Washburn, on U.S. Highway 287 in the northwest corner of Armstrong County, was part of the JA Ranch holdings from 1876 until the ranch was divided in 1887. In August of that year Robert E. Montgomery, who owned section ninety-eight, promoted a townsite at what was then the terminus of the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway. He named it after D. W. Washburn, an official of the railroad and an old friend of his father-in-law, Grenville Dodge, then president of the Union Pacific line. The Denver Road drilled two water wells and erected a double pump station, a coal chute, a section house, a depot, and stock pens. In 1888 a line was built to Panhandle, in Carson County, to connect with the Southern Kansas Railway. Washburn thus boomed with tents, dugouts, and board shacks almost overnight. It became a base of operations for settlers, ranchers, and neighboring towns. A post office was established in March 1888 with postmaster James Logue, who also served as justice of the peace, as postmaster. In 1889 a combination school and church building was erected. By 1890 the town had a newspaper, the Armstrong County Record, three hotels, and a building supply house. That year in a close, contested election, Washburn lost its position as county seat to Claude. Businesses failed, and people left. The failure to complete other railroad projects, the abandonment of the tap line, and the emergence of Amarillo caused a further decline. Nevertheless, Washburn's community spirit enabled it to survive as a rural town. Telephone service was extended from Amarillo in 1896. A Methodist church was built in 1907, and the following year James Logue established a bank, which in 1911 merged with the one at Claude. Sometime before 1920 a community club was organized for the purpose of modernizing the school facilities, improving education, and sponsoring cultural events. A Baptist mission was established in Washburn in 1963. Throughout the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, Washburn had a population estimated at twenty-five. It rose to an estimated 100 in 1964. From 1974 to the 1980s the population was estimated at seventy. In 1984 the town had a hotel, a grain elevator, and one business. Its post office closed in 1956. Some of its residents commute to Amarillo, twenty miles west. In 1990 the population of Washburn was 104. The population reached 120 in 2000.
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