Texas History: Hale County
Early Texas History is filled with notable personalities like Sam Houston, David Crockett, and Stephen F. Austin. While no one can deny their tremendous contributions to the success of the Lone Star State, it was the commonplace people who tilled the land and established the first homes, churches, and schools.
Hale County is located in the Texas Panhandle, about 40 miles north of Lubbock. It was created in 1876, and was named for Lt. John C. Hale, one of the heroes who died in the Battle of San Jacinto. In 2019, the population of the county was 33,406, and the county seat remains the city of Plainview.
In 1937, historian Mary Cox published her extensive research in the book, “History of Hale County.” The book covers many topics including the development of the industry, agriculture, education, legal, and medical aspects of the county. But near the end of the book, Cox presents “Tales the Old Timers Told.” It is here we are reminded of how the early pioneers of Texas were influenced by God.
One of the early settlers was Virginia Quillen. She traveled to Texas in a covered wagon in 1880, and was orphaned as a little girl. Her aunt brought her into her home and taught her reading and music. But more importantly, her aunt took her to Sunday School and church every week. Virginia described her aunt as a “shouting Methodist” who often kept her niece awake in church with vocal praise and worship of God.
Mrs. J.C. Smylie came to Hale County in 1887. She remembered living in sod houses that were dug into the ground and covered with dirt. She still sorrowed over the many “little graves” of children that dotted the prairie. But she also remembered the favorite Bible verse of her generous pastor, “ Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away” (Matthew 5:42).
Stella Pendley Garner arrived in Hale County in 1887 with her father, John Pendley. John was an honorable father and citizen. But his commitment to Christ was seen when he founded the First Christian Church and served as its first Sunday School superintendent. After the church was established, John helped to start the first public school in the county.
In 1892, the Rev. J. W. Winn came to Hale County planning to preach to the “lost people” in the western parts of Texas. With winter near, he and his sons in law dug out a house that was 13 feet wide by 28 feet long, and 3 feet deep into the ground. The roof was covered with sod. That winter, all 20 members of his family lived in that sod house using cow chips as fuel for their fire.
Pioneer Texas was populated by honorable people who put God first in their difficult lives. Their dedication and sacrifice remind us of Colossians 3:17 NLT, “And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”