Matador, on U.S. Highway 62/70, State Highway 70, and Farm Road 94, thirty-one miles east of Floydada and thirty-two miles west of Paducah in central Motley County, was named for the Matador Ranch, which was established in 1879 at Ballard Springs. A ranch post office named Matador opened in 1886 before the town existed. When the county was organized in 1891 Matador was designated county seat after Matador Ranch manager Henry H. Campbell laid out a townsite and encouraged cowboys to set up one-day businesses to meet the General Land Office requirement that a county seat have twenty commercial enterprises. Campbell was the county's first elected judge, and cowboy Joe Beckham was the first sheriff. Matador was off the rail line in its early years but became the leading town in the county. Local rail service started in 1913 with construction of the Motley County Railroad. The Dew Drop Saloon was a leading business until 1893, when prohibition was voted in. A school opened in 1891 or 1892 and a bank in 1901. In early days the domination of town and county by the Matador Ranch aroused resentment, and in the 1896 election settlers defeated the ranch's candidates. The strife abated in 1900 when forty voters, some of them having political experience, moved to Matador from Erath County. Despite local rivalries Matador was largely a peaceful community; its first bank robbery occurred in 1966. The Motley County News, the town and county's first newspaper, began publication in 1891. Matador was incorporated in 1912. Dr. J. S. Stanley opened a hospital in 1944 and enlarged it four years later. In 1940 Matador had sixty businesses and a population of 1,302, a number that remained fairly constant until 1961, when the population was 1,217. In 1988 Matador had nineteen businesses and a population of 1,019. The town is a commercial center for cattle, quarter horses, and farm produce. It has two hospitals, a weekly newspaper, and recreational facilities at Jameson Lake and Virginia Walton Park. In 1990 the population was 790. The population dropped to 740 by 2000.
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