Large ranches exist in the Amarillo area: among others, the defunct XIT Ranch and the still functioning JA Ranch founded in 1877 by Charles Goodnight and John George Adair. Goodnight continued the partnership for a time after Adair's death with Adair's widow, Cornelia Wadsworth Ritchie Adair, who was then the sole owner from 1887 until her death in 1921.
During April 1887, J.I. Berry established a site for a town after he chose a well-watered section along the way of the Fort Worth and Denver City Railroad, which had begun building across the Texas Panhandle. Berry and Colorado City, Texas merchants wanted to make their new town site the region's main trading center. On August 30, 1887, Berry's town site won the county seat election and was established in Potter County. Availability of the railroad and freight service after the county seat election made the town a fast growing cattle marketing center.
The settlement originally was called Oneida; it would later change its name to Amarillo. Amarillo's name probably derives from yellow wildflowers that were plentiful during the spring and summer or the nearby Amarillo Lake and Amarillo Creek, named in turn for the yellow soil along their banks and shores (Amarillo is the Spanish word for the color yellow). Amarillo's name is pronounced in Spanish as "Ah-mah-REE-yoh" and in English as "Ah-mah-RI-loh." Early residents pronounced it according to the Spanish pronunciation, but within a year, the English pronunciation is now considered a slang term. Charles F. Rudolph, editor of the Tascosa Pioneer, predicted the pronunciation change after blaming Fort Worth and Denver City Railroad employees for ignoring the word's Spanish pronunciation.
On June 19, 1888, Henry B. Sanborn, who is given credit as the "Father of Amarillo," and his business partner Joseph F. Glidden began buying land to the east to move Amarillo after arguing that Berry's site was on low ground and would flood during rainstorms