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August 2008

Release Date: Aug. 29, 2008

ASU West Texas Collection Display to Celebrate Runnels County

The Friends of the Porter Henderson Library and West Texas Collection will hold their annual meeting Thursday, Sept. 11, on the Angelo State University campus as a prelude to the opening of a new exhibit the same evening.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. on the second floor of the ASU Houston Harte University Center and will include routine reports, new member elections and the awarding of the Joe Bill Lee and Dr. Henry Ricci scholarships. The meeting will be followed at 6:30 p.m. by a reception and the unveiling of the new West Texas Collection display celebrating the 150th anniversary of Runnels County. Both the meeting and the reception are open and free to the public.

The exhibit will feature various photographs and artifacts depicting the people and places of Runnels County through the years. Included will be county records, newspaper articles, letter jackets and family mementos that highlight interesting facts about Ballinger, Miles, Rowena and Winters.

Formed from portions of Bexar and Travis Counties, Runnels County was founded by the Texas Legislature on Feb. 1, 1858, and named for Hiram Runnels. However, the county was not organized until 1880 when governance was moved from the neighboring Coleman County. By a vote of 30-29, Runnels City narrowly edged out Maverick as the new county seat.

With the southwestern expansion of the Gulf Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad, the county seat was moved from Runnels City to Ballinger, where the railroad established its terminal. Free lots were offered to anyone who would move a house, church or business to the newly created city and Ballinger became known as the “city on wheels.” Santa Fe engineer M.L. Lynch said of Ballinger, “I have located what is destined to become the loveliest and most prosperous town in Western Texas.”

Prosperous farming communities, such as Winters, Wingate, Norton, Hatchell and Olfen, sprang up around the county and the railroad expanded south with stops in Rowena and Miles. Over twenty schools were established within the county to serve the growing but dispersed populations.

For more information on the meeting or new exhibit, contact the West Texas Collection at (325) 942-2164.