Heritage, Summer 2004 Page: 16
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living in the texas
Euro-Americans in t e Texas Panhandle
By William G en, Ph.D.
he ear st Euro-Americans who lived in the Texas
Pa han-Plains constructed their homes using a variety of
indgeus materials, including stone, native timber, sod, and
adobe, often in combination with each other. Stone probably
was the preferred material, but it was found only along the
Caprock, in canyons, and in the breaks along the Canadian
River. Juniper and cottonwood trees supplied material for traditional
log structures, but juniper grew only in the canyons
and breaks, and cottonwoods were found only near live water,
so settlers often had to travel considerable distances to obtain
these materials. Juniper and cottonwood also were used to
build picket houses or jacals. Posts or pickets were set in a
trench, or driven in the ground close to each other, with
another post fastened to the tops of the pickets. Rawhide was
used to lace the pickets together, and adobe filled the cracks
Sod, carved from the prairie with a special plow, and
adobe made from dirt, grass, and water poured into wooden
molds and dried, provided the means to construct the walls
of many early structures, particularly in the western twothirds
of the Panhandle. Boards or crude shingles of cottonwood
or juniper covered the roofs of some structures, but
dirt roofs probably were more common.
Logs were placed over the walls
of these various structures and covered
with limbs and grass and dirt. This
type of roof also protected the dugouts
and half-dugouts (holes dug in the
ground) that were used by many early
settlers. Rock, adobe, logs, or sod supplied
material for the low walls of halfdugouts,
and most of these primitive
houses had packed dirt floors.
Building practices in the Panhandle
evolved eventually. Bent, St. Vrain and
Company, hoping to trade with the
Comanches and Kiowas, was probably
the first commercial enterprise to erect
Euro-American structures in the area,
during 1843 in present-day Hutchinson County. The firm initially
used tipis, and then log buildings, but by 1846, it erected
an adobe structure appropriately called Fort Adobe.
Abandoned in 1849, the trading post fell into ruins that
became a well-known landmark to Indians and EuroAmericans,
and it was the site of the First Battle of Adobe
Walls in 1864.
Many buffalo hunters ventured into the Panhandle during
1873, including James Hamilton Cator and his brother Arthur
J. L. (Bob) Cator. The men spent the winter of 1873-1874 in
a primitive dugout built of cottonwood pickets and buffalo
hides in a break along North Palo Duro Creek. They remained
in Hansford County and constructed a three-room picket
building in 1878 that they operated as a store called Zulu
Stockade. Another Adobe Walls trading post, near the ruins
of the first one, was constructed in early 1874. The compound
included several adobe, sod, and jacal buildings with doors and
windows that were freighted from Dodge City, the nearest supply
point at that time.
In 1875, following the Red River War, the federal government
established Fort Elliott in today's Wheeler County.
Most of the post buildings were constructed using lumber
and shingles from Dodge City, but the post corrals were built
of adobe. The post town of Mobeetie that sprang up nearby
HERITAGE E SUMMER 2004
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Summer 2004, periodical, Summer 2004; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45373/m1/16/: accessed June 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.