’s Texas Rangers. Brownfield, the county seat, primarily a farming area.”

Terry County was one of 54 counties created from Bexar Territory in 1896 by an act of the 15th Texas Legislature. Named for Colonel Terry who commanded Terry’s Texas Rangers in the Civil War and of whom General Lee said, “I feel safe when Terry and his rangers are between me and the enemy.”

Since March of 1889, Terry County had been attached to Martin County and local citizens had to go to Stanton for judicial purposes. So, on May 9, 1904, a group of Terry men presented a petition signed by 159 qualified voters to the commissioners court at Stanton asking that Terry County be organized for judicial purposes. T. J. Price circulated the first petition for the organization of Terry County in 1903.

The petition was granted and an election was ordered for selection of a county seat and for the election of county officers.

The election was held on June 28, 1904 and the battle for County Seat was between the larger town of Gomez, to the west and the smaller fledgling town of Brownfield, more to the center of the county.

The settlers in the east part of the county, as well as all the ranchers and cowboys were for Brownfield, which was just a section of A.M. “Dick” Brownfield’s pasture.

Brownfield won by a few votes. At first there was talk of contesting this election due to some “irregularities” in voting. In fact, the first lawsuit filed in Terry County was by the proponents of Gomez, but the suit was later withdrawn. The coming of the railroad to Brownfield in 1917 settled for all time the location of the county seat.

New county officers elected were: W.T. Dixon – County and District Clerk, J.T. Bess – Sheriff and Tax Collector, N.L. Nelson – Tax Assessor, A.W. Long – Treasurer and H.B. Parks – Hides and Animal Inspector.

Commissioners elected were: W.H. Gist, J.N. Groves, W.J. Peveler and J.J. Adams.

At the first meeting of the Commissioners Court in August of 1904, a contract was approved for the building of the county courthouse. J.T. Hamilton, Lee Allmon and F.L. Maupin were given the contract for $3,800 for a complete turn-key job.

Money was advanced to pay for materials which were hauled in from Colorado City. The building was a two-story frame house, 40 feet square and 24 feet high. It had eight rooms and four brick flues. The courthouse was built in approximately the same location as the current courthouse.

The courtyard was enclosed by a wire fence with a board around the top. Steps called stiles were built on four sides. Cows, horses, pigs and chickens were allowed to roam as they pleased so yards had to be fenced for protection. A windmill and a overhead tank were in the north east corner of the yard and a trough for watering stock was on the fence.

When the  courthouse was completed, county residents gathered for a barbecue and a dance.

The first criminal case tried in the newly formed county was the State of Texas vs. Will Wolf.

The case came from an argument between Mr. Wolf and Mr. Morrow.

Morrow was on a horse and Wolf had a high-powered rifle and took several shots at Morrow as he rode away at top speed. Morrow was never hit but some of the shots did hit his saddle and ruined it.

Wolf was tried before a jury of cowboys and fined $25.

Terry County was an area of ranches, small communities and windmills. Ranches were big and plentiful. Some of the ranches in those days were the Nunn Ranch, Fish Ranch, Q. Bone Ranch, Pool Ranch, Dove Ranch, Sawyer Ranch, J.M. Lane Ranch, Lumsdon Ranch and of course, the Brownfield Ranches.

The two oldest brands registered in Terry County were the DOV, registered to Ira J. Coulver in 1889 and QIV, registered the same year by J.R. Quinn.

The Nunn Ranch covered most of the northeast portion of the county. The first water well was hand dug on the Nunn Ranch at the north end of Rich Lake. This was the first of hundreds that soon popped up all over the county. The old Eclipse Windmills began to show up as the most efficient way to bring water to the surface. Wind was plentiful in those days, too.

M.V. Brownfield was perhaps the best known of all the ranchers in Terry County. He had driven cattle to the plains in 1896 with his partner, Sam Singleton. The two owned large blocks of land in both Terry and Lynn Counties. By 1900, the partnership had dissolved with M.V. taking over the Terry County portion of the ranch.

Cowboys were the kings of the land and women were hard to find in those days, as conditions were harsh. Most of the ranchers were bachelors, maybe not by choice, but more for the lack of eligible marrying stock.

On the other hand, have you looked at any of the pictures of those old cowboys? There could be another reason…just saying.

More on the settling of Terry County and the County Seat battle next time.

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Category: Updates