A History of Legendary Lubbock
The Hub City of West Texas Located in the heart of West
Texas, Lubbock is a thriving city of more than 200,000 people. Serving
as the hub of the region’s economy, education, and health care, it is
the distribution and wholesale center of West Texas. Distributing goods
for a 200 mile radius in every direction, it houses major firms in every
field of commerce, thus earning the name the “Hub City”.
The history of Lubbock is as varied and fascinating as
that of any western community in the United States. Some 150 million
years ago, this area (now known as the Plains) was once a vast lake. The
passage of time combined with the forces of wind and other natural
occurrences created the level surface of the Plains as it appears today.
It was across these plains, in 1540, that the Spanish
explorer Captain Francisco Vasquez de Coronado came to explore the
Southwest. He is believed to have camped in the well known “Lubbock Lake
Site” and in the area known as Yellow House Canyon. Spanish explorers
named many of the geographical features of this area, and these names
are still being used today. La Punta de Agua, or the Place of
Water was the original name given to the Lubbock lake Site. The southern
high plains were called Llano Estacado, Yellow House Canyon was
Canon Casas Amarillos and Ransom Canyon was Canon de Restate,
or Canyon of Ransom. In this Canyon of Ransom, trading was done
between the Indians and Spanish traders for captives and goods. Today,
many relics of the Coronado Period are on display at the Museum of Texas
Tech on the Texas Tech University campus.
Until the late 1800’s, Comanche, Kiowa, and Cheyenne
Indians roamed the Plains for the heavy populations of buffalo,
antelope, prairie dogs, wolves, and coyotes. In 1870, General R.S.
Mackenzie came into this area to clear the Plains by killing off the
great herds of buffalo. Following the slaughter of buffalo, the grassy
plains became sparsely inhabited. Mackenzie Park is named after this
The first white settlers, Quakers, came to the northern
part of what is now Lubbock County. Their small settlement existed for
many years, and was the origin of farming on the Plains.
The 1887 Texas Land Act, and other land promotions,
encouraged more people to come to the Plains. Eventually, two towns
formed. “Old Lubbock” and “Monterey” were about the same size, with
about 250 residents each. In December 1890, the two towns joined and
accepted a new site. This new site became “Lubbock”, named after Tom S.
Lubbock, a Texas hero who had signed the Texas Declaration of
Independence. He had been a Texas Ranger, a Confederate officer, and was
the brother of Francis R. Lubbock, Governor of Texas during the Civil
War. On March 10, 1891, the county government was formed and Tom
Lubbock’s namesake city was declared the County Seat.
The cattle industry also began to expand on the Plains
during the 1880’s, leading to great cattle empires. The first such
empire was the “10A” ranch, later changed to “The Cross C”, which
included about 245,000 acres purchased at between 24 and 40 cents per
acre. Many other ranches followed, including the “XIT”, “Lazy S”,
“Matador”, “T Bar”, “Spade”, “Spur”, and “Pitchfork” ranches. One of the
biggest problems these ranches faced was undependable surface water.
Plentiful water shallow depths were soon discovered.
This water was accessed by windmill powered wells. Ranchers hired crews
that sometimes did nothing but travel from windmill to windmill,
repairing them in an effort to keep water flowing to the cattle herds.
Eventually, pumps fueled by gasoline began to replace some windmills due
to their ability to pump greater quantities of water. The American Wind
Power Museum of Lubbock has preserved many of these old windmills for
This newly discovered water made land too valuable for
grazing cattle. Ranchers sold their land, originally costing less than a
dollar, for about $25 per acre (today, the same acreage sells many times
that). The land was cut open by plows for the farming of cotton, grain,
and other crops. In 1902, there were only four bales of cotton in the
entire county. In 1919, the number of bales had risen to 13,865, and by
1932, an incredible 100,000 bales had been grown. Currently, Lubbock
County has been able to produce between two and three million bales of
The first train pulled into Lubbock from Plainview on
September 25, 1909, amid hissing steam, billowing smoke, and a good old
fashioned town celebration, complete with the “Old Brass Band”. The
arrival of “John Santa Fe” is credited to Monroe G. Abernathy, a Lubbock
realtor who served as the town’s representative with Santa Fe officials.
