Bailey County, in the western Panhandle, is bordered on the west by New Mexico, on the north by Parmer County, on the east by Lamb County, and on the south by Cochran County. Muleshoe, the county seat holds the Mule Days festival each August and the county fair every September and is home to the Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge.
Cities, Towns & Communities
Baileyboro | Bula | Circle Back | Enochs | Goodland | Maple | Muleshoe – county seat | Needmore | Progress
Bailey County was marked off from Bexar County in 1876 and named for Peter J. Bailey, an Alamo hero. Bailey and twenty-one other counties newly formed at the time were attached to Jack County for judicial purposes. In 1881 jurisdiction of Bailey County was transferred from Jack to Baylor County; then, in 1887, to Hale County; and in 1892 to Castro County. Settlement of Bailey County did not come early, since theXIT Ranch held most of its land from 1882 until the division and sale of the ranch in 1901.
The county developed rather quickly during the early twentieth century, however, as old ranchland was divided up and sold to farmers by land developers. From 1906 to 1912 the Coldren Land Company and the Vaughn Land Company held promotions in Bailey County. Midwestern farmers took special excursion trains to nearby Farwell, then were taken south and shown Bailey County lands selling at ten to twenty dollars an acre. In 1909 the county’s first irrigation well was dug. By 1910, seventy-one farms had been established in the county and the population had increased to 312.
A severe drought in 1910 drove away many of these early settlers, but others moved in to take their places, particularly after the Santa Fe Railroad extended its tracks through the county in 1913. Hoping to establish a taxing authority that could provide schools and roads for the area, residents decided to organize the county. They raised $1,500 to send delegates to Austin to lobby for a revision of the minimum county-voter requirement to seventy-five. Despite the opposition of ranchmen who feared that organization would bring taxation, the delegates succeeded. A county seat election followed in 1919, with Muleshoe carrying seventy-four of the 111 votes cast. By 1920 there were seventy-nine farms and 517 residents in Bailey County.
During the 1920s and 1930s new conditions helped to transform the county’s economy from ranching to farming. In 1920 little if any cotton was grown in the area, but by 1929 over 24,000 acres was planted in cotton and it had become the county’s leading crop. The first cotton grown in the area was sent to Plainview for ginning; but Bailey County got a gin in 1923. By 1924 there were 302 farms in the county, and by 1929, 758 farms had been established there. The expansion of cotton farming continued in the county even during the years of the Great Depression, when cotton farming in other parts of the state suffered severe declines. By 1940 cotton production in Bailey County took up almost 45,000 acres, and the number of farms had increased to 820. Because of this growth, the population of the county rose significantly during this period. The population in 1930 was 5,186, and 6,318 people lived there by 1940. Though many West Texas counties declined in the years immediately after World War II, Bailey County continued to grow in population until the 1960s. In 1950, 7,592 people lived there, and by 1960 residents numbered 9,090. But the population declined thereafter, to 8,487 in 1970, 8,186 in 1980, and 7,064 in 1990. Source: Handbook of Texas Online.
Bailey County, 1922. Still unorganized, Bailey County was created in 1876. It lies against New Mexico, and until very recently has been almost uninhabited and in pasture alone has contributed to the economic wealth of the state. When the federal census of 1900 was taken there were but four people living in the county, and of these but one was a voter. In 1910 the census enumerated 312, in 1920, 517. In 1911 the division of the Santa Fe Railroad from Texico to Coleman was built through the county, and improved transportation has given agriculture and general development a great impetus. There were five farms in the county in 1900, and seventy-one in 1910. Of a total area of 659.200 acres, while more than half was included in farms in 1910, only 11,000 acres were “improved land,” and the amount of land in cultivation in 1900 was only 275 acres. The last enumeration reported 13,389 cattle and 2,337 sheep. The chief crop in 1909 was kafir corn and milo maize, in which 3,094 acres were planted, and 1,409 acres in hay and forage crops, besides some wheat and corn. A description of the county and of some recent developments is taken from the Texas Almanac for 1914: “The surface is almost level plain, with wide, shallow valleys. In the shallow water belts all staples produce large yields, while fruit and vegetables grow luxuriantly. The possibilities of irrigation are many and development in the shallow water belt in the northern section is making rapid progress. Until a year ago Bailey County was practically one large pasture. Although the livestock interests predominate, stock farming and diversified agriculture and horticulture in the irrigated sections are claiming an increasing amount of attention, these features being entirely responsible for the increase in population and wealth recorded during the last two years. While an accurate survey of the shallow water districts has never been made, it is estimated that there are approximately 45,000 acres in the northern portion of the county with an abundant supply of pure water at a depth ranging from eight to fifty feet.” The assessed wealth of Bailey County in 1913 was 5299.958, and in 1920, $2,822,424. – History of Texas, 1922, by W. Barrett Travis.
The XIT Ranch of Texas and the Early Days of the Llano Estacado by J. Evetts Haley, 1929
Early Bailey County History, 1978.