It was October 1875, when Colonel William Rufus Shafter came upon a body of water northwest of the present town of Andrews. He was on an exploring expedition from Fort Concho near San Angelo, Texas. From a volume of the WEST TEXAS HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION yearbook is found Shafter's own account of the discovery of the lake that was later named after him.
He notes that the lake was found while trying to locate a suitable trail between two good watering places he had found previously while on a trail from Five Wells, located about twenty miles northeast of Andrews, to Monument Spring, just over the state line in New Mexico. Shafter's description of the lake and surrounding country says "... it is all heavy sand, except three short stretches, of a couple of miles each, to an alkali lake, distance from Five Well, twnety miles. The lake situated in a depression of the prairie with hard growth all around it, extending several miles on the south and west; water permanent, and, though quite strongly alkalie, can be used from holes dug in the bank. Grass excellent, very luxuriant roots in abundance. The lake is circular in form and one-eighth of a mile in diameter. From this lake to Monument Springs the country is rolling, about one-half hard prairie, the balance light sand." This is the extent of the mention of the lake. It was not known to exist until Shafter stumbled upon it. he found it had been used considerably as an Indian Camp as evidenced by a lot of Tipi holes, but the Indians had fled. There are still evidences of the Indians although most of the relics have been found and removed.
The town or city of Shafter Lake, as it was referred to, did not come into existence until 1906 when it was established. "The City of a Thousand Wonders" was Shafter Lakes as described by the Commercial Club of Shafter Lake. The prologue admits, "the purpose of this booklet is confessedly, the bringing of people to the Shafter Lake country." This was the time of the most growth and probably did much to lure people to Shafter Lake as noted by the population of 87 in 1900 to the number 975 in 1910. The first abstract records report the sale of land in February 21, 1902.
When the town was at its peak between 1909-1910, there were many businesses. It was planned around a square with a place for a courthouse and trees planted around it. The well on the square was drilled about 1906 and the concrete water trough, which remains are still there, was built by John Underwood. There was a grocery store, drug store, bank, hotel, school, church and newspaper.
The newspaper was The Shafter Lake Herald. According to Mrs. Betty Orbeck's notes printed in Odessa in 1972, the record as to the date of establishement could not be stated; but in the minutes of the TEXAS PRESS ASSOCIATION a Mr. John F. Turner represented the Shafter Lake Herald in 1908 and 1909 at their annual meeting. Apparently the publisher was in the printing business as evident from a warranty deed form printed by the Herald Printing Company of Shafter Lake. This instrument was dated November 11, 1908 and filed January 3, 1910 with Midland County. The deed was from J. L. and W. J. Underwood and their wives to W. W. McQuatters and W. E. Whitten. The document in 1960 was in the private possession of W. W. McQuatters of Andrews, son of the granter. The editor of the paper was James Cumby and when he left he moved to Wichita Falls and entered the oil business.
The hotel is on record as having been owned by the Elam family who later moved to Seminole. It was built about 1905 or 1906. It had twelve overnight guest rooms upstairs, and downstairs were guest rooms, the kitchen and the lobby. It had an upper and lower porch.
THE COWBOY STATE BANK was, according to the charter on file with the Department of Banking in Austin, incorporated July 31, 1909. The bank was used for about two years. The post office was housed in it later until a bad storm blew the building away in 1916.
The Irwin family remained prominent in Shafter Lake history as they finally became the only people living there. Hunter Irwin bought the remaining house on the north side of the townsite in 1926. R. W. "Bob" Crowley of Fort Worth had this home built for his son who was a commission cattle buyer. Originally the house had four large rooms with a center hall and a large wooden porch with wooden pillars across the front. The outside of the house is made of cement blocks. The sand and gravel used in making the blocks came from Shafter Lake. The blocks were handmade by brick maker Joe Greene. The high ceilings with large attic and attic windows are the characteristics of the house. This house is a good example of the architecture of the early 1900's used in West Texas. In April 1963, Mrs. K. H. Irwin was presented with the Medallion to designate it as a Texas State Historical Medallion Home.
Courtesy Andrews County Heritage Committee, 1978