Serving Texas' Finest Folks
Hemphill County is a county located in the U.S. state of Texas. As of the 2010 census, its population was 3,807. It is named for John Hemphill, a judge and Confederate congressman. Hemphill County is one of 30 prohibition, or entirely dry, counties in the state of Texas. The county seat and only incorporated community in the county is Canadian.
Canadian has always inspired the imagination of those who visit and the loyalty of those who call it home. Nomadic tribes settled the area as early as the 1100's. In 1544, long after the culture that had built apartments along the western side of the panhandle disappeared, Coronado and his band wrote romantic descriptions of a land with stirrup high grasses and warned of a fierce and dangerous river.
You can visit Hemphill County’s first business, Springer Creek Trading Post, Follow the trail to Buffalo Wallow, and imagine yourself in the midst of the famed battle, the only one in history where every soldier involved received the Congressional Medal of Honor or visit the site of the Lyman’s Wagon Train Battle, the first recorded incidence of Indians actually attacking a Wagon Train. Don’t miss the opportunity to walk part of the original Military Trail and take along at least a couple of companions to help you circle the Big Tree, the old Cottonwood shown as early as 1874 on frontier maps.
The soldiers were followed quickly by the Texas Rangers, the only law enforcement for miles around, at the time Hemphill County was formed. At an election many still claim to have been illegal, as the region’s sparse population left the county short of the required number of resident male voters, the head count was rumored to have been increased by registering the horses of at least one ranch’s cowboys, 42 “men” voted to have their own County within the State of Texas. Questions not withstanding, the Texas legislature formed Hemphill County in 1876.
This wasn’t the first, nor would it be the last, time Hemphill County was featured in legal wrangling. A boundary dispute in the 1920’s gave Hemphill County land from Oklahoma and moved the 100th meridian. Disputed contracts, beginning about 1910, over the building of Hemphill County’s courthouse landed the whole thing before the Texas Supreme Court. An infamous railroad robbery and shooting of a popular sheriff, followed by a forged Governor’s pardon and jail escape, would result in Canadian’s being tagged with a reputation as a place you could get away with murder in Texas. Ironically, when Canadian was born in 1888, it was the site of the first County jail in the Texas Panhandle, holding the worst desperadoes from across the region, or outlaws captured by the Texas Ranger Regiment out of Fort Elliott, 30 miles away in Wheeler County. The jail served the Panhandle all the way through Prohibition times when it housed the suspected rum runners and owners of stills hidden in the river breaks near Borger and Pampa.
Hemphill County has lost three officers in its history.
Thomas T. McGee, first sheriff of Hemphill County.
Sheriff McGee was shot and killed when he responded to a call of
suspicious activity at the train yard where a large shipment of cash was coming in from Wells Fargo. In the fall of 1894 George Isaacs sent five envelopes reported to contain a total of $25,000 from Kansas City to his home base in Canadian. After the train pulled into Canadian on the evening of November 24, the money was transferred to the Wells Fargo safe in the railroad station. Moments later gunfire erupted outside the station. Sheriff McGee, who had just stepped out onto the platform, was fatally wounded and died later that night. When the envelopes were opened they were found to contain a total of only $500 in small bills. The obvious scheme of Isaacs to swindle Wells Fargo of thousands of dollars had miscarried. Isaacs was subsequently charged with McGee's murder, convicted in 1895 on a change of venue to Quanah in Hardeman County, and sentenced to life imprisonment at Huntsville. He later was reported to have escaped and fled to Mexico, then to Arizona, although some sources indicate that he was released. Three men accused of being his accomplices-Jim Harbolt, Dan McKenzie, and Tulsa Jack, a member of the Doolin Gang-were later apprehended by deputy marshals and returned for trial to Canadian
Deputy Marion "Corky" Guthrie.
Deputy Marion "Corky" Guthrie died in the line of duty on July 12, 1980. Guthrie was shot while responding to a burglar alarm at a drug store in Canadian. Paul Bush, 27, was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. In 1982, the decision was reversed and remanded for a new trial because testimony about Bush's use of drugs violated the rule of evidence prohibiting the introduction of extraneous offenses. Bush was reconvicted and received a life sentence. He died in prison of natural causes.
Deputy Jim Bruce Graham.
Fifty-four year old Deputy Jim Bruce Graham was shot on Father's Day, June
17, 2001, while trying to arrest a Canadian resident. Just as he opened the door of his vehicle, he was shot in the upper body. Graham died at the scene. Christopher Chad Britton was later found guilty of captial murder in Deputy Graham's death and was given the death verdict. Graham was survived by his wife, a daughter, a sister and a nephew.