Oldham County...Rich in History
Oldham County. west of Amarillo/Potter County, measures 50 miles by 30 miles and is larger than the state of Rhode Island. The terrain is level prairie land broken by the Canadian River and tributaries which form the “breaks”. Its history is as vast and diverse as its land.
One of the last areas settled in Texas, The Texas Panhandle was marked on maps as the “Great American Desert". Early explorer, Captain R. B. Marcy, described the Panhandle as “a region almost as vast and trackless as the ocean.” But here, in what would become Oldham County, pre-pueblo Indians lived in cliff dwellings along the Canadian River long before Marcy’s time. Oldham County has been home to Kiowa and Comanche Indians, Mexican sheepherders, pioneers and cattlemen.
When the buffalo trade died with the last slaughter of 1874 and the Comanches were banished to reservations, sheepherder Don Casimero Romero migrated from Mora, New Mexico. Romero came in an ornate coach, with 14 schooner wagons, 100 workers, and 8,000 head of sheep to prove that the land was good for grazing.
The native grasses were indeed good for grazing, and Oldham County became home to some of the largest ranches in the nation. The famous XIT Ranch spread across ten Texas counties from the northern border to south of Lubbock and consisted of 3-million acres. This ranch land was granted to the Capital Land Syndicate in 1879 by the state of Texas in exchange for building the present-day capitol in Austin. Oldham County was also home to the 221,000 acre LS ranch and to the Matador Ranch. Today, an average of 90,000 head of cattle are fed in Oldham County per year.
Throughout our history, trade routes and water supplies have been, and continue to be, the major influences that drive and change our history. Cattle trails, the Ozark Trail, the railroad, Route 66 and Interstate 40 have impacted Oldham County's gowth, economy and history prior to the county being established in 1880 to the present.
Oldham County was formed in 1876 and organized in 1880, and named for Williamson Simpson Oldham, a Texas pioneer and Confederate Senator. At the time of its organization, nearly the entire county was a part of the XIT Ranch. The county seat was originally at the town of Tascosa, which in the 1880s was one of the largest towns in the Panhandle. As the railroads came through the county, however, they bypassed Tascosa; several new towns and farms sprang up along the rail lines, and by 1915 Tascosa had a courthouse and almost no residents. The county seat was moved to Vega, Texas in that year.