Border town founder had ‘zest for life’

By Don McAlavy: CNJ Columnist

James D. Hamlin founded the towns of Farwell and Texico. He was born in 1871 in Kentucky and received a classical education. By some accounts, he left home at 28 to seek his fortune in Alaska, but he ended his journey in Amarillo to relieve his chronic asthma.

According to Globe-News files, Hamlin “crammed the next 53 years with law, academics, business and an insatiable zest for living.” In 1897, he founded the original Amarillo College with Willis Day Twichell and served as president and professor of Latin and Greek until 1909.

He was admitted to the bar in 1898 and practices law until 1902, when he was elected Potter County attorney. In 1906, he became the Texas representative of the Capital Syndicate, run by the Farwell brothers of Chicago, owners of the XIT Ranch.

In the 1880s, John V. Farwell had obtained a contract to built a new Texas Capitol building in Austin in exchange for 3 million acres of land set aside for that purpose.

Years later, as agent for the syndicate, Hamlin opened XIT land to colonization and founded Farwell in 1905. As the same time, he co-founded Texico.

While he continued all other business dealings in 1940, he served as Capitol Syndicate’s Texas representative until his death. He eventually helped found the XIT Association, a group of men and women who had worked on the 3 million-acres ranch.

From 1907-1919, he served as Parmer County judge and helped found the short-lived Panhandle-Plains Chamber of Commerce. He served as West Texas Chamber of Commerce president and, in 1921, helped establish the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon.

Hamlin, who had served as president of the West Texas Art Board, donated an extensive collection of artwork to the Canyon museum, including Navajo jewelry, oriental bronze, silver, furniture and European and American fine art.

Hamlin died in Clovis on January 9, 1950, and was buried in Farwell. J. Evetts Haley and W. Curry Holden edited Hamlin’s memoirs, which appeared in 1976 in a book called “The Flamboyant Judge.” Go to the library in Clovis and find this book and read about “Libel Suit, In-laws and Outlaws” starting on page 233.

Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: