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A Main Street Ghost Town:
"The Mother City of the Panhandle."

Our suggested slogan: "Hard-luck Capital of the Panhandle."

Wheeler County, Texas Panhandle
Hwy 152
31 miles East of Pampa
84 miles East of Amarillo
Population: 102 (2010) 107 (2000)

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Old Mobeetie, Texas
"Near the jail museum are several buildings from Old Mobeetie along with a wooden flagpole, the last surviving remnant from Fort Elliott."
- Terry Jeanson, September 2007

History in a Pecan Shell

"Mobeetie" is supposed to mean "Sweetwater" in one Indian dialect or another. According to T. Lindsay Baker's Ghost Town's of Texas, when the application for a Post Office was rejected because Sweetwater was already taken, they got the idea to submit it as an Indian word. So a man was sent to the Fort (Elliott) to ask for a translation from an Indian Scout.

He came back with the name Mobeetie, which might mean Sweetwater or "Why do you want to know?" or "Buy me a drink and I'll tell you." If the scout misheard, it might even mean "Beetwater." Anyway, it's too late now. By the way, the Fort was Fort Elliott, not the guy who went to get the translation.

It's original name was Hidetown in 1874, when it was a supply center for buffalo hunters.

It was a wild and wooly place. The gamblers, soldiers and buffalo hunters made it wild, the Buffalo made it wooly. Bat Masterson paid the town a visit as well as Pat Garrett. Masterson bought a Buffalo robe and Garrett bought a T-shirt for his pal Billy the Kid that said: "I've just been shot by stupid."

A jail was built in the early 1880s and a Texas Ranger Captain Arrington became the sheriff. Temple Houston, son of Sam, served a term here as District Attorney before he became a State Senator.

In 1878, the town moved a little closer to the Fort. Evidently the Fort didn't like to be crowded, because the soldiers packed up and left in 1890. There was a mass conversion during an 1893 religious revival and just when everyone saw the light and closed the saloons, the town's future was dimming.

They failed to get the railroad to pass through, then they got hit with a tornado in 1898.

In 1907, the city of Wheeler was made County Seat and people started wearing T-Shirts saying: "I'm from Mobeetie, kick me!"

1929 finally brought a railroad, sort of. It was two miles away and once again the town moved. Some stayed and Mobeetie became "Old" and "New." 1940 found the town with a population of 400, equal to the 1890 census. It had dipped as low as 128 in 1900. Now it's less that 200 according to the Texas Almanac.

The flagpole from Fort Elliott remains to this day, and the old stone jail is a museum.
- Editor

Old Wheeler County Jail:

1886 sandstone Wheeler County jail, Old Mobeetie Texas
"The 1886 sandstone Wheeler County jail still stands in Old Mobeetie and serves as a museum."
- Terry Jeanson, September 2007
More Texas Jails | Texas Museums
Historical Marker Text

Old Wheeler County Jail

First jail in Panhandle of Texas. Central holding place for badmen. Built at cost of $18,500, including $1200 for a hangman's device put in to meet state requirement. Stone quarried on farm of Emanuel Dubbs, first county judge.

(Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, 1965)
 Wheeler County jail window, Mobeetie Texas
Old Wheeler County jail window detail
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, September 2007
1886 Wheeler County jail entrance, Mobeetie Texas
Wheeler County jail entrance
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, September 2007
Old Wheeler County Strap-Iron Jail, Mobeetie, Texas
Old Wheeler County Strap-Iron Jail in Mobeetie
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson
More Strap Iron Jails | More Texas Jails
Mobeetie street scene, Texas old photo
Mobeetie street scene in the early 1900s
Photo courtesy texasoldphotos.com

Mobeetie Stories

  • Judge Vs Marshal in Old Mobeetie by Mike Cox
    Townsend’s stay at Fort Elliott in the fall of 1878 would be brief, but not dull. In fact, for a time it looked like violence might erupt in nearby Mobeetie...
  • Mobeetie Texas Forum
  • Subject: Mobeetie, Texas
    Dear TE, I very much appreciate the work you do. I lived in Mobeetie in 1948-51 when Daddy was the pastor of the Methodist church there, and heard all the stories about the naming of the town that I see in your magazine. By the way, Mobeetie is 31 miles east of Pampa, not 20. My sister-in-law was a Totty, one of the homesteading families there... Her home was built of lumber from Fort Elliott when it was torn down. The Mobeetie kids still have reunions on the first Saturday in September every year. Oh, and I lived at Oklahoma Lane too.... Best wishes - David Willard, January 09, 2007

  • Subject: Mobeetie Texas
    In 1963 I met Jimmy L. Simpson in Abilene. He was from Mobeetie. He told me it was the oldest town in the panhandle. He took me there and we worked in the hay fields for a week. His dad, Byron Simpson, owned the gas station. He took me to where the old fort stood. We found relics, bullets, and an old knife. It is now 2006, I talked to Byron Simpson last year. His son lives somewhere in the Carolinas. Thank you for great memories of a lost time in the past. - Gene Long, N. Richland Hills, Texas, June 16, 2006
  • Subject: The Naming of Mobeetie
  • I grew up in Pampa, Texas, about 20 miles from Mobeetie in the 1950s and 60s. I seem to recall many years ago hearing a story told by Texas writer, free speech hero, and humorist, John Henry Faulk, about how Mobeetie was named. In the story as told by John Henry, the citizens wanted to name the town Sweetwater but the name was already taken by another Texas town. Efforts to name the town Sweetwater in Spanish were to no avail because 'Agua Dulce' was already a town down in the Texas Coastal Bend. The citizens decided to name the town Sweetwater in the Cheyene language because Cheyene Indians worked and lived at Fort Elliott. So a man was sent to Fort Elliott to ask what is the Cheyene word for Sweetwater. The Indian, who was a Cheyene Indian Scout chuckled and said, "Mobeetie." It was about two years later when the citizens of Mobeetie found out why the Indian had chuckled when providing the translation. According to the story told John Henry, it turns out that "Mobeetie" in Cheyene means "buffalo dung". Anyway, that is how I remember the story.

    Work for the Lord---the retirement is out of this world! - Rev. Carl W. Clark Driftwood United Methodist Church, Driftwood, Texas, January 24, 2006

  • Hi, I just finished reading the piece on Mobeetie and wanted to comment on the translation of the name. While I was living in Borger, I was told by numerous Panhandle citizens that the Indians decided to play a joke on the white settlers and the word the settlers thought was "sweet water" was really buffalo piss. I noticed that you didn't mention that translation in your suggestions! :-) - G. Thomas, March 07, 2001

    "Ghost Towns of Texas" by T. Lindsey Baker features Mobeetie and 87 other "Ghost" towns - Editor
  • Mobeetie, Texas
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