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Gaines County Museum
The museum also attempts to represent the five major cultures that contributed to the formation and development of the county:
Gaines County is located on the southern high plains of west Texas. It covers 1489 square miles of rolling land, supporting the growth of cotton, sorghums, vegetables, peanuts, sunflowers, peaches, pecans, cattle, sheep, hogs. Gaines County is also one of the state's leading oil producers.
The county was Comanche country until the U.S. Army campaigns of 1875 and 1876. Buffalo hunters moved through the region in the 1870s, and established ranches to remain in the area after the game disappeared. Farming developed in the county in the early 1900s, and by 1905 the population was sufficient for the establishment of a named county, with the town of Seminole as its seat. 1907 saw the building of a courthouse; a jail was built in 1909. By 1910, 206 farms and ranches were scattered throughout the county, growing corn and fruit trees (mostly peaches). Cattle ranching was the primary focus, however, with 32,250 cattle roaming the ranges.
The Dust Bowl and the Great Depression of the 1930s and 1940s devastated the economy of the county. New irrigation techniques developed during the late 1940s revived agriculture. Farmers abandoned the flood method of irrigation because the sandy soil would not hold the water, and began utilizing the vast stores of underground water with sprinkler irrigation. Mechanization also helped turn what had been a desolate area into a blooming garden. Tractors and other machinery displaced the old technique of plowing one row at a time behind a team of horses.
Oil production has continued to play an important role in the county's economy. In 1948 crude production totaled more than 15,663,000 barrels and in 1956, more than 24,395,000 barrels. By the 1970s there were seventeen oilfields scattered over the county, with 1,600 wells producing at from 5,000 to 14,000 feet. Production was almost 60,707,000 barrels in 1978 and about 47,522,000 barrels in 1982. The county produced almost 42,686,000 barrels in 1990. By January 1991, 1,670,602,104 barrels of petroleum had been taken from Gaines County since 1936.
The population of the county gradually increased after the 1940s, rising to 8,909 in 1950, 12,267 in 1960, 11,593 in 1970, and 13,150 in 1980. In 2014 the county had a population of 19,425, of which 38.7 percent was Hispanic; about 58.3 percent of the population was Anglo, and 2.1 percent was African American. U.S. Highways 180 (west to east) and 385 (north to south) are the major roads. Communities include Seagraves (population, 2,609), Ashmore, Higginbotham, and Loop. Seminole (population, 7,110) is the largest town, market center, and county seat. A settlement of Mennonites has developed near Seminole. The community has its own school and church and maintains its agrarian religious traditions. Most of the Mennonite farmers moved to Texas from Mexico, where regulations against foreign ownership of land had become burdensome.
Sources"A Walk through Gaines County History," accessed August 25, 2016, http://www.seminoletxchamber.org/assets/L%20Walk%20Through%20History%201.2.pdf. "Seminole: Gaines County Museum," Texas Plains Trail Region, accessed August 25, 2016, http://texasplainstrail.com/plan-your-adventure/historic-sites-and-cities/sites/gaines-county-museum. Margaret Coward. The Gaines County Story (Seagraves, TX: Pioneer Press, 1974).
Seminole, Texas 79360
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