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MITCHELL COUNTY, TEXAS
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Colorado City, County Seat


Attractions:   The Heart of West Texas Museum
  Lake Colorado City State Park
Created:   August 21, 1876, from the Bexar Territory
Location:   I-20 and Hwys 208 and 163
  63 miles west of Abilene
  32.4 N;  100.9 W
Motto:   "Mother City of West Texas"
Namesake:   It's location on the Colorado River
Organized:   January, 1881
Population:   4,281 in 2000

COLORADO CITY, TEXAS

Colorado City, the county seat of Mitchell County, is on the Colorado River, Lone Wolf Creek, U.S. Highway 20/80, State highways 208 and 163, and the Missouri Pacific Railroad, thirty-eight miles east of Big Spring and twenty-three miles south of Snyder in the north central part of the county. It has been called the "Mother City of West Texas" for its early origin as a ranger camp in 1877 and for its prominence as a cattlemen's center.

In 1881 the town was chosen county seat and acquired a station on the new Texas and Pacific Railway. Local ranchers hauled in tons of buffalo bones (see BONE BUSINESS) for shipment to the East and loaded their empty wagons with provisions purchased from pioneer merchant William H. "Uncle Pete" Snyderqv and others.

When the town was granted a post office in 1881 Prince A. Hazzard became the first postmaster. Water was hauled to town from Seven Wells and elsewhere and sold at fifty cents a barrel. The first school, conducted in a dugout qv in 1881, was moved to a building the next year, and soon a new building was built.

By that time the town had between 200 and 300 residents and was a cattle-shipping center. Ranchers drove their cattle to Colorado City from as far north as Amarillo, from as far south as San Angelo, and from eastern New Mexico. Great herds were held until rail cars were available. After shipment, cowboys were free to enjoy the town's amenities.

Between 1881 and 1884 its five saloons multiplied to twenty-eight, and other businesses showed the same growth. The population was estimated as high as 6,000 in 1884-85. The boom slowed after the 1885-86 drought, however, and the 1890 population was 2,500.

In May 1881 W. P. Patterson, a prominent rancher, was shot down by Texas Rangers.qv Citizens blamed the shooting on the rangers' feud with cattlemen, and the ranger camp was moved from town to Hackberry Springs, twenty miles southwest.

When Amarillo developed with the arrival of the Fort Worth and Denver Railway in 1887 and when the Santa Fe Railroad reached San Angelo a year later, business in Colorado City declined sharply.

During the 1890s salt mining was important to the local economy, but salt declined in importance after 1900. A second boom between 1900 and 1906 followed the influx of farmers. The population of Colorado City was 3,000 in 1906.

By 1910 the town had a new public school, a waterworks, and an electric plant. In 1914 the population was estimated at 1,500, and the town had two banks and a newspaper, the Colorado City Record. Though the drought of 1916-18 adversely affected local farmers, interest in oil increased. In 1916 the Consolidated Oil and Gas Company of Colorado was organized by local bankers, businessmen, and merchants to develop the area's oil and gas resources, and by 1920 oil production was a part of the local economy. The Col-Tex Refinery began operation in 1924.

By 1926 a city hall had been built, the streets were paved, and a new sewage system was in operation. In 1931 Colorado City had an estimated population of 4,761 and 200 businesses. By 1940 the population had increased to 5,213, but by 1945 the number of reported businesses had declined to 120. In the late 1940s increased oil activity in Mitchell, Scurry, Coke, and Borden counties caused some growth, and by 1949 the number of businesses in Colorado City had increased to 176. During the mid-1950s a drought, the longest on record, affected the area's agricultural production, particularly of cotton.

In 1955 the population was 6,774. Lake Colorado City,qv five miles southwest, and Champion Creek Reservoir,qv six miles south, were built in 1959. The population was estimated at 6,400 in 1965. The Col-Tex Refinery closed in 1969, but in the early 1970s new industries were established, including a meat-packing operation and a mobile-home plant. Colorado City had 5,300 residents and 126 businesses in 1975.

In 1988 it had a population of 5,549, a hospital, and 122 businesses. Local attractions include the Colorado City Museum and an annual rodeo. In 1990 the population was 4,749.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Omer W. Cline, History of Mitchell County to 1900 (M.A. thesis, East Texas State Teachers College, 1948). Lore and Legend: A Compilation of Documents Depicting the History of Colorado City and Mitchell County
(Colorado City Record, 1976). 

William R. Hunt 
Recommended citation: 
"COLORADO CITY, TX." The Handbook of Texas Online. 
[Accessed Mon Mar 12 9:57:37 US/Central 2001 ]. 
The Handbook of Texas Online is a joint project of The General Libraries at the University of Texas at Austin (http://www.lib.utexas.edu) and the Texas State Historical Association (http://www.tsha.utexas.edu).

Old Newspaper Clippings
Articles from Ft. Worth Gazette, Sat. Dec. 6, 1884, Sat. Dec.13, 1884, and a description of Colorado City in July 1884, from the Oxsheer family papers. contributed by: Nancy Connally

The following description of Colorado (City) in July 1884 is based on Oxsheer family papers [20,p.35]: 

"...Cattle cars were the first thing they saw, hundreds of them lining sidetracks for more than a mile, marking the edge of Colorado City. There were also great heaps of buffalo bones awaiting shipment east...Not untill F.G. led the family wagons to the other side of the railroad cars and bone piles could they see the town... Everywhere he looked were gambling dens and dancehalls, cowboys staggering about the streets, some arm in arm with painted women...As they rode farther, however the scene changed...They passed resturants, stores, theaters, and even an opera house. Next came stone and brick buildings, two and three stories high, with the names of nationally reknowned cattle firms on signs across their fronts; then churches, ostentatious mansions, and even a park with a zoo."

Benton R. White, The Forgotten Cattle King 

Places of Interest
Heart Of West Texas Museum
Heart Of West Texas Museum
340 East 3rd St., Colorado City, Texas 79512
Open Tuesday-Saturday 915-728-8285

Other Links for Colorado City

Colorado City Chamber of Commerce*
157 West 2nd
P.O. Box 242
Colorado City, Texas 79512
Phone:  (325) 728-3403 
The Handbook of Texas Online*
Rootsweb's Post Offices and Post Masters
of Mitchell County, Texas 1881-1930*
TexasEscapes.com*
 
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 County Coordinator:
Christina Palmer
Texas State Coordinator:
Shirley Cullum
Assistant State Coordinators:
Elaine Martin  &
Jane Keppler

Last Updated: 

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