High Plains History episode
8:01 pm
Sun July 8, 2012

Naming Mobeetie

Mobeetie has a long history of firsts.  First established town in the Texas Panhandle, first post office, first court house, first judicial system and jail, first school, and first reported tornado- a killer storm that took seven lives in 1898.  To this day, even though a virtual ghost town, it is considered the,  "mother city,"  of the panhandle.

Mobeetie began in 1878 as Hidetown, a  buffalo hunter’s camp, named such for the use of buffalo hides by the residents to construct dwellings.  Growth was spurred by trade with neighboring Fort Elliott.  When the residents petitioned the state to become recognized as a county, they chose the name of Sweetwater because of the proximity to Sweet Water Creek.  A request was made for a post office, but denied due to the previous existence of a town by that name.    

The search for anther name began.  There are multiple legends about how the name Mobeetie came to be.  One is that an Indian Scout at Fort Elliott told the court that the Indian word for sweet water is mobeetie.   Many dialects as well as the use of signing in the Native American language led to the interpretation that mobeetie could also mean buffalo dung.  The most likely story comes from Immanuel Dubbs, the first county judge, who journaled that during the county commissioner meeting, the group received word that the town name, Sweetwater, was already taken.  Commissioner Williams spoke the Cheyenne language, and shared that mobeetie was the Cheyenne word for Sweetwater.  The name stuck, and the town thrived until the Fort closed in 1890.  Population decline was aided by the destructive tornado of 1898, an election moving the county seat to Wheeler, and the railroad bypassing the town by two miles.  Most businesses moved with the rail road, and another town, New Mobeetie was created.

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