Moore County is located in the north central part of the panhandle of Texas, bordered by Sherman, Hutchinson, Potter, and Hartley counties. Dumas, the county seat, is located in the center of the county, about forty-eight miles north of Amarillo. The area is named for Commodore Edwin Ward Moore, the commander of the Texas Navy during Republic of Texas. Moore County occupies 909 square miles of the High Plains. The sandy and loam soils support abundant native grasses as well as various local crops such as wheat, corn, milo, and other grains. In general the terrain consists of nearly level prairies varied by the Canadian River brakes in the southeast and by Grapevine, Plum, South Palo Duro, North Palo Duro, and Big Blue creeks, which flow west to east and drain into the Canadian River. Part of Lake Meredith, a man-made lake on the Canadian River, is in the far southeastern corner of the county. Elevations in the county range from 2,900 to 3,700 feet above sea level. Average rain fall is 18.33 inches per year. The average minimum temperature is 20°F in January, and the average maximum is 93°F in July. The growing season averages 185 days per year.
Although early Spanish explorers and later American expeditions crossed the county by way of the Canadian River, the entire region remained the domain of Indians from prehistoric times until the 1870s. Following the Red River War of 1874, the Comanches and Kiowas were permanently removed to Indian Territory. In 1876 the Texas legislature formed Moore County from lands formerly assigned to Bexar County, and soon ranchers began moving into the area. Ranching dominated the local economy from the 1870s to the 1920s, when farming began to develop significantly. During 1877 George W. Littlefield established his famous LIT Ranch in southwestern Moore and eastern Hartley counties. Soon others followed. The LX Ranch, with headquarters in Potter County, has substantial Moore County acreage, as did the LS Ranch, which was headquartered in eastern Oldham County. Lesser stock-raising operations developed in the unclaimed ranges between these large ranches. During the 1880s the local ranching economy stabilized, and the few stock raisers and farmers who lived in the county saw the need for a local government. The founding of the town of Dumas by Louis Dumas and the Panhandle Townsite Company in 1890 encouraged county organization. As a result, Moore County was organized with Dumas as the county seat following an election held on July 5, 1892. By 1900 there were fifty-seven ranches and farms in the county, encompassing about 115,500 acres, the United States agricultural census reported 6,885 cattle and 300 sheep. Only 1,708 acres were classified as “improved,” and only forty-two were devoted to corn, at the time the county’s most important crop. The county population grew from 15 to 209 between 1890 and 1900.
As early as the 1890s local stock raisers and a few farmers began to plant small amounts of corn, wheat, and grain sorghums. Farming continued on a limited scale until the years during and just after World War I, when worldwide demand led to a boom in farming. Thousands of acres of Moore County land were first cultivated between 1910 and 1920, as many of the old ranches began to sell their lands to newly arriving farmers. By 1920 there were ninety-three farms and ranches in the county; more than 11,000 acres were planted in sorghum, and another 2,733 acres were devoted to wheat. According to the U.S. census, there were 571 people living in the area at that time. As grain prices fell during the 1920s, cotton was introduced as a supplementary crop. By the end of the 1920s the local economy was based on a mix of cattle ranching and wheat and grain farming. In 1930 more than 24,600 acres were planted in wheat, and over 8,000 in barley. By that year 174 farms and ranches had been established, and the area’s population had increased to 1,555. The agricultural economy continued to expand even during the Great Depression of the 1930s. By 1940 more than 62,400 acres were devoted to wheat production; overall, the number of acres of cropland harvested in Moore County rose from about 49,000 in 1930 to almost 90,000 by 1940.