Abernathy worked for many years and suffered many false starts before
seeing Lubbock arrive as the Hub of the Plains – in terms of
transportation at least.
The railroad was just another way to aid in the growth
of this “oasis on the plains”. As the population increased, so did the
need for education. In 1922, the Texas legislature created a university
for West Texas. On August 28, 1923, Lubbock was officially declared to
be the home of the new Texas Technological College. A citywide
celebration for more than 30, 000 people included a barbecue offering
35,000 pounds of beef, along with 10,000 ears of roasted corn and 1,950
gallons of coffee.
The doors of the college opened in 1925 with 1,379
students and a physical plant for maintenance operations, valued at
$1,433,984. In 1969, the college was renamed Texas Tech University.
Since then, Texas Tech has emerged as a first class educational and
research institution. More than 25,000 students have passed through this
university, and the physical plant is now valued at $1,010,384,586.
Texas Tech also houses the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.
Built in 1976, this center is a world renowned medical school and
teaching hospital, making many advances in surgical, neonatal and burn
Public education in Lubbock has also progressed. The
first Lubbock school was located in the county jail and had one teacher.
The first Lubbock High School graduation was held in 1909 at the Opera
House. When the school burned in 1909, Central Ward School was built of
brick. The second school building was built in 1917 and was located at
17th Street and Avenue M. Schools construction has continued as the city
has grown. Today, Lubbock Independent School District has an enrollment
of more than 31,000 students. Other school districts, such as Frenship
and Lubbock Cooper, accommodate many Lubbock students from the
southeast, southwest and west sides of the city.
In 1936, Lubbock’s own Buddy Holly was born. A rock n
roll legend, Buddy Holly has attracted followers and inspired musicians
around the world. Today his memory lives on in the Hub City and each
year fans flock to his gravesite over 40 years after his untimely death.
The recently opened Buddy Holly Center, located in the historic Depot
District, showcases unique memorabilia belonging to Buddy Holly. An
annual music festival pays tribute to Holly and his music, as well as
other West Texas musicians, including Lubbock’s own Mac Davis, Waylon
Jennings, Tanya Tucker, the Maines Brothers, and Bob Wills. In 1999, the
Texas State Legislature designated Lubbock as the “Music Crossroads of
In 1970, a devastating tornado struck Lubbock,
destroying more than $136 million in property, and several lives were
lost. In the tough pioneer spirit for which West Texans are known, the
citizens united, a bond package was approved, and many municipal
improvements resulted. The Lubbock Memorial Civic Center, The Lubbock
International Airport, and the Canyon Lakes Park system were built. In
1972, the South Plains Mall was constructed, making the city a retail
and wholesale trade center of a 26 county area in Texas and New Mexico.
The Lubbock Lake Landmark was designated a state
historical site in 1989. Studies done at this important archeological
preserve has traced the history of this area further than most sites
across North America.
Also of note in 1989, Texas Tech University President
Lauro Cavazos was appointed U. S. Secretary of Education. Texas Tech
University celebrated the 75th anniversary of it’s founding in 1998. One
year later, the 15,000 seat United Spirit Arena was opened on the Texas
Tech Campus. This arena plays host to Texas Tech’s men and women’s
basketball teams and volleyball team, as well as world renowned national
and international entertainers, such as Elton John, Pearl Jam and the
Dixie Chicks with lead singer Natalie Maines, a Lubbock native.
Lubbock’s history is varied and fascinating. With an
agricultural base, the county and city have prospered greatly and
Lubbock’s economy continues to flourish in many different areas, from
ranching and farming to libraries and museums, from electronics and
engineering to relics from the past.
The city of Lubbock will continue to grow and attract
more and more people to its friendly, welcoming atmosphere.
A bigger, better Lubbock! Visit us today!