“On 12 April 1879, Wheeler County became the first organized county in the Texas Panhandle,” reads the Handbook of Texas Online. “The Kiowas and Comanches, who displaced the earlier Apache peoples around 1700, dominated the area until the mid-1870s. By that time buffalo hunters had already established a settlement, called Hidetown or Sweetwater, in the area. The U.S. Army established Fort Elliott near Hidetown in 1875, and the first post office in the Panhandle opened there in 1878. The legislature established Wheeler County, named for Royal T. Wheeler, in 1876. Three years later, the residents of the area petitioned for county organization, which became official on April 12. The small camp of Sweetwater became the first county seat; it was renamed Mobeetie in 1880.”
The Wheeler Historical Musuem, established in 2018, tells this story — and many more, about Wheeler County and its notable residents such as dancer and actress Cyd Charisse and Apollo astronaut Alan L. Bean. It features artifacts from the Red River War to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway, from wagon roads to Route 66.
Volunteers and local historians and educators have been working to establish the Wheeler County Museum in the former American Legion Building just north of downtown since 2014. In 2017, a larger-than-life bronze statue of native son Capt. Alan L. Bean was unveiled in front of the building; the statue serves as a landmark today along historic U.S. Highway 83.