POTTER COUNTY, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Tuesday is the 135th anniversary of the organization of Potter County and the selection of Amarillo as its county seat.
According to the Potter County Historical Commission, the boundaries of Potter County, along with 25 other Panhandle counties, was established by the Texas Legislature in 1876 and the county was named for Robert Potter, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, and attached to Bexar County for legal purposes as few people lived in the Texas Panhandle at that time.
In 1881, neighboring Oldham County was organized with Tascosa as its seat and assumed legal jurisdiction over Potter County, which still had no elected government. That same year construction began on the Fort Worth and Denver Railroad with plans to go through Potter County.
Six years later, with railroad construction crews encamped at Ragtown near what would become Amarillo, Oldham County officials called an election to organize Potter County and establish a county seat. So, on Aug. 30, 1887, an electorate comprised mostly of cowboys came together on ranches and outposts to choose the first Potter County officials who would lead the new government.
“They also voted at the same time to choose a county seat. There really weren’t any towns around here, there were just ideas for town. There were some competing townsites. One was put together by a guy by the name of J.T. Berry. It was a town townsite called Oneida and the cowboys and whoever else voted that day voted to select Oneida as the county seat which was purportedly renamed Amarillo,” said Wes Reeves, Chairman of the Potter County Historical Commission.
Reeves said what drove growth in Amarillo, in the beginning, was cattle.
“This was a whole new era. As the Comanche people were forcefully moved and sent to Oklahoma, there was really nothing here but open space at that point, and then cattle ranches came in and what really got people going was because they could ship their cattle via rail from this location,” said Reeves.
Reeves added that Amarillo and Potter County have a really rich history that goes back way before 1887.
He added that Amarillo actually moved from the original location near Wild Horse Lake to where it is now three years after its founding.
“So much has changed in Potter County and in Amarillo since August 1887, but the optimism and spirit of adventure that led to our development are still defining characteristics of the people who live here,” said Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner. “As we celebrate our 135th anniversary, we remember the men and women who came before us and their tireless efforts to make a better life for future generations.”
Judge Tanner added that Potter County is the hub of the panhandle.
“We have things that other smaller counties don’t have like hospitals and pavilions and things like that. Amarillo is the hub, it is the biggest city in the panhandle, so we have the shopping, we have the restaurants, we have the parks, we have the entertainment and so people come here and hope they continue to do that,” said Judge Tanner.
Judge Tanner added she has been a lifelong resident of Amarillo and said the city is good solid ground to raise a family and live.
“It’s a good feeling to know people are happy to live here. That is the number one thing for me. That people are happy and established. We have good schools, we have churches everywhere, it’s all good. It’s always been my home. I will never live anywhere else.” said Judge Tanner.
Reeves said during the fall months, there are a lot of anniversaries to remember when it comes to the establishment of Potter County and Amarillo as it took a while for both to get on their feet.
Judge Tanner said as they look to the future, she hopes citizens realize the need for better facilities, like a civic center, which she said can help promote growth.