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The county was named for James Gaines, a merchant who signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. The area was Comanche country until the United States Army campaigns of 1875 and 1876. An Indian burial mound has been excavated near Cedar Lake. It is believed that Quanah Parker, the last great Comanche chief, was born in the vicinity. Cedar Lake was also the site of a skirmish between Indians and United States cavalrymen in October 1875. Buffalo hunters moved into the region in the 1870s, and some of them began ranches and remained in the area after their game had disappeared; the land was plush with grama grasses but limited in surface water. In 1876 the Texas legislature formed Gaines County from Bexar County. Gaines County was attached to Bexar County for administrative purposes in 1876, then to Shackelford County in 1877 and to Martin County in 1885. As early as 1879 ranchman C. C. Slaughter ran herds on much of eastern Gaines County from his headquarters at Rattlesnake Canyon. C. C. Meddin, who moved his family and herd to Gaines County in 1880, was the first permanent settler; the United States census reported only eight people in the county in 1880. In the 1880s and 1890s other ranchers moved into the area, including C. M. Breckon, the Brunson brothers, Bill Anderson, Dave Ernest, Robinson and Winfield Scott of the Hat Ranch, C. Bill Higgins of the Wishbone Ranch, J. E. Millhollon of the MH Ranch, and the several owners of the Triangle H Triangle north of Seminole. Until the early twentieth century cattle raising was the only industry in the county. The population was sixty-eight in 1890 and fifty-five in 1900, when six ranches and 16,432 cattle were reported by the agricultural census.
Farming began to develop in the county after 1904, thanks to the sale of railroad land and the 1895 School Land Act, which gave settlers the right to purchase one section of agricultural land at two dollars an acre and three sections of grassland at one dollar an acre. Although mesquite was not as widespread then as now, farmers had to clear shinnery and mesquite from the land before planting. As more people were moving into the area, the county was formally organized in 1905, with the new town of Seminole designated as the county seat. A courthouse was built in the town in 1906 and a jail in 1907. By 1910, 206 farms and ranches, encompassing 500,772 acres, had been established in Gaines County.




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Surrounding Counties


Yoakum County (north)
Terry County (north)
Dawson County (east)
Martin County (southeast)
Andrews County (south)
Lea County, New Mexico (west)

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