Crosby County Pioneer Memorial Museum: The Crosby County Pioneer Museum is a singular example of a small town museum. Funded by the Lamar Foundation, set up to build the museum, it has over 21,000 square feet of museum space. The beautiful designed building pays homage to the first permanent family home on the South Plains, the Hank Smith House, in its central façade. It contains the Smith House replica, an auditorium, and three adjoining wings, dedicated to the indigenous peoples of the area and the pioneers that settled this vast land. The museum sits at the intersection of U.S. Highway 82 and F.M 651 on the square in Crosbyton.
The museum was the dream of Zina Lamar. She made the dream a reality in 1957 when the original construction of the museum began. In 1958 the museum had the replica of the Hank Smith home, the auditorium, kitchen and conference rooms. The Lamar Foundation has given the CCPMM the means to expand and develop into such a first rate facility. It is unique in the care it gives to telling the story of the Llano Estacado and those who have called it home.
One of the most prominent citizens in this cast of characters was Hank Smith. Hank was born Heinrick Schmitt in Rossbrunn, Germany. He immigrated to the United States as a young boy and began a life that reflects the raw and endless opportunity that was America in the nineteenth century. Before settling in Blanco Canyon, north of Crosbyton, Hank was a bullwhacker, a surveyor, and panned for gold in Arizona. He was conscripted into the Confederate Army in 1861. When he left the Confederate ranks (his choice), he was forced into the Union Army. Hank landed in Crosbyton in 1878 with his wife, Elizabeth Boyle, born in Scotland. The Hank Smith house in Blanco Canyon was the first permanent dwelling on the South Plains. Uncle Hank and Aunt Hank, as they began to be called, operated a store catering to buffalo hunters, ran the post office and built a life in one of the most beautiful spots on the featureless Llano Estacado. Their story is a compelling pioneer saga that is well-documented in the Crosby County Pioneer Memorial Museum located in Crosbyton.
As well as being one of Crosbyton’s most colorful pioneers, Hank is still one of the most well-connected figures in our history. His story is a quintessential American story that gives Crosbyton a strong connection to his home country of Germany. The German writer Karl May wrote about the Llano Estacado using the characters of the Native American, Winnetou and his German counterpart, Old Shatterhand. May’s chronicles of life on the Plains inflamed a passionate interest among Germans for years and Texas Tech University professor Dr. Meredith McClain and Hank and Elizabeth’s granddaughter, Georgia Mae Smith Ericson, established a connection with Germans that read about Winnetou and wish to visit the Llano Estacado. Today, the land that Karl May immortalized in his literature remains much the same. It is a land of open spaces, opportunity of those with vision, and respect for a history that connects Crosbyton to the homeland of Heinrick Schmitt-Uncle Hank. Visit the Crosby County Pioneer Memorial Museum to learn more of this connection.