BARSTOW, TEXAS. Barstow is at the intersection of U.S. Highway 80 and Farm Road 516, on the Missouri Pacific Railroad, five miles east of Pecos in southwestern Ward County. The town was named for George E. Barstow, a Rhode Island land promoter who established it. The Texas and Pacific Railway reached Barstow in 1881. Ten years later the townsite was laid out and a post office established. Barstow became the county seat when Ward County was organized in 1892. That same year George E. Barstow formed the Barstow Improvement Company to promote the sale of land irrigated by the Pecos River. He constructed irrigation canals and a dam and brought trainloads of prospective settlers to the town in land promotions.
A red sandstone courthouse was constructed in 1893. By 1900 Barstow had a population of 1,103. In 1914 the community had three churches, a bank, a hotel, an opera house, and a weekly newspaper, the West Texas Journal. Two years later a power plant was built to generate electricity. The farms around Barstow grew grapes, peaches, pears, and melons. In 1904 the Barstow Irrigation Company won a silver medal for grapes at the World's Fair. The same year an earthen dam on the rain-swollen Pecos River burst, and the resulting floodwaters raised soil salinity levels, thus ruining many of the farms.
In 1907 and 1910 serious droughts plagued Barstow farmers. Vineyards and orchards began to decline in 1911, and by 1918 farming ceased. The population fell from 1,219 in 1910 to an estimated 490 in 1925. Barstow had 468 residents in 1930. In June 1938, after the discovery of oil in Winkler County and eastern Ward County, Monahans replaced Barstow as the county seat of Ward County. Barstow had a population of 683 in 1955. Four businesses and an estimated 637 residents remained in 1982. The population in 1990 was 535; by 2000 it dropped to 406.
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