by Jim Foreman
Joe was having his breakfast in the dining room of the Ellis Hotel when Warren Brewster walked in and sat down across the table from him. "I rode out by your place this morning," he said. "Those are some water wells that you have and that big tank. Why go to all the expense of drilling wells when Wild Horse lake has all the water anyone will ever need?"
"Most people had rather drink fresh well water than water from a lake which is half cow piss," replied Joe. "It will be hooked up to houses."
"Well, I suppose that you are right. There are plenty people right here who would like to have fresh water. There are at least forty homes and several businesses here in San Jacinto which will be glad to hook up to it," said Brewster.
"I'd really like to let them have water, but it wouldn't be fair," replied Joe.
"What do you mean that it wouldn't be fair?" asked Brewster.
"I'd just have to cut the people off over here as soon as houses start being built in Amarillo. The water system belongs to the City of Amarillo and the people who live in Amarillo will be paying for it. It's only fair that they should be the only ones who benefit from it."
"Amarillo, what do you mean Amarillo?" blustered Brewster. "That ain't nothin but a dry creek out north."
"Amarillo is the name of the new town that is being built just east of here," replied Joe. "Surely you've seen the streets, alleys and water lines going in."
"I've seen all that dirt being stirred up over there and the name on that water tower, but there ain't a single house there and never will be," said Brewster. "Just what the hell do you think you're doing anyway?"
"Right now, I'm trying to have my breakfast," Joe replied.
Brewster stormed out the door, swearing a blue streak as it slammed shut behind him. Two hours later, posters appeared all over town, "Land Owners of San Jacinto. Trade Your Lot in San Jacinto for Two Lots in The New City of Amarillo. Running Water and Sewer Available to all Lots. For Details, Contact the Armitage Development Company, Second Floor of the Ellis Hotel."
The first person to appear at Joe's door was Roger Bates. "What kind of joke is this that you will trade two lots over there for one lot here in San Jacinto?"
"There is no joke, Mr. Bates," replied Joe, knowing that anything that he said would go directly to Lloyd and Warren Brewster. "If you have a deeded residential lot here in San Jacinto with a house already on it, you can trade it, title for title, for two lots of your choice in the residential section of Amarillo. If you own a business here in San Jacinto, you can trade it straight across for one on the business streets. The only provision is that you move your house or business to the new location in Amarillo within thirty days and agree not to sell the new lots for a period of three years."
"What's the catch? How much are you going to charge me for moving my house?"
"There is no catch. I'm not in the house moving business, so I have no idea how much it will cost to get some mule skinner to put your house on skids and move it a mile, but it can't be very much."
"Can I have any lots that I want?" asked Bates.
"The two lots have to be side by side facing Washington, Adams or Jefferson Streets between second and ninth streets. You can choose any lots you like," replied Joe. "Those are residential streets and all of the lots are 60 feet wide by 90 feet deep. Since you are the first person wanting to take advantage of my offer, you can have your choice of any location you'd like on those three streets."
"And it don't cost me a cent? Even-Steven trade, deed for deed," asked Bates.
"Nothing except the fifty cent fee for filing the new deed at the clerk's office, Mr. Bates. I'll trade two of the larger lots in Amarillo for one San Jacinto lot, no matter how small it is. The only requirement is that the person already owns his lot here and is either living on it or running a business in a building which is on it. We write up an agreement, then when the house is moved, we simply trade deeds on the two pieces of property. Naturally, this offer does not apply to vacant lots here in San Jacinto nor to any lot bought after I made my offer this morning. If you want to hook up to the city water and sewer after your house is moved, there will be a connection fee of $20.00 plus a monthly bill of $2.00 to cover all the water you can to use."
"How much would it cost if I wanted to buy one of your lots outright and not trade?" asked Bates.
"Residential lots are $200 each, which includes the utility connections," replied Joe.
"Why in hell are you doing this?" asked Bates. "Something like this is bound to cost a real bundle. Your lots are twice as big as these here in San Jacinto and will have running water to them."
"I like the people around here and I know most of them will want to move to Amarillo. There is no reason why they should have to pay a penalty for having bought a lot here first. I can afford to take the loss better than they can," replied Joe. "That's the only reason."
"Well I'll be dipped," said Bates as he left the office.
Joe looked out the window of his second floor office as Bates met Warren Brewster in front of the Wild Horse Saloon. As they talked, a crowd began to gather around them. Bates was a rather animated talker, waving his hands and pointing, as he told of Joe's offer to trade lots. Within a few minutes, several people had mounted their horses and galloped off in the direction of the new town.
Less than half a hour had passed since Bates left Joe's office when a man came racing up the stairs, taking the steps three at a time. He was completely out of breath when he burst through the door, waving a deed in his hand. "Here's the deed to my San Jacinto lot and I've claimed the two lots that I want in Amarillo. I left my horse standing in the middle of them to hold my claim," he gasped. "I'll move my house today!"
"Have a seat, sir," said Joe. "There is no reason for you to rush like this. I assure you that there will be plenty free lots so every person in San Jacinto can trade if they want to. If you will show me on this map which lots you'd like, I'll make out the agreement."
