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BUFFALO GAP, TEXAS>

First Taylor County Seat

Taylor County, Panhandle / North Central Texas
FM 89 and FM 1235
13 Miles SW of Abilene
Population: 457 (2010) 463 (2000)

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Ernie Wilson Museum of the Old West,  Buffalo Gap Texas
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, May 2005
Ernie Wilson Museum of the Old West
(Former Taylor County courthouse and jail.)

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
History in a Pecan Shell

Buffalo Gap dates from 1857. FM 89, aka Buffalo Gap Highway follows the route of the 1874 old Center Line Trail, which ran from Texarkana to El Paso. Buffalo Gap also had a road running toward Fort Phantom Hill. Buffalo traveled through the region going to gaze on the high plains and watered here for the trip, making it a perfect location for the men who hunted them in the 1860s and 70s.

Being the only community in the county when it was formed made it a shoe-in for county seat. The town was sizable for the period; boasting a population of 1,200 by 1880. The Santa Fe railroad arrived in 1895. Buffalo Gap Presbyterian College was organized in 1883 and opened its doors two years later.

The Buffalo Gap Live Oak began publication in the mid 1880s followed ten years later by a second paper, called The Messenger. The Texas and Pacific Railroad made Abilene their company headquarters and this created a rivalry to be the county seat. Perhaps because of the strength of the T & P, Abilene won the 1883 election. Within a year Buffalo Gap's population decreased by half. By 1890 the once-prosperous town was down to just 300 but it rebounded somewhat - to 400 by 1894. The population remained at or below this figure through the 1980s.

The town is well-known as a Texas cultural center mainly because of the establishment of the Ernie Wilson Museum of the Old West which opened in the late 1950s and the restoration of the former courthouse and jail. The design of the 1879 jail is unique in its construction, in that cannonballs were mortared into the walls to prevent escape. It is now listed on the National Register. The museum is now part of what is known as the Buffalo Gap Historical Village.
Historical Marker on West & Vine Streets, Buffalo Gap

Town of Buffalo Gap

Probably named for the pass in Callahan Divide (mountains) crossed by thousands of buffalo that once inhabited this area. Besides providing the native Apache and Comanche Indians with food, buffaloes drew the first white hunters here, about 1874. First homes in present town were dugouts of buffalo hunters. The community began to grow in 1878 when it was named county seat and was located on the western cattle trail. In 1883, however, the new railroad town of Abilene became county seat and Buffalo Gap, like so many small Texas towns, lost prestige.
Ernie Wilson Museum historical marker,  Buffalo Gap Texas
The Ernie Wilson Museum historical marker.
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, May 2005
Historical Marker Text
THE ERNIE WILSON MUSEUM
Located in Taylor County's historic first courthouse and jail. Although Taylor County was organized in July 1868, the building was not completed until May 20, 1880, because of Indian scares and lack of funds. Scene of frequent jail breaks, lynching.

Note cannon balls (marked by arrows) keying limestone blocks.
First Taylor county courthouse courtroom, Buffalo Gap, Texas
The courtroom of the original Taylor County Courthouse
Photo courtesy Lexie Nichols & Jordan Gibson, August 2007
Cat Nap in first Taylor county courthouse, Buffalo Gap, Texas
A "cat nap" taken in the original Taylor County Courthouse
Photo courtesy Lexie Nichols & Jordan Gibson, August 2007
Jail cell in first Taylor county courthouse, Buffalo Gap, Texas
The interior of a jail cell in the courthouse
Photo courtesy Lexie Nichols & Jordan Gibson, August 2007
Texaco Station in Buffalo Gap Historic Village, Texas
Texaco Station in Buffalo Gap Historic Village
Photo courtesy Mary Johnson, May 2007
 Buffalo Gap , Texas Texaco gas station
Photo courtesy TXDoT
Buffalo and sign in Buffalo Gap
In front of Buffalo Gap Store, the sign says it all.
Photo courtesy Mary Johnson, May 2007
Buffalo Gap, Texas
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