Collingsworth County Museum

824 East Avenue
Wellington, TX 79095


History :

Collingsworth County, on the eastern edge of the Texas Panhandle, is bordered on the east by Oklahoma, on the north by Wheeler County, on the west by Donley County, and on the south by Childress and Hall counties. The county is named for James Collinsworth, the first chief justice of the Republic of Texas, whose name was misspelled in the legislation that established the county. The center of Collingsworth County is located at approximately 100°15' north longitude and 34°57' west latitude, about five miles north-northwest of Wellington, the county seat. Wellington is ninety miles east-southeast of Amarillo. Collingsworth County occupies 894 square miles of rolling prairie and riverbreaks located to the east of the Texas High Plains. The county terrain is such that about half of its area is not suitable for farming. Therefore ranching remains strong in the county, balanced but not displaced by farms. The county's sandy and loam soils support a variety of native grasses as well as cotton, wheat, and grain sorghums. A small amount of oil and gas is produced in the northern part of the county. The land is broken by the Salt Fork of the Red River, which meanders eastward across the central portion of the county, as well as by its many tributaries, including Elm, Wolf, Spiller (or Buck), and Sand creeks. The elevation of the county ranges from 1,800 to 2,600 feet above sea level, the average annual maximum temperature is 99° F in July, the average annual minimum is 26° F in January, the average annual precipitation is 22.03 inches, and the growing season averages 212 days per year.

The area that is now Collingsworth County was occupied by Apaches from prehistoric times until about 1700, when Comanches and Kiowas moved in. These tribes dominated the Panhandle until they were crushed by the United States Army in the Red River War of 1874 and removed permanently to reservations in Indian Territory. The Panhandle was thus opened for settlement. In 1876 the Texas legislature formed Collingsworth County of land previously assigned to Bexar and Young counties.

Buffalo hunters who occupied the area during and just after the Indian wars slaughtered the great herds and opened the frontier for cattlemen. Ranchers first appeared within the borders of Collingsworth County during the late 1870s; the Rowe Brothers Ranch established its large holdings in southwestern Collingsworth county during 1878. In 1880 the United States census reported six people (three white and three black) living in Collingsworth County.

During the early 1880s a few huge ranches were formed and controlled most of the land in the county. In 1880 William and James Curtis claimed the southeastern part of the county for their Diamond Tail Ranch. During 1883 the Rocking Chair Ranch, an English venture like that of the Rowe brothers, bought alternate sections of most of the remaining land in the northeastern part of the county, as a means of controlling twice as much land as it actually owned.

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