Our History is Rich and Our Roots are Deep
Seymour, County Seat and only town in Baylor County, is located in northwest Texas at the crossroads of five major highways. Farming, ranching and oil are the major industries.
Baylor County was created by the State of Texas in 1858, opening this vast area for settlement. Until this time, the area was home of Indians and wildlife – untouched by the hand of the “white man”. Comanche, Tonkawa and Wichita Indians roamed the area. One of their favorite campgrounds was the area that is now Seymour. Wild game and water were plentiful along Seymour Creek.
Early settlers who came looking for free range land were driven away by Indians who were quick to defend their hunting ground, thus slowing the settlement of Baylor County.
It was 1878 before a group of settlers came from Oregon and stayed to establish the Town of Seymour. A post office was requested and the new town was to be named Oregon City. However, as there was already a city by this name, the Baylor County town was renamed Seymour. It was possibly named for a cowboy, Seymour Munday, who lived near the creek.
After the town was established, more settlers came. The census of 1880 shows 78 people living in the County.
The first settlers were ranchers, taking advantage of the free range. Farmers came, but had trouble raising crops because the ranchers cut their fences – allowing cattle to destroy the crops.
During the years of the free range, the Millett Brothers established a large ranch with the headquarters some 10 miles south of Seymour on Miller Creek. The cowboys on this ranch were a very disturbing factor in the early days of the County. There were about 50 men in the Millett outfit and some of these were reported to be thieves and outlaws. They did all in their power to prevent settlement of the county and made life very hard for the early settlers. It was not unusual for some of the cowboys to ride into Seymour for supplies, then purchase whiskey and proceed to “shoot up the town”.
A range war was prevented only by a law which was passed in 1884 — making fence-cutting a felony. The Milletts realized that law and order had come to the County and sold their ranch. The sale included 25,000 cattle and 1,000 horses. Hughes and Simpson were the buyers. It was the largest transaction ever made in northwest Texas at that time. The purchasers used the Hashknife Ranch branch, which is still in use in the County.
With the free range gone, farmers, merchants and professional people came to Seymour. The town began to grow.
The Concord Stage Coach came through Seymour, making its run from Wichita Falls to Abilene. The Butterfield Trail, a branch of the Chisholm Trail and the Old Cheyenne Trail, passed through Baylor County driving great herds of cattle from south Texas to Kansas to market. There were as many as 6,000 head of cattle in some herds.
Small towns and communities sprang up throughout the County — Westover, Red Springs and Bomarton, to name a few. At one time, there were 16 schools in Baylor County. Today they have all been consolidated within the Seymour schools.
Seymour became the center of a large trade area with people coming for miles to purchase supplies and pick up their mail. Seymour had become a distribution point for the mail which was brought in by hacks. The mail came from Graham and Wichita Falls and the horses and drivers would change in Seymour to continue on west with the mail.
During this period of time, the settlers were busy constructing homes. The most popular material used for homes was stone, as it was plentiful and cheap. The first rock home built in Seymour was constructed in 1879 and is still being used today. Some homes were built of lumber which was hauled from Weatherford (Texas) and Fort Worth by wagon, thus making it very expensive.
The first newspaper was published in 1879 and the first courthouse was built in 1884. The First National Bank was organized in 1891 and is still in business at the same location today. The first railroad came in 1890. Also in 1890, 24 kerosene street lights were installed. The first telephones were installed in 1897.
Seymour became the meeting point for cowboys from all over the western part of Texas.
In 1896, an event was held in Seymour which was the first of its kind. It was called the Cowboy Reunion and was so popular that it became a tradition and is still held each year in July. There is no known record of any Cowboy Reunion held earlier than the one Seymour had in July of 1896.
In the early 1920’s, Lake Kemp was completed ten miles north of Seymour. The Lake became a favorite spot for fishing and all types of water sports. Read more about the holiday that became Fish Day.
Today Seymour is a clean, friendly progressive city, with good schools, churches, outstanding City and County government, a modern up-to-date hospital, good shopping facilities, many clubs and organizations, a beautiful city park and nearby recreation. Five major highways intersect the town and good highways go in all directions. Large farms and ranches dot the countryside. In the spring of the year, the fields are golden with wheat ready for harvest. In the fall and winter months, cattle graze on the wheat fields. However, the most important resource in Seymour is the people; people who have carried on the tradition of the early-day pioneers who came to this vast land, stayed to make it their home and made this a good place to live and raise their families.
The vision and foresight of the early-day settlers has paid off. This hard work was not in vain – today Seymour is still the meeting place for people from all over Texas.
An expanded history Baylor County was compiled in Salt Pork to Sirloin volumes I & II, and Latchstrings. All three books were compiled by the Baylor County Historical Survey Committee and published by Nortex Press in Wichita Falls.
More information on the History of Seymour can be collected, seen, and discussed and the Baylor County Museum located on Washington Street.
There are also many books written about us. A few of them are listed here.
All photos were courtesy of Willie Jo Christian.