#4 Canyon, Texas
Settlers began arriving in what was then called Canyon City (named after nearby Palo Duro Canyon) in the Texas Panhandle in 1887. Two years later, the fast-growing community was selected as the seat of Randall County. When the Pecos and Northern Railroad arrived in 1898, Canyon City earned its prominence as a cattle-shipping railhead. West Texas State Normal College (now West Texas A&M University) opened in 1910. A decade later, the school helped form the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum.
The town, which in 1911 formally changed its name to Canyon, works hard to keep history alive.
Last June saw the grand opening of the restored Pioneer Town at Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum. Town officials say that stepping into its new replica of pioneer life is like stepping off a train and into an 1890s Texas Panhandle town.
The museum first opened its doors to the public in 1933. More than 75 famous West Texas cattle brands surrounded the entrance of the 12,500-square-foot structure, which was finished in Texas limestone. The building’s Southwestern Art Deco architectural style earned it a designation as a State Antiquities Landmark. Today, the historical museum, which has expanded to more than
285,000 square feet, is the largest history museum in Texas. It holds more than two million artifacts.
The museum’s unique historical offerings last year included a Friends of Southwestern Art luncheon with Anne Morand (the curator for the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum), a Night at the PPHM featuring historical characters and an Adobe Walls Tour of some of the 1874 Red River War sites.
Chief among the many historical structures in Canyon is the 1877 T Anchor Ranch headquarters, the town’s oldest surviving house. The town also preserves the 1887 Sam Wood Cabin and the W.F. Heller home, where the Civil War veteran settled in 1887.
Its historical sites are plenty as well. Canyon is home to the 1872 site where troops under the command of Col. John Gregg skirmished with Kiowas; the Civil War Reunion Site at Conner Park; the Charles Goodnight Memorial Trail; and the site of the Lincoln Conner dugout, considered to be the first home in Canyon.
About a dozen miles east of Canyon is another treasure worth visiting: the nearly 30,000-acre Palo Duro Canyon State Park, which holds the northernmost portion of the 120-mile-long Palo Duro Canyon, dubbed the “Grand Canyon of Texas.” One of the best times to visit Palo Duro Canyon is during the summer, when the outdoor stage musical Texas brings Texas Panhandle legends to life.