Small town, big stories

Texas Tales

The Taylor County community of Potosi is not big enough to have a whole lot of stories connected to it, but it still has a couple of interesting tales.

The first involves one John Lytle. He has the distinction of being the first known resident of the area that would come to be called Potosi. He arrived in 1870.

To set the stage, Taylor County was not even organized until 1878. When Lytle rode into that part of the state, it lay beyond the frontier in Indian country. There were no ranches, no towns, no railroad -- only buffalo and the people who lived off them, the Comanches.

A young man originally from Tennessee, Lytle lived in a dugout near a spring. He made his living rounding up and selling wild horses.

He did pretty well for himself. There being no banks around, or any other businesses for that matter, he safeguarded his money himself. Most of that money, the story goes, was gold.

Four years after digging his dugout, a sweep of hostile Indians through the area made it expedient for him to travel elsewhere–in a hurry. He buried his money and rode toward Austin.

Stopping somewhere near Austin, the place isn’t specified, he took sick. He sent word to his family back in Tennessee that, as the saying went, he was in a “dying condition.” A relative made it to Texas, but by the time he arrived, Lytle was too ill to talk. Because of that, no one ever knew where he had established his “bank.” Lytle was buried, and his accumulated worth likewise stayed buried somewhere around his old dugout in present Taylor County.

In the fall of 1874, the Red River War effectively ended the Indian threat to West Texas. Sporadic raids continued a couple of years longer, but for the most part, the country was finally safe to settle.

Others moved to what would become Taylor County, then still an unorganized part of Eastland County. One of those early arrivals was Bob Barker.

One day a man Barker had hired to do some grubbing for him arrived carrying an old iron kettle. He said he was leaving.

“Wait for Mr. Barker to return to pay your wages,” Mrs. Barker said.

The hired man hefted the kettle.

“I don’t need it,” he said. And left, presumably with Lytle’s gold.

In addition to a classic treasure story, Lytle left behind his name. There’s Lytle Cove, Lytle Creek, Lytle Gap and Lytle Lake. The settlement that developed in the area also became known as Lytle.

By 1893, the community of Lytle had a general store and a cotton gin. R.A. (Bob) Pollard, the man who owned the store, figured an up and coming place like Lytle needed a post office, too.

Why Potosi is Potosi is the second story.

When Pollard applied for a postal permit, however, Washington rejected it because there was another Lytle somewhere else. Pollard flipped through the first book he could find looking for a more suitable name.

What he came up with was Potosi, inspired by the Mexican city of San Luis de Potosi.

West Texans, of course, don’t pronounce it the same way they do in Mexico. In Taylor County, the community is known as PA TOE SEE.

Jacksboro Newspapers

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