Rough and Wooly Hidetown

The West is full of old towns left over from the glory days and each one is filled with interesting stories. An hour and half from where I live is a place once called Hidetown. It was originally a camp on Sweetwater Creek set up by buffalo hunters in 1874. By all accounts, it was a rough and wooly place.

The following year, the U.S. government established Fort Cantonment (later called Fort Elliott) two miles away to keep law and order and make sure the Indians stayed on reservations in Indian Territory. I think they had their job cut out for them. Those buffalo hunters were used to doing things their own way.

Three businessmen came down from Dodge City around that time to open a trading post and the population in Hidetown grew to 150. They soon boasted a laundry, a restaurant, a dance hall, and several saloons. The buildings were crude at best. Some no more than tents.  Hardened outlaws, bullwhackers, buffalo hunters, and gamblers made up the majority.

Of the population, only fifteen were women. Of those only one was a virtuous woman. That was a recipe for disaster right there.

Bat Masterson arrived in 1875 and worked as a faro dealer in one of the saloons. He became embroiled in a fight over dance hall beauty Mollie Brennan with a sergeant from the fort. Guns erupted and the sergeant was killed—only the bullet passed through him and struck Mollie killing her also. The sergeant’s bullet struck Bat in the pelvis and he walked with a limp for the rest of his life. He returned to Dodge City and took a lawman job.

In 1878, Hidetown became the organized, lawless town of Mobeetie and Pat Garrett visited.

This picture on the right was taken in 1900 and it’s interesting to see the windmill and businesses.

Charles Goodnight said, “Mobeetie was patronized by outlaws, thieves, cut-throats, and buffalo hunters, with a large percent of prostitutes. Taking it all, I think it was the hardest place I ever saw on the frontier except Cheyenne, Wyoming.”

Mobeetie was a Comanche word that meant “buffalo dung.” But the town thrived and throughout the 1880s it was a commercial center for much of the Texas Panhandle.

In 1880 the first courthouse of the panhandle was built by Irish stonemasons and Texas Ranger George Arrington became sheriff. Lawyers arrived as well. One was Sam Houston’s son, Temple. He served a term as district attorney before being elected to the Senate. He proved a very able attorney and one of his courtroom arguments is still being taught in law schools today.

When the army closed Fort Elliott, the town boasted a population of 400. That was the most it would ever be. In 1898, it was struck by a tornado that destroyed most of the buildings and took seven lives. People began to move away and left its notoriety and brief glory to crumble in the dust. Today it’s a ghost town.

I always enjoy a trip up there and each time try to imagine the way it once was, to picture Bat Masterson, Pat Garrett, and George Arrington strolling down the dirt street. When I go, I love to visit Mollie Brennan’s grave and try to imagine what her hopes and dreams were.

I mention Mobeetie in Book #3 Men of Legend—To Marry a Texas Outlaw. So I’ll be saying more about this later on when that book releases.

There’s something really sad about ghost towns though, reclaimed by the earth as though they were never there. Have you ever visited one? Or is there one you’d like to visit that you haven’t?

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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!

25 thoughts on “Rough and Wooly Hidetown”

  1. Linda- love love this great article. I’ve passed by the sign many times driving home that shows where to turn off highway 83 and go west to Mobeetie, but have never ventured off 83 to drive up there. Now I’m going to make the time. Wow the infamous gentlemen who visited this town, that’s priceless.
    Here in Kansas there are many ghost towns, one I’ve only heard old timer Cowboys talk about but I’ve not been able to find any research for is due west if where I live about 45 mikes close to the Colorado line called Stonington, they say it was at one time a place Outlaw went and hung out during after raids as it was close to the Cimarron river abdca long way from anything else. Believe me it really is way out in the boondocks. Thanks for this awesome trip in history to Mobeetie. Have an exceptional day, love you sister friend.

