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Perryton, TX

Perryton is a city in Ochiltree County.

Perryton is the county seat of Ochiltree County.

The population was 8,802 at the 2010 census.

Located in northeast section of the Texas Panhandle.


History of Perryton and Ochiltree County

Standing beneath a rugged out-cropping of caliche cliffs, a young and adventuresome cowboy named Tom Connell viewed a sprawling, grass-ladened West Texas valley. The sight simply took his breath away, and, in 1878 along with his partner, Dee Eubanks, established the first historically recorded ranch in Ochiltree County. Although in 1878 this part of Texas was still marked on maps as Kiowa and Comanche hunting grounds, in only a little more than a decade Ochiltree County was organized and local law and order was established.

Originally designated as a judicial subdivision of first Clay and then Wheeler Counties, Ochiltree County was officially organized in 1889. The pioneer village of Ochiltree was designated as county seat and remained so until 1919. The two-story original Ochiltree County Courthouse was completed in 1890.

Ochiltree County was named for Colonel William Beck Ochiltree, a Confederate officer, who had come to Texas in 1840 to practice law. Colonel Ochiltree served the Republic of Texas as a District Court Judge, a Supreme Court Justice, Secretary of the Treasury and served as the Attorney General.

Ochiltree served the State of Texas as a member of the State Constitutional Convention, a State District Judge, and a member of the House of Representatives, Texas.

In 1861, with the outbreak of Civil War, Ochiltree was elected to the State Constitutional/Secession Convention and was elected a member of the Provisional Congress, Confederate States of America. In ill health, Ochiltree resigned his subsequent battlefield duties in 1863 and died in 1867 at age 56.

Historically, Ochiltree County has a unique and dignified story. By 1887, the railroad had been extended into the northern Texas Panhandle. The village of Ochiltree was now only one to two days' travel from the railroad. The availability of rail services made settling in Ochiltree County more practical, and by the dawn of the 20th Century the county boasted seventy-one established ranches grazing 84,000 head of cattle. The 1910 census indicated that Ochiltree County had planted 9,000 acres of wheat, 2,075 acres of corn, and 7,400 acres of sorghum. By 1920 the county had a population of 2,331 and a diversified agricultural economy poised for further development.

In 1919 the North Texas and Santa Fe Railway announced line expansion from Shattuck, Oklahoma to Spearman, Texas. Convenient access to the railway made wheat farming a highly profitable business in the post WWI economy. The emerging wheat market attracted another influx of farmers between 1920 and 1930. The 1930 census indicates that 210,000 acres had been planted to wheat in Ochiltree County.

The coming of the railroad changed the face of Ochiltree County forever. In 1919, it became obvious that the line would not be laid through the village of Ochiltree, but rather approximately 8 miles to the north. The new townsite of Perryton was laid out on the rail line and named the new county seat. By 1920, the once thriving villages of Ochiltree, Texas and Gray, Oklahoma had all but disappeared. But, in a feat of ingenuity and community spirit, both villages had literally picked themselves up and moved homes, business, and churches to the railroad. The new railroad also changed the location of the tiny Ochiltree County village of Wawaka. Wawaka had been established in the west central part of the county in 1885 by German immigrants. But with the coming of the railroad, this tiny community moved three miles to the north and shortened its name to Waka.

Today, Ochiltree County boasts a significant tourism industry. U.S. Highway 83, also known as the Great Plains Highway, is the principal north/south highway connecting Canada and Mexico. Perryton is the largest Panhandle community on U.S. 83 with an estimated 8,700 vehicles passing through town each day. South of Perryton Lake Fryer and Wolf Creek Park are located just off HWY 83. This extraordinary 700 acre family recreational area includes RV hookups, wilderness camping, two complete bath houses, walking and jogging paths, two playgrounds, tennis and basketball courts, handicapped accessible floating fish dock, and restrooms. The park hosts a grand 4th of July fireworks display each summer. Owned and operated by Ochiltree County, Wolf Creek Park is also home to a permanent Girl Scout campsite.

The Buried City is a rare and significant pre-Columbian archeological site located eighteen miles southeast of Perryton on Wolf Creek. T.L. Eyerly, who taught science and history at the Canadian Academy, conducted the first scientific study of the ruins in 1907. The ancient village site extends for some 3,500 feet along Wolf Creek, and was once home to what has been described as a "fairly advanced aboriginal culture of unknown origins." Later scientific study indicates that the residents of the Buried City were possibly linked to "Caddoan linguistic stock and possibly related to the modern era Wichita or Pawnee." Early settlers to the area, as well as buffalo hunters, were aware of the site because many of the magnificent ruins were clearly visible above ground. The site appears to have been permanently abandoned around 1500. Only intermittent studies were conducted through the late sixties, but in the early 1980s, the village and the land surrounding it were purchased by the Courson family of Perryton and through their subsequent efforts the Texas Historical Commission was granted two protective easements. The site was also designated a state archeological landmark protected by the Texas Antiquities Code and added to the National Register of Historic Places. Annual excavations are conducted each summer through the University of Oklahoma.

Ochiltree County, Texas now occupies 907 square miles of flat prairie land bounded in its northeastern corner by rugged outcroppings of the Caprock Escarpment. Wolf Creek, South Wolf Creek, Palo Duro and Chiquita Creeks are intermittent streams which help support bounteous native grasses as well diverse agricultural enterprises. The typical growing season lasts approximately 191 days. Average temperatures range from a minimum of 18° F in January to 93° F in July. The county's average annual rainfall is approximately 20.48 inches. Oil and gas exploration began in earnest in the southern part of the county in 1951. By1956 more than 341,500 barrels of crude oil were produced in the county. Ochiltree County's continued growth and prosperity reflects its evolution from a strictly ranching economy to a vibrant mixed economy.

Get more: Perryton-Ochiltree Chamber of Commerce