J. T. Berry from Abilene established a site at the center of the Panhandle in 1887 and named it after the large playa in the area known as Amarillo. This Spanish name is thought to have originated by New Mexico traders after the yellow wild flowers or yellow soil at the creek banks. Most of the town’s first homes were painted yellow after its name. Municipal administration was originally carried out by the Texas Rangers. By 1890, Amarillo was one of the world’s largest cattle shipping centers. Other industries include gas, oil, and helium. Whether its because of the famed Route 66, which runs through Amarillo, or the musical drama Texas in nearby Palo Duro Canyon, Amarillo continues to be a popular tourist attraction.
Austin, the self-proclaimed Live Music Capital of the World, boasts not only the best of Texas music but also good Tex-Mex cuisine and the flagship of the University of Texas System. The Central Texas city is home to the nation’s largest urban bat colony, located under Town Lake’s Congress Avenue Bridge.
What is referred to as Big Bend encompasses a lot of space on a Texas map. Two towns in this area, Presidio and Lajitas, have made names for themselves. Presidio, on the Rio Grande in southern Presidio County, has been inhabited as far back at 1500 BC, when farmers lived off the land. By the fifteenth century, Indians were utilizing the nature’s fruits, and in 1535 Spaniards moved to the area. It wasn’t until 1848, after the Mexican War, that white settlers arrived. The surrounding region is the oldest continuously cultivated spot in the United States. Lajitas, on the west edge of Big Bend National Park, is located on a bluff that hangs 2,200 feet over the Rio Grande River. “Lajitas” translates to “little flat rocks,” after the Boquillas flagstone in the vicinity. In the 1890’s quicksilver was found, which was the precursor to its mining enterprises. It became a popular place to film movies after the 1995 release of Streets of Laredo with James Garner.
Center, a farming community on FM 2902 in Lubbock County, was established based on the location of a nearby school. In 1935 Center and three neighboring counties founded one centrally located school and thus the New Deal Rural School District was formed.
The culture of Dallas proves the old adage that everything’s bigger in Texas: It’s the Southwest’s leading business and financial center and third in the nation in the number of million-dollar companies. It is also arguably the shopping capital of the Southwest. Of course, professional sports are big in Dallas—the northeast Texas city is home to the Dallas Cowboys (five-time Super Bowl champs), the Dallas Mavericks, and the Dallas Stars (winner of the 1999 Stanley Cup).
D’Hanis, in the Texas Hill Country near San Antonio, is within driving distance to the Frio River and two state parks. Locals and tourists enjoy hunting and fishing. In the 1880’s D’Hanis had two stores, a dancehall, and sulfur well baths.
On the far western tip of Texas in El Paso County, where New Mexico and the Mexican state of Chihuahua meet, the city of El Paso was incorporated in 1873. El Paso is home to the University of Texas at El Paso, along with its College of Nursing and Health Sciences, and the U.S. Army Air Defense Center. With a population of 606,526 people, El Paso is the fourth largest city in Texas and the largest city on the Mexican border.
Fort Worth, located just west of Dallas, boasts the renowned Kimbell Art Museum, one of the best small museums in the U.S. It is also home to the Fort Worth Zoo.
Garfield, named after President James A. Garfield, seems to shrink from one year to the next. The first school opened in this DeWitt County town in 1891, a year later the Garfield Gun Club and one dance hall followed suit. In 1983 the county highway map showed only one business there.
Hico, pronounced HIGH-co, is located southwest of Fort Worth between Stephenville and Waco along Texas Highway 6. Ranching and tourism are major contributors to the economy. Built in 1903, the home of internationally known photographer Frank Rufus Wiseman now houses a chocolate company as well as antiques.
Houston, the largest city in Texas and the fourth largest in the country, is also one of the nation’s largest seaports. The city, which connects the state’s heartland to its coastal ports, competes with Dallas as the state’s industrial and financial hub.
Kenney, located in northern Austin County, was settled in the late 1820’s and increased its population when German immigrants arrived between the 1830’s and 1900. It became an official town in 1880 as a station on the new line of the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Railroad.
Lamesa, the seat of Dawson County, sits on the south edge of the High Plains. Named from the Spanish words “la mesa,” meaning “the table,” the city’s flat terrain is ideal for extensive oil and agricultural production.
Lowake was established in 1909 and named after two farmers, Lowe and Schlake. It had one school house for grades 1—11, with 3 teachers and 44 students. In 1990, 40 people lived in Lowake.
Marathon was named by a sea captain who said the area reminded him of Marathon, Greece. The windmill in the middle of town was also used as a prison. Petty offenders were chained to one of its legs. Today the West Texas town is a gateway to Big Bend National Park.
Mason, possibly named for Mexican War victim U.S. Army lieutenant G. T. Mason, is the seat of Mason County. This “Gateway to the Texas Hill Country” boasts wildflowers in spring, a tejano festival in September, and the historic Fort Mason (a Texas frontier fort). Charming rock fences built by German settlers still remain in the town. The economy is based on ranching and tourism, and the town’s 2,148 residents enjoy the lucrative Mason County Museum.
Nederland was developed to make money for Arthur Stilwell’s railroad. The first settler was George Rienstra, and forty other newcomers arrived in this Jefferson County town in 1897. Although its rice industry failed and forced many of the Dutch immigrants to leave, the discovery of the Spindletop oilfield in 1901 redefined the town’s economy.
Construction started on this town in southeastern Atascosa County in the early thirties when H. R. Smith and John Mowinkle had several hundred laborers clear mesquite brush. This community was first called Hollywood, but by the late thirties, it was changed to Peggy (named for Mowinkle’s niece).
Port Arthur‘s claim that “We Oil the World” stems from the million barrels of crude oil refined in the area daily. The city, which sits on the lower west shore of Sabine Lake nine miles from the Gulf of Mexico, is also known for its annual Mardi Gras celebration and its fantastic fishing.
San Antonio, located two hours southeast of Austin, is best known as the home of the Alamo. Along with its many Spanish missions and rich Mexican heritage, the city also features the Riverwalk, an area of shops and restaurants bordering the San Antonio River.
During the border disturbances of 1915 and 1916, San Benito in Cameron County was a base for national troops and the Texas Rangers. There were multiple murders and lynchings during this tumultous time, and in 1916 a train headed to Brownsville was blown up just outside of San Benito. The economy, once based around shipping citrus fruits and vegetables, is now centered around electronics, plastic design and manufacturing, and soft drink distribution.
Serbin, near Giddings in south-central Texas, is the site of the Texas Wendish Heritage Museum, which preserves the story of the Wends, Slavic immigrants who came to Texas from Lusatia, Germany.
Shelby, settled in the early 1840’s by German immigrants, was named for its first settler, David Shelby. In 1852 the Austin Männerchor, a singing society, was founded in this northwestern Austin County town, and in 1867 a singing festival was held in honor of the Prussians who died in the Seven Weeks War.
In 1852 Captain William Wake, a soldier in the Texas Revolution, moved to a canyon with his son and six slaves. After facing brutal Indian warfare, other folks moved to the new settlement in Uvalde County on the Sabinal River, which was named Utopia.
Weatherford originated in the 1850’s. During its early years, it was the last settlement on the Western frontier on the route of wagon trains operating between Fort Worth and Fort Belknap. The southwest area of town boasts many Victorian-style residences built in the late 1800’s.
St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Windthorst, a small German-Catholic community about one hundred miles northwest of the Dallas—Fort Worth Metroplex, serves as the backbone for the community. Though only four hundred people live inside the city limits, the church has a one-thousand-member congregation. Windthorst is referred to as the dairy capital of North Texas.