    • Good morning, Tonya……I’m glad you might make a trip to Mobeetie. There isn’t a lot left. The old jail is still there and a museum. The cemetery is still being used so it’s a mixture of old and new graves. Mollie Brennan has a nice stone. Lots of history. Wow, I’m going to have to try to find something about Stonington! And it’s so close to you. I smell a road trip in your future.

      Have a good day that’s filled with love, sister friend.

  2. I vaguely remember going to ghost towns in different states as a child. Boy would I love for it to have been when I was old enough to remember or to do it now! One of the ghost towns I would want to go to now is Fort Holland, Texas. Fort Holland was built at Viejo Pass to defend against bandits led by Francisco Villa in 1918. Construction occurred on the site of the last battle between United States cavalry and the Apache Indians on June 12, 1880, a skirmish won by U.S. troops. Made of stone and wood, Fort Holland’s construction was at a total cost of over $16,000’s. (That actually sounds expensive to me for the time period) The installment was closed after World War I’s end in 1921 as border patrols were no longer necessary in the area. I do find it odd that in the description it said border patrols were no longer needed. Oh really!?!? Loved this blog Linda! I’ve been through Mobeetie on different occasions when I lived in the Panhandlr as a child. My father was a cattle broker and he was a partner with feedlots in Hereford and Perryton. We lived in Hereford and Amarillo for a few years and we’d travel with my Dad some to go look at pasture cattle all over. I’m always learning history for you.

    • Stephanie I loved your history you gave us. Funny you used to live not very far from me, I’m only 75 mikes NE of Perryton.

    • Good morning, Stephanie……And you’re teaching me more history. I’ve never heard of Fort Holland but I do know about that last battle between the army and the Apache. Yes, that construction sounds really expensive for the time. Very interesting that you once lived here and in Hereford! Amazing. Wish you still did and we’d hang out. We have a great MS doctor here. I just love him. And I certainly relate to going to historic places as a child and having no appreciation for it. I’d love to be able to go back now and soak it all in.

      Have a wonderful day. Hugs!

    • Good morning, Faith…..Sounds like you have a great trip lined up. September will be here before you know it. It’ll be a little cooler then too.

      Blessings and smiles!

    • Good morning, Debra……Thanks for coming. Arizona has a million old historical towns. Although it’s still being lived in, I would love to visit the old sections of Tombstone and Yuma. Lots of history there. I hope you get to go see the one you mentioned.

      Love and hugs!

    • Good morning, Quilt Lady…..I’m so glad you came. Well, you know, ghost towns aren’t for everyone. I think your life will continue on perfectly without it.

      Love and hugs, dear lady!

  3. What a terrific article! Thank you, Linda. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    We do have ghost towns in the Northeast but they’re different in that they are mostly holes in the ground from cellars. Sad to say, I haven’t visited a western ghost town si:nce my visits west were focused on visiting family and genealogy research, but I hope I can correct that some day. Your article makes me want to get in my car RIGHT NOW and go! 🙂

    Oh, and I forgot about the Mobeetie tease for Luke’s book. I can’t wait, I can’t wait! November seems SO far away!

    • Good afternoon, Eliza……I’m glad my post interested you. Mobeetie is such a historical place and so much happened there. It definitely wasn’t for the faint of heart and no place for a lady. So get on in your car and head this way. I’ll meet you there. 🙂 Yes, this town plays a small part in Luke’s book – To Marry a Texas Outlaw.

      Love you, lady!

  4. I’ve never been to a ghost town, but I’d love to visit one! It’s on my bucket list.

    Even just driving through the tiny towns now days that you know were booming in their own way back in the early/mid 1900s and now maybe are lucky to have a gas station and a mom/pop shop cafe/bar left, pull my heart into the history and wonder of what it was like and what it could have become. Even seeing historical buildings in booming metropolitan areas give me a sense of nostalgia and longing for that time.

    I always said that if God allowed me to be born in a different century/time period, I’d always pick the time of when we started traveling west – Oregon Trail, gold towns. It’s history to us now, but then, oh what the adventure!

