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Texas Plains Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Gail


Borden County courthouse, Gail
Borden County courthouse, Gail

FIRST NAME GAIL, LAST NAME BORDEN (AS IN MILK)

Gail and its home county Borden are, together, named in honor of the 19th century pioneer, land surveyor, newspaper editor, and inventor of condensed milk – Gail Borden, Jr. Gail is both the county seat and the only town in Borden County. Despite the Moderne-styled, 20th century courthouse, built in 1939 and comprised of brick masonry with decorative relief panels, occupying Gail’s town center, the community’s roots originate in a much earlier era of Texas frontier history. The county, created in 1876 and finally organized in 1891, elected Gail to its county seat somewhat by default, founding the community the same year. The town had little time to develop before serving as frontline to the “War of Ribbons”, a battle for land placed in the public domain by the 1902 Texas courts. With ranchers on one side, accustomed to unfettered grazing, and newly arrived settlers ready to stake claims in the state-sanctioned land grab on the other, Gail experienced three days of knockdowns and fist-fights across its streets and inside the courthouse. To signify their allegiance, ranchers wore blue ribbon armbands and settlers wore red, thus the “War of Ribbons”. The confrontation reached such a violent level that the local sheriff ordered claimants to disarm, avoiding bloodshed. The conflict ended with winners and losers on both sides but, in time, nature proved the deciding factor. Drought drove most settlers from the region, returning the farmland to dry grasslands, conditions better suited for grazing cattle than growing crops.

Mushaway Peak, Gail’s most recognizable and venerable landmark, rises nearly 3,000 feet above the plains where Quanah Parker and his band last camped in 1875 before agreeing to relocate to the reservation in Oklahoma. Among the stories told in the Borden County Museum is that of Gail’s 1903 War of Ribbons, in which ranchers wore blue ribbons on their sleeves and settlers wore red as they staked their competing land claims, but no blood was shed.

Borden County was also the location of Quanah Parker's last campsite before agreeing to move his Quahadi band of Comanches to reservation lands, an event commemorated in Gail's giant arrow marker on the Quanah Parker Trail.


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