AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Officials with the Potter County Historical Commission announced that Tuesday, Aug. 30 will mark the 135th anniversary of the organization of Potter County and the selection of Amarillo as its county seat.

“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.”

History of Potter County

According to a release from the Potter County Historical Commission, 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. Voters were also asked to choose a county seat from among multiple competing townsites located between West and East Amarillo creeks in the southern part of the county. J.T. Berry’s townsite called Oneida took the most votes, was renamed Amarillo, and grew to be the leading city of the Texas Panhandle.

Prior to 1874, Potter County was the realm of the Quahadi Comanche and immense herds of American bison, commonly known as buffalo. Incursions by buffalo hunters sparked armed conflict between the hunters and Comanches, who depended on buffalo for food, clothing and tools. In response, the U.S. Cavalry under Col. Ranald S. MacKenzie launched a series of military operations against allied native tribes in 1874, resulting in the defeat of the tribes and their eventual forced relocation to reservations in Oklahoma.

In the years that followed, the LX, Frying Pan and other large cattle ranches were established in the county. 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, investors led by Grenville Dodge began constructing the Fort Worth and Denver Railroad with plans to build 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.


By 1890, Potter County boasted a population of 849, growing to more than 12,000 residents by 1910 with the bulk of the population residing in and around Amarillo.


Berry’s Oneida/Amarillo townsite lay west of the present-day Washington/Adams/Hughes corridor
in what is known as Old Town Amarillo. After winning the favor of the voters, the county’s first courthouse was built there, along with a depot for the Fort Worth and Denver Railroad. Henry Sanborn, a former investor in the Frying Pan Ranch who came to Texas to market newly invented barbed wire, established a competing townsite east of Old Town that was on higher ground, eventually luring most of the businesses and residents of Berry’s flood-prone townsite to what is now called the Glidden and Sanborn Addition in downtown Amarillo.


“The decades that followed Potter County’s founding brought thousands of people from all
backgrounds to our county, and the Potter County Historical Commission is committed to telling
the stories of everyone who had a hand in making Amarillo and Potter County what they are,”
Garza said.

Potter County Historical Commission


The Potter County Historical Commission is an appointed body that coordinates the state’s
historical marker program in the county for the Texas Historical Commission. Lance Garza, marker
chair, said much of the early history of Potter County and Amarillo has been documented on multiple markers out of a total of 130 scattered around the county.


“The Texas Historical Commission’s website features a searchable atlas of all the state’s historical
markers, and on the 135th anniversary of Potter County’s organization we are encouraging county
residents to explore a history that is often overlooked and underappreciated,” Garza said.


The boundaries of Potter County, along with 25 other Panhandle counties, were established by the
Texas Legislature in 1876. 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.


More information on the history of Potter County can be found online at The Handbook of Texas
History Online. Information on the Texas Historical Marker program can be found on the website
of the Texas Historical Commission. Information on existing markers and their locations can found
online at THC’s historical marker atlas site.