from Oliver Goldsmith’s poem "The Deserted Village"
now the devastation is begun,
And half the business of destruction done;
now, methinks, as pondering here I stand,
I see the rural virtues leave the
"Toyah now has a very different look than 2000.
The images I’m sending now show only Toyah's past. Amazingly, it still has a story
to tell. The truckstop is still there (where I parked) but it looks like it has
been vacant for a good while.
"Toyah Grill" sign looks decent, but I could not tell what building it belonged
to. The Toyah post office, well, I’m not sure they still have one. There is a
building with a mailbox in front, and a few PO boxes inside....but no sign, no
flag, nothing that says it is an active post office. |
I wish I had looked
at Texas Escapes coverage of Toyah before I visited
the town so I could have taken better perspective shots. I know I stood on the
corner where the hotel would have been.
TE’s mention of the bank being destroyed
by a tornado in 2004 is correct. All that remains today is a lonely free-standing
wall. The hotel, mercantile, etc. are completely
erased from the block.
The bank is
now just a pile of bricks and debris. The front was overgrown with weeds and trash
more the farmer's news, the barber's tale…"|
luxury! thou cursed by Heaven's decree,|
How ill exchanged are things like
these for thee!”
|There was an old car
parked right at what was most likely the corner of the building. I had to shoot
the car very tight to try and keep the "trash" out of the image. At the west corner
of the building there stands a section of wall with stairs and a window. I took
that shot and it shows all that is left of Main street. The street signs are still
in place, but for several blocks there is nothing but empty lots and weeds.|
|I did notice an old
sign in the rubble that read "Historic bricks 4 sale. $1.50, your choice." I wonder
if there were any buyers. Even if you had wanted to buy them, who would you have
given the money to?|
East Texas brick finds its way to West Texas|
| I did take a few
house images...all vacant now of course. There was one church that was vacant,
and another had a few cars out front. One building said "Toyah City Hall" but
even that building had its lamp posts torn up out of the ground and laying in
front. I highly doubt that that building has been used for any purpose recently.
The fire department looked the same.|
| I found three Volunteer
fire trucks scattered about the town, parked next to hydrants, but they had not
been registered since 2004. |
On the outskirts of town I did see a few houses
that could still be habitable. During my hour long walkabout, I only saw one pickup
truck go speeding down a dirt road off into the distance.
Thorn,Texas is closed off.
images I took show Toyah as it WAS in its day. The roads are lonely now. Even
Main Street is "gone." But I do feel I captured spirit of Toyah. After all, that
is what Texas Escapes was designed to show. If
we are lucky we can catch a few buildings to show as examples of what had been,
but for cases like this, we are left with a few images that can only capture the
mist of a town before it is totally gone.
I have to admit, it was painful
to photograph this town. I got stung by a bee, backed into a mesquite branch,
kneeled down on a thorn pile, hit my head on the school’s swing set, and almost
stepped on a snake. This may be one of the reasons Toyah is vacant." – Stephen
Michaels, August 10, 2008
Heaven! what sorrows gloomed that parting day|
That called them from their native
country blooms—a garden, and a grave."|
birds forget to sing, |
but silent bats in drowsy clusters cling…"
busy steps the grass-grown footway tread, |
for all the bloomy flush of life
at each step the stranger fears to wake |
the rattling terrors of the vengeful
oft in whirls the mad tornado flies, |
mingling the ravaged landscape with the
power can time defy, |
as rocks resist the billows and the sky.”
Deserted Village by Oliver Goldsmith
Photos copyright Stephen
History in a Pecan ShellThe
name Toyah is said to have come from an Indian word meaning “flowing water.” Several
artesian springs found here, may have inspired the name. Toyah is Reeves County’s
oldest townsite and began as a trading post and gathering spot for the owners
and employees of the large ranches that surrounded the site. Prior to the arrival
of the Texas and Pacific railroad, storekeeper W. T. Youngblood peddled his wares
to the ranches before building an adobe store here. In its first few years, if
Toyah wasn’t actually one of the earth’s ends, you could’ve probably seen one
of them from Toyah. The arrival of the railroad changed things drastically. The
railroad arrived, a post office opened and the town was included on the Overland
Stage Co. (service to Ft.
