HISTORY OF AMARILLO TEXAS & SURROUNDING AREAS
Len Kubiak, Owner of Fort Tumbleweed and Historian from the Austin Texas Area
AMARILLO TEXAS BULLETIN BOARD
If you have any early day Amarillo stories or pictures or have a question about the Amarillo area, send me an email and I'll post your information on the Amarillo website for our readers.
History of Amarillo
For thousands of years, the region that was to become known as Amarillo Texas and Potter and Randall Counties was home to a variety of Indian
tribes that made their villages along the area springs, waterways and lakes.
Modern Day Map of the Amarillo Texas Area Located in Potter County to the North and Randall County to the south. The green area to the south of Amarillo in Randall County is Palo Duro Canyon.
The Alibates flint quarries, located along the Canadian River in Moore and Potter counties in the central part of the Panhandle, were discovered by the Paleo Indian cultures 10,000 to 20,000 years ago.
The alibates flint from this region was first used by the Clovis cultures for making stone tools and Clovis spear points. Tools, dart points and later birdpoints indicate the flint quarries were in continuous use up to the late 1800's.
©National Park Service
Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument includes the quarries
and the ruins of several Indian dwellings.
The flint used by the Indians was primarily gathered from the gravel located downstream from the actual flint outcrops. Around each outcrop pit is a low mound of quarry debris containing large Alibates quarry blanks (quarry bifaces) and quartzite hammers. The quartzite hammers were used to shape the quarry bifaces leaving much of the unusuable material at the quarry. The resulting pre-forms were easier to pack to the camp where the finer tools were made.
Alibates Flint Dart Point (dating back several thousand years) found Near Amarillo Texas. Dart points were attached to a small throwing spear and launched with a throwing stick called the atlatyl.
The local Indians (Caddos and later Apaches, Kiowas and Comanches) also worked the quarry flint into blades and tool blanks that they used to barter with the Pueblo Indians of the Rio Grande valley in New Mexico for ceramics and with the Pueblos of the Jemez Mountains in New Mexico for obsidian blanks. Alibates quarry blanks were also traded for catlinite (pipe making materials) from Minnesota, and for olivella shell for jewelry making from the Pacific coast Indians. Frequently caches of Alibates blades or quarry blanks are found in the Panhandle.
Alibates Flint Birdpoints found Near Amarillo Texas
When the first Europeans arrived in
the Panhandle region of Texas in the 1500's, the area in and around Amarillo was home to a sizeable Apache Indian population. However, by the late 1700's, Comanches (Southern Shashones) and Kiowas
rode by horseback into into the area, hunting buffalo and raiding the Apache Indian villages sucessfully driving out the Apaches. Up until the early 1800's, large buffalo
herds grazed the open areas of what became Amarillo and Randall and Potter Counties.
Comanche Camp Near Present Day Amarillo Texas
(1839/1841) PRESIDENT LAMAR DRIVES OUT MOST INDIAN TRIBES
President Mirabeau B. Lamar, who took office as President of the Republic of Texas at the end of 1838, had a very hostile attitude towards Indians than did Sam Houston. Lamar believed that the Indians had no integrity; thus, there was no possibility of peaceful negotiation or co-existence. The only solution to the violent clashes between whites and Indians was to rid Texas of the Indians--permanently.
Lamar sent a commission including David G. Burnet, Thomas J. Rusk, and Albert Sidney Johnston, to negotiate the removal of the tribe to the Arkansas territory. He also deployed about 900 army regulars, volunteers, and militia to East Texas.
President Lamar, Commander and Chief of the Texas Army Regulars responsible for Driving Most Indians out of Texas.
On July 15, 1839, several hundred warriors under Chief Bowl engaged the Texans near present-day Tyler Texas. In the initial battle, the Indians were defeated, losing eighteen men to the Texans' three. The next day, the Texans pursued the retreating Indians and inflicted more than 100 casualties, Chief Bowl among them. They also burned the Indian villages and chased the Indians across the Red River into neighboring Indian Territory (Oklahoma).
In the aftermath of the Cherokee battles, many of the weaker or more peaceful tribes Texas were also forced to relocate.
By 1841, East Texas was almost entirely cleared of Indians. The Alabamas and Coushattas were exceptions. They were regarded as a peaceful tribe who had aided Texans during the Runaway Scrape (after the fall of the Alamo and Santa Anna's army was searching for Sam Houston's army). The Alabamas and Coushattas were granted two leagues of land along the Trinity River.
