History of Buffalo Gap

The great southern herd of buffalo passed through a natural gap in the Callahan Divide where water and trees were abundant. Native Americans and Buffalo Hunters followed the buffalo to this area.

With the large amount of people gathering for the hunts, a base camp soon emerged in 1875 and led to a community, although not a civilized one. By 1876, the population of Buffalo Gap was about 30 people, including hunters, merchants, and more than a few “undesirables.” In 1877, the population had reached 100, permitting the town to have its own post office. Surveyors marked the land for streets and lots. By the next year, the population had quadrupled. Governor Richard Hubbard recognized Buffalo Gap as the official county seat of Taylor County on July 3, 1878. In 1879, construction began on a new courthouse, and other new businesses appeared such as a hotel, blacksmith shop, general store, newspaper, saloons, stables, and banks.

Law enforcement transferred the first prisoners to the new courthouse in April 1880. At this time, Taylor County had a population of 1,736, and the majority of those residents lived in or near Buffalo Gap.

As the area grew so did talk of bringing the railroad to town. Landowners rushed to buy land, hoping that the railroad would buy it or that the presence of the railroad would at least increase the value of their property. The landowners that won over the railroad company owned land north of Buffalo Gap in a flatter area away from the Callahan Divide. When the railroad went through, the area around the tracks grew, and by 1881, the new community acquired the name “Abilene.”

People and businesses moved to the new town to take advantage of the railroad and the perks that came with it, leaving Buffalo Gap to shrink. In 1883, the decision to make Abilene the new county seat was put to a vote. The vote went in favor of Abilene, and the seat moved.

Not everyone believed that the voting practices were legit, and many frustrated citizens went after the county judge. Luckily, he wasn’t home at the time, but the townspeople decided to take out their anger on his chickens. Legend has it that the people of Buffalo Gap enjoyed a fried chicken dinner as revenge for the lost county seat.

By 1884, the population of Buffalo Gap had shrunk to 600 people, but the town still prospered. In 1885, the Buffalo Gap College opened and in 1895, the Santa Fe railroad came through town.

Although Buffalo Gap held on, Abilene grew faster, and the Buffalo Gap College closed in 1902. The remaining townspeople still took great pride in their community and started the Old Settlers Picnic in the 1920s. The picnic was held at the Old Settlers Grounds which is still used today for community events and the town farmers market. In 1956, Ernie Wilson purchased the original Taylor County Courthouse from 1879, and created the Museum of the Old West, which continues on today as the Taylor County History Center.

Buffalo Gap boasts 463 residents today, and a small, tight-nit community with several restaurants, shops, accommodations, and attractions including a state park, a concert venue, and an historic site.

Abilene State Park

Abilene State Park, one of more than ninety state parks in Texas, is located sixteen miles southwest of Abilene, and less than five miles from Buffalo Gap.  The park contains 529.4 acres for hiking, camping, fishing, and swimming.  The stone structures, similar to many found at other state parks, were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Abilene State Park opened to the public on May 10, 1934.

  • (325) 572-3204
  • 150 Park Road 32, Tuscola, TX 79562

Taylor County History Center

The Taylor County History Center, located in Buffalo Gap, Texas, tells the story of the last fifty years of the West Texas frontier. Through interactive exhibits, educational programming, historic interpretation, and audio tours, guests experience the formative years when the region changed from the Wild West to civilized settlements. The iconic structure of the Center, the original Taylor County Courthouse, represents the presence of justice on the once untamed frontier. The collection includes over fifteen historic structures from the region and over 15,000 artifacts representing the material culture of West Texas.

  • Museum: 325-572-3365
  • Administrative Offices: 325-572-3974
  • Email: info@tfhcc.com
  • Address: 133 N. William Street, Buffalo Gap, Texas 79508

Camp Tonkawa

The Abilene Council of the Boy Scouts of America had their first camp in 1925 in Christoval, Texas. After a few years, the Scouts decided that the location was too far away from Abilene and held their 1929 campout at the Buffalo Gap Presbyterian Encampment.  Judge CM Caldwell founded Camp Tonkawa in May 1929 near the Abilene State Park with only five acres. Soon, the Scouts realized that five acres was not enough, and by 1936, they were able to add fifty more for a total of fifty-five acres.  The camp expanded again in 1949, bringing the total acreage to ninety-six acres.  In 2009, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department transferred ninety-one acres from Abilene State Park to Camp Tonkawa.  Today, the camp has several cabins, activity buildings, and a pool.  The camp is not only used by Boy Scouts but also local 4-H clubs, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the YWCA, Hunter Safety Education, and the Elementary School program “Our Day in the Woods.”

  • 4117 FM 89, Tuscola, TX 79562
  • (325) 572-3337

Buffalo Gap Presbyterian Encampment

The Buffalo Gap Presbyterian Ministries founded the encampment in 1921 as a place for people to connect spiritually in nature. The camp currently encompasses eleven acres including several cabins, a dining hall, an outdoor worship area, a swimming pool, and sports fields.

  • 608 Litel Street, Buffalo Gap, Texas 79508
  • 325-572-3790
  • info@bgpmi.org

Churches

  • First Baptist Church
  • Church of Christ