Premier Ghost TownErath/
Palo Pinto County
I-20, 70 miles W of Fort
1908 smokestack in Thurber|
Photo courtesy TXDoT
in a Pecan Shell|
story comes close to equaling the Thurber saga. Once the largest city between
Fort Worth and El
Paso, Thurber became a ghost due to corporate decisions and not the forces
of nature, as was the case with Indianola.
Thurber was the first
city in Texas to be completely electrified and amenities included refrigeration
and running water. It did, however have an abnormally high child mortality rate
that still puzzles historians.
Thurber was built by the Johnson
Coal Company that was later bought out by The Texas
and Pacific Coal Company in 1888. It's mining operation provided the fuel
for coal-burning locomotives of numerous railroads,
including the Santa Fe, the Southern
Pacific, the Texas & Pacific and the "Katy".
At one time the coal deposits were thought to be inexhaustible. We are told there
are still millions of tons left.
Thurber Brick yards.|
Old post card TE Archives
Needs a Watch when Whistles are Free|
A brick factory was added to the mining operations since they had the
material, the fuel, and the railroad
to ship the end product. Tile was manufactured as well, but it was the thick,
heavy Thurber paving brick that paid the bills. Congress
Avenue in Austin was paved
with them as well as Seawall Boulevard in Galveston.
Governor "Ma" Ferguson's experimental highway from Belton
to Temple was constructed
with Thurber Brick and asphalt (or macadam as it was then called, after its inventor,
a man named MacAdam). Mr. Leo Bielinski who has ties to Thurber dating back to
his grandfather's arrival from Poland in 1889, adds that Camp
Bowie Boulevard was paved with Thurber brick as well as The Fort
The city lived by whistles. From 5:30 when the first miners would rise, to the
noon whistle, then the railroad whistles that would signal the approaching end
of the school day and finally the quitting whistle..
guards patrolled a huge fenced perimeter around Thurber, not to keep workers in,
but to keep Union organizers out. The mostly immigrant workforce was by and large
pretty gruntled, but why take chances? The Union eventually infiltrated and won
and Thurber became a Union town in 1903. *
( *After negotiating
with the Union, Thurber bricks had an added feature impressed into each brick
- the Triangle and initials T.B.T.)
Thurber Union-Made Brick. TE Photo|
Thurber Mine Workers' Union Band|
Courtesy Thurber Historical Assn
Liberty Bonds during WWI|
Courtesy Thurber Historical Assn
Demise, and Thurber TodayIn
1915 oil was piped in to fuel the brick furnaces. Ironically, the switching of
locomotives from coal to oil was in part responsible for Thurber closing. They
were using the product that was putting them out of business. Physically, Thurber
ceased to exist when the company sold the houses for the price of lumber and they
were carried away piece-meal or intact. After the brick-making operation closed,
workers were permitted to live rent-free and were given a thirty-dollar stipend
(in scrip) per month.
More recently, in the late 1960s and early 70s, Thurber became a center for
not one, but two controversial religious communes. The Children of God, and "The
Soul Clinic." They were evicted from private property they were leasing in the
vicinity sometime around 1972.
typical miner's house - "Speegle House"|
Photo courtesy Jonnie Goodwin, Thurber
Historical Assn, 2007
Barbara Catholic Church in Thurber|
Photo courtesy Barclay
Gibson, February 2004
Texas Chronicles Thurber
from "Texas Tales" column by Mike Cox
three phases of Thurber's history - coal, bricks and oil -- are well known, much
less known is that the town became a production center for a fourth product: illegal
Ghost of Thurber by Bob Hopkins
“If people say that I didn’t see
a ghost, you tell em to come see me! I saw it with my own two eyes and I know
what I saw.”
view of the smokestack in Thurber|
TE photo, 2001
York Hill was the
name given to the neighborhood for the white-collar clerks and brick-counters
that the company recruited from the East Coast. In truth, they actually oversaw
the operations of the Ranger Oil Field. New York Hill is now the site for the
Restaurant of the same name.
has a yearly reunion every year on the 2nd Saturday
in June and has done so since 1937.
a trip to Thurber, see
Mineral Wells, Palo Pinto and Thurber
Escapes, in its purpose to preserve
historic, endangered and vanishing Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their
local history, stories, and vintage/historic photos of their town/subject, please
out the Official Thurber website at: www.thurberhistoricalassociation.com for
events and changing content. Thurber videocassettes and books are available at
New York Hill Restaurant across from the famous smokestack.
Leo Bielinski's informative site on Thurber is www.thurbertexas.com For
more information on Thurber, see if your library has:
The Life and Death of a Company Coal Town by John Spratt III.
IN THE HOLE by Weldon Hardman or
BACK ROAD TO THURBER by Leo S. Bielinski
Our sincere thanks to
Mr. Leo Bielinski who reviewed our article for accuracy and added to our knowledge
of this unique place, in our opinion the most fascinating of all Texas ghost towns.
The Life and Death|
|Save on Hotels