Texas photographer Jason Penney has once again come through for our readers with
the images you see here.
Penney's Observations of Toyah (2000):
"I was in Pecos, Texas today and on the way back, I stopped by Toyah,
Texas (I-20 mm 22). There is nothing in this town other than a truck stop on the
highway. If you didn't go into it, you would never know this old architecture
Included are pictures of the main street through the old
part of town.
| || |
Courtesy Jesse L. Moore, Jr.
street scene in 2000|
Photo Courtesy Jason Penney
left building contained the Youngblood Hotel and the Walker Mercantile.
The middle building (columned) contained a bank, the post
office and telephone office on the first floor and the Masonic Lodge
and Eastern Star on the upper floor.
The white building to the
right held the Hart Grocery, the Ruhrup Drug Store, and the Thomason
The bank closed in the late 1930s and the Hart Grocery
in the early 1940s. The other businesses were still operating when I graduated
high school in 1945."
Store / Hotel / Community Center / Barber Shop |
"Toyah was a Division point for the Texas & Pacific
Railway and the hotel was used almost totally by train crews who were laying over
photo Courtesy Jesse L. Moore, Jr.
photo Courtesy Jason Penney|
graduated from high school in Toyah, class of 1952. John Billieter and I were
the only two seniors that year. My Dad (L.E. Adams) had a grocery store
and a dry goods store on the east end of the building that is shown on
main st., the rest of the building was hotel rooms...... "
- Alvin R. Adams |
"An old hotel on the top and a mercantile
store below" - W. Moore
"The picture was actually
our community center and Mr. Thomason's barber shop. I went to school
(in Toyah) from 1961-1967" - John A. Taylor
The hotel/mercantile building has been torn down and removed.
Only the rubble of the foundations remain. - Mike Donovan, April 02, 2003
Bank ( See Update)|
The bank is awesome looking. It has a lot of old style architectural designs.
You can tell that they put a lot of work into it.
2000 photo courtesy
parents banked at this bank in the late 1930's. The bank close and business moved
building also housed the Post Office and telephone exchange. The
second floor was the Masonic and Eastern Star Halls. - Watson
Moore, May 07, 2001
bank building in Toyah was destroyed by a tornado at 7:00pm on June 17th, 2004"|
Photo Courtesy Mrs B. G. Johnson
Old postcard courtesy texasoldphotos.com
The abandoned high school was huge by West Texas standards. Notice all the pigeons
on the right side of the roof.
There must have been money in this town
at one point.
Elementary and High School|
2000 photo Courtesy Jason Penney
view of the Toyah Elementary and High School|
2000 photo Courtesy Jason Penney
picture of the "High School" is an El-Hi school. I attended grades 1-4 here and
my brother 1-12. I lived in Toyah from 1936 to 1946. My father was J.L. Moore
the District Roadmaster for the Texas & Pacific RR" - W. Moore |
"This building served both elementary and high school until replaced
in the late l940s or early 1950s. Toyah schools were later consolidated in Pecos,
Texas." Jesse L. Moore
"The old school that was two
story was built in 1912 but in the 60's it was our gym, because the second story
floor was torn out and the basketball court was put in. I went to school there
from 1961-1967." - John A. Taylor
Thorn, Texas |
"Finally, I found this house on the East side of town, one of the few
that weren't abandoned. They built it up like an old ghost town and it does look
like one. It has a barber, a livery stable, a blacksmith, saloon, etc.
They have a very nice collection of various cacti and a walking path through it
all. They call it 'Mesquite Thorn, Texas.'
I couldn't find anybody home to answer any questions, but the sign explains
a bit of it. The sign invites you to walk through, but unfortunately, I was in
a hurry on business."
Baptists and Methodists only had preachers on alternate Sundays. We attended preaching
every other Sunday at the Methodist church even though we were members of the
Baptist Church. It worked out well for everyone." - 1991 photo courtesy
Jesse L. Moore, Jr.
Ortega's Bar & Grill|
2001 photo courtesy Erik Wherstone
noticed on the Letters to the Editor page that a few people were asking about
the bar and grill building out near Toyah.|
name of the building is Chata Ortega's Bar and Grill. You really can't see the
first part of the name very well from the highway. After doing a little searching
on Google for the name Chata Ortega's, I came across a few websites that mentioned
it being in the movie Fandango. They filmed parts of the movie at the Rattlesnake
Airforce base in Peyote, and apparently some of the buildings in Toyah were used
I did notice that the building was burnt out in the movie also,
so it had caught fire before 1985." - Erik Whetstone, April 12, 2004
Coal Chute, 1917|
Courtesy of National
Archives at College Park, Maryland
ICC Bureau of Valuation Records, Texas
& Pacific Railway
Submitted by Eugene Pofahl
The Toyah Women's PTA
Photo courtesy Jesse L. Moore, Jr
material contributed to the Toyah page after the first photographs were sent in
by Jason Penney has been substantial. |
Some of the information may appear
to be repetitive, but in printing the letters
as they were received - some questions are answered and minor mysteries are explained.
