DUMAS, TX (MOORE COUNTY)
DUMAS, TEXAS (Moore County). Dumas, the county seat of Moore County, is at the junction of U.S. highways 87 and 287 in the center of the county. It was named for Louis Dumas, president of the Panhandle Townsite Company in Sherman, who purchased railroad survey lands in the Panhandle. In January 1891 Dumas and his associates formed the Moore County Townsite Company and platted the town on a site some five miles south of South Palo Duro Creek. The first building housed the company office, a hotel, a general store, and the first post office. James C. Wilson served as first postmaster and was followed by John F. Patterson, who opened a general store later that year. The following year Moore County was organized, and Dumas was elected county seat. By then several lots had been sold and a courthouse erected. The first school was constructed in 1892 on the block west of the courthouse.
A plague of grasshoppers in the summer of 1893 and a severe winter during 1893–94 almost reduced Dumas to a ghost town. Even Louis Dumas gave up hope and moved back to Grayson County. At times during the next few years only one family was reported as inhabiting the townsite. In 1900 Arthur Nield's mercantile store was the sole business in operation. In 1904 Phillips and Son bought this establishment and started an enterprise that is still in operation. J. V. Mills opened a rival general store, and the first bank was opened in 1908. Since there was no railroad, supplies were hauled overland from Amarillo. A skating rink was opened, and the county's first newspaper, the Moore County Pioneer, began circulation in 1909. Two churches had been established, and by 1910 automobiles and telephones were in use. When the Enid, Ochiltree and Western Railroad announced plans to build through Dumas, the population increased from twenty-three in 1903 to over 100 by 1915. Though that railroad scheme fell through, Dumas grew to around 200 and had a blacksmith shop, a barbershop, a lumberyard, a drugstore, and other businesses serving area ranchers and wheat farmers. After cotton was introduced to the county in 1918, a gin was opened in Dumas.
The determination of the Dumas residents to stay in their windswept environment paid off when oil and natural gas were discovered in the county in 1926. The population grew rapidly as Shamrock Oil and Gas and other major companies moved into the vicinity. In 1931 the long-awaited hopes for a railroad were realized with the building of the North Plains and Santa Fe line from Amarillo to Boise City, Oklahoma. These new developments greatly boosted the town's economic, civic, and cultural growth. Streets were paved, a fire department was organized, a new courthouse was built, and a new newspaper, the Moore County News, replaced the defunct Pioneer. Despite the Dust Bowl, the population of Dumas grew to 2,500 by 1935. In 1936 a zinc-smelting plant was established in the vicinity, as were several carbon black plants that utilized the sour gas from the oilfields (see CARBON BLACK INDUSTRY). World War II further stimulated the area's petroleum industry, causing the population to increase from 2,117 in 1940 to 6,127 by 1950. On July 29, 1956, the county's worst disaster, a fire at the Shamrock-McKee plant near Dumas, killed nine plant employees and ten firemen. By 1965 deep-well irrigation and several petrochemical plants had further enhanced the town's economy. The population continued to grow, from 8,477 in 1960 to 12,194 in 1980, when Dumas had twenty-two churches, eight city parks, six public schools, two banks, a hospital, a nursing home, a library, two radio stations, a cable television company, and 257 businesses. In 1990 the population was 12,871, and in 2000 it was 13,747.
Dumas is in the heart of one of the state's leading grain sorghum producing areas (see SORGHUM CULTURE). Moore County also produces large quantities of natural gas, as well as two-thirds of the nation's helium (see HELIUM PRODUCTION). Several feedlots, grain elevators, beef packers, and fertilizer plants, as well as a tannery, attest to the leadership in agribusiness. The Moore County Historical Museum, housed in a former hotel, features memorabilia and displays of local history, area wildlife, Indian artifacts, and changing exhibits. The major annual event, complete with parade and carnival, is called Dogie Days and occurs during the second weekend in June. Fall events are the Moore County Fair and the County Art Bazaar. Moore County Airport is west of the city. Dumas was made famous by the hit song "I'm a Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas," recorded by Phil Harris in the 1940s. The song was written by Phil Baxter of Navarro County after he had spent a night in Dumas on a trip to Denver. In 1982 Dumas was the home of the Arturo Toscanini Society, a national group dedicated to preserving the conductor's memory.
Myrna Tryon Thomas, The Windswept Land: A History of Moore City (Dumas, Texas, 1967).