WESTERN INDIANS UNDEFEATED UNTIL THE 1870s
However, the western part of the Texas Republic was a different matter.
The Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache nations refused to be driven out of Texas and continued fighting the Texas army and Rangers until their defeat in the early 1870's.
SECOND BATTLE OF ADOBE WALLS(1874)
The second battle of Adobe Walls (near Amarillo Texas) took place on June 27, 1874, when a buffalo hunters' camp, built in the spring of that year in what is now Hutchinson County, about a mile from the adobe ruins known as Adobe Walls was attacked by a party of about 700 Plains Indians, mostly Cheyennes, Comanches, and Kiowas, under the leadership of Quanah Parker and Isa-tai.
Most of the hunters at the camp were awake repairing a broken ridgepole when the Indians charged at dawn. The defenders, twenty-eight men and one woman, gathered in (Jim) Hanrahan's Saloon, (Charlie) Myers and Leonard's Store, and (Charles) Rath and Wright's Store and repelled the initial charge with a loss of only two men.
Hunters in the vicinity were notified of the attack on Adobe Walls, and by the end of the fifth day there were more than 100 men at Adobe Walls. A rescue party arrived after the Indians had given up the fight and retired. The significance of this fight is that it led to the Red River War of 1874-75, which resulted in the final relocation of the Southern Plains Indians to reservations in what is now Oklahoma.
RED RIVER WAR ENDED AT PALO DURO CANYON (Spetember 1874)
In response to the attack at Adobe Springs, Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie led the 4th United States Cavalry from the south in an attempt to trap the Indians where they were camped. This campaign beginning with the second battle of Adobe Springs and ending with the battle of Palo Duro Canyon was known as the Red River War. Mackenzie's troops pursued several small Comanche bands into Tule Canyon and defeated them. Mackenzie then reached the edge of Palo Duro Canyon on September 28, 1874, guided by the Tonkawa chief Johnson.
Mackenzie's soldiers and scouts destroyed Red Warbonnet's village causing many Indians to flee the canyon for the open plains. Some of the warriors fought back, sniping at the soldiers, but their resistance was insufficient, and by nightfall Mackenzie's soldiers and Tonkawa scouts had captured the Indians' villages and most of their possessions.
Lighthouse Formation in Palo Duro Canyon Park south of present day Amarillo Texas.
The Indian losses at Palo Duro Canyon amounted to three warriors dead. One white was killed. Mackenzie's troops also captured more than 1,400 Indian ponies. Of these, forty were given to Johnson and another 300 to the other scouts. The remaining ponies were shot by the soldiers.
Most of the Indians' supplies, including their entire winter food supply, was also destroyed. Though the loss of life on both sides was remarkably small, the battle of Palo Duro Canyon is significant because it represented the southern Plains Indians' last effort at military resistance against the encroaching whites.
Their tribal government of the Comanches today operates near Lawton, Oklahoma.
HISTORY OF AMARILLO
Present day Amarillo, located in the Texas Panhandle, is in southern Potter County and extends into Randall County. When the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway began building across the Panhandle in 1887, a group of Colorado City merchants chose the site to establish stores.
In April 1887 J. T. Berry arrived from Abilene to plat the new town. He chose a well-watered section of school land, located along the FW&DC right-of-way in Potter County, which contained a large playa known as Amarillo, or Wild Horse, Lake.
About the same time, Henry Bradley Sanborn, who later became known as the "Father of Amarillo," formed a partnership with Glidden and established the Frying Pan Ranch in Potter and Randall counties. Sanborn also platted a town site near the ranch's eastern boundary and campaigned to get the Potter county seat relocated there.
Berry and the Colorado City merchants promoted the new townsite as the Potter county seat. Since most of the qualified voters were LX Ranch employees, Berry enlisted the ranchers' support by promising each cowhand a business lot and residence lot in the new town if it should be chosen county seat. On August 30, 1887, Berry's townsite was elected for that honor.
However this didn't stop Sanborn from continuing developing the Glidden and Sanborn addition one mile east of the town site of Amarillo. Heavy rains led many residents to become discouraged with the new town site. By giving lots and moving houses of the residents of Old Town to the Sanborn location with a team of six or eight oxen, Mr. Sanborn soon populated his townsite.
