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Spanish explorers crossed the area of present Ward County more than 400 years ago, but it remained an undisturbed habitat of Native Americans until the mid-1800s. The city was established in about 1881 as a stop on the Texas and Pacific Railroad. It became the county seat and, today, is a financial and marketing center for more than 800 square miles of cattle and oil country. Oil wells, drilled at a distance from the downtown area, are slanted to draw oil from beneath city hall, courthouse, and businesses.