Scurry County Courthouse, Snyder, Texas

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“The area was named for William R. Scurry, a Confederate general. The county extends across 904 square miles of prairie covered by bluestems, gramas, wildrye, and wheatgrasses, with mesquite trees in some sections; elevations range from 2,000 to 2,700 feet above sea level.”

“The county is one of the leading oil-producing regions in Texas, due to its location in the Permian Basin, one of the state’s largest petroleum deposits. In 1982 more than 31,732,000 barrels of crude oil and over 53,088,000 thousand cubic feet of casinghead gas were produced in the county.”

“United States Army captain Randolph. B. Marcy mapped the area in 1849 during his mission to locate possible fort sites and to map a wagon trail to California. Lt. Montgomery Pike Harrison, a member of Marcy’s party, was killed by Indians while exploring Bluff Creek during the expedition’s return trip. Robert E. Lee crossed through the area in 1856 while taking the field against Comanches. The Comanches were relocated to Oklahoma reservations after the Red River War of 1874–75, and buffalo hunters and ranchers moved into what is now Scurry County.”

“Buffalo hunter J. Wright Mooar began making excursions into the region in 1874, and by 1877 Mooar was said to have killed 20,000 buffalo on the plains. That year William H. Snyder opened a trading post to sell supplies to buffalo hunters in the area, and soon a small settlement of dugouts and tents grew around Snyder’s place. The first large ranch in the area was established in 1877 by Tom and Jim Nunn, who drove longhorns from South Texas to land along tributaries of the Clear Fork of the Brazos River. Ranching soon became the major industry in the area.”

Scurry County, Texas

“Scurry County was established by the Texas legislature in 1876 from lands formerly assigned to Bexar County; in 1880 there were 102 residents, including eight blacks, living in the area. The county was attached to Mitchell County for judicial purposes until 1884, when it was organized. Snyder, the growing trading post, became a townsite in 1882 and the county seat in 1884.”

“Crop farming was also beginning to be established by that time, as 822 acres were planted in corn and 246 acres were planted in wheat. The “Block 97 Controversy” kept ranchers and homesteaders aroused for years before the dispute was settled by the legislature in 1899. The controversy centered on 612,000 acres of land, mostly in Scurry County, that had been granted to the Houston and Texas Central Railroad and the Texas and Pacific Railway Company. After selling land to settlers, the railroad became insolvent.”

“Land titles reverted to the state and homesteaders claimed land against the invalidated purchase rights of ranchers, who were eventually required to repurchase in order to hold their lands. Despite this controversy the county developed quickly during this period. By 1900 there were 586 farms and ranches in the area, and the population had increased to 4,158. Cattle ranching dominated the local economy.”

“The county suffered a downturn in the 1910s, and hundreds of farmers were forced to leave their lands. By 1920 there were only 1,077 farms and ranches in Scurry County, and the population had declined to 9,003. Nevertheless, cotton acreage continued to expand during this period; by 1920 over 42,000 acres were planted in cotton. Agriculture in the area revived during the 1920s, and the number of farms grew to 1,332 by 1925 and to 1,564 by 1930. A rapid expansion of cotton production was responsible for most of this growth. Over 100,000 acres were planted in cotton in 1924, and more than 129,000 acres were devoted to the fiber by 1929.”

“The discovery of oil in 1923 also helped to stimulate the economy during this period, though production was relatively modest. By 1930 the county’s population had grown to reach 12,188. This growth was reversed during the Great Depression of the 1930s, which seriously hurt the local economy.”

“The county’s economy was fundamentally altered during the 1940s, when new oil wells were brought into production. In 1938 only about 10,000 barrels of petroleum were produced from shallow wells in the county; by about 1944, during World War II, production had reached 303,000 barrels. The oil industry began to boom in 1948, however, when wells in the Canyon Reef field were drilled to 6,500 feet, and wells in the county produced over 1,112,000 barrels of oil.”

“The county’s population grew to 22,779 by 1950, but then began to drop, falling to 20,369 by 1960 and to 15,760 by 1970. It began to rise again in the 1970s and reached 18,192 by 1980 and 19,376 by 1990. As of 2014, 17,328 people lived in the county. About 55.2 percent were Anglo, 5.2 percent African American, and 38.5 percent Hispanic.”

