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In the Heart of the Blackland Divide

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Looking Back at Wastella

The Wastella grain elevator and scale house. (Wastella photos by Tommy Meredith)
In 1907, land developers proposed a new town eight miles northwest of Roscoe that would have a station on the Roscoe, Snyder & Pacific Railway, which was then being built from Roscoe to Snyder. Will Neely, who owned a ranch there, said he would provide the land for the new town so long as it was named after his daughter, Wastella, and the developers agreed. Dr. J. W. Young, Sr., discusses the town in It All Comes Back, his book of memoirs of early day Roscoe, published in 1962. The following can be found on pages 51-52 of that book. I present it here just as he wrote it.

Even in the earlier days Texas had its land scandals. I remember—not with pleasure—the case of Wastella town-site. The developers of this area used all the sale “gimmicks” of the day. They had a big auction, complete with plenty of barbecue and red lemonade. This was located on the town-site eight miles northwest of Roscoe. I went over to see about it. When I arrived, I found a large section of land laid off for business lots and an even larger space for residential property. The promoters had built five small residences. (Years later I bought one five-room house for one hundred and fifty dollars and moved it on a farm I had bought in the neighborhood.) After the auction was over, a bank building was built, five grocery stores, a lumber yard, and a blacksmith shop.

I was asked to move there and was offered a year’s board free and horse feed for a year. They told me there would be several thousand people located in Wastella within a few months. I did not move as I was doing fairly well and the old timers told me there was no water near the business section. However, those who did not know the water situation paid as much as eighteen hundred dollars for business lots. Many investors paid a small amount down and never did pay the rest. Wastella was never enough of a city to become even a ghost town in later years. It just never did develop.

Two friends of mine, Mr. McMinn and Mr. McCauley, went to Wastella before the auction to look over the “town.” They saw one small boy in the front yard of the only home, chewing tobacco. They asked the boy where Wastella was. He spit out a string of tobacco juice and then said, “She’s in the back yard doing the washing.” The town was named after “Miss Wastella,” and I do not remember her last name. The other houses were built after this visit was made.

Early RS&P plat for the City of Wastella. (Click image to enlarge)
Editor’s Note: Now only a ghost town, Wastella never really had a chance despite the early efforts to establish a community there. It did get a post office and in its early years also had a couple of stores, a hotel, and a school. It also had a depot and was a scheduled passenger and freight stop on the Roscoe, Snyder & Pacific Railway.

However, as Dr. Young mentions in his account, it ultimately failed because of its lack of potable water. Water wells drilled there produced only undrinkable gyp water, so people had to haul in water or collect it in cisterns. By the 1950s, only a grain elevator and a country store remained. The store, for many years run by Adolph Villegas, remained open until around 1990, when it too finally closed. According to the
Texas State Handbook online, the population in 1980 and 1990 was 13 and in 2000 only 4.

Richardson School, ca. 1906. It was about two miles south of Wastella but moved there in 1908 after the station was built. The teacher, Mr. Stevens, is at far left.



Bonnie Wilkinson does the triple jump.
Roscoe Collegiate High track teams open their seasons this week. The JV Plowboys kick off their season tomorrow at the Anson Tiger Relays while the varsity Plowboys and Plowgirls open theirs on Friday at the ACU High School Invitational in Abilene.

The Anson meet starts at 3:30pm tomorrow and the ACU meet at 12:00 on Friday.



The new well on Young Farm Estates. (Photo by Carl Childers)
An oil well is being drilled next to US 84 on Young Farm Estates land. The derrick went up yesterday.



Magic Mike Live.
The Lumberyard begins its 2019 season with the celebrated dance troupe Magic Mike Live in a “Ladies’ Night Out” performance Saturday night. This traveling group of male dancers puts on a show based loosely on the movie Magic Mike, starring Channing Tatum. The show is advertised as featuring “thirteen of the hottest and most talented men in the country performing in front of, behind, above, and all around the audience” and a show “where women can feel what it’s like to exist in a world where their desires are heard and they are treated like goddesses.”

This male revue performance involves stripping, but not in the way one might expect. There is no nudity or jackhammer gyrations. Instead, the show features dancing, singing, piano playing, drumming and aerial acrobatics. There are also lap dances and plenty of audience participation, including foot massages, slow dances, and abs offered for stroking.

For reservations or more information, contact the Lumberyard during work hours at 325-766-2457.



