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.
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.
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?