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    Jason Penney's Observations of Toyah (2000)
    Toyah, Texas

    Texas Ghost Town
    Reeves County, West Texas
    Interstate 20, U.S. 80, and FM 2903
    < Toyah, Texas
    West Texas photographer Jason Penney has once again come through for our readers with the images you see here.

    Jason 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 even existed.

    Included are pictures of the main street through the old part of town.
    Downtown Toyah street scene
    Main Street Toyah
    Main Street, 1991
    Photo Courtesy Jesse L. Moore, Jr.
    Same street scene in 2000
    Photo Courtesy Jason Penney
    "The 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 Barber Shop.

    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."

    The Store / Hotel / Community Center / Barber Shop
    Youngblood Hotel, Toyah Texas
    Youngblood Hotel entrance
    "Toyah was a Division point for the Texas & Pacific Railway and the hotel was used almost totally by train crews who were laying over in Toyah."
    1991 photo Courtesy Jesse L. Moore, Jr.
    Toyah building
    2000 photo Courtesy Jason Penney
    "I 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

    The 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.
    old bank in  Toyah Texas
    Bank
    2000 photo courtesy Jason Penney
    My parents banked at this bank in the late 1930's. The bank close and business moved to Pecos.

    The building also housed the Post Office and telephone exchange. The second floor was the Masonic and Eastern Star Halls. - Watson Moore, May 07, 2001
    Toyah bank destroyed by tornado
    "The bank building in Toyah was destroyed by a tornado at 7:00pm on June 17th, 2004"
    Photo Courtesy Mrs B. G. Johnson

    Toyah High School, Texas old  postcard
    Toyah High School
    Old postcard courtesy texasoldphotos.com
    The School

    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.
    Toyal High School, Texas
    Toyah Elementary and High School
    2000 photo Courtesy Jason Penney
    Toyah Elementary and High school
    Another view of the Toyah Elementary and High School
    2000 photo Courtesy Jason Penney
    "The 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

    Mesquite 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."

    Toyah Churches

    "The 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.


    Toyah Bar & Grill
    Chata Ortega's Bar & Grill

    2001 photo courtesy Erik Wherstone
    "I noticed on the Letters to the Editor page that a few people were asking about the bar and grill building out near Toyah.
    The 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 also.

    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
    DVD
    Fandango (1985)

    Toyah Chronicles
    Train wreck near Toyah on New Year's Day 1947
    Toyah coal deck
    Toyah Coal Chute, 1917
    Courtesy of National Archives at College Park, Maryland
    ICC Bureau of Valuation Records, Texas & Pacific Railway
    Submitted by Eugene Pofahl
    Toyah Women's PTA Baseball Team  19302

    The Toyah Women's PTA Baseball Team
    c 1930

    Photo courtesy Jesse L. Moore, Jr

    Toyah Texas Forum
    Editor's Note: The 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 Penney
  • Subject: More info about Toyah, Texas
    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

  • Toyah, Texas
    My 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

  • Toyah, 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

  • Subject: Toyah Architect
    [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 vhoward@cox.net, May 10, 2006

  • Toyah, Texas
    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


  • Subject: 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
  • Update - 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
  • I 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

  • Subject: Thank you!
    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

  • I 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

  • Subject: Scott Hotel
    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

  • I 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, 2003
  • Toyah, Texas Topics of Interests:

    The Toyah Experience
  • Toyah Revisited - "capturing the story"
    Photos by Stephen Michaels.
    Captions "The Deserted Village" by Oliver Goldsmith
  • Jason Penney's 2000 Observations
  • "Groovers ’71" by Robert Hunt

    Toyah Chronicles
  • Toyah History
  • Mesquite Thorn
  • Toyah Letters
  • Toyah Churches

    Toyah Old News
  • Ignacy Paderewski and Amelia Earhart in Toyah
  • Train wreck near Toyah on New Year's Day 1947

    Book Hotel Here > Pecos Hotels
  • Toyah, Texas water tower
    Toyah water tower
    Photo courtesy James Feagin, 2002
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