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TASCOSA, TEXAS

Incorporated into Boys Ranch

Texas Ghost Town
Oldham County, Texas Panhandle
Highway 385
24 Miles N of Vega
40 Mile NW of Amarillo

Tascosa, Texas Area Hotels:
Amarillo Hotels | Vega Hotels

Tascosa TX - Overlook From Boys Ranch
Overlook from Boys Ranch
Photo Courtesy Rick Vanderpool, 2010

Tascosa / Boys Ranch Topics of Interest

  • History in a Pecan Shell
  • Tascosa Courthouse
  • Boot Hill Cemetery
  • Tascosa Stories
  • Oldham County Vintage Maps
  • Vega Hotels
  • Tascosa TX - Boot Hill Cemetery gate
    Boot Hill Cemetery in Cal Farley's Boys Ranch
    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, March 2008
    History in a Pecan Shell

    Originally settled by shepherds and freighters from New Mexico, the area was named Atascosa (boggy) for the swamp-like area where the Canadian River meets the local creek (also named Atascosa). The abbreviated name resulted in ‘Tascosa. The town found itself as a terminus of the Tascosa-Dodge City Cattle Trail in the late 1870s as the large ranches that formed in the region used the town as an assembling point. The activity drove the original settlers back to the tranquility of New Mexico.

    The town’s first business was a blacksmithing operation owned by Henry Kimball, followed by a general store and a post office. In 1880 the county was organized and Tascosa became the county seat. A stone courthouse was constructed, even while dancehalls and saloons were building at an alarming rate. In need of a cemetery, the town’s first Sheriff (Caleb Willingham) shot the town’s first villain, who then became the first cemetery occupant.

    Tascosa was soon known as the “Cowboy Capital of the Plains,” and with good reason. Lawmen and outlaws either became long-term residents or quickly left. Those who tarried often became permanent residents of Boot Hill.

    The Fort Worth and Denver City Railway passed through this part of Oldham County around 1887, necessitating a move of two miles across the river. In 1890 the residents of both Old and New Tascosa reached 350.

    By 1915, the Panhandle was adding new towns which bled population from Tascosa. An election was held that year to create a new county seat and Vega won. Tascosa was left with a population of about 15 people. The last to leave was Frency McCormick, the widow of Tascosa’s first saloon. The woman held out until 1939, the year that opened the door for the establishment of Boys Ranch.
    Tascosa TX 1884 Oldham County Courthouse
    Former courthouse in Tascosa , now the Julian Bivins Museum
    Recorded Texas Historic Landmark
    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, March 2008
    Photographer's Note
    "The 1884 Oldham County courthouse is now the Julian Bivins museum, named for a local rancher who donated 120 acres of land to Cal Farley for his Boys Ranch." - Terry Jeanson
    Tascosa TX  - 1884 Oldham County Courthouse Historical Marker
    1884 Oldham County Courthouse Historical Marker
    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, March 2008
    Historical Marker Text

    Tascosa Courthouse, 1884

    Served 12 counties in Panhandle. Site of trials for killings that had filled Boothill Cemetery. Until 1915 Oldham County seat. Many years headquarters, Julian Bivins Ranch. Birthplace of Cal Farley's Boys Ranch, 1939.

    Recorded Texas Historic Landmark
    Tascosa TX Centennial Marker
    Tascosa Texas Centennial Marker in front of the courthouse
    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, March 2008
    Texas Centennial Marker Text
    TASCOSA
    Cowboy capital of the Texas Panhandle, 1877-1888. "Billy the Kid" and cowboys from many ranches added to its liveliness. Made famous by wild west fiction. Its name is a corruption of Atascoso (boggy) first given to nearby creek. County seat of Oldham County, 1881-1915.
    Boot Hill Cemetery
    Tascosa TX - Boot Hill Cemetery Centennial Marker
    Boot Hill Cemetery Centennial Marker
    US 385 at Boy's Ranch
    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, March 2008
    Texas Centennial Marker Text

    Boot Hill Cemetery

    Along with law-abiding and God-fearing men and women were buried here, often without benefit of clergy, men who "died with their boots on". The name was borrowed from a cemetery in Dodge City, Kansas, while it was a resort of buffalo hunters and trail drivers.
    Tascosa TX - Boot Hill Cemetery graves
    Graves on Boot Hill.
    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, March 2008
    Photographer's Note:
    According to a map at the entrance to the cemetery, Bob Russell (bottom right) was the first person buried here after being killed in a showdown with Jules Howard in 1879. His widow selected the site. Fred Leigh (See "The Duck Fight" by Mike Cox) is buried beside him. - Terry Jeanson, March 2008
    Tascosa TX - Boot Hill Cemetery
    Boot Hill Cemetery seen from below.
    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, March 2008
    Tascosa TX - Cal Farley and Family Grave
    "The graves of Boys Ranch founder Cal Farley, his wife Mimi and their beloved dog Cricket in front of the old courthouse." - Terry Jeanson, March 2008 photo
    Tascosa TX Cal Farleys Boy's Ranch
    Entrance to Cal Farley's Boys Ranch off US 385 just north of the Canadian River. - Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, March 2008
    Tascosa Stories

    From
    Tascosa and Boothill by Mike Cox ( "Texas Tales" Column)

    "Tascosa, like most of the people in its cemetery, did not live to enjoy old age. When the Fort Worth and Denver Railroad cut across the Panhandle, the tracks did not come to Tascosa. The once lively – and deadly – cowtown faded away as the nearby railroad town of Amarillo grew.

    In 1893, a flood on the Canadian River destroyed the bridge leading into town as well as many buildings. That was the last straw for Tascosa, which soon lost its county seat status to Vega.

    Today, all that remains of old Tascosa – now the home of Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch – is the rock building that once served as courthouse and a hill-top collection of lonely graves."
    more
    ***
    From Sam Houston Medley by Mike Cox ("Texas Tales" Column)

    Tascosa, now the site of Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch northwest of Amarillo, had the reputation of being one of the toughest towns in Texas during its heyday in the early 1880s.

    Bonham poet and all-round character Macphelan Reese told this story in 2000:

    A dusty cowboy (so bow-legged they’d have to bury him in a base fiddle case) rides into Tascosa, already high enough to have a nose bleed, and ties his horse in front of one of the town’s numerous saloons.

    Tromping inside, the drover orders a beer and drinks about half of it before noticing that the floor is covered in sawdust. He observes to the bartender: “I’ve been in saloons all over this country and I ain’t never seen one with sawdust on the floor.”

    The bartender replies: “That ain’t sawdust, that’s last night’s furniture.”

    more
    ***
    Remembering old Tascosa by Delbert Trew
    From the files of The Tascosa Pioneer, published from June 1886 through 1888, all issues contained in the archives of The Panhandle-Plains Museum, we found the following tidbits of information telling of everyday life in the Panhandle at that time. (In Trew fashion of course.) more
    Oldham County Texas 1940s map

    1940s Oldham County map showing Tascosa (Above 'M' in 'OLDHAM')
    Courtesy Texas General Land Office

    Oldham County Texas 1907 Postal map

    1907 Oldham County Postal map showing Tascosa
    (Above 'M' in 'OLDHAM')

    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 and vintage/historic photos of their town, please contact us.
    Tascosa, Texas
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    This page last modified: September 14, 2010