Ranger Exes Memorial - Ranger, Texas History of Ranger - 1 [ 2 ] [ 3 ] [ 4 ] [ 5 ]

Ranger by Alfred Rogers by Alfred Rogers (RHS-1960) These articles were first published in The Waggin’ Tongue newsletter beginning in April 2016. They are based on Alfred Rogers’ book, Ranger, published in 2010 by Arcadia Press in its "Images of America” series as well as his additional research. Articles - Page 1: (2016) RANGER CAMP VALLEY THE EARLY YEARS SOME EARLY BUSINESSES THE SEARCH FOR OIL THE DISCOVERY OF OIL THE OIL BOOM LIVING CONDITIONS DURING THE BOOM END OF THE DROUGHT Articles - Page 2: (2017) EARLY WATER SOURCES FIRE CRIME LAW ENFORCEMENT HOTELS SOME EARLY CLUBS KU KLUX KLAN M.H. HAGAMAN CIVIC IMPROVEMENTS JOHN McCLESKEY MOVIE THEATERS EARLY SCHOOLS Articles - Page 3: (2018) FAMOUS VISITORS POST OFFICE BOYCE HOUSE EARLY NEWSPAPERS W.K. GORDON SHOOTING AN OIL WELL TICKVILLE BAND ST. RITA'S T&P RAILWAY CO. RANGER'S HOSPITAL JAKE HAMON RAILROAD JOHN GHOLSON Articles - Page 4: (2019) MIRROR LAKE J.E. TEMPLE PETERS BONNIE & CLYDE REC BUILDING RANGER HIGH SCHOOL TRAIN ROBBERY WALTER P. WEBB SALOONS & CABARETS PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH BYRON PARRISH FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH Articles - Page 5: (2020) DR. CHARLES TERRELL WEST TEXAS CLINIC ACCIDENT ON THURBER HILL BANKHEAD HWY TRANSPORTATION SALLIE TARRANT WINSETT SPRING (Final) RANGER CAMP VALLEY - Ranger was named for the Texas Rangers. As late as the 1870’s the Comanche Indians were still making raids in the area that had become Eastland County in 1858 by an act of the Texas Legislature. To counter these raids, Mexican desperadoes, and other outlaws, the Texas Rangers set up a camp on the Watson Ranch, which would eventually become the Hagaman Ranch. Ranger Camp Valley, as the location of the camp came to be known, was a few miles northeast of the present site of Ranger. The exact date the Texas Rangers camp was established and its precise location are unknown. The West Texas Historical Association yearbook of 1934 documents an 1871 account of Ranger Camp by a rancher who was living in the area at that time. Archeological evidence suggests that it was south of the area that would become Hagaman Lake. The Texas Ranger camp was never intended to be permanent, and ultimately it moved westward. However, when it was set up, it attracted settlers from other parts of Eastland County, adjacent counties, and even other states. Many of the settlers worked on construction of the “High Trestle,” the rail- road bridge over a canyon near the area. The Texas and Pacific Railway Company would eventually run its trains over the bridge. The Ranger Camp Valley community, which may have reached a population of between two and three hundred, lived in tents, worshipped in tents, and set up a tent for a school. Tents even housed a general store and hotel. The community did not become permanent because the railroad, which had been pushing westward, followed the contours of the land insofar as possible, thereby bypassing Ranger Camp Valley to the south and west. It reached the present site of Ranger October 15, 1880. The Ranger Camp Valley community had moved to be near the railroad, and the resulting town was henceforth known as “Ranger.” A highly readable account of the Comanche Indians is S.C. Gwynne’s book, Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches (New York, Scribner, 2010). Walter Prescott Webb’s book, The Texas Rangers: a Century of Frontier Defense (2d. ed. Austin, University of Texas Press, 1965), was for many years the definitive source of information on the Rangers. Webb grew up in north central Texas and graduated from Ranger High School before going on to an illustrious teaching career at the University of Texas. A more recent book, The Texas Rangers, now considered by many to be the definitive history of the Texas Rangers, was written by Mike Cox (New York, Forge, 2008). THE EARLY YEARS - The Texas and Pacific Railway Company, or T&P as it came to be called, bought 160 acres from Isham G. Searcy for a town site, which it named Ranger for the Texas Rangers and Ranger Camp. Searcy had obtained the land from the Francis Blundell Survey: Blundell was the original owner. The original town site took up 53 blocks. Eventually the site was expanded beyond the original acreage. An early T&P map shows that when Ranger was laid out, what eventually became Main Street was Locust Street. What came to be Commerce Street was North Front Street, and what would be U. S. Highway 80 through town many years later was South Front Street. Other street names which appeared on that early map include Bowie, Fannin, Houston, Lamar, Hunt, and Clay (all east of the railroad tracks), and Mesquite, Elm, Pine, Walnut, Cherry, and Cypress (all west of the tracks). The railroad reached Ranger on October 15, 1880 on its way westward. The inhabitants of Ranger Camp a few miles to the northeast had moved to be near the railroad. In the beginning the new settlement was a collection of mostly tents, which not only were habitations but also stores, a hotel, and restaurants. Soon more permanent structures, some of wood but a good number of stone, were built. Ranger was a farming community, with the usual general mercantile stores, cotton gins, blacksmith shops, feed stores, and livery stables. No United States census was taken in those early years, but it was estimated that in a few years the population had grown to about 700. Ranger became a trade center for many communities in the north and northwest part of Texas. After the railroad came through Ranger, a large stock pen was built, and Ranger became a shipping center for Stephens, Young, Shackleford, & Erath counties. SOME EARLY BUSINESSES - Before