What is currently known as Amarillo was established as a settlement in 1887 when J.I. Berry wanted to create a town located near the main trading center of the region. The townsite was approved and was designated as the county seat for Potter County. Initially, it was named Oneida. The name was later changed to Amarillo and is believed to be nominated for the yellow wildflowers that grow in the area.
In 1888, Joseph Glidden and Henry Sanborn began purchasing land to move the city due to the risk of floods in the current area. He appealed to businesses by offering to trade lots with them and to assist in paying moving expenses. As more people took up these offers, the commercial district of Polk Street began to develop. Growth continued the following year when a flood almost occurred at the original site. The new town was elected as a county seat in the 1890s.
Before the next century, Amarillo had already established itself as a cattle-shipping point. Because of this, the population continued to grow. The 20th century saw an increase in the production of wheat, turning the city into a center for milling, grain, and feed-manufacturing. The early 1900s also brought in oil and gas companies following the discovery of oil and natural gas. In the 1920s, the Cliffside Gas Field was purchased by the U.S. government, and the Federal Bureau of Mines operated the Amarillo Helium Plant. It was the only producer of commercial helium at the time and has earned Amarillo the nickname of “Helium Capital of the World.”
Growth only continued with the introduction of the Fort Worth and Denver City Railroad. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway and the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad also came to the area and employed many of Amarillo’s residents.
The city was affected by an economic depression in the mid-1900s but bounced back after it became a major tourist destination with the introduction of Routes 60, 66, 87 and 287. In 1949, the city was struck by a tornado, killing and injuring residents and destroying much of the city. Another tornado hit in 1982, but no deaths were recorded.
Today, the city is known as Rotor City, USA because of its hybrid aircraft assembly plant. It is also one of the largest meat-packing cities in the country. Amarillo is also the site of the only nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility in the U.S. The city’s population continues to grow, especially in the northwestern and southern areas of the city. Though the downtown area has gone downhill, the local government has established partnerships to revitalize this area. Amarillo is an appealing place for residents and visitors alike, boasting over 50 city parks, historic homes and buildings, restaurants, shopping centers, and other attractions.