Hale County Courthouse, Plainview, Texas

Hale County Courthouse, Plainview, Texas

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“The county was named for John C. Hale, who died at the battle of San Jacinto. Hale County covers 979 square miles of flat terrain, with fertile sandy and loamy soils and many playas; the elevation ranges from 3,200 to 3,600 feet above sea level. There is a considerable supply of underground water from the vast Ogallala Aquifer.”

“Radiocarbon dating of articles found in the excavation demonstrated that human beings lived in the area about 9,000 years ago. Comanches hunted in the area from the early eighteenth century to the 1870s, preying on the large herds of buffalo that roamed the plains. By 1876, when Hale County was marked off from Bexar County, both the Comanches and the buffalo had disappeared.”

“The wealth of the isolated country was not immediately obvious, although there was some money to be made from the bone business and from taming mustangs. The first cattle were brought into the area in 1881, when Illinois brothers named Morrison established the Cross L Ranch, which covered twenty square miles at the corners of Hale, Lamb, Castro, and Swisher counties (the Morrisons later sold the spread to C. C. Slaughter). The first permanent settler in the county was Horatio Graves, a Methodist minister and farmer, who purchased four sections and moved into the area in 1883; he experimented with farming by growing garden and feed crops.”

Hale County, Texas

“In 1886 another early settler, Z. T. Maxwell, located his homestead at the site of two hackberry groves on the old military trail established by Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie. The town of Plainview later grew around Maxwell’s settlement. After establishing Hale County in 1876 the Texas legislature attached it successively to Baylor, Donley, and Crosby counties for administrative purposes. The county was organized in 1888, with Plainview as county seat. In 1890 the census counted 721 residents.”

“Drought and grasshopper plagues helped to make the early 1890s difficult for settlers, most of whom had purchased school lands from the state. Under the program, school lands were sold for two dollars an acre at 5 percent interest; purchasers had forty years to pay. These terms had seemed generous to the legislators who established them, but many farmers in Hale County felt squeezed. Hurt by natural disasters, facing high costs, and with no rail access to markets for their crops, many had been forced into cattle raising, which was not practical on the single sections they were allowed to purchase under the state program. Unable to meet their payments, many abandoned their lands.”

“The Four-Section Act of 1895 helped to solve this problem, however, and during the late 1890s hundreds of new settlers moved into the county to snap up available school land. By 1900 there were 259 farms and ranches in the county (125 of them larger than 1,000 acres), and the population had increased to 1,680. Cattle ranching was at the center of the area’s economy; that year, the agricultural census counted more than 20,700 cattle in the county, but only 1,325 acres was devoted to the cultivation of corn, the most important crop at the time. Farming became more important to the area after 1907, when county residents raised $75,000 to help induce the Santa Fe Railway to build a branch through Hale County.”

“By 1920 the county had 1,031 farms, encompassing 576,000 acres; almost 168,000 acres was devoted to the cultivation of cereal crops, especially sorghum, and cotton had begun to become important to the county. The agricultural census reported more than 49,000 fruit trees (mostly apple, peach, and plum) in Hale County that year. The poultry industry was also rapidly developing.”

“But the county’s economic expansion, which had continued almost uninterrupted since the late 1890s, came to an end during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Cropland harvested in Hale County dropped from 385,939 acres in 1929 to 332,936 in 1939, and the introduction of mechanized agriculture and government crop restrictions worked against some farmers. Almost a hundred local farmers lost their lands during the depression, and by 1939 the number of farms and ranches in the area had declined to 1,628. The county lost almost 7 percent of its population during the depression.”

“By the 1980s agricultural production in the county was well diversified. With an average annual income of some $123 million, Hale County was one of the leading farming counties in the state. According to the agricultural census for 1982, the county’s farmers that year produced 11,116,163 bushels of corn, 3,262,800 of soybeans, 2,652,276 of sorghum, and 1,721,700 of wheat.”

“Agribusinesses are strong in the county: irrigation-pump companies, feedlots, the Jimmy Dean Meat Packing plant, farm-equipment companies, and other businesses help to diversify the local economy.”

Handbook of Texas Online, John Leffler, “Hale County

I was the guest of Plainview and Hale County on August 16, 2016.

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Hale County Courthouse – 1910

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(Photo Courtesy: TxDOT)

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(Photo Courtesy: Texas Historical Commission)

Hale County has had three courthouses. The one still standing was built in 1910, but two others were constructed in 1888 and 1890. Little to no public records exist about their fate or history. As for the current building, it was designed in the Classical Revival style by H.A. Overbeck. He worked for the popular firm of Martin, Byrne & Johnston. Contractor work was provided by W.T. McRae.

The Texas Historical Commission describes the courthouse as:

“Three story plus raised basement, 5-bay main facade, brick structure with a relatively small classical entrance portico featuring Doric columns, entablature, and roof balustrade. There are decorative architraves on the second-story level, a string course below the top level windows, a large dentilled cornice and roof parapet.”

It underwent a massive, million dollar remodeling project in 1980.

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The main entrance faces west towards the setting sun and Broadway Street.

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dsc_2906The intersection of the west and east façades at the intersection of Broadway and 6th

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6th Street

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The northwest corner has it all.

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H.A. Overbeck worked for the Martin, Byrne, and Johnston firm.

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Also to the north of the courthouse is this interesting addition. Everything about this steer is Texas.

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I liked the painting showing Plainview’s distance form the historic Camino Real. Hale County and its many Panhandle neighbors didn’t get a lot of coverage in the early days of Texas History. But, when the cattle kingdom began, that changed everything.

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There’s also a statue of a squirrel, for some reason or another. I didn’t yet find out anything about it, but I’m assuming the Plainview area could be known for growing peanuts?

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Or producing any other kind of nut, I guess…

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Either an annex or a jail, you tell me. My guess is annex. This is on the northeast corner.

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The rear of the building (and eastern side)

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The southeast corner

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The view from the southern entrance

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The main staircase (western side) as seen from near the southwest corner

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Aged and stained Doric columns hold up the front porch.

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Broadway Street from the main doors

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The front lawn of the courthouse has another longhorn on display.

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Plainview & Hale County

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The sensei at ‘X-Treme Karate’ was busy training his students next to the courthouse during my time in Plainview.

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dsc_2984dsc_2971The remains of an abandoned hotel at Austin & 6th. I understand this was an early Hilton.
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Another longhorn

dsc_2981dsc_2991dsc_2989Plainview’s old Santa Fe depot (now falling into disrepair)

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I saw this on my way to Plainview from Olton. No one will have ever been half as clever as the Panhandle settlers when it comes to naming towns.

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Previous Courthouse: Castro County

Next Courthouse: Lubbock County

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