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 Texas : Features : Columns : "Texas Tales"

Quito

by Mike Cox

The town site would have been located in Section 143 along the Texas & Pacific Railroad, about five miles east of Barstow.
Mike Cox
The ghostliest of ghost towns are those that existed only on paper as blocks and lots on a grid of never-graded streets crisscrossing an un-realized dream.

And surely one of the least known was Quito, Texas, not to be confused with the city of 1.5-plus million that is the capital of Ecuador.

Unlike Shafter, Thurber or scores of other Lone Star ghost towns, Quito has no picturesque ruins. It doesn’t even have a bullet pock-marked historical marker. All that remains of Quito is a piece of paper filed away in the deed records of the Ward County clerk’s office in Monahans and a scattering of purple glass fragments, china shards, rusty railroad spikes and other detritus left at two long-gone railroad stops.

W.P. Luce, Fort Worth entrepreneur and future oil man and Texas A&M University benefactor, filed a plat map of Quito Town on May 8, 1911. According to the document, recently unearthed by C.B. Wilson of Dallas, the town site would have been located in Section 143 along the Texas & Pacific Railroad, about five miles east of Barstow.

The town plan showed 14 named streets running north to south (Wagner, Church, Railroad, Plain, Dugas, Commerce, Main, Pecos, Roosevelt, Ward, Texas, Magnolia, Long and South) and the same amount of numbered streets from east to west.

Wilson, who owns the multi-section ranch that includes where Quito would have been, found the plat while looking for more documentation on his family’s holdings. He hopes the map can be restored for posterity’s sake, since it’s nearly a century old and documents a town that never was.

Well, it sort of was. Quito and Quito Wells (also shown on railroad maps as Quito Water Station) were, respectively, a section house and water stop on the T&P when tracks came through that part of West Texas in 1881. As recently as the 1950s, Quito continued as a flag stop for both passenger trains and buses. But the railroad abandoned the facilities years ago and no structures remain today.

In the early days, however, the railroad maintained points at regular intervals along its trackage for water stops (to accommodate steam-powered trains) and workers who handled track maintenance along their section, usually six miles of rail. By the T&P’s reckoning, Quito Water Station lay 630.69 miles west of Texarkana, the point where the line entered Texas, and the Quito town site was 3.6 miles west of the wells.

So why would anyone want a town that then and even now is miles from anywhere?

The answer is what could be found another 2.3 miles west of Quito – a quarry developed by the railroad to capitalize on an outcropping of Santa Rosa sandstone more popularly known as Pecos red sandstone. That long-abandoned quarry, once 70 feet deep but now partially filled with sediment from a rare torrential rain, produced stone that built courthouses and business buildings across the state. One of the better known of the surviving structures is the ornate Ellis County courthouse in Waxahachie.

On paper, Quito covered a full section, 640 acres, with some 6,000 lots. In examining the deed records, Wilson found that 325 people purchased lots between May 1911 and January 1915. Of those, 266 persons bought individual lots, with the others buying multiple lots. Harry D. Woodward of Denver, who if nothing else must have been an eternal optimist, bought 1100 lots for $18,000 – big money back then.

Wilson did not recognize any Pecos, Barstow or Pyote family names among the buyers, noting no sales to anyone from Ward or Reeves counties.

“It seems pretty clear that the sales were to far away places and hyped on some level because the locals were not participating,” Wilson said.

Based on other town site promotions Wilson has seen in old newspapers, Luce had salesman operating on commission who did road shows touting the investment virtues of Quito. The farther from Ward County, the better the sales. W.F. McCool of Sedgwick County in Kansas bought 60 lots.

Prices ranged from a low of $5.50 a lot to $100 a lot. The quarry west of Quito soon ceased operations and the planned town went nowhere. While Luce and his agents made have made some money on the deal, the various buyers did not. Eventually, Wilson’s grandfather acquired the section and added it to his ranch holdings.

Why the railroad chose Quito as a place name remains a matter of speculation. Quito is Spanish for “remove,” “take off,” “take away” and other variants. Maybe someone came up with that name in relation to the quarry and the ongoing removal of sandstone from it. No matter, it’s a fitting name for a development that saw a lot of people’s money “quito-ed.”

© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales"
April 2 , 2009 column

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