"Ghost Riders in the Sky" by Bob Wade
Wichita Falls has a proud history dating back to the early 1700’s when the Wichita Indians migrated to the Red River area. The name Wichita is derived from the Choctaw word, “wia chitoh,” which means “big arbor,” a description of the grass-thatched arbors in the Wichita’s village. During the late 1700’s, Comanches and Apaches also lived in the area. All three tribes remained in the area until the 1830’s. The city gained its name from a Wichita Indian encampment near a small waterfall along the Wichita River.
Anglo-American settlers were drawn to the area during the 1860’s with the lure of vast, grass-rich prairies making the area home to the infamous North Texas cattle barons. In need of money, the Texas Republic sold land certificates for fifty cents per acre. The original 640 acres that were to become the city were rumored to have been won by John A. Scott in a poker game. In 1882 the city became the county seat and was accessed by the Fort Worth & Denver City railroad that would prove to be the first of several systems to serve Wichita Falls. Oats, wheat, and cotton crops were plentiful and drove the city’s economy during the early 1900’s. World War I brought with it a drought, an Army aviation training facility, and “black gold.” The Fowler No. 1 well in Burkburnett became the area’s first deep-well strike, and in 1919 the 4,000 feet wide and three-mile long pool produced 3.3 million barrels of oil. With 40% of the state’s petroleum production coming from Wichita County, the population had grown to 40,079 by 1940. In 1945 Sheppard Field training center had 46,650 men and was the largest concentration of air troops in the world. Nicknamed the “Factory City,” Wichita Falls had over 100 manufacturing companies in the 1950’s.
With 101,724 people in 1960, the self-proclaimed “Shiniest Buckle in the Sun Belt” was at an all-time high. The economy continued on a strong track until the 1985 downturn in domestic oil production. Throughout much of its very colorful history, the oil and gas industry reigned as king in North Texas.
Today, Wichita Falls has a more diversified economy. While agriculture and the oil and gas industry remain cornerstones of the regional economy, Wichita Falls has emerged as a regional hub for all forms of commerce ranging from the presence of some 185+ manufacturers to regional health care services and regional retail centers.
Wichita Falls has a good selection of lodging and restaurants as well as its own waterfalls. The famous ribs at Bar L barbeque drive-in, the red beers down the street at The Deuce (Pioneer Two Drive In) and red tacos at Casa Manana shouldn't be missed.
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