When Mr. Sanborn learned that one of his employees on the Frying Pan with several other men had bought the townsite of Old Town, he resolved to establish a town in what he considered a better location.
He and several other men went by buckboard to inspect the cliffside site. As he sat down upon the high cliffs with their sand like, deep yellow pigment, the clay stained the seat of his trousers. When Mr. Sanborn rose to go, an old Mexican pointed to the yellow imprint on his seat "Amarillo; amarillo"'
Sanborn seized upon the Spanish word for yellow, "we may not have a town, but we've got the name for it. There is no other town named Amarillo".
Soon the old Amarillo Hotel arose on the new townsite which Sanborn envisioned for his town, about a mile east of Old Town. The new hotel was painted yellow. Many of the residences which soon sprang up in the new location were also painted yellow, which was a durable color adapted to the climatic vagaries of the region.
Henry Bradley Sanborn, Father of Amarillo. He also built the Amarillo Hotel and developed the town's first waterworks; gave the city a nine-acre tract that he named Ellwood Park and donated a 20-acre site to St. Anthony's Hospital.
An early-day settler, Mrs. Bolton, the niece of Henry Sanborn, decribed her first visit to Amarillo.
"When I first walked down the main street of the small cow town that was Amarillo, everyone looked at me from the pine board porches and shacks that lined the short thoroughfare.
As the guest of my uncle, who owned the Amarillo Hotel, I had occasion to attend the dances held in the hostelry "parlor", which extended along the north side of the building about the length of two rooms. A white chiffon frock which I wore at one of these entertainments was shredded by the spurs worn by her cowboy partners."
AMARILLO ASSIGNED A POST OFFICE (1887)
A post office was established in 1887 with Robert M. Moore as the first postmaster. George S. Berry soon replaced Moore, and the office was moved to Berry's real estate office which was located nearby. After the passenger station and freight depot were built near the FW&DC tracks, people from nearby townsites began moving to Amarillo. H. T. (Tuck) Cornelius, formerly of Jacksboro, operated the town's first livery stable. His father, Dr. J. C. Cornelius, was the first physician in Amarillo, and on June 18, 1888, Tuck's daughter Mayvi became the first child born in Amarillo.
Meanwhile a lumberyard and a twenty-five-room hotel were established, and H. H. Brookes began publication of the town's first weekly newspaper, the Amarillo Champion, on May 17, 1888. Bonds were voted for a two-story brick courthouse to replace the small frame building and for Amarillo's first school. On May 29 town lots were sold to the public by auction. People were brought in by excursion trains. Most of the lots sold for $50 to $100 each.
Although Berry's cowtown seemed to be well established, Henry B. Sanborn, part owner of the Frying Pan Ranch, argued that Berry's site was on low ground that would flood during rainstorms. Sanborn and his partner, Joseph F. Glidden, began buying land to the east to move Amarillo out of its "mudhole."
On June 19, 1888, they purchased four sections and offered to trade lots in the new location for those in the original site and contribute to the expense of moving buildings. Sanborn's enticements gradually won over people like Tuck Cornelius and H. H. Brookes, who moved their businesses to Polk Street in the new commercial district. Sanborn erected the elegant, forty-room Amarillo Hotel, which became the town's social center and the unofficial headquarters of area cattle buyers. He also donated a half-block for Amarillo's first union church.
In the spring of 1889, when heavy rains almost flooded "Old Town," the railroad embankment prevented effective drainage and prompted more people to move to Sanborn's higher location. Despite a successful lawsuit filed against Sanborn by the Murphy-Thomason-Wisner interests over ownership of block 88, even the county and city officials eventually joined the cattlemen's project; by 1890 the town's nucleus was one mile east at the city's Glidden and Sanborn addition.
That year the First National Bank opened for business, and the three Wolfin brothers from Gainesville established a mercantile store. In 1891 Phillip H. Seewald moved from Tascosa and opened a jewelry store.
The depot and courthouse remained at the old site, since the law decreed that they could not be moved until five years after the 1887 election.
AMARILLO COMPLETES MOVE TO SANBORN'S AMARILLO (1893)
In 1893 another county-seat election officially transferred the title to Sanborn's town, and the records were housed in a newer building there. In the meantime the FW&DC had installed a second depot at the Polk Street crossing for the convenience of passengers.
