Early Development of Slaton:
On April 15, 1911 the Santa Fe Railroad completed the transaction that would eventually lead to the town of Slaton. The railroad company needed a town site that was to serve as a division point to service trains traveling through northwest Texas. Slaton officially opened on June 15, 1911 named in honor of a local rancher and banker O.L. Slaton, who was instrumental in getting Santa Fe Railroad through this area. The town site was designed in a wagon wheel fashion similar to Washington D. C. Streets reached outward from the residential and business areas of the community. That day brought people by team and wagon, by train, and on foot, to participate in the land sales.
Slaton eventually serviced four daily northbound and southbound trains between Amarillo and Sweetwater. Soon the Harvey House restaurant was established and Slaton became the center of the largest division in the Santa Fe system. The post office had been established in 1910, the Slaton Journal began it’s first weekly paper on June 15, 1911 and the Slaton Independent School District was established by March 9, 1912. The population grew rapidly with the railroad company employees and their families. Businesses popped up including a cotton gin and mill, the Caps and Singleton hotels, several lumber and hardware companies, dry goods and groceries and confectionaries. Cotton farming had long been established in the region and remained as one of the main staples of Slaton’s economy. The town incorporated on October 26, 1923.
1911 saw Slaton’s first motion picture theater open and a new cotton gin operating by the end of the year. On October 19, 1911 the Slatonite took over as the weekly newspaper. Slaton boasted two banks in 1911, First State Bank and the Paul Bank (later becoming the Slaton State Bank) Both banks collapsed during the Great Depression. Citizen’s Bank opened in the year 1936. By 1924 Slaton had it’s very own hometown physician, Dr. W. E. Payne.
With well over 100 businesses by the early 30’s Slaton’s population had grown to 3,879 and 7,250 by 1970. In the late 60’s Santa Fe Railroad reduced operations at Slaton starting a slow down in growth. Population shrank to 6,950 by 1988 and 6,078 by 1990. The number of businesses went from an all time high of 155 to just 92 by 1988. By this time, Slaton’s strong agricultural community producing cotton and grain kept Slaton economy going.
Bibliography: “Slaton’s Story” 1979 The Slaton Museum Association. The handbook on Texas Online Lowell Green and Ernest Wallace, –Beginning of Slaton, 1911-1913 West Texas Historical Association Year Book 32.