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Lubbock History
An online city guide to Lubbock's history  A directory of Lubbock businesses on the Internet and information about Lubbock Texas.


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 general.

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 future generations.

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 cotton annually!

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 wound care.

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 Texas”

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!

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Lubbock Hotels
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  Lubbock Hotels
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