When I think of ghost towns, I visualize miners rushing from a hastily-built town to head for a new strike. I picture gamblers, shady ladies, and businessmen loading up and following the crowd. Imagine my surprise to learn there’s a ghost town only a few miles from where I grew up in West Texas—and it was founded by Quakers!
Okay, that’s not as seasonal as a ghost town with countless ghosts roaming freely. However, this one is interesting to me. Please bear with me.
The town of Estacado lies on the county line for Crosby and Lubbock Counties on the Llano Estacado, or staked plain. Estacado was the first white agricultural settlement on the South Plains and is on Farm Road 1527. It was established by Paris Cox in 1879.
Paris Cox (1846–1888) was born one of six children in a devout Religious Society of Friends (known as Quakers) family near Asheboro, North Carolina. During the Civil War, Cox was given a legal exemption from military service, based on the Quaker precept of pacifism.
As treasurer of the North Carolina fellowship of Quakers, Cox was instrumental in helping the Religious Society of Friends find a favorable location for both farming and freedom from religious persecution. Their first move from North Carolina was to Indiana. There, Cox married Maryetta C. Ferguson during the sojourn in Westfield, Indiana.
Looking for a suitable location to establish a Quaker colony, Cox had secured railroad land in western Crosby and eastern Lubbock counties in the late 1870s in exchange for his sawmill business in Indiana. After some investigation, Cox purchased several thousand acres in Texas in 1877 and 1878, at twenty-five cents an acre. He first saw the Llano Estacado in 1878 when guided by buffalo hunters. There he met local rancher Henry Clay Smith. Cox arranged for Smith to plant experimental crops on his acreage and to send the results to Cox in Indiana.
In the fall of 1879 the Cox, Stubbs, Spray, and Hayworth families arrived in the area in time to face a severe winter. Cox built a sod house for his family, but the other settlers were ill-prepared and spent the ordeal in tents. With the spring thaw, three families quit the colony, leaving only the Cox family in residence.
Determined to succeed, Cox stayed and eventually brought in a successful crop. The colony began to be repopulated by new families in 1881 after that successful crop had been achieved. A post office was established in 1881, with George W. Singer as postmaster. The town name was changed from Maryetta to Estacaddo. In 1884, the spelling was changed to Estacado and that year is when Dr. William Hunt became Postmaster. Dr. Hunt later wrote:
I visited the colony in August and September 1880. The first crops ever planted on the Staked Plains were then growing. I saw corn, oats, millet, sorghum, melons, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes and garden vegetables — all did well.
The last Estacado postmaster was John A. Eaves, when, on September 24, 1918, the post office was discontinued and mail service routed to Petersburg. In 1886, Crosby County was organized, and Estacado became the county seat. In 1888, $10,000 in bonds was issued to erect a courthouse.
|Remains of church|
Estacado store owners R. L. Stringfellow and H. E. Hume founded the Crosby County town of Emma in 1890. The new settlements began to attract Estacado residents who had been discouraged by harsh environmental conditions. On October 14, 1891, a county-wide election was held on where the county seat should be located. Estacado lost to Emma by only six votes. The Estacado courthouse building was moved to Emma, and much of the population along with it.
The community provided some of the first organized education on the South Plains when Emma Hunt began teaching in a dugout classroom in 1882; by 1884 classes were being held in the Quaker meetinghouse.
The Central Plains Academy, the first college on the Llano Estacado, was established in the community in 1890 and operated for two years. Harvard University and Johns Hopkins University educated Rev. Jesse Moore was president of the college. Mrs. Moore, who also had a degree from Johns Hopkins University, taught music, voice and violin classes. E.C. and Elva Lewis, graduates of William Penn University, were additional instructors at the college. The twenty-by-sixty-foot frame building held 100 students at its peak. Eighteen students graduated from the college before a dwindling community population caused it to close in 1893
The town flourished for some years, and by 1890 the population was reported at 200. But in 1891 Emma became the county seat and Estacado began to decline. The town lacked leadership after Cox's death in 1888, and a grasshopper invasion and drought in 1892–93 all but finished it.
Favorable growing conditions attracted settlers to the region after 1900. Although the original Quaker colony had dissolved, Estacado continued to exist. The post office was closed in 1918, after which mail came through Petersburg. The population increased from sixty-eight in 1930 to eighty-five in 1940. That number remained stable at eighty from 1970 through 2000. Like many small West Texas towns, by the mid-1980s the town had only a cotton gin and a few scattered residences.
State historical marker erected in 1936 to mark the site of Estacado.
Caroline Clemmons is the Amazon bestselling and award winning author of the western historical novella, STONE MOUNTAIN CHRISTMAS now available from most online vendors including Amazon http://amzn.com/B00OQUTDXA.
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