    • Hey, Michelle R…….I agree. It’s very sad to see all these towns drying up and dying. Just breaks my heart. Nothing is sadder than seeing all those boarded up, decaying buildings. That was what got Delta Dandridge stirred up in Texas Mail Order Bride. She had to save them or die trying. Yes, the pioneers who took to the trails going west lived some great adventures. They saw so many things that others only dared to dream of. It was an exciting time.

      Love you, lady!

  5. I have been to one or two when I lived in Colorado. I loved going to places like that. I would let my imagination take over as I walked around. But I could never allow myself to get close to a building, just a feeling I had kept me away. I was also pregnant. I also visited Cripple Creek a few times. That was way before it became what it is today. Now, the other end of the spectrum, when I lived in Germany, I would go through abandoned castles every chance I got like I owned them. I would sit inside & listen to the sounds around me. I think I was looking for ghosts. Haha. I just love old things no matter the era, I have alot of respect for the past.

    • Hi Sandie…….Colorado has some great old towns that is just bursting with history. I have to laugh that you could go through abandoned castles and sit inside for hours, but not in a Colorado ghost town. But to each his own and you have to pay attention to the feelings you get that warn of danger. I love Cripple Creek and it’s one of my favorite places to visit. There and Leadville. Tons of history happened there. And it’s so beautiful in those mountains. I’d give anything to poke around a deserted castle! Thanks for coming to share.

  6. My dad liked to take us to ghost towns, and tell us what he knew. Most of them in Montana. One little ghost town called Zurich, is making a comeback, I think population is up to four. There a park and a hall you can rent out, we had a family reunion there in 1987.
    When my dad was young, not sure how old he was, his family had to move from the homestead, because the government wanted the land for some reason, anyway they moved to Zurich, lived in a closed store front, that is still standing. My grandfather moved his barn there. I know they spent at least one winter there, then they bought land to farm, where they lived until my grandfather died. My dad was 18 when his father died. My grandmother then moved into town, so she could go to work at JC Penny’s.
    Some of the other ghost towns we would visit, had a history of the indians coming and trying to burn them out. My dad wold stand on the dirt street, and ask us kids, do you her them coming? Do you hear the hoofs beating on the ground? That always got me, I always headed to the car for safty. Last time I was there I was 11.

    • Hi Veda…..That’s amazing! I’m sure your dad loved sharing what he knew with you kids. He sounds like a great father. I’m sure you miss him very much. You can’t buy love like that.

      Love you, lady!

    • Good morning, Denise……..I’m glad you came and that you liked my post. You know, ghosts towns all have different personalities. Some project a feeling of happiness. Other’s deep sadness oozes from wounds. Kinda crazy but that’s what I’ve observed. I believe the spirits of those who once lived there still linger. Sadness enveloped me in Hidetown/Mobeetie. But then I guess those people really didn’t have anything to be happy about. They were a sad lot.

      I remember that episode of the Brady Bunch. Too funny. That was a great show.

  7. I visited one many years ago when we lived out West. I’m afraid I can’t remember what it was.
    Bodie, California is one we have considered. We almost made it to Bannack State Park, Montana when we visited Yellowstone a few years ago, but just didn’t have the time to do it. I just found out about Kennecott, Alaska which is part of the Wrangell–St. Elias National Park. I have added it to the list of places to visit when we go to Alaska (next year I hope).

    We have see and explored abandoned homesteads and farms all over the country. Some have such a presence to them. It is as if the people that lived there left a part of themselves. I choose to think they loved it and never wanted to leave.

    • Good morning, Patricia………It’s great to see you, lady! Bodie, California will not disappoint. It’s an interesting ghost town and you’ll love it. I hope you get to make it to Alaska. That’s a long way to travel but they have some great places to visit. I agree about the presence. No two are exactly the same. At least that’s what I’ve found. Some of them project a happy feeling. Other’s very sad. I do think the people who once lived there left a part of themselves. Hidetown/Mobeetie left me with such sadness. But I think none of those people had anything much to celebrate. It was too rough and the street ran with blood.

      Much love and hugs!

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