Langtry was created in 1882, when the Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio Railroad, later known as Southern Pacific, signed a deed with the Torres family, who owned the land. The town, which provided water for locomotives, developed from a tent town to a bustling settlement after the rail line was completed.
The town was most likely named for George Langtry, who led an area rail building crew. Lore, though, links the town's most famous inhabitant to its naming; Roy Bean, who owned a local saloon and served as Justice of the Peace, became known as "The Law West of the Pecos." He was enamored of Lillie Langtry, a popular British actress, and although she was probably not the town's namesake, she did visit here in the early 20th Century.
In addition to the infamous Bean, other local men and women contributed to the town's western ambience. J. P. Torres, part of the town's founding family, also served as Justice of the Peace and operated a store and saloon. He, like many of the area residents, also raised livestock, most often sheep or goats. Accessibility to the trains attracted many ranchers, who supported local businesses.
Langtry supported other industries, including a rock crushing plant created for the railroad. The town also attracted tuberculosis patients who came in hopes of regaining their health. During the Mexican Revolution, soldiers came to Langtry for goods, guns and munitions. The rail line was rerouted in the 1920s, and Langtry's population declined, today existing primarily as a tourist site. The landscape and remaining buildings still speak to what once was a bustling west Texas town.