Beginning in 1873 the town of Pecos developed because of its location on the Pecos River. Because the “Pecos” was a formidable river, only three open areas permitted wagons and stock to ford the river within 30 miles of the area – designated this strategic location for commerce and the distribution for ranching and overland transportation. The Butterfield Route, Chisholm Trail and Goodnight-Loving Trail were among the cattle and wagon trains that traversed the Pecos here. It was considered nothing for a cowboy to ride 50 to 75 miles to spend his paycheck in one of numerous saloons in Pecos City, Texas.
As Pecos grew, and local cowboys from several large outfits gathered to show off their skills – especially during Fourth of July celebrations – local contests became annual events. Pecos boasts it is the “Home of the World’s First Rodeo”, held in July – 1883. According to historical documents – it was the first rodeo to give monetary prizes to the contenders. The West of the Pecos Rodeo is still held annually, the last weekend of June.
The first town establishment was on the east banks of the Pecos River, but flooding was a major factor. Land was donated by Mr. George A. Knight for the present location “west of the Pecos” and the town was moved, along with the location of the railroad and in 1881, the Texas and Pacific Railroad connected the route between Fort Worth and El Paso, thus developing a ranching industry with substantial farming interests. The sweet Pecos cantaloupe was served in the dining cars, bringing nationwide fame to the area. Several U.S. presidents have ordered and appreciated the Pecos Cantaloupe.
Around 1900, the Pecos River contributed to a very fertile valley which could produce large quantities of valuable crops. The agriculture of small farms led to the sustainability of ranches and community. Later as water supplies seemed to diminish, the presence of underground water was discovered and with irrigation agriculture again became important. Today, the Oil and gas industries have become the leader in helping create a growing community.
Military buffs like to learn that during World War II, Pecos was selected as one of the largest B1-13 Bomber Training Centers in the United States because of flat terrain and good weather conditions. The Pecos Army Air Field averaged 360 flying days per year, more than any other location in the country.