County Seat: Sierra Blanca * County Population: 3,476 (2010 U.S. Census)
Hudspeth County’s one and only courthouse was erected in 1919 in a Mediterranean style as designed by Buetell and Hardie. This temple of justice, the only adobe courthouse in the Lone Star State, has walls some 18 inches thick and is listed as a National Register Property.
Formed from El Paso County, Hudspeth County was created Feb. 16, 1917, and named for Claude Benton Hudspeth, a state senator and member of the U.S. Congress. The county seat of Sierra Blanca refers to a nearby mountain peak.
Sierra Blanca was born with the arrival of the Texas and Pacific and the Southern Pacific railroads; in fact, the town developed around the depot. A historical marker records the joining of the two railroads in 1881, described as a “great achievement in American history.” Additional details are available in the Hudspeth County Railroad Depot Museum, housed in the 1882 Railroad Depot that served both the Texas and Pacific and Southern Pacific.
Hudspeth County also is known as the home of Fort Hancock, established along the El Paso to San Antonio road as Camp Rice on June 9, 1882, by a troop of the 10th U.S. Cavalry “Buffalo Soldiers.” The post was moved to be closer to the Southern Pacific Railroad and eventually renamed as Fort Hancock after the death of General Winfield Scott Hancock, a hero of the battle of Gettysburg. The town of Fort Hancock remains today, and along with the old post has a second claim to fame – a brief mention as a border crossing point in the end of the movie “The Shawshank Redemption.”
The county boasts a natural beauty, with its flat ranchlands edged by mountains on the horizon and stands of yuccas some 15 feet to 20 feet high. The yuccas, referred to as desert “forests,” are especially spectacular in March and April when each stalk is topped by a cluster of white blossoms.
Hudspeth County is part of the Guadalupe National Park, known for its beautiful canyons, hiking and backpacking opportunities, and unique plant life. In addition, some 300 bird species are known to frequent the park, with more than 40 species alone nesting in McKittrick Canyon. Thousands of visitors come to Guadalupe Mountains National Park each year just to visit McKittrick Canyon, especially during late October and early November to view the sensational fall foliage.
Every September the county gathers in Dell City for the Wild West Chile Fest, a part of the annual Dell Valley Hudspeth County Fair. As explained on the Chile Fest website:
Dell Valley and Hudspeth County are places of extremes – vast open spaces, stark mountains, and dramatic sunsets. Each year presents its own unique extremes and challenges – winter cold snaps, spring dust storms, and scorching summer heat. Those challenges are all the more reason for Dell Valley and Hudspeth County residents – and our families and friends from near and far – to gather together, enjoy one another’s company and celebrate the pioneering spirit and special sense of community that have defined this place and continue to carry us through today. (http://wildwestchilefest.com/site/)
Rebecca Dean Walker
Jim Ed Miller