barbed wire at xit museum

The XIT Museum

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The XIT Museum is located in downtown Dalhart, Texas in the old courthouse.  The museum is free to enter, but graciously accepts donations.  It’s operating hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 9am-5pm, even during COVID.  Visitors just need to ring the doorbell to call a friendly volunteer to unlock the door.

The XIT Museum includes four show rooms.  The first, large room features the history of the XIT Ranch.  The XIT Ranch began as the largest fenced area in the world in 1880.  It was 3,000,000 acres in the Texas Panhandle set aside by the Texas constitution to be used to finance a new capitol building.

XIT History

Piecing out the parcels to farmers proved too difficult and slow for raising the funds for the capitol, so the Texas government struck a deal with the Farwell brothers of Chicago.  They built a $3M building in exchange for the 3,000,000 acres which they too expected to sell in order to pay for the project. 

Unable to sell the land at an advantageous price, the brothers formed the Capitol Company and lobbied investors from England to whom they sold $10,000,000 of bonds.  In the meantime, they ran 10,000 head of cattle from the Panhandle to South Dakota.

Unfortunately, the XIT Ranch was never as profitable as hoped, thus the land had to be sold to pay off the debt holders.  Ultimately, the ranch closed in 1912 and the final bit of land was sold in 1963.  While the ranch is gone, the history remains at the museum and the largest state capitol building in the Nation still stands in Austin, Texas.

Surrounding this room of XIT history include exhibits featuring old period furniture, saddles, brands, spur, and many other ranch items.

Texas Wildlife

The next small room in the XIT Museum features a Texas wildlife exhibit which includes a mountain lion, porcupine, owls, rattle snakes, and other critters from the plains.  The small L shaped room that is more like a hallway is quick to visit before the next display.

wildlife exhibit at xit museum

Railroad, Dairy Products and Other Things

A variety of items ranging from guns, a railroad wagon, a private plane, and lots of information on dairy farms in the next room.  I had no idea Hilmar Cheese Company had an operation in Dalhart, Texas.  Next time I come through the city, I’ll have to see if there is any type of tour.

Dust Bowl

My favorite exhibit room at the XIT Museum was the last one.  It features the history of the dust bowl years.  I’m not sure how I lived in Texas for forty years and never learned about its history beyond knowing there were dust storms in the movies.

The storms came from the land being plowed too much and culminated with farmers growing wheat for World War I.  The storms were so large that days turned to nights, dirt sifted into everything (inside and out), and the churned-up soil created illnesses. 

I enjoyed seeing the newspaper articles about the dust bowl history. Also, don’t miss the small house with the 5 minute video or the historic photos and windmill in this exhibit.

Dalhart

For a free museum, it was nice to visit.  It is also worth strolling the small main drag and checking out the new courthouse across the street from the XIT museum. It is a good way to break up the long drive from Colorado to Texas.  ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

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