Hansford County - Railroads

Hansford County Railroads

Source: The Handbook of Texas Online


The Enid, Ochiltree and Western Railroad represents an unsuccessful attempt by the people of Ochiltree County to secure a railroad through the town of Ochiltree, then the county seat. Although three major lines crossed the Panhandle by 1908, none ran directly west from Oklahoma across the counties north of the Canadian River. The lack of rail service necessitated long trips by area farmers and ranchers to the nearest rail towns to market their produce.

Lynch Dodson, a farmer who lived near Ochiltree, met with state railroad commissioner O. B. Colquitt at Austin in February 1908. Dodson then contacted A. E. Wiest, the chief promoter of the American Engineering Company of Indianapolis, Indiana, who agreed to come and inspect the terrain. Meanwhile, Dodson secured the backing of several influential local residents, including James H. Whippo, J. B. (Pop) Cartwright, and county judge George M. Perry.

Wiest arrived on April 21, and for two months he and the Ochiltree County citizens worked to promote the railroad, secure stock certificates, and enlist potential subscribers. The Enid, Ochiltree and Western Railroad Company held its first meeting on June 11, with Judge Perry as president, Cartwright as secretary, W. B. Slaughter as treasurer, and Wiest as vice president and general manager. Hamlin Palmer, a freight agent for the Santa Fe line, was later recruited as assistant secretary. The citizens of Dalhart also agreed to help finance the project.

By the spring of 1909 the proposed route had been surveyed for 113 miles from Dalhart to Ochiltree, rights-of-way secured, and work begun on the roadbed. Proposed townsites such as Wilcoe, Orofino, Victor, and Jarvis were platted. On August 14 a building contract was signed with the Panhandle Construction Company.

On September 23 W. D. Wagner, the mayor of Dalhart, drove the first spike during a gala celebration held at Dalhart. Soon, plans were made and permission secured to extend the proposed route via Enid to Oklahoma City. As construction progressed a small locomotive, piloted by J. M. (Johnny) McChord and dubbed Old Steamboat, was purchased from the Southern Iron and Equipment Company of Atlanta, Georgia.

When the EO&W failed to make its monthly payments to the Panhandle Construction Company in the summer of 1910, however, the Railway Audit and Inspection Company was brought in to inspect the books. Federal judgments were rendered against the EO&W properties for $9,000 and $14,000. Several factors contributed to the company's failure. Not all of the firm's $500,000 capital stock had been subscribed. Wiest had violated state law as well as the EO&W's own rules by signing over, endorsing, and selling promissory notes. And a prolonged drought in 1910-11 kept many well-intentioned farmers and small businessmen from fulfilling their subscriptions.

Consequently, on December 22, 1910, the EO&W went into the hands of Judge H. G. Hendricks, who had been designated receiver by the Eighth Judicial District Court at Dalhart. Wiest surrendered his power of attorney on February 11, 1911, and disappeared from the scene. Construction stopped with only the grade to Dumas completed and less than fourteen miles of track laid out of Dalhart.

On June 11, 1912, C. A. Vawter and O. J. McKnight of Dalhart purchased the EO&W properties for $33,000; Old Steamboat was shipped back to Atlanta. Several lawsuits were filed against the EO&W, and in the fall of 1917 its properties were sold. The failure of the EO&W led to the eventual abandonment of the Ochiltree and Hansford townsites after Perryton and Spearman were founded on the North Texas and Santa Fe line in 1919. Dumas was left without a railroad connection until 1931. Remnants of the unfinished railroad may still be seen between Dumas and Dalhart.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Carrie Whippo Correll and Spencer P. Whippo, "Enid, Ochiltree and Western Railroad," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 33 (1960). Wheatheart of the Plains: An Early History of Ochiltree County (Perryton, Texas: Ochiltree County Historical Survey Committee, 1969).

H. Allen Anderson