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Wichita County Texas
A number of Europeans, beginning with the Spanish Indian trader Athanase de Mzires, visited the area that became Wichita County during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Among these were Pedro Vial and Jos Mares, who crossed the region in the course of developing trails from San Antonio to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1786 and 1787, and members of the Texan Santa Fe expedition in 1841. Although local lands had been granted to survivors and heirs of soldiers who fought in the Texas Revolution as early as the 1830s, the first surveys of the area that is now Wichita County took place in 1854 under the direction of the Texan Emigration and Land Company. Mabel Gilbert, a pioneer of the settlement that became Dallas, became Wichita County's first permanent Anglo-American settler when he built a house on a bluff above the Red River, ten miles north of the site of present Wichita Falls, in 1855.
Although Native Americans twice drove him from his isolated farm, in 1855 and 1862, he returned in 1867 and died there three years later. Wichita County was established by act of the Texas legislature on February 1, 1858, from the Cooke Land District, and was attached to Clay County for judicial purposes. The new county was named for the Wichita Indians, and settlement was hindered by Indian attacks. Most of the area's Anglo-American pioneers arrived after 1870, when school lands were purchased to become cattle ranches, which have remained an important part of the economy.
On June 7, 1882, Robert E. Huff, a recently arrived attorney, presented a petition bearing 150 signatures-some of which allegedly were fraudulent-to the Clay County commissioners court seeking independence for Wichita County. Elections for county officers took place on June 21 of that year. The Fort Worth and Denver City Railroad reached the tiny settlement of Wichita Falls from Fort Worth in September 1882. This connection ensured the existence of Wichita Falls, which adopted the date of the arrival of the first train, September 26, 1882, as its birthday. Additional railroad-building activity resulted, in large measure, from the efforts of two Wichita Falls businessmen, Joseph A. Kemp and Frank Kell. Between 1884 and 1911 these men, acting independently and in concert, organized and promoted three rail lines out of Wichita Falls: the Wichita Falls and Northwestern, the Wichita Falls and Southern, and the Wichita Falls and Wellington. The construction of these roads, all of which were purchased by the Missouri, Kansas and Texas line in 1911, established Wichita Falls as a regional transportation and distribution center.
[Excerpted from Brian Hart, "WICHITA COUNTY," Handbook of Texas Online; Published by the Texas State Historical Association]
Founded February 1, 1858
County Seat and Largest City: Wichita Falls
CITIES, TOWNS, AND POPULATED PLACES
Cashion Community * Burkburnett * Electra * Iowa Park *
Wichita Falls * Pleasant Valley * Kamay * Haynesville * Valley View
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Online Data ChurchRecords FamilyRecords MiscellaneousRecords Website Updates:
Sept 2017: Website updated and pages are mobile friendlyJun 2017: County Records: 1900 Fugitives from JusticeFeb 2017: Visiting News: METCALF, BARDWELL, BROWN, POYNER, PACESept 2016: Death News: MOORE, WHITE; Crime News: JOHNSON, CRESWELL, WILLIAMS, SHANKLINJun 2016: County Records: 1916 County OfficersMar 2016: World War 1 Honor Roll
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