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Mobeetie, Texas

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Dec 16, 2021

Mobeetie is a city in northwestern Wheeler County, Texas, United States, located on Sweetwater Creek and State Highway 152. Its population was 101 at the 2010 census, six below the 2000 figure.[5]

City in Texas, United States
Mobeetie, Texas

Coordinates:

35°32′1″N100°26′21″W

Country United States
State Texas
County Wheeler
Area

[1]
  Total 0.61 sq mi (1.58 km2)
  Land 0.61 sq mi (1.58 km2)
  Water 0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
Elevation

2,641 ft (805 m)
Population

 (2010)
  Total 101
  Estimate 

(2019)[2]
95
  Density 155.74/sq mi (60.09/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
  Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
79061
Area code(s) 806
FIPS code 48-48852[3]
GNIS feature ID 1363014[4]

. . . Mobeetie, Texas . . .

Mobeetie (formerly known as “Cantonment Sweetwater”) was a trading post for hunters and trappers for nearby United States Army outpost Fort Elliott. It was first a buffalo hunters’ camp unofficially called “Hidetown”. Connected to the major cattle-drive town of Dodge City, Kansas, by the Jones-Plummer Trail, Mobeetie was a destination for stagecoach freight and buffalo skinners. As it grew, the town supported the development of cattle ranches within a hundred-mile radius by supplying the staple crops.1

The first formal name for the town was “Sweetwater”. It was located on the North Fork Red River, a tributary of the Red River of the South. Nearby Fort Elliott, developed to protect the buffalo trade from Indian raiders, stimulated further growth of the town. On January 24, 1876, the “Sweetwater Shootout” occurred. Anthony Cook (Corporal “Sergeant” Melvin A. King; of the then-4th Cavalry Company H, stationed at Fort Elliot) shot and killed Mollie Brennan (a dancehall girl and former prostitute). Sgt. King then wounded Bat Masterson, who in turn killed him (King may have shot Masterson first and then killed Brennan; accounts vary).[6][7] Texas cattleman Charles Goodnight said about the town: “I think it was the hardest place I ever saw on the frontier except Cheyenne, Wyoming.”

When the town applied for a post office in 1879, the name “Sweetwater” was already in use. The town took the new name of “Mobeetie”, believed to be a Native American word for Sweetwater. It was allegedly later revealed that the word, in fact, meant “buffalo dung.”[8]

Because of the presence of Fort Elliott and Mobeetie’s importance as a commercial center, Wheeler County became the first politically organized county in the Texas Panhandle, in 1879, followed by Oldham County at Tascosa, now a ghost town. Mobeetie became the first county seat for Wheeler County. From 1880 to 1883, the notorious Robert Clay Allison ranched with his two brothers, John William and Jeremiah Monroe, 12 miles northeast of town, at the junction of the Washita River and Gageby Creek. One day, Allison rode through Mobeetie drunk and naked.[9][10] Allison married America Medora “Dora” McCulloch in Mobeetie on February 15, 1881.[11]

Lester Fields Sheffy, in The Life and Times of Timothy Dwight Hobart, 1855-1935: Colonization of West Texas (1950), describes Mobeetie as:

Mobeetie was perhaps the most typical frontier town in the American Southwest on account of its background and the cosmopolitan character of its people. It was never a large town as early plains towns went, but it was a busy and a thriving center. When [land surveyor] Timothy Dwight Hobart arrived at Mobeetie in 1886, the town was in the heyday of its existence. Its several merchandise stores and other business firms, its blacksmith shops and livery stables, its law offices and real estate agencies, its nine saloons, and its fort, its substantial rock school building, and its church organizations were a splendid index to the varied interest and character of the people. Mobeetie had all the elements of people that it took to make a typical frontier village. It had its buffalo hunters and its bull whackers, its soldiers and its scouts, its indolents and its prostitutes, its substantial businessmen, and its legal fraternity. …

One of the most stabilizing influences among the citizenry of Mobeetie was its soldiers. While most of the soldiers themselves were transient and never became permanent citizens of the community, they exercised a restraining influence over the town and surrounding country because of the feeling of security which their presence gave to the region. … At times there was dissension between the soldiers and the civilians, but the most cordial relationships existed at all times between the officers at the fort and the more substantial business leaders of the town. The presence of several hundred soldiers at the fort increased the profits of the merchants, the saloon keepers, the dance halls, and brought considerable ready cash into the community…[12]

When Army Lieutenant ColonelJohn Porter Hatch was reassigned from Fort Elliott in 1881, the Wheeler County Commissioners Court authorized a resolution honoring Hatch for his service: “He has proven himself at all times agreeable to the citizens of this section and willing to aid them as a community or as individuals whenever such aid has been required, and to the fullest extent of his power.”[12]

Fort Elliot, home of the Tenth Cavalry, display at Pioneer West Museum

In the 1880s, Temple Lea Houston, the youngest son of Sam Houston, was the district attorney of the 35th Judicial District of Texas, when then encompassed 15 counties in the Texas Panhandle. The district was based at the time in the courthouse at Mobeetie. Houston was also a member of the Texas State Senate from 1885 to 1889 and later moved to Oklahoma, where he worked for statehood. An NBC television series, Temple Houston, which aired from 1963 to 1964, is loosely based on his life, with Jeffrey Hunter in the starring role.[13]

At its peak in 1890, the town had over 400 people, but Mobeetie’s boom days ended when Fort Elliott closed that same year. Further decline came with the tornado of May 1, 1898, and then the loss of the county seat, in 1907, to Wheeler. In 1929, Wheeler moved two miles when the Panhandle and Santa Fe Railway built nearby tracks. The town steadily grew again until the start of World War II brought a peak around 500.

Little remains of the Old Mobeetie. Sheffy, in The Life and Times of Timothy Dwight Hobart writes:

The new Mobeetie stands almost within gunshot of the old town in the midst of a great agricultural and stock-raising region. The worn and unkept buildings of the old town speak eloquently of its hard struggle to survive. They should be preserved as a lasting monument to the struggle and achievement of a people who wrought well in laying the foundations of Anglo-American civilization in the Southwest.”[12]

The Pioneer West Museum in Shamrock preserves the heritage of the Old Mobeetie region. Its contains an exhibit on Fort Elliott.

Mobeetie is also known as the birthplace of a member of the 1919 World Series champion Cincinnati Reds infielder and catcher Morrie Rath. Rath was born on Christmas Day 1886.

. . . Mobeetie, Texas . . .

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. . . Mobeetie, Texas . . .