As Lubbock nears its 130th year, we are celebrating the “Hub City” the best way we know how. By looking to the past we remember our roots and appreciate those who came before us and their efforts in making our beloved city what it is today. From the expansion of the Santa Fe Railroad to the record breaking tornado, Lubbock has come a long way, not only the past 130 years, but long before then as well.
When entering into the Lubbock area, a slight incline may be noticed as one approaches the caprock Lubbock sits upon. Approximately 250 million years ago, a geological change created Permian pools that lay beneath us today. As the landscape continued to evolve, climate changes brought major rainfall. Silt and other sediments were eroded from the Rocky Mountains to form what we know as the caprock.
The West Texas High Plains have been inhabited for thousands of years. In fact, scientists can trace findings back to the first tribe of elephants. Today, archeologists uncover bones, fossils and other ancient remains at the Lubbock Lake Landmark. This prehistoric lake spanned just under 400 acres and served as a watering hole for many animals, explorers, and settlers across the South Plains region.
In 1540 the Spanish explorer, Captain Francisco Vaquez de Coronado made his way through West Texas on his search for the City of Gold. Journals and other remains offer stories of their time in the area. It is said that the name Llano Estacado, translated to Staked Plains, comes from the explorers driving stakes into the ground to act as land markers.
Coronado and his men are responsible for many of the names of the landmarks found in Lubbock. Other areas of discovery include, the Lubbock Lake Site, known as La Punto de Agua or the place of Water, Canon Casos Amarillos was Yellow House Canyon, and Canon de Rescate was Canyon of Ransom, or better known as present day Ransom Canyon.
Many years later, on August 21, 1876 Lubbock County was created and named after Tom S. Lubbock, a former Texas Ranger, Confederate Officer, and the brother to the Governor of Texas during the Civil War. Shortly after, the Paris Cox family settled in Lubbock County to establish a Quaker Colony. After the settlement, Lubbock County grew as stores opened and the area became the chosen location of many cattle ranchers.
At the time prairie dogs had a significant impact Lubbock’s landscape. Digging holes soon made them an economic detriment to not only the growing grass and crops, but also the cattle and horses. When farmers began exterminating the animals, K.N. Clapp, Chairman of Lubbock Park Board, created “Prairie Dog Town”, an area where the animals could relocate, in MacKenzie Park. It is still there today.
In December 1890, W.D. Crump and W.E. Rayner founded Lubbock City. At the turn of the century, Lubbock City began to see great technological advances in the technology and agriculture industry. The use of windmills boomed and in 1904 the first cotton gin was built. The windmill has been a major necessity for the survival and growth of the High Plains. It supplied water and a livelihood to the crops and cattle of the dusty plain. Today, Lubbock is known to be one of the leading producers of cotton in the United States.
During this time, Lubbock’s first railway connection was completed. The Santa Fe Railroad expanded through Lubbock and connected to the largest freight railway in North America, the BNSF railway. This created an opportunity for economic growth to spread across the plains. As the Lubbock City government stabilized and the city adapted to the technological advances of the time, the automobile, electricity, and plumbing sectors were growing industries. Today drivers can experience the brick roads in downtown that were laid in 1920.
Texas Technical College opened in 1923 as the largest comprehensive higher education institution in the western two-thirds of Texas. The first class had an enrollment of 914 students. In 1969 the State Legislature formally changed Texas Technical College to Texas Tech University.
In 1941, after years of effort, Reese Air Force Base was established ten miles west of Lubbock. This base provided thousands of pilots with the training and later served as veteran housing. During the war, Lubbock was home to nine preliminary and advanced military glider pilot training fields operated in Texas. Along with Reese Air Force Bast, the South Plains Army Flying School, later renamed South Plains Army Airfield, had been used to train pilots in WWII, Texas Tech University aviation students, and served as the commercial airport during the war.
Lubbock Visitors cannot leave without hearing the iconic music of Buddy Holly. Known as one of the most influential musicians of his time, Holly and his band, The Crickets, had a lasting impact on rock ‘n roll. February 3, 1959, also known as the “day the music died”, while traveling to a show, Holly and his band died in a plane crash due to severe winter weather. Today, the City of Lubbock celebrates his talents through a number of memorials dedicated to the talented musician.
Eleven years after the death of Buddy Holly, a devastating tornado tore through downtown. On May 11, 1970, an F5 tornado caused major destruction to commercial and residential areas within the city. Because of the size and impact caused by the record-breaking disaster, scientists had to recalculate the Fujita scale. This is known to be one of the largest tornadoes in Texas history.
Since the devastation of the tornado, Lubbock has rebuilt into the thriving city it is today. As growth and improvements continue to be made within the city, so does the quality of life. Most recently, Lubbock’s art district was named the first cultural arts district in the state of Texas. Lubbock’s culture can be found on every street and is inspired by the history we celebrate today.