Deaf Smith County TXGenWeb - Ghost Towns


Deaf Smith
County, Texas

Ghost Towns
See the full list at: Ghost Towns of Texas

No directions available
SW of Amarillo
Population: 0

AYR, TEXAS. In January 1890 the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway sent fifteen surveyors to survey a potential spur. The FW & D was in competetion with the Santa Fe Railroad and the mission (to create a shipping point for area ranches from Roswell, New Mexico to Big Spring) was a secret one.

Five miles from the center of the county a townsite was platted and named for the Scottish city of Ayr. Early the next spring, land buyers came to the region and settlement was begun. A store was built and a post office opened. Success looked assured - except for the rival town of Grenada. This town, which later changed its name to La Plata, was under the direct control of the XIT Ranch.

The all-too-familiar battle for county seat status began. It looked so serious that Texas Rangers were stationed at Ayr as a precaution. In October of 1890, La Plata won the election. The count was 97-7. There were allegations of fraud, but the vote stood. The spur project was abandoned and the post office was discontinued.

Ayr's brief life-span was a mere five years.


AYR, TEXAS. Ayr, in Deaf Smith County, was established in January 1890 when the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway sent a party of fifteen surveyors under Robert E. Montgomery and H. H. Granger to survey a projected spur from Washburn southwest through the center of the county. The purpose of the spur was to transport to northern markets the cattle of the ranching region between Roswell, New Mexico, and Big Spring. Since the railroad hoped to take away cattle shipments from the rival Southern Kansas (Santa Fe) line, details of the expedition were kept as secret as possible. On January 26 the surveyors had chosen a place five miles from the center of the county and laid out a townsite, which they named for the city of Ayr in Scotland (although Montgomery reportedly called it "Air" because of the wind). The surveying crew wintered at the site, and by early spring settlers began to come in and file on sections of land for three dollars an acre at 5 percent interest. A few houses were built, and the town grew rapidly as several families settled in the vicinity. By May, W. D. Dulaney had established a general store, and a post office had been granted with James M. Campbell, an elderly Scotsman, as postmaster.

The XIT Ranch, however, had developed a rival town called Grenada (later La Plata), which vied with Ayr to be county seat. During the heated controversy that ensued, Texas Rangers were stationed at Ayr to prevent trouble. On October 3, 1890, La Plata won the election by ninety-seven to seven votes. Despite rumors that certain XIT cowboys had voted twice, the election was declared valid. Consequently, the projected railroad was never built. By 1895 the post office was discontinued and the townsite of Ayr was abandoned.


KELSO, TEXAS. Kelso, in west central Deaf Smith County, was a hoax set up by George G. Wright, a Kansas City land promoter, as a means of selling land in the early 1900s. The land was from the 80,000-acre Kelso Block of the XIT Ranch land, twenty-five miles northwest of Hereford. There Wright built a stage-set town, complete with a hotel, a general store, and a schoolhouse, that was never occupied except when carloads of tenderfeet were brought out from Hereford in the real estate men's Winton automobiles and given the illusion that the area was well populated. The hotel was occupied solely by these prospective newcomers, the school was never actually used, and customers were seen at the store loading merchandise they had purchased when buyers were around, only to return the goods to the shelves when they had left. There was also a large red barn filled with ears of corn shipped in from Iowa. For a brief time (1907–08) Kelso had a post office. Often Wright and his associates sold land at prices from $8 to $40 an acre after misrepresenting its quality and value, distance from a town, and stage of development. No one from the immediate area was permitted to ride the specials from Kansas City, nor did anyone on the trains and Winton cars have a chance to mingle with the local people. Many purchasers, dryland farmers, realized too late that the town was a fake and that deep-well irrigation was necessary to raise crops of kafir corn, millet, and wheat in this semiarid environment. Isolation and the lack of a church in the area discouraged some of them. By late 1907 the entire Kelso tract had been sold as farming acreage. After proposed railroad schemes fell through, the "town" of Kelso soon disappeared.


LA PLATA, TEXAS. La Plata, originally named Grenada, was founded in 1890 by the XIT Ranch interests when Deaf Smith County was organized. The town engaged in a heated contest with neighboring Ayr to be the county seat, an honor that Grenada won in a controversial election on October 3, 1890. Soon afterwards the newly elected county judge, J. R. Dean, changed the name of Grenada to La Plata on request of federal postal officials. A small frame courthouse was built of lumber hauled from Amarillo. As the town grew, it added a post office, a school, a county jail, a Presbyterian church, and eighteen residents. Businesses included a general store, a pharmacy, a saloon, a hotel, an implement house, a blacksmith shop, a livery stable, and a printing office which housed the county's first newspaper, the La Plata Star.

The weather hindered the town's development almost from the beginning. From 1891 to 1894 the area around La Plata suffered a drought, which made farming and ranching almost impossible. Also disaster struck in February 1897, when a blizzard resulted in below-freezing temperatures for twenty-one consecutive days. More than half of the town's populace was compelled to leave. Moreover, in 1899 the Pecos and Northern Texas Railway built through the southern part of Deaf Smith County and into New Mexico. On November 8 of that year the citizens of La Plata chose a new county seat, the new town of Blue Water (or Bluewater, now Hereford), on the railroad. Nine houses, the courthouse, and the jail were loaded onto wagons and moved to the new location. Today nothing remains of the abandoned townsite except a few graves in the cemetery on land that has been reclaimed for farming. One memento of La Plata's brief life is the original portable jail, now on display at the Deaf Smith County Museum in Hereford.


WYCHE, TEXAS. Wyche was in southeastern Deaf Smith County. It was named for John S. Wyche, who moved to the county in 1895 and built the first school on his land four years later. At one time the community was called Alayone. Part of it was known as Boiling Spring because of a spring that was a continuous source of running water until the 1950s, when deep-well irrigation lowered the water table. The Wyche school, which also served as a church and community center, remained active until 1937, when its district was consolidated with that of Hereford. Since then the community has gradually been absorbed by the county seat's expansion.


Go To HomepageSpacer The TXGenWeb Project Logo

Copyright © 2009-2014, TXGenWeb, All Rights Reserved