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    THURBER, TEXAS

    Texas' Premier Ghost Town

    Erath/ Palo Pinto County
    I-20, 70 miles W of Fort Worth

    Thurber, Texas Area Hotels
    Dallas Hotels | Fort Worth Hotels

    Thurber Texas ghost town - 1908 smokestack and moon
    The 1908 smokestack in Thurber
    Photo courtesy TXDoT
    History in a Pecan Shell

    Only Indianola's 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 Texas brick yard
    The Thurber Brick yards.
    Old post card TE Archives
    Who 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 Worth Stockyards.

    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..

    Armed 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
    A Thurber Union-Made Brick. TE Photo
    Thurber Brick
    by Mike Cox ("Texas Tales" Column)
    Thurber Texas band
    The Thurber Mine Workers' Union Band
    Courtesy Thurber Historical Assn
    Thurber Texas parade
    Selling Liberty Bonds during WWI
    Courtesy Thurber Historical Assn
    Thurber cemetery
    Thurber Cemetery
    TE photo

    The Demise, and Thurber Today

    In 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.
    Turber Texas Speegle House, typical miner's house
    A typical miner's house - "Speegle House"
    Photo courtesy Jonnie Goodwin, Thurber Historical Assn, 2007
    St. Barbara Catholic Church in Thurber Texas
    St. Barbara Catholic Church in Thurber
    Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2004
    Thurber, Texas Chronicles
  • Thurber Booze from "Texas Tales" column by Mike Cox
    "...Though those 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 booze... more"
  • The 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.”
    Thurber Texas smokestack
    Another view of the smokestack in Thurber
    TE photo, 2001

    New 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.

    Thurber has a yearly reunion every year on the 2nd Saturday in June and has done so since 1937.

    For a trip to Thurber, see
    Weatherford, Mineral Wells, Palo Pinto and Thurber

    Texas 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 contact us.

    A Trip to Thurber:
    Weatherford, Mineral Wells, Palo Pinto and Thurber
    Where to Stay:
    Fort Worth Hotels
    Weatherford Hotels
    Mineral Wells Hotels
    More Hotels
    More Texas Travel Destinations:
    Central Texas North
    Texas Towns
    Texas Ghost Towns
    Texas

    Check 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.

    Dr. Leo Bielinski's informative site on Thurber is www.thurbertexas.com

    For more information on Thurber, see if your library has:
  • THURBER: The Life and Death of a Company Coal Town by John Spratt III.
  • FIRE IN THE HOLE by Weldon Hardman or
  • THE 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.
  • THURBER: The Life and Death
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