It's unavoidable. When looking at a map of Tom Green County, the first thing that stands out is the odd shape.  There is a long, rectangular panhandle off the northwest corner of the county roughly 2 by 24 miles  that extends far westward.

Photo: Google Maps
Photo: Google Maps
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The story of how this so called panhandle came to be is very interesting indeed.  Apparently, when founded, Tom Green County was very large. It didn't even have a northern boundary, so it included over 60,000 square miles, roughly the size of the state of Georgia. It included the area of 66 modern Texas counties.

Finally, On August 21, 1876, according to the "Handbook of Texas Online" the northern boundary was drawn from the northwest corner of Runnels County west to the New Mexico state line.  The county was still huge, including the area of  what later became Coke, Crane, Ector, Glasscock, Irion ,Midland, Reagan, Sterling, Upton and Ward Counties.

The first historic event leading to the formation of Tom Green County's panhandle occurred with the formation of Irion and Sterling Counties to the West of Tom Green. Since what later became Reagan County was still part of Tom Green County at that time, the northern border of Irion County was adjusted to create a land bridge to the latter Reagan County part of Tom Green. Back in those days, Texas law specified that a the land of all counties had to have a "contiguous land route to the county courthouse".  

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Photo: Tom Green County Government
Photo: Tom Green County Government
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That meant that portions of Tom Green County couldn't be isolated or cut off from the original county where the courthouse was located. When Reagan County was created, the panhandle connecting it with Tom Green County became unnecessary, but citizens of Tom Green County decided to keep it rather than cede it to Sterling or Irion Counties.

That's why it is still there to this day.  It turned out to be a great decision on the part of Tom Green County residents, as that "panhandle" area of Tom Green County brings in a lot of oil and gas revenues as a major producing area. There are no towns to speak of there and really no major roads that link it to the main part of the county. I guess if you lived there and you needed a sheriff, you might just have to wait awhile.

Petroleum industry in the Permian Basin.
Sean Hannon
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Do you know anyone who lives in the panhandle of Tom Green County.  We would love to hear about what it's like.

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