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by Jim Foreman


CHAPTER THREE

 

The Texas Legislature had just divided the Panhandle, which had originally consisted of only two counties, into twenty new ones. Prior to the division, there were only two counties for the entire Panhandle, Wheeler for the eastern half and Oldham for the west. Each of the new counties 35 was miles square except for the four western ones, which measured 35 by 50 miles in order to fill out the width of the Panhandle. The town of San Jacinto was situated two miles from southern edge of Potter County and the southern boundary of the Armitage property rested exactly along the Potter and Randall county line.

As a last act before the counties were split away from Oldaham County, Judge Osborne appointed county officials who would serve until official elections could be held in the newly formed counties. He named Lloyd Brewster as Judge of Potter County and his son, Warren, as sheriff. Warren deputized Emmitt Knox, Roger Bates and John Polk to help him keep the peace. Other Brewster relatives, business associates and close friends were named to various county offices such as Treasurer, Clerk, Auditor and Tax Collector. In these capacities, most of them drew monthly checks from the county even though there was no court house and they never did anything in the way of official duties.

John Polk was the only one of the deputies who didn't already have a regular job, so keeping the peace was usually left to him. In this capacity, he spent most of his time in the Wild Horse Saloon with cards in one hand and a drink in the other. It was said that the only way that someone would be arrested for drunk and disorderly, was to be drunker than the deputy. They had very few arrests for drunkenness.

With the deeds to the four sections of land properly filed and recorded with the County Clerk who operated out of a small frame building which Brewster had built in San Jacinto and leased to the county, Joe returned to Dallas.

"The beauty of working with virgin land is that one can design an ideal city without having to contend with existing buildings, streets or property owners," said the elder Armitage as he unrolled a large sheet of paper with a layout of streets, alleys and lots drawn in.

Joe looked at the drawing. The north-south streets were named for the presidents, beginning with Washington next to the Brewster property on the west and extending for twenty-two streets to the east. The east-west streets, which ran parallel to the railroad tracks were numbered, beginning with first street on the north side next to the tracks and numbers through 20th Street to the south.

"Under my plan, Polk Street becomes the middle of town and will be the location for all of the primary businesses such as banks, newspapers and office buildings will be located. Secondary businesses will be on the streets to either side of Polk and the residential areas will be on streets further out. There will be deed restrictions which require that any building which fronts on Polk Street between First and Tenth streets, be at least two stories high and be built of brick, stone or concrete. The same construction will be required for buildings on Harrison and Fillmore, but they can be one story high. I don't want any tarpaper shacks popping up in that area."

"The present road which runs north and south through town will be aligned to follow Filmore Street to keep traffic off main street and the east-west road will go along Tenth Street. The major intersection for the Panhandle of Texas will be the exact center of our city, at Filmore and Tenth Streets."

"It all looks very nice, but what is this area along first street, marked Railroad Station?" asked Joe. "The railroad station is nearly a mile west, next to Wild Horse Lake."

"The Fort Worth and Denver station can stay where it is for all I care. They are nothing more than a little nickel and dime railroad, good for nothing better than hauling cattle. That space is for the Santa Fe Railroad station," replied the father.

"Santa Fe?" asked Joe. "I've never heard of such a railroad."

"It is known as the Kansas and Southern right now, but at the next board meeting, it will become the Atcheson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad," replied Edward. "The route of their tracks will be moved a few miles to the north of the present survey and will run next to the Fort Worth and Denver through our property. At the present rate of building, the tracks should reach our town within six months. You will also notice that the whole block on the west side of Polk, between Ninth and Tenth is blocked off. That land has been reserved for the main offices of the Santa Fe. When completed, it will be a brick building ten stories high and the tallest building in Texas, outside of Dallas."

"That's quite an undertaking, Father. Do you think that you can pull it off?"

"As Chairman of the Board of the railroad, I already have more than enough votes in my pocket to cover that. In addition, when the rails reach there, the state will give the railroad the next section of land to the north of our town. As soon as the railroad gets title to the land, they will trade it to us for the railroad station space which is shown on the map."

Joe began to laugh as he looked at the drawings. "Would you believe that Polk Street runs right through the middle of the twenty acres that I was finally able to buy from a guy by the name of John Polk. He said that his land would be worth a lot of money some day, and it appears that he was right."

"How much did you have to pay him for that land?" asked Edward.

"A little under twenty dollars an acre. That's what I needed those double eagles for. Actually, I only had to give each of them fifteen gold pieces instead of the twenty that I was ready to offer if I had to," replied Joe.

"Santa Fe will be paying us twenty thousand dollars for half an acre of it for their building," laughed the elder Armitage.

"When poor old drunken John Polk finds out that we made a thousand to one profit off just a small piece of his land, he'll have a fit," said Joe. "Every town in the Panhandle has come about because of a railroad, but this is the first time that a railroad has come because there was a town already there."

"You will also notice that land has been set aside for a court house, city hall, two schools and four churches. We will give that land away, but its value will be returned ten-fold when the people begin to buy our lots."

"But, the Potter County court house is already established in San Jacinto," Joe said.

"That is only a temporary situation which will be taken care of in due time. As soon as we have the voting power, it will be moved."

"When do we start all of this?" asked Joe.

"It's already started, Joe. The surveying parties left on the train this morning and you will hire people to start marking and grading the streets as soon as the stakes are driven. Water is the life-blood of any town and I have already issued contracts in the city's name for drilling three water wells on our southeast section. Another contractor will begin laying water and sewer lines down the alleys. The water lines will be connected to the storage tank which they will erect just south of tenth street and the sewers will drain into Amarillo Creek which flows away to the north."

"I take it that this new town will be known as Armitage," said Joe.

"Not on your life, Joe," replied the elder Armitage. "I've sold nearly half a million dollars in city bonds to pay for all of those utility improvements and if anything goes wrong, I don't want our names connected with it in any way."

"If it is not going to be called Armitage, then what will be the name of this town?" asked Joe.

"When I offered the bonds for sale, I suddenly realized that we didn't have a name for the town, so I decided that the city would be called Amarillo. I named it after the creek where we will dump the sewer. I felt that was rather poetic since down the sewer is where Brewster's town of San Jacinto will be going."

"I find the whole thing rather hard to believe," replied Joe. "We have a town without a single soul living in it and it is already half a million dollars in debt."

"You'd better believe it, Joe. According to the incorporation papers filed in Austin a week ago, you are the mayor of Amarillo."

The town of Amarillo began to take shape, or at least the streets and alleys were taking shape. A silver water storage tank stood atop a steel tower in the middle of open grassland. As soon as it was up, workmen painted AMARILLO on the sides. When the water lines were laid and could be connected, it would be filled from the wells which had been drilled and were waiting.

"You will need to catch the next train back to the Panhandle, Joe. As president of the Armitage Development Company and the mayor of Amarillo, you have a lot of work to do," said the elder Armitage.


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