History Lesson from Crosby County - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

7/30/02

History Lesson from Crosby County

It was a struggle between three growing towns for one county seat. The year was 1911. Emma, Texas had held the Crosby County title since 1891, but both Ralls and Crosbyton wanted to take that title away. They took it to the highest court in the state.

"There was a group of citizens that took this controversy to court, and it went on for two years and eventually wound up in the Texas Supreme Court -- and when it was settled, Crosbyton was indeed the county seat," says historian Verna Anne Wheeler.

According to Wheeler, the ruling was not enough. Crosbyton citizens wanted proof. Proof that they could put their hands on. So, with a carefully devised plan, the county clerk smuggled the records out of the Emma courthouse, stored them in the back seat of a car, and brought them to Crosbyton to reassure the ruling.

"I doubt very seriously that Crosbyton would exist if the county seat had not come here at that time," says Wheeler.

It was the defiant act which happened so many years ago that saved Crosbyton, but that would not be the last time excitement that would happen for Crosby County. 12 years later, two men were on trial for trying to murder a man named "Poppin" Payne, over gambling debts. So, shortly after the district court convened, Payne got his revenge.

"Poppin" Payne decided that he was never going to get justice so he took a gun and went out on the courthouse steps and killed them as they sat talking to their lawyer.

The shooting on the steps of the Crosby County courthouse made headlines in 1923. Years later, it continues to keep people talking. "It's mind boggling to those of us that live in this time that something like this could happen on the courthouse steps," says Wheeler.

The Crosby County seat now covers the towns of Crosbyton, Ralls, and Lorenzo.

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