the oil boom Ranger was a farming and ranching community, with the usual wagon yards, cotton gins, blacksmith shops, feed stores, livery stables, and general mercantile stores. Many of these stores sold to a wider area than just Ranger. One of the stores which catered to a wider trade area was the Ranger Mercantile Company, one of the major stores before the oil boom. Many farmers and ranchers would buy a six-month supply of goods at one time. Another early business in Ranger was a brick-making concern. The kilns operated in an area south of town where the clay was good for making bricks. After the bricks were formed and baked in one of the kilns, they were used in construction. The wood used for fire was allowed to smolder and turn into charcoal, which was then sold. There were a number of blacksmith shops. They not only repaired farm machinery and plows but also shod horses and mules. Horseshoes wore out so quickly on the bad roads and streets that blacksmiths were kept busy taking care of horses from all the livery stables. Livery stables would rent horses, buggies, and surreys, with or without a driver. One of the most popular early businesses, especially with train travelers, was the Rock Saloon (also known as the Old Rock Saloon). Located in a rock building on Main Street near the train station, it served as a community gathering place and catered to passengers arriving on the train and anybody else in need of liquid refreshment. A second Rock Saloon later opened across the street from the original saloon. THE SEARCH FOR OIL - In 1917 an area-wide drought, the worst that many could remember, was devastating Ranger’s chiefly agrarian economy. Many crops failed. A group of businessmen led by John M. Gholson realized the need to diversify the economy and decided to approach William K. Gordon, head of the Texas & Pacific Coal Company’s operation at Thurber and general manager of the town, a Company town. There had been some exploratory oil drilling in the area, with a number of failures but also with some success. In 1915 the Texas & Pacific Coal Company had brought in a well ten miles east of Ranger. Initially it produced several hundred barrels of oil a day. Gordon and other officials of Texas & Pacific Coal Company had predicted that the demand for coal would decline rapidly, since railroads were using more oil-burning locomotives; hence the search for oil around Thurber. Gordon had been trained as a surveyor and mining engineer and not as a geologist. However, he believed, as did a number of geologists, that prospects for oil in the Ranger area were very good. So when the group of Ranger businessmen approached him, he agreed to finance the drilling of four exploratory wells around Ranger in exchange for Texas & Pacific Coal Company leases on about 25,000 acres. The first test well, on the Nannie Walker farm north of town, was a disappointment: rather than oil, it began spewing natural gas, for which there was no market at the time. However, the second well, on the John McCleskey farm about a mile south of downtown Ranger, came in on October 17, 1917. With that gusher, Ranger was catapulted into oilfield history, becoming one of the great oil boomtowns of all times. THE DISCOVERY OF OIL - After the exploratory well on the Nannie Walker farm turned out to be a disappointment, the New York financial backers of Texas & Pacific Coal Company’s four exploratory wells became very skeptical and told W.K. Gordon to cease drilling at 3,200 feet. However, he was convinced that he would find oil, and he was able to persuade company officials to let him continue awhile longer on the McCleskey well. Frank Champion was the driller on duty the afternoon of October 17, 2017 when the McCleskey well blew in. He went to town to telephone Gordon with the news. Years later Champion described the well: “It was the prettiest sight I ever saw. The oil shot straight up in the air like a golden spray.” There had been no preparations to contain the oil, so in Champion’s words, it “ran wild” until facilities could be provided. The McCleskey well’s initial output was 1,700 barrels a day. The well was abandoned May 30, 1930 after producing 275,000 barrels of oil. In the meantime the well on the Walker farm had continued to spew gas, but in early 1918, it began to gush oil. Gordon’s third trial well was on the Shook farm. It came in at 3,100 feet, producing 2,500 barrels a day. The fourth and final exploratory well was on M.H. Hagaman’s land. It became a gusher at 3,100 feet. Ranger’s “exploratory wells” were a thing of the past: Ranger was now a proven oilfield. The Texas & Pacific Coal Company held thousands of productive leases in the Ranger area. It became so involved in developing these leases that it changed its name to “Texas Pacific Coal & Oil Company.” THE OIL BOOM - Frank Champion, the driller on duty the afternoon of October 17, 1917 when the McCleskey well blew in, called W. K. Gordon in Thurber to tell him the news. Soon the entire country knew that not only the McCleskey but also the three other exploratory wells and other early wells after them were major producers. Many oil producers and would-be producers flocked into town. The Texas Pacific Coal & Oil Company had leases on practically all the territory around Ranger. In fact, it had so many leases that it could not drill on all of them, so it sold some at a great profit. On still others it allowed other companies to drill, splitting the profits 50-50. Soon oil derricks were everywhere: downtown, city outskirts and on outlying farms. After the boom, the Texas State Railroad Commission estimated that about 1,200 wells had been drilled in the Ranger oilfield. Some of the top-producing wells were located south and west of