in a Pecan Shell
Originally called Pyote Tank.
In 1881, before the Texas and Pacific Railway laid its tracks through
the area, the company opened a telegraph office at Pyote Tank. The
name for the town has been credited to the Chinese railroad workers'
pronunciation of coyote. Other sources indicate it was named for
the peyote cacti common to the region.
In 1885 J. A. Stewart established the 7S Ranch, covering forty sections,
three miles south of the community. In 1907 a post office was established
with Albert D. Pigman as postmaster. Also in 1907 Cicero S. Sitton
and his sons opened a store, a three-day barbecue was held, and
most of the town lots were sold. A school petition was circulated
at the barbecue, and later a one-room school building was constructed.
Eventually, a $100,000 school building was erected on land donated
by Otey Nockells Rogers.
In 1925 the population was a mere 100 persons but when oil was discovered
in 1928 it jumped almost overnight to 3,500. By 1931 it dropped
back to 1,097.
Thirty-one rooming houses and hotels were quickly built. City services
could not meet the needs of the increased population. However, the
boom ended in the 1930s when the railroad built a spur to Monahans,
eliminating Pyote from oilfield shipping. and 115 businesses. The
town incorporated before 1933 and maintained its population through
1939, by which time the number of businesses had declined to thirty-six.
By 1941 the population was reported as 201 and the number of businesses
In 1942 Pyote
Air Force Station was constructed at Pyote south of Highway
80 on land owned by the University of Texas; it was used for bomber
training. After World
War II more than 4,000 bombers and fighter planes were sent
to the Pyote base for melting into scrap metal. Among those stored
there were the Enola Gay, which dropped the first atomic bomb, and
Swoose. However, those two famous planes were rescued from destruction
by the Smithsonian Institution.
In the early 1960s Pyote had a population of 420. Throughout the
1970s it had fewer than 200 people and either one business or none.
In the 1980s it had a population near 400.
Pyote is the site of the West Texas State School and the Pyote
Museum and Rattlesnake Bomber Base, which displays World
War II memorabilia in an old building from the base.
Click on photo for large image - Courtesy Sandra Allen
in Pyote, circa 1928
Photo courtesy Bronson Dorsey
Per my mother who attended and graduated from Pyote School, the
younger grades were on the lower floor. Older students had classes
on the second floor.
For the person looking for information about hospitals, etc., there
were no hospitals in Pyote. I was born at the Monahans
hospital. Pecos also had a
hospital. They could check there. Monahans
is in Ward County. Pecos is
in Reeves County. Pyote is a bout equidistant between the two towns;
close to 20 miles from each. A copy of their Texas birth certificate
should show which city/county but it will be kind of expensive $28.00
for the first copy of the certificate. - Sandra Allen, April
The red brick building in Pyote that you refer to as the school
is in fact the ‘teacherage.’ The school provided housing for the
teachers. My mother and two uncles graduated from Pyote High School.
My grandparents lived there from the 1940s until 1972. I had an
aunt, a teacher, who lived in the building. These would now be called
efficiency apartments in other towns. - Sandra Allen, Austin,
December 12, 2012
BORN IN PYOTE TEXAS
My father, Avery William Vowell, Sr. was an instructor at the Pyote
Air Base (Rattlesnake Field) when I was added to the family
on May 20, 1947. I was born with a few problems, spina biffida being
the most life threatening. I am told I was delivered by an old doctor
(I do not know his name) who had never lost a baby and I wasn't
going to be the first. I was flown to (I presume, Dallas) where
I was operated on by a doctor who had just gotten back from New
York where he attended a nation wide roundtable seminar of this
malady, discussing treatment and causes. I was the first baby in
Texas to undergo this surgery, and
the odds were not good for survival, much less life threatening
side effects (water on the brain, paralysis, stunted growth. Well,
I survived with no major problems and the "ugly scar" on my back
kept me out of Viet Nam. However the climate was too harsh and three
months later, we moved to Tarpon Springs, Florida. We knew people
in Monahans also, and
it would be great if someone was still alive who might have known
him or Cat Vowell. On a side note, to prove how small this world
is, I was running a bowling center in Gadsden Alabama around 1972
or so, when I was Introduced to Ted and Edna (Squaw) Drennan. I
placed them on a team with my parents and it turned out that they
lived in Monahans at
the same time we were in Pyote, but didn't know each other. They
found out that they had many mutual friends and became the best
The reason for this letter is that I am planning a trip to Pyote
and try to find the hospital, street address and the area where
I was born. I understand the original court house burned down. If
you can put me in touch with the proper people, places and archives
that would shed some light on my odyssey I would appreciate it.
- Glenn Vowell, Cairo, Ga., February 27, 2012, email@example.com
Pyote, Texas & Pyote Air Base
I enjoy reading your reports on Texas towns, and the one on Pyote,
in Ward County caught my attention today.
My father was a civilian mechanic at the Pyote
Air Base (Rattlesnake Field) in the years following WWII,
until around 1953. We lived in nearby Wicket, but during my first
grade year ('51-52), my mother opened a restaurant in "downtown"
Pyote and the family moved there. She served typical diner fare
of the time, as I recall, including true chicken fried steak dredged
in flour and fried on the griddle, not the egg battered and deep
fat fried pseudo version purveyed today. There were several functioning
businesses, including a "dry goods" store and a couple of gas stations
at that time. The main street (U.S. 80) was curbed and guttered.
I attended school in the three story school building that has now
become a kind of rural slum apartment building, complete with goats
living in the building, last time I was there. But a public park
and swimming pool has also appeared. When I was a kid we had no
I thought I had left Pyote completely behind after moving to Big
Spring and eventually to Dallas.
However, my wife and I were on a birding excursion to an offshore
island on the Maine/Canada border in the late 1990s. A gaunt, garrulous
old fellow with a military bearing also on the boat was explaining
his life history to his trip mates, and I heard the word "Pyote."
It turned out that he had been the commanding officer of Pyote
Air Base during WWII.
As he explained it, he was sent there because the army wanted to
punish him for some imagined transgressions, so he was sent to the
most remote location available. He claimed that he mostly spent
his time flying around the desert. His transgressions must not have
been so terrible, because he was later sent to a combat role, and
retired as a 2 star general. Another entertainment that he mentioned
taking place on the base was rattlesnake collecting and burning.
I remember the Enola Gay being at Pyote and sitting in the
cockpit in my turn along with a couple of hundred kids on one occasion
when employees and their families attended a Christmas party at
the base. - David McNeely, Edmond, Oklahoma, October 18, 2011
General MacArthur's plane.
Dear TE, I really enjoy your write-ups [for towns in] Texas Escapes.
I was reading the article about Pyote and would like to offer some
corrections. Yes, the Enola Gay was there and in 1953 during
Armed Forces Day it was on display and the public (including me)
was allowed to crawl all over it - even sit in the pilot's seat.
I'm sure I appreciate it now much more than I did then when I was
12. However, the comment about the Swoose being General
MacArthur's plane is inaccurate. His plane was "Baatan."
Please go to these websites for information: http://www.463rd.com/swoose.htm
Thanks, George Hollis, San
Antonio, July 30, 2006
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