“Fisher County is on U.S. Highway 180 west of Abilene in the Rolling Plains region of central West Texas.”
“Roby is the county seat; Rotan, the county’s largest town, is 225 miles west of Dallas, 65 miles northwest of Abilene and 125 miles southeast of Lubbock.”
“Fisher County covers 897 square miles of grassy, rolling prairies. The elevation ranges from 1,800 to 2,400 feet. The northern third of the county is drained by the Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos River, and the southern two-thirds is drained by the Clear Fork of the Brazos.”
“Archeological artifacts recovered in the area suggest that the earliest human inhabitants arrived around 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, and evidence of Paleo, Archaic, and Historic cultures have been found in the county. Following these earliest inhabitants were the Lipan Apaches, who had settled in the region by the sixteenth century; later, around 1700, Comanches and Kiowas drifted in from the north, and Pawnees, Wichita, and Wacos occasionally hunted along the upper Brazos valley. The Old Indian Trial, which crossed the county, was used by various Indians to travel between the Plains region and Central Texas.”
“A few buffalo hunters passed through the area in the early 1870s, but not until 1876, when the legislature separated the county from Bexar County, did the first permanent settlers arrive. The new county, named for Samuel Rhoads Fisher, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, however, remained sparsely populated and was not organized until 1886. Most of the early residents were cattle ranchers, who were attracted to the area by its abundant grasslands and available water.”
“Cattle, in fact, greatly outnumbered people in the county’s early years; by 1880, 24,164 cattle were reported. Among the early residents was a colony of Swedes from Travis and Williamson counties, who settled in the northeastern portion of Fisher County near the site of present-day McCaulley. Other early settlers came from East and North Texas. The first post office, Newman, was established in 1881.”
“The first townsites registered were Fisher, now North Roby, on November 11, 1885, and Roby on April 16, 1886. There was a bitter county-seat struggle between Roby and Fisher. Roby eventually won the election, but many questioned its legality, and it was later discovered that one of the voters, a Mr. Bill Purp, was actually a dog whose owner lived near Roby.”
“Railway construction began in 1881, when the Texas and Pacific Railway routed an east-west branch through Eskota in the southeastern corner of the county. Cheap land, and improved access to markets made possible by the new railroad connection, lured many new settlers to the county. Between 1880 and 1890 the population grew more than twentyfold, from 135 to 2,996, and by 1910 the number of inhabitants had more than quadrupled again, increasing to 12,596.”
“Many of the new settlers were farmers, who began plowing and fencing the prairie. In 1880 there were only three farms in the entire county; in 1890s that figure had grown to 332; and by 1910 the county had 1,839 farms. One result of the dramatic rise of the farming economy was the gradual decline of ranching. The number of cattle in the county was nearly 70,000 in 1890, but by the turn of the century only about one-third of that number remained.”
“The earliest farmers in the county planted such subsistence crops as corn and wheat. But in the 1880s cotton was introduced, and by the early 1890s corn, oats, and wheat were being grown commercially. In 1900 Fisher County farmers produced 113,640 bushels of corn, 41,290 bushels of oats, 7,320 bushels of wheat, and 1,280 bales of cotton. After 1910 wheat and cotton increasingly took center stage, and by 1920 the county was among the state’s leaders in wheat production.”
“Because of the rapidly growing population, land prices showed a marked increase between 1910 and 1930, and many new farmers found it impossible to buy land. The number of tenants grew rapidly, particularly in the 1920s, and by 1930 more than half of all farmers in the county-1,326 of 2,088-were working someone else’s land. In contrast to many other areas of the state, the overwhelming majority of the tenants were white, but the practice nonetheless had serious results during the Great Depression of the 1930s.”
“Numerous farmers were forced to give up their livelihoods and seek work elsewhere. The population of the county as a whole fell from 13,563 in 1930 to 12,932 in 1940. Oil, discovered in 1928, helped some poor farmers to settle long-standing debts and survive the depression years, but the farming economy did not fully recover until after World War II. Cotton was the chief money crop in the years after 1945, with grain sorghum, wheat, hay, corn, and watermelons providing a significant source of income.”
“In 1982, 94 percent of the land in the county was in farms and ranches, with 27 percent of the land under cultivation and 2 percent irrigated.”
“Gypsum, discovered in Fisher County around the turn of the century, is mined in large quantities and processed in plants in Nolan County and at the National Gypsum Company facility in Rotan. Oil also continues to be produced in sizable amounts. Production in 1990 was 2,265,676 barrels. Between 1944 and January 1, 1990, 230,887,287 barrels was pumped from the county’s wells.”
“In 2014, nearly half of the population (1,501) lived in Rotan. Other communities include Roby, Busby, Claytonville, Eskota, Hobbs, Longworth, McCaulley, Palava, Royston, and Sylvester. In 2014, 67.6 percent of the population was Anglo, 3.8 percent African American, and 27.5 percent Hispanic.”
“Moore, West Moore, and Plasterco lakes and the Brazos River are popular with fishermen, and the county also attracts numerous dove and quail hunters. A stock show and a fair in October are among the prime tourist attractions.”
- Handbook of Texas Online, Hooper Shelton, “Fisher County”
I was the guest of Roby and Fisher County on July 3, 2015 and again on August 17, 2016.
Fisher County Courthouse – 1910
(Photo Courtesy: THC)
(Photo Courtesy: TxDOT)
Andrew J. Bryan of St. Louis, Missouri’s Bryan Architectural Company is responsible for this elegant, Classical Revival building. Standing two and a half stories tall, this courthouse exhibited an unusual floor plan in which either wing of the building protruded at an angle. Such is the same at the Rains County Courthouse as well (which was also designed by the Bryan firm).
At some point in its existence, its stately tower was removed.
(Photo Courtesy: texasoldphotos.com)
Unfortunately, the building was demolished in the 1970s to make way for something of a much more modern variety. However, its cornerstone was preserved on the current courthouse grounds.
Fisher County Courthouse – 1972
(Photo Courtesy: THC)
Lovett & Sellar & Associates raised this modern edifice from the razed ruins of its predecessor. It took up its residence on the same county lot as the last one, while the materials that had built the 1910 courthouse were sold off to build two homes in Roby.
It was completed in 1973 to complement an already extant annex from 1965. As Terry Jeanson from Texas Escapes puts it:
“The modern splendor of the 1972 Fisher County courthouse rivals the architectural styles of today’s convenience stores and emergency medical clinics.”
The southern side of the courthouse
The western side of the courthouse complex faces Angelo Street. In the photo above, you can see the original annex (from 1965 and now a part of the building) and the Fisher County Sheriff’s Office.
Doors into the main courthouse structure lie just beyond this wall.
The southern entrance faces South 1st Street / Highway 180.
Roby & Fisher County
This intersection (Highway 180 and TX-70 [Concho Street]) gets a fair bit of traffic. North to Rotan, South to Sweetwater, West to Snyder, East to Anson.
I saw this on that same corner lot about a year later (August 2016), right in the thick of the election.
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Next Courthouse: Scurry County