Early Development of Slaton
On April 15, 1911 the Santa Fe Railroad completed the transaction that would eventually lead to the town of Slaton. The railroad company needed a town site that was to serve as a division point to service trains traveling through northwest Texas. Slaton officially opened on June 15, 1911. That day brought people by team and wagon, by train, and on foot, to participate in the land sales. The resulting city was nicknamed " Tent City" referring to the tents the residents lived in while homes and businesses were being built. The town was named in honor of a local rancher and banker O. L. Slaton, who was instrumental in getting Santa Fe Railroad through this area. The town site was designed similar to Washington D. C. which is a wagon wheel pattern. Streets reached outward from the residential and business areas of the community, with City Hall in the center.
Slaton eventually serviced four daily northbound and southbound trains between Amarillo and Sweetwater. Soon the Harvey House restaurant was established and Slaton became the center of the largest division in the Santa Fe system. The post office had been established in 1910. The Slaton Journal began it's first weekly paper on June 15, 1911. The Slaton Independent School District was established by March 9, 1912. The population grew rapidly with railroad company employees and their families. Businesses popped up including a cotton gin and mill, the Caps and Singleton hotels, several lumber and hardware companies, dry goods, groceries and confectionaries. Cotton farming had long been established in the region and remained as one of the main staples of Slaton's economy. The town incorporated on October 26, 1923.
1911 saw Slaton's first motion picture theater open and a new cotton gin operating by the end of the year. on October 19, 1911 The Slatonite took over as the weekly newspaper. Slaton boasted two banks in 1911, First State Bank and the Paul. Both collapsed during the Great Depression and in 1936 Citizens' Bank opened. By 1924, Slaton had its very own physician, Dr. W. E. Payne.
With well over 100 businesses by the early 1930's, Slaton's population had grown to 3,879 and by 1970 it had reached 7,250. In the late 1960's Santa Fe Railroad reduced operations at Slaton starting a slow down in the growth of the area. Population shrank to 6,950 by 1988 and to 6,078 by 1990. The number of businesses went from an all time high of 155 to just 92 by 1988. By this time, Slaton's strong agricultural community, producing cotton and grain, kept Slaton's economy going.
Bibliography: "Slaton's Story" 1979 the Slaton Museum Association. The handbook on Texas Online Lowell Green and Ernest Wallace.--Beginning of Slaton, 1911-1913 West Texas Historical Association Year Book 32.