BALLINGER, TEXAS. Ballinger is at the junction of U.S. highways 67 and 83 and State Highway 158, thirty-six miles northeast of San Angelo in south central Runnels County. The Colorado River and Elm Creek converge there, and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway runs through the town.
Ballinger was established when the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway built westward out of Brownwood in 1886. Runnels City, the original county seat, campaigned for selection as the new railroad terminal but could not compete with the superior water supply offered at the future site of Ballinger, five miles to the south. Extensive advertising in the Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, and Galveston newspapers brought 6,000 people to the sale of town lots in Ballinger on June 29, 1886. As early as June 7 railroad-company ads in the Dallas Morning News promoted the sale, offering half-price excursion trains from Dallas.
The 1.7-square-mile area was laid out in large lots, with a courthouse square and public park set aside for future use. Roughly half of the lots sold on the first day. To ensure the success of their new terminal, Santa Fe officials offered free property to anyone who would move a home from Runnels City to Ballinger and to any church that would erect a building. The town was originally called Gresham and then Hutchings (in honor of Santa Fe stockholders Walter Gresham and John H. Hutchings qqv); it was officially named in honor of William Pitt Ballinger, qv a Galveston attorney and stockholder of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe. Rapid growth and opportunity brought a boomtown atmosphere, attracting a crowd of drifters, fugitives, gamblers, and ruffians to the town's nine saloons and gambling halls. Stagecoach robberies were not uncommon. By 1888, however, the railroad extended to San Angelo, the overland stage business ended, and new, permanent settlers came to the land. A post office was established in Ballinger on June 1, 1886, with William A. Procter as postmaster. The town was incorporated in 1892 and began using the commission form of city government.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Ballinger Ledger, 75th Anniversary Edition, June 29, 1961. John Clements, Flying the Colors: Texas, a Comprehensive Look at Texas Today, County by County (Dallas: Clements Research, 1984). Keith Elliott, "Ballinger's Carnegie Library," Texas Highways, January 1989. Frank D. Jenkins, ed., Runnels County Pioneers (Abilene, Texas: R&R Reproduction, 1975). Charlsie Poe, Runnels Is My County (San Antonio: Naylor, 1970). Houston Bailey Self, A History of Runnels County (M.A. thesis, Texas Technological College, 1931). A. E. Skinner, The Rowena Country (Wichita Falls: Nortex, 1973). Glenn Smith, "Drought in Runnels County: 1915-1918," West Texas Historical Association Yearbook 40 (1964). Vertical Files, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin. Kathryn Pinkney
Text from the Handbook of Texas Online.