town. Merriman in particular was the site of competitive drilling. Warren Wagner, formerly a drilling contractor with Texas Pacific Coal & Oil Company, got his own lease on the Merriman school grounds adjacent to the Company’s rigs. Wagner felt that the Company was trying to drain as much oil as possible from his lease, and he sued. The courts ultimately limited his wells to four and the Company’s to five. The verdict was hailed as a victory for the smaller independent producer. After the well on the Merriman school grounds came in, Merriman Baptist Church members voted to lease the churchyard for drilling. When that well came in, they voted to set aside 15 per cent of the royalties for their church and to donate the remainder to missions, hospitals, orphanages, and colleges. Members did not individually receive royalties. The church’s action received national attention, including an article in the New York Times. Merriman again made national news when it refused to allow drilling in the cemetery. Will Farrell wrote a poem on the rejection, which has become part of oilfield lore: All oildom knows the answer When the chairman shook his head, Pointing past the men of millions At the city of the dead. Why disturb the weary tenants In yon narrow strip of sod? “Tis not ours but theirs the title, Vested by the will of God. We the board have talked it over, Pro and con without avail. We reject your hundred thousand— Merriman is not for sale. CORRECTION: In my column published in the July 15th issue of The Waggin’ Tongue, I reported that the McCleskey well was abandoned May 30, 1930. This is the information on the Texas State Historical Marker. Jeane Pruett called my attention to the fact that the McCleskey was instead plugged May 28, 1920. This is the more reliable information from the Texas Railroad Commission. Thanks, Jeane LIVING CONDITIONS DURING THE BOOM - An official census had not been taken in Ranger before the oil boom, nor was there one until after the boom was waning. However, it was estimated that before the boom Ranger had a population of less than a thousand, but during the boom it soared to around 30,000. According to the Texas State Historical Association’s Handbook of Texas Online, the 1920 census counted 16,201 people. The publisher of a 1919 postcard folder, issued during the height of the boom, entitled it ”A Trip to Ranger, Where There is Wealth for All.” He predicted that within the immediate future Ranger would have a population of 100,000. That never happened, of course, and the purported 30,000 that populated Ranger in the beginning of the oil boom were enough to strain Ranger’s already limited resources. The town was in fact ill prepared to deal with the influx of people. Among them were investors, speculators, wildcatters, oil field workers, curious onlookers, and the usual criminal element attracted to oil boom- towns. The lack of housing was a major, immediate problem. Hotels and rooming houses sprang up, but they were inadequate to cope with would-be customers. Men slept in hotels in shifts, and they paid to sleep in hotel lobby chairs. Several “tent cities” came about. People who were able to rent a so-called “shotgun” house were considered lucky. The shotgun house was two or three rooms built in a straight line without a hallway. It was usually built on land that rented from $5 to $10 a month. People also slept in abandoned oil tanks, under wagon sheets, and at the train depot. A shack or tent was considered a luxury. Sanitary conditions were terrible. Initially there was neither a safe, adequate water supply nor a municipal sewage disposal system. The Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918 caused many deaths in Ranger as elsewhere. The few doctors in town had to deal not only with infectious diseases and other more usual maladies but also with oil field injuries & victims of shootings and fights. Dr. A. K. Wier, who had come to Ranger in 1913, said once that men had died of gunshot wounds before he could save them. END OF THE DROUGHT - By 1917 the worst drought in years had devastated Ranger’s mainly agrarian economy, prompting city leaders to look into drilling for oil as a potential alternate source of revenue. After the McCleskey well blew in October 17, 1917 and other early wells were successful, Ranger became an oil boomtown, with agricultural output of secondary importance. Ironically soon after oil was discovered, partly because of the drought, the long, dry spell ended, and approximately two years of far above average rainfall began. Ranger was as unprepared for the rains as it had been for the influx of people coming into town in the wake of the boom. Streets were unpaved, and their deep ruts became quagmires of mud. Cars were often up to hubs or even a fender or two in mud, and wagons and trucks fared no better. Several who were in Ranger at the time claimed that a mule had drowned in an especially deep hole. An enterprising young man and his brother built a sled, hitched up one of their father’s horses to it, and began hauling people across the street from the train depot for a quarter. There were imitators at other street intersections. Eventually boardwalks were put up at major intersections to help people cross muddy streets. These boardwalks, which were free, replaced the “mud ferries,” or sleds, that ferried people across for a fee. By that time many people in Ranger were wealthy because of the oil boom, and it was not at all unusual to see women wearing diamonds and furs trying to navigate the muddy streets. In the meantime there seemed to be only an occasional let-up in the rain. The writer of a postcard dated July 4, 1919, for example, exulted that a whole week had gone by without rain! History of Ranger - Page 2