(click play and hear how Wichita Falls began)

Touring Wichita Falls History
A Short History of Wichita Falls

In the 1800s, the Wichita Falls, Texas area was home to the Wichita Indians. A small waterfall near their village is thought to be the origin of the city's name. A life-sized sculpture by local artist Jack Stevens depicts the legend, telling how an Indian brave sent his squaw into the river to find a shallow place to cross. When she said "wee chi tah" meaning "waist deep" - she had found the best spot.

Folklore stories indicate Mr. John A. Scott acquired 19 Texas land certificates, good for 640 acres each, in a poker game with this land later becoming Wichita Falls.  The town was platted in 1876 by M.W. Seeley who was hired by heirs of John A. Scott. A small community had already begun to form by the time J.H. Barwise moved

Wee-Chi-Tah Sculpture - Ohio & Wichita Street

his family to Wichita Falls in 1880. In September 1882, the first train arrived and town lots sold briskly. As some of the first permanent settlers, the Barwise family set about making their home and community a hospitable place, and encouraged other visionaries to move here, including J.A. Kemp and Frank Kell. The city of Wichita Falls was fully incorporated on July 30, 1889 and as the small community quickly grew into a bustling  city, the original iron bridge spanning the Wichita River was not enough to handle all the traffic. By 1897 the first mill in town was constructed and later became the Wichita Mill & Elevator Company when Kemp, Kell & Morris Lasker purchased the business. Mr. Kemp, with assistance form Mr. Kell, financed and built the first spur lines connecting surrounding wheat and cotton-growing communities on both sides of the Red River with the city's central business district. Kemp and Kell also worked together to realize the development of the Floral Heights neighborhood, part of which is now recognized as a historic residential district.

Wichita Falls is known for its ranching heritage, oil boom days and pioneering spirit which is still evident today in a fine sense of place and community pride.

Below is a list of links connecting you to virtual tours of  historic sites in Wichita Falls.  Within each tour page you will see a green audio player (like the one above), click the play button and follow along through the photo galleries as we take you on a journey through the early days of Wichita Falls, Texas.

I. Historic Neighborhoods

Touring Wichita Falls History Map (Click on the map for a larger view)

Tour Wichita Falls Map

Special thanks to the City of Wichita Falls Landmark Commission and the Wichita Falls Public Information Office for allowing me to create this digital version of the "Touring Wichita Falls History, A Journey Through Time" Brochure.

All information contained within these pages comes directly from the Landmark Brochure available at the City Public Information Office 940-761-7401

More From Newstalk 1290