“Oil and gas processing and other manufacturing is centered in Snyder (population, 11,839), the county seat; the town is also the site of Western Texas College, founded in 1971. Other communities include Camp Spring, Dermott, Dunn (75), Fluvanna (180), Hermleigh (360), Inadale, and Ira (250). Recreation and cultural attractions include Lake J. B. Thomas, Sandstone Canyon Indian pictographs, and Towle Memorial Park. Snyder hosts the County Fair each September and White Buffalo Day in October.”

Handbook of Texas Online, John Leffler, “Scurry County

I was the guest of Snyder and Scurry County on July 3, 2015.

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Scurry County Courthouse – 1886

Scurry County Courthouse, Snyder, Texas

((Photo Courtesy: Terry Jeanson)

The bricks this courthouse was constructed from were made locally, and the jail was physically connected to the building via a hallway. That’s all I can tell you.

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Scurry County Courthouse – 1911

Scurry County Courthouse, Snyder, Texas

(Photo Courtesy: THC)

There has never been a transformation so complete nor so bizarre as the one the Scurry County Courthouse underwent.

It began its life as a dominating, Beaux-Arts style courthouse courtesy of the notable firm Lang & Mitchell. With its: “rusticated base of light colored stone or concrete, punctuated with arched openings”, domed tower, and “rectangular windows, numerous cartouches, and an ornate cornice”, the courthouse was a near replica of the duo’s other work in Cooke County. Truly charming.

Scurry County Courthouse, Snyder, Texas

(Photo Courtesy: TxDOT)

In 1950, however, the county elected to remove the tower. At that point, the courthouse lost a great portion of its classic appeal, but it had yet to fade away into modern obscurity.

Scurry County Courthouse, Snyder, Texas

(Photo Courtesy: rootsweb.com) (This photo was taken circa 1950).

Things changed in 1972.

That year, Joseph D. Hinton led a massive effort to encase the building in a literal box of concrete and granite. This was to the extent that every window was removed.

Today, nothing remains of the original building on the exterior nor within the interior save a single preserved cornerstone. Nowhere else in Texas do I know of such a drastic and complete renovation effort. You would never know the 1911 and 1972 buildings had been the same.

They call this style Brutalism (I’ll let you figure out why). The main arguments of its critics are that, one, it gives off an unfriendly appearance in complete contrast to the real purpose of a courthouse and, two, its ultramodern details seem to disregard all social, historical, and cultural facets of the region it calls home. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Scurry County Courthouse, Snyder, Texas

(Photo Courtesy: Terry Jeanson)

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DSC_1740The Scurry County Courthouse’s windowless, main façade faces north on 25th Street / Highway 84.

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A helpful stand on the lawn’s northwest corner tells the story of Scurry County.

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DSC_1754Also nearby is a statue of the elusive white buffalo. So the story goes that the area’s legendary buffalo hunter, J. Wright Mooar, shot a rare albino bison near the current townsite of Snyder. Apparently revered in Indian legend, the local Comanches maintained the legend that when the albino bison returned someday, so would they.

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The electricity bill must be pretty high here to keep things lit up on the inside.

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These are the western doors. They face College Avenue / TX-350.

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Here’s their view.

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The southwest corner

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DSC_1777To me, gazebos always belong next to classically designed courthouses to best retain that old timey feeling usually associated with them. I’m glad Scurry County’s built one, but the combination between it and the courthouse seems a little forced.

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The rear entrance is not publicly accessible.

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DSC_1787The southern façade’s view of 26th Street

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The southeast corner

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The eastern façade, facing Avenue R

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I see you.

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The northeast corner

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DSC_1806DSC_1803The main entrance’s view of 25th StreetDSC_1799

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Snyder & Scurry County

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Westbound on Highway 180, between Roby and Snyder

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Snyder’s historic Triangle Sinclair Station was opened in 1935 and restored in 2012.

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It doesn’t serve gas anymore, but makes for great pictures.

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DSC_1816On the square

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Super Mario mushroom-like seating areas are an interesting addition to downtown.

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Snyder certainly isn’t home to high quality crap, at least where the town and its people are concerned. We just won’t talk about its courthouse.

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En route to Gail

DSC_1833Previous Courthouse: Fisher County

Next Courthouse: Borden County

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