"It's those lots right there," shouted the man as he jabbed a finger at the map. "I want the two lots right there on the corner next to the railroad."
"You made a good choice, sir," said Joe as he wrote the man's name across the two block on the map. "That will be Lots Number One and Two in Block Number One. I want to welcome as the first resident of the new town of Amarillo. Your street address will be 100 Washington Street."
"100 Washington Street," said the man. "I ain't never had no real address before, but it sounds real good."
"Sign this agreement, come back after your house has been moved and we will complete the deal."
"You sure no body is going to cheat me out of that lots," said the man.
"I personally assure you that the two lots you picked are yours and no one else will get either of them," replied Joe.
"I ain't taking no chances," said the man as he rushed out the door. "I'm going to take a load of stuff over there right now and leave my woman to guard it with a shotgun. Ain't no body going to beat me out of my land like them damn Sooners did to my Pa down in the Oklahoma Territory."
By the time Joe had finished with his first trader, there was a crowd of at least twenty people pushing and shoving to get in line in front of Joe's door. Joe walked to the door and said, "If you already know which lots you want, come in one at a time and I'll write your name on the lots that you selected, then you can return later with your deed and we will fill out the agreements."
By sunset that day, a total of 56 owners of residences and six business establishments had selected the lots where they wanted to move. About the only residents of San Jacinto who had failed to make their selections were Emmitt Knox and Roger Bates, both of whom were employees of Warren Brewster.
Joe sat at his desk, looking at the map of Amarillo with the names of the new residents lettered in on the various lots. Most of the owners of private homes had selected lots along the north ends of Washington and Adams streets, while the business owners had selected lots as near as possible to where the railroad station would be located. Since none of the existing buildings qualified for a location on the main business streets, that area was still vacant.
Joe looked at the map for some time and, after considerable deliberation, wrote the name of the Ellis Hotel in on the corner of Second and Johnson Streets, several blocks east of any other business locations which had been selected. "A hotel at that location will attract other places of business," he thought to himself.
It was barely dawn when Joe was awaken by the cracking of whips and the swearing of mule skinners. He looked out the window of his bedroom and saw a hitch of a dozen mules, dragging a house along the street. It was making slow progress in the direction of Amarillo. It was being rolled along on telegraph poles which had been shoved under it to act as rollers. As soon as one pole emerged from beneath the back end of the house, the men would drag it to the front where it would keep supporting the building as it moved. He looked off to the east and saw the tents and wagons of several people who had spent the night on their lots, fearing that someone might try to wrest them away. Fires built from dry cow chips smoked under skillets of frying bacon and coffee bubbled in pots. He stretched, yawned and said, "Good Morning, Amarillo."
Lloyd Brewster burst into the Ellis Hotel restaurant, "Warren, arrest that dirty sumbitch," he shouted, pointing at Joe.
"On what charge, Pa?" asked Warren, who was sitting at another table with his deputies, Polk, Knox and Bates.
"Lying and stealing, that's what! I want him arrested on account of he is trying to steal my town," he stormed.
"But Pa, according to Judge Osborne, he ain't breaking no laws, so I can't arrest him," protested Warren.
"I don't give a damn about laws. I'm the appointed Judge in this county and that makes me the law around here. I say that he is as guilty as sin and I'm telling you to arrest his ass."
Roger Bates got up from the table where they were eating and walked over to Lloyd Brewster. "Judge, I really think you ought to talk this over with Judge Osborne before you do anything rash," he said. "He's a lawyer and has been a judge for a long time and knows what you can and can't do."
"I ought to go home and get my gun and shoot the bastard and get him out of my hair for once and all; that's what I ought to do," shouted the elder Brewster. "He comes strutting in here from Dallas, wearing those sissy suits, and thinks his old man's money will buy him anything he wants. I'll show him that he can't steal my town right out from under me."
Warren Brewster was by his father's side by this time and told him, "Pa, I think that you'd better go back out to the ranch and cool off a bit before you get yourself into real trouble. You may be my Pa, but I'm the sheriff here and I can't let you carry on in public like this."
"Why you pissy-assed little fart, I ought to hide you with a wet rope for standing up to me," shouted the elder Brewster as he was led out the door. "You don't deserve to wear that star and carry a gun."
Roger Bates hung around the restaurant after the others had left, then he came to Joe's table. "How long would you allow a man to move his house after he took you up on your offer to trade lots?" he asked.
"Under the terms of my offer, everyone must have their houses moved within thirty days, but considering your special situation, I'll let you pick your lots and I'll hold them for six months," replied Joe. "In fact, I'll just put an X on your lots and fill you name in later, to prevent anyone who might be looking at the map from knowing that you are planning to move too."
"Thanks," said Roger. "I appreciate your consideration of the situation that I face, working for the Brewsters and all. I'll meet you up in your office as soon as you have finished eating."
Ten days later, the Ellis Hotel was jacked up and placed on skids for the slow trip to its new home on the corner of Second and Johnson Streets. When the hotel was gone, about all that was left of the town of San Jacinto was two or three small houses, the shack at the loading pens and the Wild Horse Saloon, which belonged to the Brewsters. Even the Fort Worth and Denver train had begun to stop to let its passengers get on or off in front of the Ellis Hotel.