County Seat: Plainview, County Population: 35,900
The Hale County Courthouse was designed in the Texas Renaissance and Beaux-Arts styles by architects Martin, Byrnes and Johnston. The building, erected in 1910 as the county’s third courthouse, boasts a classic pediment with columns at the entrance.
The first county capitol stood west of the courthouse square. Constructed from lumber hauled in from Amarillo, this earliest temple of justice cost $2,500 and was accompanied by a one-room, sod jailhouse.
According to June Rayfield Welch, author of “The Texas Courthouse Revisited,” the inaugural courthouse was formally dedicated in Christmas 1888 when Z.T. Maxwell fired his rifle from each corner of the courthouse square. Maxwell was charged with “shooting a weapon within the corporate limits,” but he eventually as acquitted.
The second county courthouse, a two-story, frame structure worth $10,600, was completed in 1890.
Construction on the third and final county capitol began in 1909. The courthouse, built for $60,000, was remodeled in 1980 for $1 million.
Hale County was one of 54 counties created in one day in 1876. The county was named for John Hale, who died in the Battle of San Jacinto.
Plainview was named the county seat in 1888. However, residents of Hale Center provoked an election, saying Hale Center was more centrally located. Plainview prevailed, winning by 26 votes.
In 1913, the Texas Land and Development Company purchased about 60,000 acres of land in Plainview, investing about $2 million to develop farm tracts and a pleasure park; plant fruit trees, grapevines and shade trees; and establish an experimental farm, about 630 acres in size, staffed by agricultural experts.
The Texas Land and Development Company eventually sold land to farmers in tracts of 40, 80 and 160 acres. Specialty areas included sorghum, cotton, fruit trees, poultry and sheep ranching.
The Great Depression dealt its share of loss to Hale County; however, the 1940s saw a period of economic expansion that lasted two decades, partly due to the discovery of oil. In fact, production of crude totaled 2,478,000 barrels in 1956.
Manufacturing soon became a booming business, as well, with the county logging 44 manufacturers in 1963 and 48 businesses in 1982.
Agribusiness, food-processing plants, manufacturing, and government services support the current economy.
A variety of attractions lure visitors to Hale County and its county seat of Plainview.
Antique lovers have a home in Hale County’s Antique District, encompassing 79,000 square feet of antiques, collectives, crafts and specialty items.
The Fair Theater, a 1920s, 400-seat theater now fully renovated, is the annual venue of the Miss Teen USA Pageant.
The Museum of the Llano Estacado offers more than 80 exhibits detailing the geological, prehistoric, cultural and economical development of the region.
Finally, the annual Plainview Cattle Drive each September features a chuckwagon breakfast, rodeo, tractor pull, western parade and gunfight, not to mention food and games.