By 1894 Amarillo had three newspapers: H. H. Brookes's Livestock Champion, Frank Cates and A. R. Rankin's Amarillo Northwest, and J. L. Caldwell's Amarillo Weekly News. Ellwood Park, the first of Amarillo's many city parks, was established in the 1890s.
Three churches were constructed during the decade, and other denominations organized local congregations. From 1897 to 1899 Willis Day Twichell operated Amarillo College in a building donated by the Sanborn family; the public school met at the former old-town courthouse until late in 1900, when a three-story red-brick school opened.
On February 18, 1899, the citizens of Amarillo voted to incorporate and elected Warren W. Wetzel mayor. However, the inauguration of city government was restrained by injunctions, and municipal administration was carried on by county officials and Texas Rangers for a while. The first annual Tri-State Fair was held in Amarillo in the fall of 1899.
AMARILLO'S BROTHEL DISTRICT BOOMS IN EARLY 1900's
By 1890 Amarillo had emerged as one of the world's busiest cattle-shipping points. The population grew from 482 in 1890 to 1,442 by 1900.
The sudden growth of Amarillo resulted in the rise of Amarillo's Bowery district, notorious for its saloons, brothels, and desperadoes.
The Bowery district bounded the area of First and Third streets and Buchanan and Grant Streets had as many as half a dozen brothels but the most notorous madam was Ella Hill. The brothel district thrived attracting cowboys, cattle buyers, businessmen, and even the upstanding government and business leaders of the vibrant city.
The Amarillo church leaders and anti-saloon movement was outraged at the sight of these scandalous women wearing makeup, short skits and sporting dyed hair. For a brief time in 1902, Amarillo went dry...only to go wet at the next election. However, after prohibition was imposed in 1911, the Bowery faded away.
OIL, GAS, & HELIUM FIELDS
Industry and culture developed in Amarillo after World War I. Gas was discovered in 1918 and oil three years later. The Panhandle added a zinc smelter, oil refineries, and oil-shipping facilities. In 1928 the discovery of the Cliffside gas field, with its high helium content, led to the establishment of the United States Helium Plant by the Federal Bureau of Mines four miles west of town. Two United States Army Signal Corps biplanes commanded by Lt. Robert H. Gray arrived at Amarillo on April 27, 1918. Lee Bivins, W. E. Fuqua, and others promoted the aviationqv industry, and in 1929 the Panhandle Air Service and Transportation Company was established; at one time Amarillo had five airfields, including the Municipal Airport.
By 1924 automobiles and buses had made Amarillo's streetcar system obsolete. In 1926 Eugene A. Howe and Wilbur Clayton Hawkq bought the Nunn family's Amarillo News and merged it with the Globe to form the Amarillo Globe-News. J. Lawrence Martin started Amarillo's first radio station, WDAG, in 1922; a municipal auditorium was completed in 1923; a twelve-piece Philharmonic Orchestra was formed in 1925; and the Amarillo Little Theater was organized in 1927. The Bivins addition became the first suburban extension in southwest Amarillo. In 1928 Rudolph Aloysius Gerken,qv the first bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Amarillo,opened Alamo Catholic High School, and the following year Amarillo Junior College began at the Municipal Auditorium with 350 students.
The 1930s brought drought and black dusters to Amarillo. However, the city was a regional center for numerous federal relief programs, especially the Work Projects Administration, whose funds helped improve Amarillo streets, water, and sewerage facilities. The popularity of Art Deco architecture was reflected in several new public buildings, including the Santa Fe Building, headquarters of the Panhandle and Santa Fe Railway, and the new Potter County Courthouse. Howe made news with his "Tactless Texan" column and merged the competing WDAG and KGRS radio stations as KGNC. The arrest and suicide of attorney Alfred D. Payne made national headlines in the summer of 1930, while Ernest Othmer Thompson was mayor. Payne had pleaded insanity in the murder of his wife in an auto explosion, partly because of financial problems and an extramarital affair. In 1934 Cal Farley founded the Maverick Club for underprivileged boys; from that program later grew Kid, Incorporated. Amarillo College moved to its present campus on Washington Street in 1938. Between 1930 and 1940 the Amarillo High School football team won several district titles and four state championships. Four U.S. highways—60, 87, 287, and the fabled Route 66—merged at Amarillo, making it a major tourist stop with numerous motels, restaurants, and curio shops. Although many local oil companies folded during the Great Depression,qv the firm of Hagy, Harrington, and Marsh was formed in 1933 with offices in Amarillo.
