The Legacy of Phebe Worley

Henry Worley, the first sheriff of Clay County, and his wife, Phebe Allan Jackson Worley, were living on their ranch near Henrietta, the county seat, when the challenge of the Panhandle reached into central Texas. In 1882 the Worleys bought a ranch between Wildorado and Hereford. The land lay south of Wildorado on the west bank of the Terra Blanco Draw (Buffalo Lake).

Photo of Eloise Lane

Eloise Lane

The Worleys filed on the land and built a dugout for Phebe and their three children, S. Burt, Inez and Amanda. Henry went back to settle the ranch sale in Henrietta, and to start gathering his herd to move. He and some of his cowboys were driving the cattle across country when Henry fell from his horse and died as a result.

The foreman and cowboys buried Henry in Charlie, Texas, (near Wichita Falls) and brought the herd to the Panhandle ranch. Eleven days after Henry was killed, the cowboys arrived with the cattle and told Phebe about the accident. Phebe continued to operate the ranch with the help of the foreman, Albert Combs, and the other ranch hands. The first railroad west was the Rock Island that evidently came near their land. They traveled to the ranch from Amarillo by train, stopping to open barbed wire gates that separated the pastures. Occasion- ally Indians came by — they were not hostile as they wanted only food. Phebe kept a house in Amarillo when the children were attending school. Inez and Amanda continued school in Amarillo and graduated from Amarillo High School.

Inez married Frank Moore Carter, and Amanda married Earnest Elzy Reynolds. Phebe became increasingly dissatisfied with the location of the Wildorado ranch — the blizzards were devastating and the flat prairie land offered no protection for the cattle. Phebe, with her son-in-law, Earnest Reynolds, and her foreman, Albert Combs, decided to partner on land that was more rolling. They went to where Phebe’s brother and sister-in-law, William and Emma Jackson, had settled four miles straight west of Lefors. The partners bought the adjoining land from the White Deer Land Company at about $2.50 per acre in 1913.

The transaction was for 13 sections — Albert Combs being partner in nine sections, and Earnest Reynolds one-half interest in four sections.

The cattle were driven from Wildorado, with the drive taking about three weeks. A new house and cellar were built, along with stock barns, corrals and other shelters. Amanda had a good garden and planted fruit trees that were watered with the stock tank overflow. Winter times were still hard. Feed was put up in bundles in the summer and fed to stock in the winters by pulling a wooden sled over the snow-covered hills. Some- times cows were so weak that they were “on the lift,” and had to be “tailed up”

rolled on to a sled and brought into the barn for better food and shelter. Earnest Reynolds would bring in new baby calves to keep them from freezing, and Amanda would bottle-feed them. Earnest continued to develop the land, breaking out the sod with a mule-drawn turning plow — “land full of prairie dogs and rattlesnakes.” When oil activity began in the area of Gray County, Phebe leased land to F. Wilcox Oil and Gas Co., an independent company out of Oklahoma, and Wilcox held the lease for fifty years. The first oil well in Gray County was on the Wilcox No. 1 Worley-Reynolds well in Section 62, Block 3, I&GN Survey.

Completed On January 31, 1925, the well was completed at 3,000 feet and produced 100 barrels of oil in the first 24-hour test. It settled to be a 60-barrel producer before it was capped in 1980. Wilcox built a refinery, which ceased operations in the 1940s, on the ranch. Phebe was milking a cow when she was told that the first oil well in Gray County had “blown in” on her land. The family story goes that she threw down her bucket and exclaimed, “I’ll never milk another damn cow!” However, she continued selling milk, cream and butter for years, using the money to improve the orchard and herd of cattle.

Henry Reynolds, son of Earnest and Amanda, was washing dishes after school in a Pampa cafe when oil men rushed in yelling, “We’ve got it! It’s a well.” Amanda was cooking for the oil field hands and Earnest was hauling water to the oil field for those who worked on~ the site.

After Phebe was injured in a car accident, she realized the need for another hospital in Pampa. With Dr. J. C. McKean, she helped to finance the Worley Hospital that opened in 1931 at West Francis. Her name was over the door of private room number ten which she personally furnished. Also in 1931, the Combs-Worley Building at 120 West Kingsmill was completed to house the Combs-Worley ranch and oil interests and Pampa professions and businesses. Albert Combs and Phebe Worley wanted to “put back part of what the earth yielded in the shape of Pampa’s tallest and largest structure.~’ Frank Moore “Buster” Carter is the great grandson of Phebe Worley and the grandson of Inez Carter. As the major stockholder in the First State Bank Of Miami, he started a branch of the bank at Pampa in April 1998.

The entrance to First State Bank – Pampa Branch is on the Kingsmill Avenue side of the Combs-Worley Building. Over the entrance to the building on the Russell Street side are two dis- tinctive cattle brands, the Rafter T-Bar for Combs and the 0-40 for Worley. In- side are some display cases on the south side of the corridor. One of these shows pictures of Phebe Worley and Albert Combs picture of the Combs-Worley Building ca 1930-31; Combs-Worley ranch house in the l930s; saddle used by Albert Combs on many cattle trails; and dress, hat and shoes worn by Phebe Jackson Worley, who was born in 1857 and died in 1937.

(From the story of Earnest and Amanda Reynolds in Gray County Heritage FOCUS, Summer 1992, p. 13, and other sources.)

Over 200 Articles, written by Eloise Lane, were published in the Pampa News. These articles may be accessed by clicking on each section below. A list of articles will be revealed that are linked to a page containing the text of the article.

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