How can you not love a town whose school colors were a practical black
and white and where Baptists and Methodists shared a church? - John Troesser
More photos by Jason
More info about Toyah,
I just found your great pictorial essay about the
Texas Ghost Town in Reeves County, West Texas, and have some interesting information
to add to it. My husband's great-uncle, Frank W. DeJarnette was a Texas Ranger
assigned to the area in 1885. J.T. Morris was the first sheriff of Reeves County
and was involved in a dispute with the Rangers because they wouldn't loan him
a pair of mules. On the evening of August 18, 1885 a drunk Sheriff Morris took
the train from Pecos
to Toyah and was quoted as saying, "I run Pecos
and damned if I don't run Toyah." As he grew drunker
and more abusive, citizens notified the rangers. Ranger Captain Gillespie sent
Ranger DeJarnette with orders for Ranger Sergeant Cartwright to arrest the sheriff
and hold him until he sobered up. Cartwright, Corporal Hughes, and Privates DeJarnette
and T.P. Nigh found Morris in The Favorite Saloon, mean drunk and waving his six-shooter
around. In the shootout that followed, Sheriff Morris killed Private) Nigh and
was himself killed by the other Rangers." We came across this account in TEXAS
RANGER TALES: STORIES THAT NEED TELLING by Mike Cox (Copyright 1997, Republic
of Texas Press-an imprint of Wordware Publishing, Inc. p.186-188.) We were researching
Frank W. DeJarnette because my husband inherited his old Colt 45 and a handwritten
document detailing his arrest for murder along with Rangers Cartwright and Hughes.
My husband contacted a clerk in the Reeves County Courthouse who obligingly went
into the basement and found a follow up to our information. The Rangers were all
"no-billed" and their $500 bond returned to them. - Vanda M. Powers (Mrs. William
S. Powers), August 23, 2012
Great Grandparents are James Mortica Johnson and Mary Elizabeth Johnson and my
Grandfather is John Isaac Johnson. They moved to Toyah I believe around 1900.
and many of my aunts were born there. I believe we share the same Great Grand
Parents!...... Mort was a judge in Toyah from 1906 to 1908 and my Grandfather
Ike was a Texas Ranger... - Alma Birdell Johnson's son Pete Pisciotta of Reno
NV, February 10, 2009
Texas Train Wreck
This is a photo of Texas & Pacific locomotive #638. I was told that this
engine was in a head-on collision near Toyah on New Year's Day 1947 and that several
of the crew members shown in this photo were killed in the crash. more
- John Scott, Greenville, Texas, April 10, 2007
[Would anyone know] who the architect was who designed
the fine buildings in Toyah -- the bank, mercantile, etc., complex and the high
school? I once had this information but have lost it. I am working on an historical
novel based on a travel diary my aunt wrote in 1920. Toyah was mentioned in the
diary as follows: "The most important towns we passed through on Monday, July
12, were Toyah and Kent." In recreating the time and place, I would like to include
the name of the architect. Thank you for your help. - Virginia Howard Meterie,
Louisiana firstname.lastname@example.org, May 10, 2006
I recently married a woman who was raised in Toyah. She was a student
of the last class in the Toyah high school. Her family were then the Sanchezs'
but her mother remarried to Jim Burchard- a well known rancher from Toyah. I visited
her mother over Easter 2006 and attended the joint churches' Easter celebration
there. A very small but welcoming community. I am British, soon to move to Texas.
Toyah was a dustbowl - and one of the most beautiful places I have visited in
the US. - Malcolm Alexander, April 30, 2006
Toyah, TX and Mesquite Thorn
Toyah holds a special place in my heart
and always will. My mother and father grew up there, went to school there and
married there. After a brief look around Texas, they returned to Toyah and settled
in. It saddens me to see Toyah in its current state. I remember a town bustling
with activity (as much as there is for a small town), and the dynamics of human
life. My heart longs for the those days. I have seen many people come and go,
along with the much anticipation for better days. I have read the stories on your
site and have been moved by the experiences people have had in Toyah. My experiences
number too many to summarize.
I wish to thank the people who have appreciated
Mesquite Thorn. My father and I spent many long hours building a place that could
remind one of simpler times. A place where a little history and amusement could
be shared with all who passed through. If Toyah has only one story passed along
about it, no matter its current state, the memory of this special place will always
live. - Christopher Sanchez, January 09, 2005
Toyah now has two tire shops, a Grill & Saloon, Truck Stop and an RV Park. We
also have two grants for houses. We should start building 14 new homes this Summer.
Thanks for you site. - Sandra Terry, Mayor City of Toyah, February 22, 2005
- Toyah Hit by Double Whammy|
An article by David J. Lee in the Odessa American reported that the town’s 100-year
old bank building was destroyed by high winds on June 17th, and that “only a section
of the west wall and a vault were left standing.”
