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Pecos County, Texas

Current location:

The following has been condensed from the Handbook of Texas Online (accessed September 9, 2006)

Sheffield is at the intersection of Farm Road 1217 and U.S. highways 290 and 349, sixteen miles southeast of Iraan on the eastern edge of Pecos County. The site, near a ford in the Pecos River and Pecos Spring, was long a stopping point for nomadic Indians. The first documented Europeans to visit the area were Spanish explorer Gaspar Castaño de Sosa and his men, who traveled up the Pecos River in 1590. Several other Spanish expeditions passed through or near the future townsite of Sheffield but established no permanent settlements. In 1849 lieutenants Francis T. Bryan, Nathaniel Michler, and W. H. C. Whiting made a preliminary survey for a proposed stage road from San Antonio to El Paso. The route they chose crossed the Pecos at the site of the old Indian ford. The trail became the San Antonio-El Paso Mail route and eventually served thousands of settlers moving west. Ranchers attracted by the availability of water and inexpensive ranchland began to settle the area around Sheffield in the late 1880s. The first settler was John Cannon, who came in 1888 and purchased a tract along the Pecos River, including Pecos Spring itself. Around 1900 a small settlement sprang up on land adjoining the Cannon ranch owned by Will Sheffield, and the town became known as Sheffield. A post office was opened in 1898 with Sheffield as first postmaster. In 1901 Sheffield opened a grocery store. A few homes and businesses grew up around the store, and by 1906 the town had three grocery stores, two wagonyards, a blacksmith shop, a barbershop, a four-room hotel, and a saloon. The town prospered in the following years as a supply point and social center for surrounding ranchers. The discovery of oil in the Trans-Pecos in the late 1920s radically altered the economy of the region, as oil-boom towns such as nearby Iraan sprang up. Sheffield also grew slowly, from 124 in 1925 to 350 by 1949, when the town had eleven businesses. The Sheffield Township field began producing natural gas in 1971. With the construction of U.S. Highway 290 in the 1920s, Sheffield became a stopping point for traveling motorists. Although Interstate 10 bypassed it in the early 1980s, the town continued to thrive. In 1985 Sheffield had several stores and restaurants, an elementary school, three churches, and a population of 300. In 2000 the community had fifteen businesses and a population of 600.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: H. A. and J. W. Holmes, History of Sheffield, Texas (San Angelo: Newsphoto, 1973). Samuel D. Myres, The Permian Basin: Petroleum Empire of the Southwest (2 vols., El Paso: Permian, 1973, 1977). Pecos County Historical Commission, Pecos County History (2 vols., Canyon, Texas: Staked Plains, 1984). Willie Wade, “A History of Sheffield, Texas,” West Texas Historical Association Year Book 56 (1980).