County Seat: Breckenridge * County Population: 9,630 (2010 Census)
The Stephens County Courthouse was built in 1926 in a Classical Revival style as designed by David S. Castle. The four-story temple of justice features limestone construction, monumental primary entry stairs rising to triple-arched entry doors, and 10 columns. Although not occupied until December 1926, a grand dedication ceremony took place on the courthouse grounds on July 4, 1926.
Stephens County’s inaugural courthouse, erected in 1872, was a small, pine building with desks for county officials lining the walls. In 1883, a new, three-story, red stone courthouse with a tower replaced the original structure.
The porch and sandstone entryway from the second courthouse were retained and are located on the southeast end of the square. The story behind the keepsake is explained on a historical marker: “This ornate doorway was the main entrance of the three-story, red sandstone courthouse built here in 1883. Carved into these columns are the names of architect J.E. Flanders, County Judge E.L. Walker, and three of four commissioners. The fourth was omitted because he objected to the cost of the construction. A large cistern at the rear of the building provided water for the town. When the oil boom of the 1920s attracted more people to this area, and the old structure was replaced by a larger courthouse in 1926, this portal was left as a reminder of the county’s pioneer heritage.”
The county seat of Breckenridge was named after Vice President John C. Breckinridge, though with an altered spelling. The county name is in reference to Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens. Interestingly, the first child born in the county was named Breckinridge Stephens Walker.
Breckenridge is surrounded by three area lakes popular for their bass, catfish, and crappie: Hubbard Creek Lake, Lake Daniel, and Possum Kingdom Lake. The county also offers some of the best hunting in the Lone Star State. Seasonal game includes white-tailed deer, quail, dove, and wild turkey, and year-round hunting includes feral hogs and squirrels.
Breckenridge was named the official Mural Capital of Texas by the Texas Legislature on Jan. 17, 2001. Of the 12 murals featured downtown, nine are the original work of airbrush artist Billy Ines. The murals were inspired by the black and white photographs of eccentric and prolific photographer Basil Clemons, who came to Breckenridge during the 1920s oil boom when the population soared to 30,000.
Stephens County is home to three museums: the Swenson Memorial Museum and JD Sandefer Oil Annex located in downtown, and the Breckenridge Aviation Museum located at the Stephens County Airport.
The National Theatre, a completely restored and renovated 1920s movie playhouse, is located in downtown Breckenridge and offers seating for 230.
Special events include the annual Stephens County Frontier Days. The two-day festival offers entertainment, vendors, food booths, and a carnival zone, along with the Bob Drake Memorial Chuckwagon Cook-off and the Breckenridge Idol Competition.