Captions from Oliver Goldsmith’s poem
"The Deserted Village"
“Even now the devastation is begun,
And half the business of destruction done;
Even now, methinks, as pondering here I stand,
I see the rural virtues leave the land…”
Michaels on Toyah:
"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
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 cement.
the farmer's news, the barber's tale…"
|“O 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?
|An East Texas
brick finds its way to West Texas
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.
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.
Even Mesquite Thorn,Texas is
The 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
what sorrows gloomed that parting day
That called them from their native walks away…”
blooms—a garden, and a grave."
birds forget to sing,
but silent bats in drowsy clusters cling…"
steps the grass-grown footway tread,
for all the bloomy flush of life is fled…"
each step the stranger fears to wake
the rattling terrors of the vengeful snake…"
in whirls the mad tornado flies,
mingling the ravaged landscape with the skies."
power can time defy,
as rocks resist the billows and the sky.”
- The Deserted Village by Oliver Goldsmith
Photos copyright Stephen
in a Pecan Shell
The 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.
Toyah’s 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 rival hotels.
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.
HISTORICAL MARKER: (IH-20 & FM 2903)
Began as division point, 1881, on T. & P. Railway, with shops, roundhouse,
hotel, cafe. Water was hauled from Monahans
and sold by the barrel. Stage took passengers and mail to Brogado.
1882 cattle shipping brought cowboy-detective Charles Siringo here
to look for rustlers.
Natural Gas in Toyah 1909
Postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/
Note: 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.
Today 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. – Editor
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
|Toyah High School
Photo courtesy David Tullo, August 2012
Photo courtesy David Tullo, August 2012
I traveled thru Toyah around 2004. I stopped there and observed
the R R water tower & Plaque near the downtown R R x-ing. I'm surprised
someone hasn't mentioned these facts. Your website is very good.
- T W McCardle, May 20, 2015
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."
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
> A film by Robert Hunt
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.
Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing
Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history
and vintage/historic photos, please contact