Glasscock County Courthouse, Garden City, Texas

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“Glasscock County, in West Texas, is bounded on the south by Reagan County, on the east by Sterling County, on the west by Midland County, and on the north by Howard and Martin counties. Its level prairieland is surfaced by with sandy and loam soils drained by the North Concho River, Lacy Creek, Mustang Draw, and Dewey Lake. Its area is 863 square miles[.]”

“The 222-day growing season produces $19 million annually from agriculture. The chief crops are cotton, grain sorghums, and wheat; beef cattle and sheep are also important. Some 56,000 acres is irrigated. There is no manufacturing in Glasscock County, but the county produces some oil. From 1925 to 1991 county production totaled more than 192 million barrels.”

“Glasscock County was within the hunting area of Kickapoos and Lipan Apaches in the early nineteenth century but was not attractive to early white settlers because of its aridity. One of the United States Army’s defensive posts against Indians, Fort Chadbourne, was built sixty miles east of the Glasscock county line in 1853, and during the Civil War, after Fort Chadbourne was abandoned, Fort Concho, fifty miles from the line, offered protection. The Butterfield Overland Mail route passed through the southern part of the county.”

“Glasscock County was formed in 1887 from Tom Green County and named for George W. Glasscock, a Texas Revolution officer and Texas legislator for whom Georgetown, county seat of Williamson County, was also named. Before the establishment of Tom Green County in 1874, Glasscock County was part of the Bexar District, which was subsequently divided into thirteen counties. After the Civil War, Glasscock County was part of the Pecos Military District, and cattlemen using the Pecos Trail drove herds through the area.”

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“After its founding in 1889 Glasscock County was attached for administrative purposes first to Martin County, then to Howard County. Glasscock County was formally organized after an election was held in 1893. The 150 citizens who signed the petition for organization included a number of Mexican-American shepherds or pastores. The first white settler in what is now Glasscock County was L. S. McDowell, a sheep rancher, who moved into the area in 1883.”

“In 1890 only 208 people lived in the county, but that year movement into the region began to be promoted by the Pecan, Colorado, and Concho Immigration Association, formed in 1890, of which Glasscock County was a member. Settlers were also encouraged to move to the area through the efforts of the Ohio Land Company, which had purchased five sections of land, drilled wells, and built houses. By 1893 three small settlements, Garden City, Dixie, and New California, had been established within 1½ miles of each other near Lacy Creek.”

“New California was selected as the county seat because its higher ground promised more easily obtainable well water. The original settlement called Garden City was abandoned, even though at the time it had the county’s post office and more homes than New California. New California was subsequently renamed Garden City. Though plans for other towns did not materialize, between 1908 and 1910 the area had another settlement boom, again the result of vigorous promotional efforts by land-development companies. By 1910, 1,143 people were living in the county.”

“Ranching has been the most important economic activity in the county since its earliest days. In 1890 more than 45,000 sheep and almost 4,500 cattle were counted in Glasscock County by the United States census; almost 390,000 pounds of wool was produced by county ranchers that year. Meanwhile, the census found only eighty acres of land planted in corn in 1890 and late as 1900 did not count any crop production in the county at all.”

“In 1890 there were twenty-eight farms in Glasscock County, and the number rose to forty-nine in 1900 and to 165 by 1910. In 1900 the county had only 1,100 improved acres, but by 1910 farmers had improved 15,000 acres, with 2,200 acres devoted to corn production and 1,800 acres planted in cotton.”

“The drought of 1917–18, however, severely reduced crop production and drove away many of the early residents. In 1920 the number of improved acres had declined to 11,125, with 1,600 planted in corn and 1,055 devoted to cotton; the population of the county had dropped to 555. Ranchers also suffered because of the drought. For want of grass, cattle were driven to Big Spring for sale, and when they proved too skinny to sell they were herded back to Glasscock County. Many died en route and were butchered for their hides. Nevertheless, almost 18,000 cattle and slightly fewer than 10,000 sheep were counted in Glasscock County in 1920; by 1930 the count was 17,000 cattle and 43,000 sheep.”

“The oil excitement began in 1917, when S. E. J. Cox, who is also remembered for bringing the first airplane to Garden City the same year, drilled the first well on the McDowell Ranch in the north central part of the county. Cox’s General Oil Company attracted investors with a free barbecue, a party surpassing any known in county history, with seventy-five cattle and fifty sheep contributing to the feast. A crowd of about 10,000 ate heartily and watched horseraces. Later it was believed that Cox had faked the oil discovery; he was convicted, with Frederick A. Cook, of related oil frauds in 1923.”

