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PHILLIPS, TEXAS

Texas Ghost Town
Hutchinson County, Texas Panhandle
Highway 119
3 miles NE of Borger

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Borger Hotels

Phillips Texas, Phillips 66, 1942 old photo
Filling Tank Cars from the Phillips Refinery
1942 photo by John Vaschon, Courtesy Library of Congress

History in a Pecan Shell

Rancher James A. Whittenburg founded the community of Whittenburg nearby in 1926. Whittenburg acquired a rivalry with Pantex, Texas (which soon was renamed Phillips for the dominant employer.) The Phillips Petroleum Company completed the Alamo Refinery in 1927. It was the first of its kind built in the Panhandle.
Phillips Texas, Employees of the Phillips Refinery
Employees of the Phillips Refinery getting off work.
1942 photo by John Vaschon, Courtesy Library of Congress
The company built a new $77,000 school in 1936 and also provided housing for teachers and student scholarships. In 1938 Whittenburg and Pantex became Phillips, Texas by a vote of the people. Phillips had a population of over 4,000 in 1947 and although the 1936 high school was destroyed by fire in 1950, it was soon rebuilt.

Many of the businesses in Phillips moved to Borger in the 50s and 60s, and the population dropped from 3,600 in 1960 to around 2,500 for the 1980 census. A huge explosion in 1980 obliterated part of the industrial area and some homes.

The Story of Phillips, Texas

  • The Demise of Phillips, Texas
    Phillips, Texas was not destroyed by the explosion in the 80's. The town was wiped out due to the death of Mr. Whittenburg who owned the land the town sat on. In his will there a clause stating that the property that the township sat on could not be sold without the approval by the Citizens of Phillips. The children (the ones who ran M & M Cattle Company) went to court and had the will changed so that they could sell the property to Phillips Petroleum. Once the sale was final Phillips began evicting the Citizens. The citizens fought back by hiring F. Lee Bailey to fight the eviction. This injunction staved off the eviction about 6 months. Several homes were moved to a location just south of Electric City on a the rim of the Canadian River Canyon and others were moved to Stinnett and Amarillo.

    I was an older teenager when this happened and my Grandparents lived in Phillips at 212 Cook St. Their house now is in Stinnett. The explosion that occurred was in the unit of the plant call the Cat Cracker. My Grandfather was a boiler maker on that unit and was one of the persons that went in and did the body recovery after the explosion. There was damage in the town. Mostly blownout and cracked windows, but that was it. I can also safely say if the sale of the property did not happen, Phillips Petroleum would have gotten the town shutdown for environmental reasons. One being an open sewage system in the town. Sewer water had run into the Canadian River all the years I can remember. I truly miss the old town and wish it still existed." - Victor Taylor, October 17, 2009

  • The Demise of Phillips, Texas
    Thank you for posting the follow-up from the individual setting the record straight about the town of Phillips, Tx. continuing to exist. The town did not survive the explosion of January 1980, and the 1987 was the last class to graduate from there. The town has pretty much been reduced to this website: http://www.phillipsblackhawks.com/ . This is a collection of pictures, commentaries, stories, etc. of those that attended the school during it's existence. It will give one a small feel for the kind of town that Phillips was. - Joe (Class of 1984), November 18, 2005

  • The Demise of Phillips, Texas
    On your website you state that Phillips, Texas continues to stand as a community. This is COMPLETELY false. Phillips 66 oil company made everyone move after that big explosion. There is nothing there but the old high school and the refinery. The churches were leveled, the homes that were not moved out were leveled. It was one of the most tragic stories of small town life being overtaken by business. People lost everything. No one has a hometown to go back to....it's all leveled and you can't even drive in to look at your old school....armed security guards come after you. - [Name withheld by request], October 24, 2005

  • Phillips and Borger
    Dear TE, Our family was from Borger, Texas, and my dad's brother, Sydney Wilson Bennett, worked in nearby Phillips at the refinery. I was born in Borger in 1948 and left for Wyoming in 1953. My aunt "Frankie" and uncle Wilson would babysit me and my sister at their company home in Phillips. We spent many, many a happy time there in the early years of our lives.

    About 30 years ago, I took my wife to see Borger and Phillips. We had our first child with us, and we parked our travel trailer across from my aunt and uncle's house in a friendly neighbor's driveway. I took my wife on a "tour" of Phillips and Borger , and we left a few days later, following a tornado. I just did not want to sit through another Panhandle tornado!

    I only learned of the demise of Phillips today! My aunt and uncle moved away when he retired from Phillips, to relocate in Bowie. Both are now deceased. I can't imagine Phillips having been leveled. - Jim Pixley, Corona, California, May 24, 2007

  • Phillips, Texas
    Phillips was a wonderful place to grow up. Teachers and administrators instilled in us a unique sense of pride in the fact that we were from Phillips. Being from Phillips automatically made us winners. What a great way to prepare students for life! We learned that if we worked hard, we could do almost anything.

    Our sports teams were legendary for their accomplishments. Furthermore, due to the academic leadership of many, many teachers, a large percentage of Phillips graduates have become doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other professionals.

    But most importantly, people who grew up in Phillips genuinely cared for each other because we shared a common love for the community that was Phillips. And we understood that Phillips was Phillips because of its people.

    I miss it. There will never be another Phillips. Unfortunately, there's no way to fully understand the loss unless you're a Phillips Blackhawk. - Carrie McFerron, Class of 1976, February 10, 2006
  • Phillips Petroleum Company Building, Bartlesville, Oklahoma
    The Phillips Petroleum Company Building built in 1927 still stands in downtown Bartlesville, Oklahoma

    TE Photo, February, 2005
    Hutchinson County Texas 1940s map
    1940s Hutchinson County map showing Whittenburg
    (Below "C" in "HUTCHINSON")
    Courtesy Texas General Land Office
    Texas Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history, stories, and vintage/historic photos of their town, please contact us.
    Phillips, Texas
    Area Destinations:

    Borger
    Electric City
    Stinnett
    Amarillo
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