By 1940, Amarillo's population was over 50,000. During World War II, Amarillo Army Air Field was a school for basic pilot training, and the nearby Pantex Ordnance Plant produced bombs and ammunition. The influx of servicemen and their families and the new jobs ended the city's depression and boosted its chamber of commerce.
In 1951 Amarillo's first television station began broadcasting. S. B. Whittenburg published the Amarillo Times, which he merged with the Globe-News when he and his associates bought the company in 1955. During the late 1960s a municipal building, a civic center, a branch library, a corporation court building, High Plains Baptist Hospital, and a multimillion-dollar medical center were built. The closing of Amarillo Air Force Base on December 31, 1968, contributed to a decrease in population to 127,010 by 1970. In September 1970 the Texas State Technical Institute opened a campus on the former base grounds.
The 1970s saw the opening of the Amarillo Art Center on the AC campus, the establishment of the Amarillo Copper Refinery of ASARCO, Incorporated, and the opening of the Donald D. Harrington Discovery Center, which contains the first computer-controlled planetarium in the nation. Iowa Beef Processors and Owens-Corning Fiberglass also built plants at Amarillo.
By 1980 Amarillo had a population of 149,230 and occupied more than sixty square miles in Potter and Randall counties, had 164 churches, 47 schools, five hospitals, nine radio stations, and four television stations. Between 1969 and 1986 new oil companies were formed, and as oil prices dropped, seven mergers occurred; Mesa Petroleum Company, headed by T. Boone Pickens, Jr., became one of the nation's largest oil firms.
Gas, petroleum, agriculture, and cattle are Amarillo's principal sources of income. In 1982 the 2,708 local businesses included petrochemicals, grain storage, processing, meat packing, clothing, feed, leather goods, and cement manufacture. The Helium Monument, located near the Harrington Discovery Center and containing time capsules, designates Amarillo the "Helium Capital of the World." In the 1980s the Santa Fe and Burlington National railroads provided freight service, and Amarillo International Airport served five major airlines. New housing developments and shopping centers in south and west Amarillo followed the completion of Interstate Highway 40, and during the 1980s Interstate 27 was constructed from Lubbock to Amarillo.
In 1988 Amarillo was the home of the world's largest feeder-cattle auction and headquarters of the American Quarter Horse Association, which publishes a monthly magazine, the Quarter Horse Journal. Accent West, Incorporated, headed by Don Cantrell, published its monthly Accent West magazine. Amarillo was home for such celebrities as country music pioneer Alexander C. (Eck) Robertson and Thomas A. Preston, Jr., better known among card players as Amarillo Slim. Actresses Carolyn Jonesqv and Cyd Charisse and humorist Grady Nuttqv spent their early years in Amarillo, which was celebrated in song by George Strait's "Amarillo by Morning." In 1990 the population of Amarillo was 157,615. In 2000 the population grew to 173,627.
MAJOR AMARILLO ATTRACTIONS
Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Palo Duro Canyon State Park which hosts the production of "TEXAS", a spectacular outdoor production based on Texas history. Palo Duro Canyon State Park consists of 16,402 acres in Armstrong and Randall Counties, south of Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle. From 1933 - 1937, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) sent several companies of young men and military veterans to Palo Duro Canyon to develop road access to the canyon floor as well as the visitor center, cabins, shelters, and the park headquarters. The Palo Duro Canyon State Park officially opened on July 4, 1934.
The Palo Duro Canyon was first inhabited by the Clovis and Folsom people who hunted large herds of mammoth and giant bison in the canyon. Later, other cultures such as the Apaches, Comanches, and Kiowas moved into the canyon.
Photo of Palo Duro Canyon near present day Amarillo Texas
In the 1500's, Spanish Explorers discovered the area and dubbed the canyon "Palo Duro" which is Spanish for "hard wood" in reference to the abundant mesquite and juniper trees. Palo Duro canyon was re-discovered in 1852 by Captain Marcy who was searching for the headwaters of the Red River.
In 1874, Palo Duro Canyon was the battle site during the Red River Wars in which Col. Mackenzie and his troops captured the Native Americans in the canyon by capturing and destroying around 1,400 horses. Unable to escape, the Native Americans surrendered and were transported to reservations in Oklahoma. Then, from 1876 until 1890, most of the canyon belonged to the J.A. Ranch and was operated by Col. Charles Goodnight.
