Texas Trails

Clay Coppedge, Southern Livestock Standard

May 27, 2024

One of the first things buffalo hunters on the Texas plains did when they got to the Panhandle in the early 1870s was to create a hunter’s camp. The hunters were down from Kansas, where the buffalo and, by extension, buffalo hunters were a thing of the past. They called their camp Hidetown, which began to take on the look of a settlement when the U.S. Army established Fort Elliott a few miles way. The fort offered protection for the town and, along with the Texas Rangers, a measured dose of law and order. 

The good people of Hidetown soon sought a more dignified name for their community and settled on Sweetwater, but the U.S. Post Office already recognized a town by that name. George Montgomery, the town’s first postmaster, tried to solve the dilemma by sending to Fort Elliott for an Indian scout who would come to Hidetown and offer an appropriate tribal name.

The story goes that two Indians showed up along with famous buffalo hunter Billy Dixon, who served as an interpreter. Mobeetie, they said, is the Indian word for Sweetwater. The townspeople were delighted. Mobeetie it was. 

Later, the townspeople learned that the Indians had duped them. Mobeetie, according to the story, actually translates from English to “buffalo dung” in Cheyenne. Nothing in the historical record backs up the story, but it’s a good story. 

Mobeetie blossomed into a town that was as rank a place as any fancier of rankness could ever desire.  It was a particular favorite of gamblers, prostitutes, and gunfighters. Pioneer Panhandle cattleman Charles Goodnight described the town as “patronized by outlaws, thieves, cut-throats and buffalo hunters, with a large percentage of prostitutes.” Temple Lea Houston, Sam Houston’s youngest son, wrote his wife that Mobeetie was “a baldheaded whiskey town with few virtuous women.” 

Businesses of the day included such entrepreneurial shenanigans as the Pink Pussycat Paradise, the Buffalo Chip Mint and the Ringtown Saloon. Tourists and celebrities who visited the town included Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp and Pat Garrett. Happy-go-lucky murderer Clay Allison lived just outside of town for a while and even got married in Mobeetie. Clay Allison and Mobeetie were a perfect  

Bat Masterson, soon to be a Western legend his own self, showed up with the buffalo hunters in Mobeetie when it was still called Sweetwater in 1876. Dapper as any buffalo hunter could be, Bat frequented the Lady Gay Saloon and became friendly with a pretty dance hall girl named Mollie Brennan. An ex-cavalry sergeant named Melvin King also had his eye on Mollie, creating a situation that did not end well. 

One night, after a hard night of losing poker, King found Bat and Mollie at the Lady Gay, being sweet to one another. King pulled his pistol and fired two shots. The first bullet from King’s gun hit Bat in the hip and caused him to walk with a limp for the rest of his life. The second one killed Mollie. Bat raised himself from the floor and fired one fatal shot at King. 

That’s one of three versions of the story, but they all end with Mollie and King dead and Bat wounded and on his way to Dodge City and the history books. 

Mobeetie continued to rock along until around 1890, when Fort Elliott closed up shop. The saloons shuttered after a well-received revival meeting in 1893 resulted in some 300 conversions. A tornado destroyed most of the town and killed seven people in 1898. A controversial election in 1907 moved the county seat of Wheeler County from Mobeetie to the town of Wheeler. 

When the Santa Fe Railroad line from Pampa to Oklahoma missed Mobeetie by a couple of miles in 1929, the town packed up and moved the two miles north to New Mobeetie and stayed there.  

Southern Livestock

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