Monday morning's sunrise.
The weather was once again mixed this week. Temperatures were temperate with highs in the 50s and 60s and lows ranging from 30° to 40°F, but the most notable changes were in the wind. Saturday was nasty with dusty red skies, high winds of up to 35mph and gusts up to 48. Monday’s skies didn’t look quite so bad, but winds reached the 25mph range with gusts up to 33mph, and yesterday’s winds varied from high to light under sunny skies. The predictions for rain didn’t ever materialize into anything measurable.

Today’s weather should be a continuation of what we’ve been getting but with lighter winds. The high should be about 60° today, 62° tomorrow, and all the way up to 78° Friday. A cold front arrives on Saturday, though, with the low dropping to 28° and on Sunday all the way down to 16°, which will be the coldest we've had this winter, cold enough to freeze the buds off any early bloomers. Sunday’s high will be only 42° and Monday’s only 38°, so we’ve still got some more cold weather to endure before we’re done, as March apparently wants to come in like a lion.

There is no rain in the forecast.


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Roscoe in Years Gone By: The 1890s

The F. M. Whorton homestead in 1896 showing the new addition. This was the first house in what is now Roscoe. Mrs. Whorton surveys the scene.
Editor’s note: Since this week has been a bit short on local news, I thought I’d fill the gap by presenting a little more of Roscoe’s early history. A little over a year ago, November 29, 2017, to be exact, I wrote about the prehistory of Roscoe and what this area was like from the days before the Anglo-Americans came all the way up to the 1870s. I followed that on January 3 of last year with a description of the coming of the railroad and the establishment of Katula, then Vista, and finally Roscoe. The following picks up where that one leaves off and looks at the budding young town of Roscoe through the 1890s up to the turn of the twentieth century.

Less is known about Roscoe in the 1890s than any other decade of its history. Still not an incorporated town, it had no defined boundaries, no city government, and no official records—and only a handful of photographs remain. Almost all available information comes from occasional articles and real estate ads in newspapers of the day and the often-fallible memories of the original inhabitants, sometimes recorded as much as a half-century later.

Thus, reliable determinations are impossible for the town’s population growth before it incorporated in 1907. The United States census taken in 1890 was destroyed almost completely by fire at the Commerce Department in 1921, including the record for Nolan County. So, the earliest official population record is the U. S. census of 1900. At that time, Roscoe wasn’t listed as a community because it wasn’t yet incorporated, but it and its immediate surroundings comprised Nolan County Precinct 5, which counted 55 heads of household and a total population of 296. That is not nearly as much as one would expect from the available estimates in ads and other promotional materials of the 1890s.

An 1892 real estate ad in the Abilene Reporter paints a rosy picture about how booming the new community is, claiming that over 200 families have bought land and are moving to the Roscoe area. But it is important to remember that the ad was placed there by landsmen who were eager to sell the land they had just invested in, so their claims should be taken with a huge grain of salt.

Similarly, a Texas & Pacific Railway brochure of 1894 lists Roscoe’s population at 300, but the railroad was also interested in selling its land, so this estimate may also be inflated.*

* Originally owned by the state, the unsettled lands along the railroad right-of-way had been granted by the legislature to Texas schools and the Texas & Pacific railroad in alternating sections. The T&P was granted the lands in return for building the railroad, and the schools received funding from the land sales to provide for the education of Texas children.

The Roscoe area from an 1897 T&P map of Texas. (Click to enlarge.)
 Judging from the 1900 census figures, it seems likely that just as the population waxed and waned in Sweetwater in the 1880s, it also did for both Sweetwater and Roscoe in the 1890s, depending primarily on the weather. Good farming and ranching years produced optimism and an increase in land sales and new settlers, while drouth years did the opposite. Thus, records for the area indicate that 1891 and 1892 were good years regarding rainfall, while 1893 and 1894 were very dry (Buffalo Guns, 126). Sidney Bryan (18 Ranch, 22) says that settlers, who had begun trekking into the country with very small herds, gave up during these drouth years and returned to their former homes in the east. Between then and 1900, it seems unlikely that Roscoe ever had more than 400 people or so.

Nevertheless, there were several indications of the town’s development during these years, and the groundwork was being laid for future growth. An ad of 1895 says that “Roscoe, only three years old, has a good public school, two church organizations, hotel, livery stable, blacksmith shop, etc.” It also lists the town’s merchants: J. C. Seale, general merchandise; W. J. Turner, groceries and hardware; W. H. Brasher, groceries; and J. B. Carlisle, hotel; and notes that it also has a cotton gin. The ad also mentions that Roscoe is a trading center for a territory extending fifty miles to the northwest and that area land is selling from $3 to $7 an acre. It also notes that “splendid water is secured by boring wells and pumping with windmills.”

