Today’s visit will take us to the Eastern side of the Texas Panhandle to a small town
called Canadian! The origin of the name Canadian is still a mystery to most residents, though several theories have drifted about over the years. The most common hypothesis is that the river city is named after the river which flows from our northern neighbor, Canada.
Though it is probable that Canadian’s co-founder, O.H. Nelson, was influenced by the raging water’s namesake,
the truth of the matter is that the Canadian River is actually a tributary of the Arkansas River that flows from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of Colorado, not Canada. Unfortunately, the derivation of the Canadian River’s name is also ambiguous. However, with any unsolved mystery, there is plenty of speculation on how the river got its name, according to the city’s history.
The Canadian River cuts through the landscape of the blue hills to bring life to the sandy loam of our pretty little Panhandle town of Canadian. This area has been occupiedied for centuries, and these generations have lived through the tribulations of drought, iniquity, and war to enjoy the spoils of the booming oil and gas industry and a flourishing cattle ranching business that have made Canadian the gem of the Panhandle that it is today.
Canadian is located in Hemphill County and is also the county seat.
The town is located at the intersection of Highways 60 and 83 and on the southern side of the Canadian River. It is 105 miles Northeast of Amarillo, which is the largest town in the area.
In early 1887. E. P. Purcell and O. H. Nelson, laid out a 240-acre townsite for the soon to arrive Southern Kansas Railway. The Santa Fe Railway ended up taking over the railway until it stopped in the 1950’s.The site, which was on the South bank of the Canadian River connected to the community of Hogtown (AKA Clear Creek) by a bridge that summer. Residents and businesses crossed from Hogtown to be near the rails.
The town’s early business pioneers are George and John J. Gerlach, Harvey E. Hoover, Edward H. Brainard, and Nahim Abraham, who immigrated from Lebanon.
All but Abraham were established businessmen, Abraham was responsible for bringing the town the Palace Theater. This Theater was one of the original theaters in the Panhandle.
A post office was granted in August of 1887 and the town’s first hotel – The Log Cabin opened its doors. On Independence Day 1888, Canadian hosted the first annual Cowboys’ Reunion rodeo – one of the first commercial rodeos in Texas.
The ladies of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union took Canadian in hand shortly after Canadian officially became a town developing the Library, musicals, civic organizations, and guiding its general development from boomtown to hometown with their dedication to family, morality and prohibition of alcohol. It has been dry since 1903!!
Canadian became famous for its innovations, like the Boarding House for teachers with its private accommodations, the Moody Hotel with its fireproof construction and furnishings and the Wagon Bridge, the first safe crossing of the dangerous Canadian River. With its red brick buildings and streets, townhomes for local ranchers, two banks and general appearance of prosperity, the city reflected the County’s growth to 815 people in 1900 and 76 ranches, now smaller and almost all fenced.
By 1900, the town was thriving due to its being a division point for the railroad. The town soon had cotton gins, grain elevators and even a private academy, as well as the usual businesses necessary to a vibrant town. It was estimated that the town once had as many as thirteen saloons.
Canadian’s pioneers set their sights now on diversifying. Canadian became the railroad’s division point with a great deal of construction and employment following. Farmers arrived and put 17,000 acres in cultivation by 1930, while the town’s business boosters achieved their dream with the construction of the Dallas-to-Denver Highway in 1925 and a network of paved roads in place by 1950.
Today citizens look forward to a future that preserves a hometown they love and conserves a natural setting they cherish and share with the birds and wildlife that also call it home. They put as much time and thought into questions of developing water and wind energy plans, development and housing challenges, education and workforce training as their ancestors did, determined not to be the last generation in the remote, romantic Canadian River.
Canadian is a great area for walking, jogging, bird watching and wildlife viewing and for the fall foliage.
Canadian has just enough of everything but not too much of anything, which makes it an ideal place to while away an unhurried weekend.
So, when you are ready for a quiet visit to a historical town, Canadian is perfect for you.