Cañoncita Ranch added to Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Texas Parks and Wildlife has purchased 2,036 acres adjacent to Palo Duro Canyon State Park along the park's southern boundary.
The outdoor performance of TEXAS returns for its 41st Anniversary Season to the Pioneer Amphitheater in Palo Duro Canyon State Park running Tuesday-Saturday beginning June 9 to August 19.
Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum
The Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in nearby Canyon Texas is my all-time favorite museum
Photo of Panhandle Plains Museum in Canyon near Amarillo Texas
This museum features constantly changing displays highlighting our ancient past through paleontology, geology and archeology displays
from dinosaurs to modern art, from saddles to automobiles and the best Native American Indian display bar none.
The Big Texan Steak Ranch
The Big Texan Steak Ranch, home of the free 72 ounce steak dinner (if eaten within an hour) was created by R.J. “Bob” Lee who opened the original Big Texan Steak Ranch in 1960 at a location on Old Route 66 on the east side of Amarillo. The towering sign of a long-legged cowboy that Bob erected next to the building became a major landmark on Route 66. From the beginning, the Big Texan welcomed weary travelers and migrating families whose roots spread all across America.
The 72-oz. steak came to life not long after Bob opened the doors to the Big Texan Steak Ranch. In those days, cowboys still worked the area ranches and came into town on their days off to get a good meal and have some fun. One day a cowboy came through the front door bragging that he was so hungry he could “eat the whole, darned cow.”
Bob kept serving up one-pound steaks from the grill until the cowboy yelled, “calf-rope” (at that point, he had eaten 4-1/2 pounds of beef. A new policy was implemented that day... the shrimp cocktail, salad, baked potato, bread and 72-oz. steak would be free if consumed in an hour!
Photo of Big texan on IH40 in Amarillo Texas
When Route 66 phased out and was replaced by the new Interstate, Bob and his family built the new Big Texan Steak Ranch from the ground up. Lumber came from the old Pantex Village and from barracks used to house prisoners of war during World War II. The new restaurant included a huge dining room as well as an “Outpost” for those who could only make a quick stop. The giant cowboy, now an historical icon, was moved by helicopter from its original location on the Mother Road to its current home on Interstate 40.
The American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum
The American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum, is also located along IH40 at 2601 E IH 40.
"The Hall of Fame is filled with stories of horses and owners who impact all of us.
Some of the new features of the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum
include: touch screen digital displays; 45,000 square feet of display floor space space for some 127 people and 69 horses that reside in the Hall of Fame since the 1980's.
Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument
Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument with over a thousand acres was set aside in 1965 to preserve the flint quarries,located above the Canadian River in Potter County. Guided tours are presented by park rangers during the summer months and at other times by reservation. Other quarries are located within Lake Meredith National Recreation Area, the Lubbock Lake National Historic and State Archeological Landmark, the Miami Site near the town of Miami and the Folsom Bison Kill and Blackwater Draw sites in northern New Mexico.
The total number of quarry pits would undoubtedly be in the thousands. At some of the sites the remains of the flint have been found with the bones of the imperial mammoth. Most collections and records from the sites are at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museumqv and the West Texas State University Archeological Research Laboratory, in Canyon, and also at the National Park Service Archeological Laboratory, Lake Meredith Recreation Area, in Fritch. Others are curated at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.
Helium Production and the Bureau of Land Management
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is a major supplier of crude helium to refiners in the United States, who market and sell pure helium throughout the world. The Cliffside Gas Field,located 15 miles northwest of Amarillo, serves as the government’s reserve for helium. The field and BLM’s helium enrichment plant supply crude helium used in about 40 percent of U.S. helium production – and almost 35 percent of the world’s helium production.
Helium was pretty much unknown before the twentieth century. It was first discovered in natural gas in 1903 when an exploratory well in Kansas produced a gas that "refused" to burn. The only economical source of helium is from natural gas, and some of the richest sources are under the Panhandle of Texas.
A federal helium program was created in 1925 to ensure that the gas would be available to the government for defense needs. Over time, it evolved into a program to supply the government with refined helium for research and aerospace uses.
This is a site under construction. We'll be adding old photos and stories of early-day settlers in the Amarillo area.
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