Up until 1894, the town’s business section was located about a half-mile west of where it is now. But that year big rains fell, and high water caused its relocation to the current downtown area around Cypress and Main. According to a 1938 Roscoe Times article on the town’s early history, J. C. Seale recalled that the sacks of salt in his store at the old location were just empty sacks when the water went down.  

J. M. Chappell owned the block downtown where the Blackland Smokehouse, Lumberyard, and Wildflower Boutique are today. He gave the southwest corner (now Memorial Park) to W. F. Jones and the southeast corner (now the Worship Center) to Ross Haley, provided they built fireproof buildings and give him interest on the inside walls. These were the town’s first brick buildings. Mr. Jones opened a grocery store and Mr. Haley a hardware store. Mr. Chappell then built and opened a drug store. Two new lumber yards soon followed.  (Gracey).

W. F. Jones Grocery and Thomas Trammell's Exchange Bank, ca. 1899.
There were naturally a lot of firsts for the new town in the 1890s, and previous histories of the community have always included several of them when recalling the decade. The first doctor was W. T. Wallace, one of Vista’s first residents. The first baby born in Roscoe was X. B. Sanders in 1891. He lived his whole life in Roscoe and was for many years the town marshal. The first school was established also in 1891. Located in a two-room frame building where the Church of Christ now stands (i.e., on Third and Bois d’Arc), it had 24 children enrolled, $115 in school funds, and its trustees were E. B. McBurnett, J. C. Spires, and William Lagow. (100 Years, p. 48). Its first teacher was C. S. Knott, known in Roscoe as Professor Knott. The building also served as a church for all denominations. Separate church buildings for the Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Church of Christ would not be built until several years later.

The first wedding was Dab Whitesides and Miss Pomers in 1893. The first newspaper, The Roscoe Enterprise, was established by Harris and Pipkin in 1893, but it didn’t last long. The first gin was owned by C. L. Rea and a Mr. Sandlin. The first bank, the Exchange Bank, was established in 1897 by Thomas Trammell (who also established the first bank in Sweetwater in 1883). It was on the north side of First Street, now Broadway, near where the Wildflower Boutique is today.

Much of the area’s earlier public land was sold and settled by the 1890s. North of Roscoe in Fisher County was the 18 Ranch, formed in 1881. To its west was the Linn Ranch, established by Colonel Linn, and northwest of Roscoe was the Thin Branch ranch of Joe Nunn, established in 1876. South of Roscoe were sections of land owned by the Whortons, Lagows, Goodes, Longs, McBurnetts, and Emersons.

Cotton was grown, but a lot of available farmland was still prairie and not yet in cultivation. An item in the Galveston Daily News in 1895 says of Roscoe: “This section of the county is mostly a stock county, not much farming being done here. The acreage in cotton is about 50 per cent less than last year.” Most of that stock was cattle but there were still places where sheep were raised.

A listing of cotton production for the 1898 crop shows Roscoe trailing all the towns to its east: Weatherford 21,005 bales, Millsap 1516, Brazos 600, Santa 1588, Gordon 4662, Thurber 339, Strawn 1178, Ranger 5129, Eastland 1314, Cisco 5582, Putnam 1219, Baird 7121, Abilene 20,935, Merkel 4760, Eskota 548, Sweetwater 1155, Colorado 3222 and Roscoe 138 bales. (Dallas Morning News, Feb. 14, 1899).

In the grassland around Roscoe, prairie dog towns were scattered here and there, and in the ranch country south of town, herds of pronghorn antelopes still roamed, along with other wildlife. The buffalo were gone, but their bones were scattered around the countryside, and in lean times people gathered and sold them to be shipped to east Texas and made into fertilizer.

Families lived in wood frame houses with wood stoves, no indoor plumbing, no lawns in the yards, and no trees, or maybe one or two just recently planted. Water came from the windmill tank, and most families owned a cow, some chickens, and horses or mules, along with dogs and cats. Families were larger then, and children had more work to do. There was no electricity, and lighting in the house was furnished by “coal oil” (i.e., kerosene) lanterns.

Surprisingly, however, some homes and businesses had telephones. It is not known when telephones first arrived in Roscoe, but it was before 1900 because a news item with the title, “Telephone Notice,” in the Abilene Reporter of July 7, 1899 says, “On account of an advance in the price from Merkel west, the rate for telephone messages has been changed to 51 cents from Abilene to Roby or Roscoe.”