“In 1925, however, other interests developed a productive oilfield on the McDowell Ranch. Significant oil production started in 1926, and the county briefly experienced a boom. The town of Drumright, south of the county’s first producing oil well, saw its population jump to 500, but faded away as new drilling opened only dry holes. Landowners were amazed during the early years of oil fever to receive offers of $1,000 an acre for land they had bought for a dollar an acre. Despite this boom the county’s development did not include large, lasting increases in population.”

“The county has never had railroad service. It paved its roads first in 1936.”

“By 1980, 1,200 people were counted by the census; in 2014 the population was 1,291. Of these, 64.9 percent were Anglo, 1.8 percent African American, and 32.5 percent Hispanic. Communities included Garden City (355), Lees (also known as Lee Store), and Saint Lawrence. Boating and fishing at lakes Curry and Dewey, hunting, and local events provide the county’s recreation and entertainment.”

- Handbook of Texas Online, John Leffler, “Glasscock County

I was the guest of Garden City and Glasscock County on July 5, 2015.

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Glasscock County Courthouse – 1894

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Glasscock County was formally organized in April of 1893. A little more than one month later, on May 9, the commissioner’s court issued bonds for the county’s first courthouse. Due to the extremely sparse population of the area, the necessity for a large, proud courthouse with a separate jail complex was evidently not considered. The court decided to combine both facilities under one roof.

Houston architect L.T. Noyes drew up the plans for a vernacular, two-story stone building and plasterer William T. Lovell aided in its construction. The courthouse was completed on February 12, 1984. Its first floor held court, while the second floor held prisoners.

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Glasscock County Courthouse – 1910

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(Photo Courtesy: TxDOT)

By 1909, the decision to combine the courthouse and jail under one, small roof had proved too costly for Glasscock County. Finally, county officials decided to build some more space. Bonds were issued though Garden City’s First State Bank and the Louisville, Kentucky based Mutual Construction Company, Inc. arrived to build it. They adhered to plans drawn up by the Edward C. Hasford & Co. firm of Dallas and used native stone quarried from the local Calverley Ranch.

The courthouse was completed on August 27, 1910.

Circa-1970 renovations dropped the historic ceilings and covered the walls with wooden paneling. By the time they were finished, all that remained in the courtroom of historic value was the impressive judge’s bench.

In 2015, Glasscock County began a county-financed restoration effort. As of 2017, I have yet to return to Garden City to see how far along their progress is.

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DSC_4514DSC_4515DSC_4525DSC_4524This is the northern façade, on Currie Street / TX-158.
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You can find the cornerstone at the northeast corner.DSC_4527
As one of two main entrances, this eastern one faces an employee parking lot.
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DSC_4530One of the building’s past renovations included installing an elevator shaft at the southern entrance. Today, you can see the awkward intersection of steps and wall.
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The massive Doric columns and immense pediment bring an Ancient Greek feeling to Garden City.
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DSC_4545Across from that entrance is a thin line of regionally rare pine trees.
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The western façade, facing Main Street / Ranch Road 33
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DSC_4551DSC_4544DSC_4552DSC_4568The view from the western doors
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The historic Glasscock County Jail (and original courthouse) sits on the northwest corner of the courthouse square (only a few hundred feet from its successor).
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DSC_4536It’s not typically unlocked, but I was lucky enough to get an exclusive tour from a very helpful county treasurer.
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Today, Glasscock County uses the space for Christmas storage (of all things).
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It’s hard to imagine court was ever held in this tight space. I’m not surprised they needed the newer courthouse.
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DSC_4563DSC_4564Back on the current courthouse, clear signs of age and distress have made it the perfect contender for a full restoration.
DSC_4592As has its sad, circa-1975 interior.
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The ornate judge’s seat is original (which makes it the only original thing in this courtroom).
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DSC_4612Lastly, this was my view from the northern entrance as I prepared to leave this charming courthouse. While I was there, items had already been removed in preparation for the impending renovation. The floor mat draped over the railing was one of many courthouse effects about to find a new, temporary home.

Glasscock County’s courthouse could certainly use a breath of fresh air. Here’s hoping the project is a success.

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Previous Courthouse: Sterling County

Next Courthouse: Howard County

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