Borger, at the junction of State
highways 136, 152, and 207, in south central Hutchinson
County, was established by and named for A. P. (Ace) Borger, who
was reputed throughout Oklahoma and Texas to be a shrewd town
promoter. In March 1926, after the discovery of oil in the vicinity,
Borger and his partner, attorney John R. Miller, purchased a 240-acre
townsite near the Canadian River in the southern part of the county.
Within ninety days of its founding, sensational advertising and
the lure of "black gold" brought over 45,000 men and
women to the new boomtown. In October the charter incorporating
the city of Borger was adopted, and Miller was elected mayor.
By that time the Panhandle and Santa Fe Railway had completed
a spur line to Borger, a post office had opened, and a school
district had been established. J. D. (Big Heart) Williams set
up the first hamburger stand in Borger on the three-mile-long
Main Street, where a hotel and a jail had also been erected. Telephone
service and steam-generated electricity were available by the
end of 1926. Before wells were drilled, drinking water was provided
in tank wagons. The ranchers John R. Weatherly and James A. Whittenburg,
hoping to cash in on the boom, established two rival townsites,
Isom and Dixon Creek, next to that of Borger. Later these were
incorporated into the Borger city limits, as was the oil camp
of Signal Hill to the northeast. In November 1927 a fire destroyed
the Dixon Creek Oil Company refinery, causing more than $60,000
worth of damage. One noted visitor to Borger during this time
was the artist Thomas Hart Benton, whose painting Boom Town depicts
his impression of Borger's Main Street.
Within a matter of months,
oilmen, prospectors, roughnecks, panhandlers, fortune seekers, card
sharks, bootleggers, prostitutes, and dope peddlers descended on
Borger. "Booger Town," as it was nicknamed, became a refuge
for criminals and fugitives from the law. Before long the town government
was firmly in the hands of an organized crime syndicate led by Mayor
associate, "Two-Gun Dick" Herwig. The
center of this vice was Dixon (now Tenth) Street, notorious for
its brothels, dance halls, gambling dens, slot machines, and speakeasies.
Murder and robbery became commonplace. Illegal moonshine stills
and home breweries flourished with the blessings of Herwig and
his henchmen, including W. J. (Shine) Popejoy, the king of the
Texas bootleggers. Acting on petitions and investigative reports,
in the spring of 1927 Governor Daniel J. Moody sent a detachment
of Texas Rangers under captains Francis Augustus Hamer and Thomas
R. Hickman to remedy the situation. Although the rangers proved
a stabilizing force and compelled many undesirables to leave town,
Borger's wave of crime and violence continued intermittently into
the 1930s and climaxed with the murder of District Attorney John
A. Holmes by an unknown assassin on September 18, 1929. This episode
prompted Moody to impose martial law for a month and send state
troops to help local authorities rid the town of the lawless element.
This goal was eventually achieved, but not before Ace Borger was
shot to death by his longtime enemy Arthur Huey on August 31,
The Great Depression also
helped to propel Borger from one era into another by the late 1930s.
Although Phillips Petroleum and other companies profited from the
fields around Borger, prices in oil and gas dropped, ending the
"Black dusters," augmented by soot
from carbon black plants, turned day into night. "Okie"
migrants, tractored off their foreclosed farms, were sometimes
able to find jobs in the Borger plants and refineries. With the
aid of the Work Projects Administration, streets were improved,
and the boom shacks were replaced with permanent buildings. During
World War II synthetic rubber and other petroleum products became
important in the Borger area. The Hutchinson County Airport was
constructed north of town in 1949. By the 1960s Borger was one
of the largest centers for oil, carbon black, and petrochemical
production and supplies in the state. In 1969 Borger was designated
an All-American city. The advent of Lake Meredith also added to
the town's economy. The population was listed at 14,000 in 1943,
17,949 in 1950, 20,911 in 1960, 14,195 in 1970, and 15,837 in
1980. By 1980 Borger had 488 businesses, including several manufacturers.
In 1990 the population was 15,675.
Borger remains an important
shipping point for agricultural produce as well as for the petroleum
products manufactured there. The community supports eight schools,
fifty churches, two banks, a radio stations, twenty-four city
parks, a library, a hospital, and Frank Phillips College, a junior
college. The city's newspaper, the Borger News-Herald (formerly
the Hutchinson County Herald), has been in business since 1926.
The Hutchinson County Museum, opened in 1977, houses artifacts
of the county's pioneer past. Borger is especially noted for its
scale models of the buildings at Adobe Walls at the time of the
1874 battle. The annual World's Largest Fish Fry is held in Borger
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Hutchinson County Historical Commission, History
of Hutchinson County, Texas (Dallas: Taylor, 1980). H. Gordon
Frost and John H. Jenkins, "I'm Frank Hamer": The Life
of a Texas Peace Officer (Austin: Pemberton Press, 1968). John
H. White, Borger, Texas (1929?; rpt., Waco: Texian Press, 1973).
H. Allen Anderson