A Stop on the Butterfield Overland Mail Route (Map)

On a time line, the two and one-half year operation (1857-1861) of the Butterfield Overland Mail was but a flash in

the history of transportation in the United States.  But this short-lived operation captured

and held the imagination of Americans because it stitched together the growing country from sea to sea ~Joann Mazio

Pope's Crossing is on the Pecos River and the Loving-Reeves county line one mile south of the Texas-New Mexico boundary. When the Pecos was a formidable watercourse the crossing was used by travelers to ford the river. Spanish explorers established a trail through the southwestern corner of what is now Loving County along the east bank of the Pecos and crossed the river at the point later called Pope's Crossing. Gold-seekers headed for California used the crossing in the late 1840s. On March 8, 1854, Capt. John Popeqv arrived at the Pecos River on a survey expedition to find the best railroad route to the Pacific. He forded the river at its least threatening point, the crossing earlier used by the Spanish and the emigrants. That crossing was eighty feet wide and 2 feet deep and was later named for Pope. In 1855 Pope established Pope's Campqv three miles downriver from the crossing and drilled unsuccessfully for artesian water wells. After the drilling project was abandoned in 1858, the route of the Butterfield Overland Mailqv was laid out through the future Loving County. The stage used the road and camp built by Pope and forded the Pecos at Pope's Crossing. In 1936 Red Bluff Dam and Reservoirqv were completed on the Pecos between the southern edge of New Mexico and five miles north of Orla, Texas. Pope's Crossing was inundated. The crossing had a rocky bed and was surrounded by light sand and gravel when Pope found it. He reported the area vegetation as mesquite bushes and abundant grama grasses. Current area topography is flat to rolling with locally steep slopes of windblown sand, alluvial material, and calichified bedrock. Vegetation consists primarily of sparse grasses, cacti, creosote bush, and scrub brush.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Robert W. Dunn, The History of Loving County, Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1948; condensed in West Texas Historical Association Year Book 24 [1948]). Grace Thormann King, "Captain John Pope, First Driller in the Permian Basin," Texas Permian Historical Annual 2 (1962). Sue Navarro, "Four Square Miles Per Man, Loving County, Texas," Texas Permian Historical Annual 4 (1964). Waterman L. Ormsby, The Butterfield Overland Mail (San Marino, California: Huntington Library, 1942; rpt. 1955). Jesse Wallace Williams, Old Texas Trails (Burnet, Texas: Eakin Press, 1979).

Julia Cauble Smith





Page last updated April 27, 2009

Copyright 2009 ~DEB~

Copyright 2007 Kay Woods-Lopez