- Apr 1, 2007
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- Terlingua Tx
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Motley County, TX
Historical marker N 34.10607 W 100.88982
The story of Whiteflat TX begins and ends with Matador. The Matador Ranch was founded in 1882 by Scottish investors buying up ranching operations for $1.25 million. For that sum in 1882 they acquired 1.5 million deeded and fenced acres plus 1 million more in unfenced range land in Motley, Floyd, Dickens, and Cottle counties. A simple line camp was placed between Willow Creek and Tom Ball Canyon, and folks began living there full time. By 1890 a community had sprouted. There are conflicting records as to when the name Whiteflat actually was given, and it is unclear just who coined it. Credit in all of my research points to one of two people, Bill Tilson, or Mrs. H. H. Campbell. It either happened in 1890, or 1899. Whoever, and whenever it was, there is no dispute that the name reflected the tall white needlegrass that was abundant on that prairie between the creek and the canyon.
The young town grew rapidly. By 1910 parts of the Matador Ranch had been sold off to individual families as farms, and the town of Whiteflat had several businesses, a school and a few hundred residents. In 1922 a new two story school was erected and still stands today.
It is a mere shell of its former self.
By the mid twenties the town was at its peak, with four grocery stores, three service stations, three garages, two cafes, a hardware store, two gins, and three churches.
The dust bowl and depression saw the folding of many family farms, and the major highway U.S. 70 went through Matador, some ten miles south of Whiteflat. Matador is a study in its own right, having obvious roots in the Matador Ranch, and a colorful if checkered past... but back to Whiteflat....
By 1948 the population had declined to a mere 50 people. The school was closed and consolidated with Matador. The building continued to host elections, Halloween haunted houses, and dances. The post office closed in 1966 with the death of its last postmaster Ida Morris, and the last business closed in 1968. The 1980 census showed a population of twenty, and that declined to three by the 2000 census.
This is the last habitable house in Whiteflat.
The rest of the town looks like this:
There is one more building that I did not get a good shot of... it is a white building that looks as if it were a commercial building at one time. My research shows that it was the parsonage of the Methodist Church.
Anyone that has ridden or driven TX 70 from matador to Turkey has passed through Whiteflat. It is easy to miss unless you are looking for it. Matador is famous for its landmark service station:
While looking at the map in Matador I chuckled when I realized that the main intersection is 70 at 70.....
U.S. 70 runs east/west while TX 70 runs north/south. From the Oil Well station you take 70 any direction you need to go!
The Matador ranch is still in business, having dwindled to a 'mere' 800,000 acres by 1952 when it was bought by Fred C. Koch, co-founder of what has become Koch Industries, Inc. It is a subsidiary of Koch Industries which runs ranches in Texas, Montana, and Kansas. Their 7,000 square foot headquarters was originally built to host the visiting Scottish investors, and still houses the ranch manager in one side, while the business office is in the other.