Cedar Lake

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Cedar Lake is a largely forgotten brackish body of occasional shallow water in isolated northeastern Gaines County in West Texas. Adjacent to New Mexico and named for area cedar scrubs, the lake is the largest alkali body of water in the region. A playa or dry lake, it is located on the Llano Estacado (Staked Plains) and has nearly sixty miles of shoreline. The lake is idden away and unknown to the current generation.[1]

Called Lagunas Sabinas by early Spanish explorers, the lake area contains two mass burial grounds, one on the northern side and the other on the western side. Both Apache and Comanche used the lake. Colancheros, villagers in New Mexico, transported goods on two-wheeled carts from the Pecos River Valley to barter their wares with Indians for bison hides and meat and likely stolen cattle. [1]

After the Red River War of 1874-1875, the United States Army used the lake in the 1870s while returning Comanches to their reservations. In December 1874, Colonel Ranald Slidell Mackenzie (1840-1889) made an all-night forced march to Cedar Lake, but his troops were unable to catch a large group of nearby Comanches. Lieutenant Colonel William Rufus Shafter (1835-1906), popularly known as "Pecos Bill," commanded primarily African-American "Buffalo Soldiers," embarked on a six-month expedition Into the Llano Estacado. The soldiers found few Indians except for a contingent of Apaches at Cedar Lake who fled when pursued. Charles Angelo "Charlie" Siringo (1855-1928), called "the cowboy detective," passed by Cedar Lake in the late 1870s and encountered camps of bison-hide hunters. One of those hide hunters, Thomas L. "George" Causey (1850-1903) a native of Alton, Illinois, killed in 1882 killed two hundred bison near the lake.[2][3]

Cattleman and banker Christopher Columbus "C. C." Slaughter (1837-1919), ran the northwestern boundary of his Long S Ranch adjacent to Cedar Lake. In its heyday, the Long S extended for fifty miles north to south and fifty miles east of west. It may have been second in size to the more famous XIT Ranch, located in ten counties in the Texas Panhandle. Shortly after 1900, Slaughter cut his Long S Ranch to some 250,000 acres. Another rancher leased acreage about Cedar Lake; this land became Fish Ranch. Not long afterward J. H. Belcher and his sons, through purchase and leasing, obtained 111 sections in “Cedar Lake Country," as the area was called. Because Belcher’s leases ran out, the farmers, ranchers, and other settlers acquired smaller tracts of land, and the area population grew. Carts powered by mules delivered the mail from Lamesa in Dawson County, south of Lubbock. A post office building appeared in 1907 at a place in Gaines County called Blue Goose, since Loop, Texas.[1]

In the 1920s cotton growers on large farms began irrigating the prairie land. In 1935, the first productive oil well was drilled in the area. There are still oil well pump jacks located about the lake. By the end of the 1930s a town called Cedar Lake appeared on the northeast corner of the lake. Gus White of Dawson County established this community on his ranch in December 1939, after citizens voted to sell beer. The village became known as White City; it had "a lumber yard, grocery store, barber shop, four or five bars, two dance halls, an out-door dance pavilion and a two-story hotel and café.” A post office opened in 1941. After World War II, voters reversed themselves and forbade the sale of beer once more. The town began to decline. By 1960, not even the post office remained.[1]

An historical marker placed at the north end of Cedar Lake in 1936 by the Texas Centennial Commission identifies the location as the birthplace of Comanche Chief Quanah Parker (1845-1911).[2]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Paul H. Carlson (February 78, 2020). Caprock Chronicles: Cedar Lake - the largest playa on the Llano Estacado. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Retrieved on February 10, 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 James Irving Fenton (1932-2011). Cedar Lake (Gaines County). Texas State Historical Association on-line. Retrieved on February 10, 2020.
  3. James I. Fenton. Causey, Thomas L. "George". Texas State Historical Associates. Retrieved on February 10, 2020.