History Of Ector County
Ector County was named for Confederate General Matthew Duncan Ector, Commander of the noted Ector's Brigade and an attorney during the Civil War Era. Matthew D. Ector was born in Putnam County, Georgia, in 1822. He was educated at Center College, Kentucky, and admitted to practice law in Georgia in 1844. He came to Texas in 1847 at the age of 25.
Matthew D. Ector entered the Confederate Army as a private and served on General Hogg's staff. He advanced rapidly in position and held the rank of Brigadier-General at the close of the war. Matthew D. Ector returned to Texas in 1865. He deposited, at the Department of State of the United States , his original oath of allegiance to the Union on September 17, 1865. Matthew D. Ector was appointed District Judge of the Sixth Judicial District on June 25, 1866. Judge Ector died October 29, 1879, while Judge of the Court of Civil Appeals.
The first visitors to Ector County were in the 1500's, when three Spanish Conquistadors traveled through the area and found Indians of the Jumanos tribe residing here. In the 1700's, Ector County was part of the Comanche War Trail and home for herds of wild buffalo. 1849 found families headed for the California Gold Rush traveling through the County.
In July, 1881, the citizens of many West Texas communities celebrated the centennial of the coming of the railroad to this area. One of these communities, between Fort Worth and El Paso, was Ector County. Early in July 1881, the Texas and Pacific Company extended the transcontinental railroad system through the isolated territory of western Tom Green County. Approximately 296 miles west of Fort Worth, the labor crews built a one-story frame house in what is now known as Odessa. This section house, No. 163, was to be used for housing of maintenance laborers and as a storehouse for railroad equipment. The Texas and Pacific Company build such structures every ten miles along the route to insure adequate upkeep on its investment. Population around the area was scarce, but as was the case with most of the southwestern United States, the people followed the railroad.
Land promoters were primarily responsible for attracting settlers to the barren West Texas plains. The Texas and Pacific Company had accumulated some five million acres from state land grants, and being anxious to sell the land at a profit, hired promotional companies to help them unload the excess. In 1884, a land agent decided to start a campaign to sell a block of land west of Midland. In brochures distributed in the Midwest and eastern states, the agent publicized the territory as a great wheat-producing region, second only behind Odessa, Russia. From that time on, as the legend goes, the section house, located twenty miles west of Midland, was called Odessa.
Between 1886 and 1890, two land promotion schemes attracted permanent residents to settle around the section house in Odessa. Citizens petitioned the Legislature in 1885 to create a new county to include Odessa, but it was not until 1887 that the Texas Legislature divided Tom Green County into 13 counties. In 1887, Ector County contained less than 100 residents and was under the administrative jurisdiction of Midland County. The law required 150 residents to organize a county, and it was four years before Ector County qualified.
On November 11, 1890, a petition containing 156 names requesting legal organization of Ector County was approved by the Midland Commissioners Court. The ties with Midland were broken, and an election for temporary officials was called January 6, 1891. The following officers were elected: County Judge C.W. Rathbun; County and District Clerk J.S. Devereux; County Commissioner James Bolton; and Sheriff and Tax Collector E. F. Dawson. Soon, Commissioners M. G. Buchanan, J.W. Driver, and J.L. Gray were appointed.
Ranching, both sheep and cattle, was the mainstay of the economy in Ector County from the mid 1880's through 1927. Farming was attempted on a small scale, but proved unsuccessful. During this forty year period, the basic entities of the community were formed. Churches were founded almost immediately with congregations being served by the circuit preachers and laymen. Services were held at the courthouse, in homes or under the trees. Schools, social organizations, commercial businesses and political clubs soon followed.
The major discovery of oil in Ector County did not actually occur until 1929. The gusher was located in the southwest section of the county on the W.E. Connell ranch. Drilling supervisor Robert Penn "brought in" the well and the community that developed around this productive field was called Pennwell in his honor. The subsequent wells which became productive were to be the foundation of the lasting economic boom in this Permian Basin county.
Ector County has taken its place as a center for oil production and petroleum products. As a result of its prominence in the North American oil industry, the County has become an attraction for people all over the nation seeking employment. fortunately, jobs have been available throughout the years and economic instability has not been a constant fear. Through several periods of boom, the 1920's, the 1950's, and th 1970's, Ector County has continued to grow and prosper. The residents of this community take pride in the fact that their hometown has been nationally recognized as an up and coming city of the future and has been able to withstand the "boom" and "bust" cycles throughout its history.
In addition to the oil industry, education has flourished through Odessa College which was established in 1949, the the University of Texas of the Permian Basin which was created in 1969. The medical industry has grown with the addition of the Texas Tech Regional Academic Health Center in 1981.
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