What Happened To The Town of Phillips Texas?
Have you ever heard of the town of Phillips, Texas? If you grew up around Borger, you might know a thing or two about this Texas Panhandle ghost town. But for most of us, I would say it is a safe bet that you have never heard of this once bustling little town.
The town was founded originally as Pantex, Texas, or Whittenburg, Texas depending on what part of the area you lived in. Rancher James Whittenburg founded his town in 1926 and formed a rivalry with the town of Pantex. FYI: while it does share the name of the current Pantex Department of Defense contractor outside Amarillo, the two have no relation. In 1927, Phillips Petroleum Company opened their new Alamo Refinery in the area. Phillips built a new $77,000 school and provided housing for teachers and some students. The town of Pantex combined with the town of Whittenburg in 1938 and became Phillips. As you might have guessed, that name was chosen because the dominant employer in the area was the Phillips Petroleum Company. The name change was voted on by the citizens of the area. By 1947, the town of Phillips had a population around 4,000 people. A fire destroyed the school, however it was rebuilt. In the 1950's and 60's, as infrastructure improved in the region, Phillips saw a lot of businesses and residents move over to the larger Borger area. By 1980, the population had dropped to 2,500 people.
It was 1980 that the final nail was driven into the coffin of Phillips, Texas. A hydrocarbon explosion at the refinery leveled part of the industrial area and some nearby homes. After the incident, at the request of the Phillips Petroleum Company, the town was closed to residency. At the time of the explosion, the land where houses were built was owned and leased out by a cattle company. While the homeowners owned their physical homes, they did not own the land they sat on. After the explosion, the oil company purchased the land from the ranches and forced the homeowners to move. Rumor has it that the real reason the plant wanted the homeowners out of the area was not based on safety, but the fact the oil company was paying close to a million dollars a year in school taxes and wanted the school closed. But this is refuted as the taxes are paid to the Plemons-Stinnett-Phillips CISD. Many homes were moved to areas nearby like Borger, Stinnett, and Fritch. The homes that were not moved were leveled. Today, the only truly visible sign of the old town is a couple very rundown buildings and the old high school which is used by the Phillips 66 Refinery.