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Matador was the designated county seat when Motley County was organized in 1891. The county was named for Dr. J.W. Mottley (name was misspelled in the law), a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence who was killed at San Jacinto. The city was named for the Matador Land and Cattle Co., originally organized in 1882 by a Scottish syndicate. The area was founded and settled by cowboys of the Matador Ranch. The historic ranch house, with 26 rooms, was built in 1918 using native rock at a cost of $26,000. It is not open to the public. Today, the local economy is still based on livestock, cotton, wheat and grain sorghum.