H. Allen Anderson

BACK, TEXAS. Back, originally Pumpkin Ridge, is a rural community at the junction of State Highway 273 and Farm Road 1321, in eastern Gray County. The area was first settled by farmers in the late 1890s. In October 1899 a post office was opened there and named Northfork because of its proximity to the North Fork of the Red River. John J. Simpkins was the first postmaster. Many of the Pumpkin Ridge farmers built their homes out of lumber procured from the abandoned Fort Elliott near Mobeetie. A one-room school, opened in 1899, was originally taught by Miss Fannie Womble and later by T. M. Wolf, future Gray county judge. The community received its present name after John David Back arrived in the fall of 1904 with his wife and ten children from near Van Alstyne, in Collin County. Back, who became a pillar in the community, gave land for a new school building after the first one was mysteriously plundered for its lumber. The Back school, which served as a church building on Sundays, quickly became a local gathering place. For recreation, area residents enjoyed hunting in the breaks of the North Fork, and in 1905 a local baseball club was organized.

Oil and natural gas discoveries in the area during the 1920s led real estate men to begin platting lots for a proposed Back City in 1927, and roads were graded to the local oil wells, some of which reportedly produced as much as 6,000 barrels a day. A new brick schoolhouse was completed in 1928. The proposed town failed to materialize, however, after the Phillips Petroleum Company constructed a plant on the North Fork and the Fort Worth and Denver Northern Railway completed its line from Childress to Pampa in 1932. The Northfork post office, which had closed in 1928, was reestablished at the oil camp of Denworth in September 1932. Most people found it cheaper to live in either McLean, to the south of Back, or in Denworth, to the north. The Back community school remained in operation until 1950, when its district merged with that of McLean. Afterward the building was used as a community center. The area still produces oil and gas. In 2000 the population was six.

Arthur Hecht, comp., Postal History in the Texas Panhandle (Canyon, Texas: Panhandle-Plains Historical Society, 1960). S. G. Reed, A History of the Texas Railroads (Houston: St. Clair, 1941; rpt., New York: Arno, 1981). F. Stanley [Stanley F. L. Crocchiola], Story of the Texas Panhandle Railroads (Borger, Texas: Hess, 1976). L. M. Watson, Jr., Back Community (MS, Interview files, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, Texas).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, H. Allen Anderson, "BACK, TX," accessed February 21, 2020,

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Texas AlmanacFor more information about towns and counties including physical features, statistics, weather, maps and much more, visit the Town Database on!
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...