Roscoe’s new T&P depot in the final stages of construction in 1898.
After the old depot burned, the railroad built a new one, as stated in this item from the August 28, 1898, Dallas Morning News:  


Roscoe, Nolan Co., Tex., Aug. 27—The Texas and Pacific Railroad company is building a new depot at Roscoe, which was badly needed. We have been without one for some time. The first was burned some time since. The one going up now when completed will be an ornament to the town.

Note the telephone poles in the distance, indicating that the town had telephones at least as early as 1898.


Biggers, Don Hampton. History That Will Never Be Repeated, 1901, and Pictures of the Past, 1902. Rpt. as Buffalo Guns & Barbed Wire. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 1991.

Gracey, Sid. “History of Roscoe: Our Roscoe Roots.”  Roscoe Times, July 13, 2001. (This was originally a 1926 essay written as a school assignment for which she received an A+.)

Nolan County Historical Commission. First 100 Years: Nolan County, Texas. Dallas: Taylor Publishing, 1985.

Parks, George. “City of Roscoe Has Glorious Past, Active Present, Great Future,” Roscoe Times, December 9, 1938.

Redway, Maureen Whorton. Out of the Whirlwind: A West Texas Saga. San Antonio: Naylor, 1975.

Whorton, R. H., Jr. Interview with Maureen Whorton Redway. Roscoe, Texas. April 20, 1973.

Yeats, E. L., and Shelton, Hooper. History of Nolan County, Texas. Sweetwater, TX: Shelton Press, 1975.

Yeats, E. L., and Shelton, Hooper. The 18 Ranch: Colorado Cattle Co., 1871-1973. Feather Press, 1973.



2018-2019 Roscoe Plowgirls.

The 8-2A All-District selections have been made, and the results are in.

Sadie McCambridge is Co-MVP Defensive Player of the Year. Bonnie Wilkinson and Shauna McCambridge are First-Team All-District.
Veronica Cuellar and Victoria Martinez are Second-Team All-District.
Riley Sheridan, Jaci Alexander, and Jovana Pena made Honorable Mention.

Congratulations to the Plowgirls and Coach Shella Arnwine on a fine season!



The Central Rolling Plains Co-op Cotton Gin completed ginning of the 2018 season on February 12 with a total final output of 23,372 bales. Here’s how that total stacks up against previous years for the gin:

                                             2007           109,991
                                             2008             57,184
                                             2009             39,626
                                             2010             70,379
                                             2011               9,966
                                             2012             66,985
                                             2013             71,849
                                             2014             32,274
                                             2015             75,636
                                             2016             87,827
                                             2017            111,598
                                             2018             23,372

This year’s total was considerably below the 12-year average of 63,024 bales. Only 2011 was lower.



Caleb Boren at the Agriscience Fair in San Antonio.
Caleb Boren and Hannah Ward competed in the Agriscience Fair Saturday at the San Antonio Livestock Show & Rodeo in the Animal Systems Division. They competed against approximately 70 other FFA and 4-H members from across the state. Caleb won 4th place in his division.

Two Roscoe FFA Junior Livestock Judging Teams competed in the San Angelo Livestock Show & Rodeo on Saturday. The team of Jacob Kiser, Darbee Drake, Xander Moffett, and Gaven Martinez finished in 7th place. Jacob Stegge, Richie Solis, Kirsten Welch, and Alicia Pantoja finished 8th. Kiser finished 11th as an individual, and Drake finished 13th.



East winds at the Early Childhood Center Sunday afternoon.
This past week has been a mixed bag for weather. The latter part of last week was decidedly springlike with a high of 63°F on Wednesday, 81° Thursday, 80° Friday, and 74° on Saturday. However, a cold front moved through on Saturday, and on Sunday the high reached only 56°. 

A second front moved in Sunday evening, dropping temperatures further. Monday’s high made it only to 37° and yesterday only 32° with the wind chill making it feel even lower. Sunday’s low was 31°, Monday’s 28°, and yesterday’s 29°. The forecast for yesterday was for mixed freezing rain and snow, but we dodged the bullet on that one as there was no more than a drizzle and temperatures were mostly just above freezing, so driving was not dangerous, as some forecasters had feared, and kids hoping for a snow day from school were disappointed.

However, the cold weather seems to be done, at least for a while, and we can once again return to warmer weather in the next few days. Today’s high will be about 57°, tomorrow’s 62°, and Friday’s 66°. There’s a 50% chance of rain on Friday, while Saturday will be blustery with 28mph west winds. Saturday, Sunday, and the days following should all have highs in the sixties with lows in the mid to upper thirties or forties.


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