Davis and Fort
Stockton) – all in 1881.
By the mid 1880s the town had a sizeable hotel
to complement the saloons and restaurants that were operating. It wasn’t until
1894 when the town opened its first school. By 1910 the town reported a population
of 771 and its importance as a railroad stop increased. It became a changing point
for railroad crews and hosted a busy spur for shipping cattle. But nothing lasts
forever and after a few years, a new shipping point named Toyahvale
was built – adding insult to injury by including the first town’s name in theirs.
residents numbered nearly 1,100 by 1914. It maintained that number up through
the crash of ‘29. Two years later Toyah’s population was reduced by nearly half.
With 553 people serviced by 17 businesses, Toyah remained a respectable rival
to the county seat of Pecos.
At its high-water mark Toyah had four stores, two banks, four churches, and two
By 1940s the town had declined to 464 and by the 1950s it
was hovering just over 400.
Another decline brought it to less than 200
in the 1970s, but it increased to nearly 300 for the 1980 census. The 1980s saw
another decline, dropping to 142 by 1990 and to 100 for the 2000 census.
Well Natural Gas in Toyah 1909|
courtesy www.rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/
We were first introduced to Toyah, by photographer Jason Penney in 2000.
Toyah was one of our first ghost towns, and due to the limited capabilities of
the Internet at that time, we were prevented from doing Mr. Penney’s photos justice.
Although they appeared as mere thumbnails, their presence gave former Toyahans
an opportunity to share their memories via email. Through the letters received,
we learned Toyah’s history which is a lot
like many small Texas towns - only more so. A
fatal train wreck, the 19th Century killing of a fugitive from Pecos,
the Chinese basement school, the filming of a movie and the poignant establishment
of the memorial “town” of Mesquite Thorn.
For its size and its minimal contact with the outside world, Toyah produced a
substantial and well-written history that was once sold at the (now defunct) truck
stop. When a flash flood hit the town in 2004, we were notified of the incident
within hours. When a company moved out of town, we were sent the happy news that
the pressure of several local artesian springs improved. We were under the happy
impression that Toyah was on the road to recovery. Although no staff members had
ever visited the town, we considered Toyah our “mascot” for several years before
bestowing that honor to Medicine
Mound. We would’ve happily remained ignorant of Toyah’s continued decline
but in early August of 2008, Stephen
Michaels, photographer, trucker and webmaster of www.BigRigTravels.com
spent an hour touring Toyah and recorded the images you see here. |
Toyah is truly a “deserted village” and so, for captions, we chose lines from
Oliver Goldsmith’s poem about the lure of wealth and the ruin of rural life. –
We visited Toyah on August 2, 2012 and took the following photos. The town seems
to be going through a boom at this time. We notice a new house built northwest
of town and signs routing trucks around the town. It seems the oil boom is helping
this little community survive a little longer. There were numerous “No Trespassing”
signs on buildings. The Ford Pinto still runs, hope they got the recall notice.
- David Tullos, August 23, 2012
High School Building|
Photo courtesy David Tullo, August 2012
courtesy David Tullo, August 2012
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."
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. When we visited the Pecos Museum several years ago, we were disappointed
to find that they had nothing about this event. We told a docent about it, but
she didn't seem particularly interested, so don't know if they followed up. We
plan to visit the area again next month. Hope you find this useful. - Vanda
M. Powers (Mrs. William S. Powers), August 23, 2012|
Update: 7-26-10 |
> A film by Robert
From our introduction to Toyah by photographer Jason
Penney in 2000, to the 2008 visit by Stephen
Michaels, the town of Toyah has firmly implanted itself as our mascot community.
In the last 12 years we have seen how, over time, a town can be reclaimed by nature;
even while the underlying spirit remains strong. It took 10 years before we got
to visit the town, but now, thanks to the extraordinary art of Robert Hunt, you
can make the trip whenever you’d like.
|Book Hotel Here