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History:


This is the Last Frontier...

Roberts County has been settled for just over 100 years. Several events caused settlement and growth in the Panhandle. The California Gold Rush brought travelers through the area; the Red River Wars forced the Plains Indians onto reservations in Oklahoma, and the open range laws allowed ranchers to buy a few hundred acres, then graze cattle over hundreds of thousands of acres.

The big events that shaped the modern Panhandle, however, were much less dramatic. Barbed wire, the windmill, and the burning of the Texas Capitol all played a role. To rebuild the state building, legislators traded lands in the distant corner of the Panhandle as payment for constructing the new statehouse. The new owners then bargained with the railroads to lay track, bring in people, and haul out cattle.

The territory that eventually made up Roberts County was first carved from Bexar County lands in 1876 and attached to Wheeler County for administrative purposes. When 150 residents petitioned for county status in 1889, Roberts County was organized according to the law, but not in any particular law-abiding fashion.

The County Seat War unfolded thus: ranchers at Parnell, a tiny community to the north of Miami, opposed organizing the county in Miami because of higher taxes on their vast grassland holdings that would certainly ensue. The businessmen in Miami, who came with the railroad, wanted control of the county and its taxes to build a modern courthouse and to promote settlement. Temple Houston, son of Sam Houston who represented Miami, waited until a commissioner in the Mobeetie courthouse was sick and presented the petition for an election to the commissioners' court. The slightly tainted vote was 2 to 1, and round one went to Miami.

Miami won election as county seat by a landslide (or, given the population of the Panhandle in those days, by a pebble-slide), but Parnell appealed and won. The district judge threw out the 1889 election after taking a good, hard look at the ballots cast by "Mr. Buzzy" and his twenty-one sons, all of whom were of voting age. A search for the prolific Mr. Buzzy revealed that neither he nor his progeny were any longer in the county. Round two to Parnell.

A three-year battle of law suits, counter-suits, stolen county records, kidnapped officials, a cameo appearance by the Texas Rangers, and general mayhem followed. Miami land promoters worked hard to get more settlers, which in turn meant more voters. In 1892, the second election favored Miami, and the county seat hasn't moved since. The scars lasted for years, however, and a large quantity of Roberts County taxes were never collected. How much? Records were destroyed and no one will ever know for sure.

In 1887, Miami was the nearest railhead to Fort Elliott, and handled over one million pounds a month in freight for the fort. Growth was rapid until the 1926 oil boom in Borger and Pampa. In two years Miami went from a population of 1500 to half that amount. Large land holdings and the growing neighboring towns dampened the development of Miami. The small town along the tree-lined banks of Red Deer Creek has found its niche as a county seat, local trade center, and great place to raise a family or retire. The school consistently receives an exemplary rating from the Texas Education Agency, and a high percentage of students obtain college degrees.

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