Close this window

The Texas Panhandle Frontier
By Frederick W. Rathjen
Published by Texas Tech University Press

The Texas Panhandle - its eastern edge descending sharply from the plains into the canyons of Palo Duro, Tule, Quitaque, Casa Blanca and Yellow House - is as rich in history as it is in natural beauty. Long comsidered a crossroads of ancient civilizations, the twenty six northernmost Texas counties lie on the southern reaches of the Great Plains, where numerous dry creek beds and the Canadian River have carved the region appriately named the High Plains.

Through these plains and their canyons, ancient peoples trailed game for the hunt. The Panhandle provided choice grazing lands for bison, and as the region became more familiar to ancient tribes, semipermanent camps marked the landscape. Yet when Coronado's conquistadores crossed the High Plains in search of fabled wealth and found sun-baked adobe instead of gold, they declared the region a wasteland. Likewise, the Republic of Texas found little use for their vast plains land - considering settlement of the frontier far too dangerous. Not until the late nineteenth century, as the U.S. Army waged war on the Comanches, Kiowas and Cheyennes who lived there, did Panhandle tracts of frontier open to hard-bitten settlers who had to prove themselves as indomitable as they were land hungry.

As in the original 1973 publication, the revised edition of The Texas Panhandle Frontier departs from the premise that the Panhandle frontier is but a brush stroke on the larger canvas of previous frontier histories as Rathjen places the events of Panhandle regional history firmly within a broad national context.