“The county, named for George W. Hockley, comprises 908 square miles of generally flat land that drains to numerous playas, the Yellow House River, and Yellow House Lake. Elevations range from 3,300 to 3,650 feet above sea level.”
“In 1876 the Texas legislature formed Hockley County from lands formerly assigned to Bexar and Young counties. Because settlers were slow to move into the area, however, the county was assigned to Lubbock County for administrative purposes until 1920. Until the early twentieth century, the area was dominated by a few large cattle operations.”
“The Causeys were the first settlers in the area; after several years of buffalo hunting in Kansas and Texas, they established a base at Yellow House Canyon in 1877 and built the first house in the county. When the buffalo herds were depleted, the Causeys went into the bone business, and in 1882 they established a ranch. In 1885, however, the XIT Ranch, one of the state’s largest cattle-raising ventures, was founded in the area, and the Causeys were forced to move.”
“XIT expanded to include the northern third of Hockley County; meanwhile, other sections of county land were bought by such ranchers as F. G. Oxsheer (1884), David M. Devitt (1885), John Gordon (1886), and the Snyder brothers, Dudley H. and John W. (1885), who sold to Isaac L. Ellwood; Ellwood bought the Spade Ranch (1889). C. C. Slaughter acquired county land in 1897. Virtually all of Hockley County was owned by these few men by the 1890s.”
“There were no census returns for Hockley County until 1900, when forty-four people were found living in the area. That year five ranches, encompassing almost 354,000 acres, were reported in the county; about 15,700 cattle were counted in the area that year. No crops were reported.”
“The Yellow House section of the XIT, consisting of 235,858 acres in Hockley County and three adjacent counties, was sold to George W. Littlefield in 1901; in 1912, Littlefield began selling farm acreage. Despite this limited burst of settlement in the county, diversified economic development and more significant population growth were delayed until the 1920s, when the big ranchers began selling lands for agricultural uses.”
“As late as 1920, only 137 people lived in the county, and only 3,235 acres was classified as improved. Nevertheless, by this time county residents wanted their own county government. The county was organized in 1921; Hockley City won over Ropesville in the county-seat contest.”
“The settlement of the county accelerated during the 1920s, encouraged by the construction of two branches of the Santa Fe Railroad in the early 1920s-one crossing east to west, the other crossing the southeast corner of the county. Hockley City, where the Littlefield Lands Company sold 464 farm tracts between 1912 and 1920, was renamed Levelland in 1922; the Slaughter heirs began selling farmland in the northwestern part of the country near Whiteface in 1924. Thousands of settlers moved into the county to establish new farms during this period.”
“The economy also received a boost in 1937, when oil was discovered in the county. A total of almost 68,000 barrels of crude was pumped from county lands in 1938. The population of the county increased by almost 25 per cent during the 1930s, to reach 12,693 by 1940. The economy grew even more rapidly in the 1940s with the expansion of irrigation and the substantial production of oil at Sundown and other fields.”
“The economy diversified into other activities, including the cotton compress industry, the dairy industry, and machine shops. Transportation improved with the construction of U.S. Highway 385 in the late 1950s. By this time Hockley County was consistently one of the top ten agricultural producing counties in the state. Its agricultural income in 1960 was more than $28 million. In cotton production the county ranked third in the state. During this period the county’s population increased, to 20,407 by 1950 and 22,340 by 1960.”
John Leffler, “HOCKLEY COUNTY,” Handbook of Texas Online
I was the guest of Hockley County and Levelland on July 28, 2013.
Hockley County Courthouse 1928
Architect: Preston Lee Walker
Number for the County: Second
Style: Classical Revival
(Photo Courtesy: THC)
The northern façade faces Houston Street.
The public lawn in front and to the sides of the courthouse contains a gazebo and a windmill.
Hockley County is “level land” indeed.