The town had also been
flooded on April 4 of 2004 when storms delivered eight inches of rain in about
two hours. A dike built to protect the town was overwhelmed by the volume of water
and nearly every house in Toyah was flooded as a result.
Toyah did receive
some state funds to repair basic infrastructure, but there won’t be any money
forthcoming for the privately-owned bank building which was sitting vacant at
the time of the storm. It’s not known whether the lot will be cleared, but Toyah
has lost several buildings in the last few years.
Our thanks to Charlene
Beauchamp of Kermit and Lexie Nichols of Monahans for notifying us and forwarding
the Odessa American article.
June 19, 2004
It is with great sadness that I report to you, that the bank building in Toyah
was destroyed by a tornado at 7:00pm on June 17th, 2004. That building and two
trees were the only things damaged in the whole town. We talked to the man who
had bought it and was restoring it. He was making it into a residence, antique
shop and convenience store. He said he is selling the salvaged materials. In this
picture, you can clearly see the old safe, right behind the cement columns. |
My husband is B.G. Johnson, borned and raised in Toyah Tx. His father is
Garland Johnson. His mother is Ruby Cleveland Johnson Cunningham. Both are deceased.
Many may remember her as the woman with the place to park RV's and trailers for
the weary traveler.
We were there this morning, doing some work on his
grandfather and great grandmother's graves. The flood that came through a few
months ago caused a great deal of damage to the cemetery west of town. The flood
caused a lot of damage to many houses in Toyah. Water was four feet deep in some
places. The woman who bought my mother in law's house, said she woke with a strange
feeling, got out of bed only to hit the water. She told us of going to unplug
appliances and seeing the light on the refridgerator glowing from under the water.
The flooding occurred once before in 1941. My dear mother in law was always fearful
of it happening again. - Mrs B. G. Johnson, Midland Tx, June 20, 2004
have my own website, www.bygonebyways.com. I was doing a trip last week exploring
Hwy 80 through western Texas for my website and your site was a great help. -
Jeff in Tucson, July 14, 2004|
Thanks for taking the time to respond...
I had gone through the 1st time in May and have pics of one of the cars in Toyah
you mentioned. If you ever need any old maps/pics of items along the old Hwy 80
corridor through western Texas, I may be able to help you out. I will be certain
to add your pages to my web links. Cheers, and keep up the good work. - Jeff
in Tucson, July 14, 2004
I'd driven through around 1991 in the middle of the night and
stopped in (unsuccessfully looking for a bathroom!). A few years later, I spent
some time taking pictures, wandering into the old bank (the safe area was still
visible) and going through the Mesquite Town. I was intrigued with the town and
am glad to have the opportunity to learn more about it. It looked like a wondeful
place to have grown up. Thank you again for taking the time to set up the web
site! - Greg Moore, May 25, 2004
am an alumni of Toyah, Texas. My Name is Anita Martinez, my married name is Pina.
There is a lot I would like to add to the Toyah [page]. It is very informative
but it is missing a major component of the city. The HISPANIC side! How can I
get my story to the world wide web? My daddy built the Catholic Church and my
grandfather sounded the 12 noon siren everyday for 50 years. There is so much
I want to say. Please assist me. Many Thanks - Regards Anita Martinez Pina,
April 18, 2004
I worked in train service for the T&P railroad and recall staying
at the Scott Hotel. You would register in at the desk and get the keys to a room
and it was like a ghost hotel because you never saw anyone that worked there.
My father worked in Toyah from 1935 to 1947 and stayed at the same hotel. - Utah
Carroll Rogers, Arlington, Texas, April 04, 2004
I wanted to thank you for the notes you have made on Toyah. I grew up in Toyah
and my grandmother, Virginia Gibson, still lives there (across from the mesquite
town built for Shawna). My great great grandfather built the original high school
and the bank. I spent two weeks of every summer going back to Toyah and it holds
a lot of my heritage and memories, everything from chasing horn toads to Sunday
church. Thank you for recording them. - Sydna Gibson, 28/May/2003
I was recently
surfing the web and ran across your web page on Toyah, Texas. I was very pleased
to see Mesquite Thorn featured on this site. You see, I grew up in Pecos in the
80's and early ninety's. As a teenager I befriended a young girl my own age and
thus proceeded to engage in a long, loving relationship with the entire family.
The town might be small, but the family values were far from ghostly. My friends
older sister, who brought life and vibrancy wherever she went, did pass away when
we were still in high school. Although this was the most painful tragedy of my
youth, I was happy to see that your page had a short bio on the history of Mesquite
Thorn. Although, when we were young teenagers romping around the emptiness of
the town and playing hide and go seek underneath the gym in the school, Mesquite
Thorn was just an idea in the mind of one of the most sincerely kind man I have
ever known. - Jacobs, April 23, 2003
recently visited Toyah. There has been some demolition since the photos you display
were taken. The hotel/mercantile building on main street has been torn down and
removed. Only the rubble of the foundations remain. The bank building, the white
building and the school house still remain though. - Mike Donovan, April 02,
|Book Hotel Here