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Culberson County Seat, West Texas

36 miles W of Kent
119 miles W of Ft. Stockton
119 miles E of El Paso
74 miles NW of Marfa on US 90
161 miles SW of Odessa via I-20
Population: 2,056 (2010) 2,435 (2000)

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A Walk around Van Horn >
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"The Town so Healthy We Had to Shoot a Man to Start a Cemetery"

Van Horn was named after a Union Officer, while Culberson County was named after a Confederate.

The above slogan had been suggested by a local rancher named Bill Goynes. He was killed by his brother-in-law a short time later and in fact became the first occupant of the cemetery. We are told it was a dispute over water and had nothing to do with the need to start a cemetery, although it might've given the community-minded brother-in-law an extra incentive.

History in a Pecan Shell

Our brief history of Van Horn begins with the discovery of Van Horn Wells, south of town near the present ghost town of Lobo. The credit of discovery goes to Jefferson Van Horne (with an "e"), an Army Major who later commanded Ft. Bliss. The town of Van Horn Wells was a stage stop on the San Diego - San Antonio Mail Route.

During the Civil War, the wells were captured by Confederates. The Union Officer in charge was James Judson Van Horn, who was no relation at all to Major Jefferson Van Horne, other than being brothers-in-arms. Some sources have him ranked a Lieutenant, some as a Colonel.

In 1881 when the railroad (the Texas and Pacific) came through, the town of Van Horn grew around the tracks and Van Horn Wells was left where it was, providing water and later irrigating cotton fields and vegetable crops. The railroad put in wells of their own and 1886 saw the post office established as well as the town's first store. By 1890 the population was almost 500.

The new century was ushered in by the murder of the postmaster in 1900. The murderer had the dangerous-sounding name of "Red" Sealy. The murderee was R.L. Hall, former rancher and storekeeper, turned postmaster.

The very first Culberson County Sheriff was shot in 1914, in a gunfight.
The 1912 Courthouse was replaced in 1964 by a one story "modern" one.

The town got around to incorporating after the excitement of WWII was over in 1945.

Tourism became an important industry in the 1930s with the opening of nearby Carlsbad Caverns. Over 11,000 people pass through Van Horn daily.

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A Walk around Van Horn

Photos courtesy Stephen Michaels
Van Horn Texas
Photo courtesy Stephen Michaels, August 2008
Van Horn Texas church
Photo courtesy Stephen Michaels, August 2008
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Van Horn Texas Truckers Inn
Photo courtesy Stephen Michaels, August 2008
Van Horn Texas
Photo courtesy Stephen Michaels, August 2008
Van Horn Texas Clark Hotel
The Clark Hotel on Broadway served as the county courthouse from 1911-1912
Photo courtesy Stephen Michaels, August 2008
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Van Horn Texas Clark Hotel neon
Photo courtesy Stephen Michaels, August 2008
Van Horn Texas old neon
Photo courtesy Stephen Michaels, August 2008
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Van Horn Texas Magnolia Station
Photo courtesy Stephen Michaels, August 2008
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Van Horn Texas brick wall
Photo courtesy Stephen Michaels, August 2008
Van Horn Texas fence and wall
Photo courtesy Stephen Michaels, August 2008

Culberson County Courthouses >
Van Horn Attractions and Nearby Destinations
  • Culberson County Historical Museum
    The Clark Hotel, which now houses the Culberson County Historical Museum started out as The Cox Building. In 1901 it was an office building that had a pool hall/saloon added on in 1905 and even served as a courthouse before an official one could be built.
  • The Guadalupe Mountains National Park
    55 miles north on Hwy 54. The park contains Guadalupe Peak, the highest elevation in Texas (8749 ft.)
  • Carlsbad Caverns
    Another 30 miles or so will bring you to the famous caverns, but be warned, you'll be leaving Texas for most of the trip.
  • Lobo - A ghost town 12 miles south on US 90.
  • The Van Horn Convention and Visitor's Bureau - 915-283-2682.

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    Van Horn Tx Former Culberson County Jail
    Former Culberson County Jail in Van Horn
    Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, March 2003
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    Original Culberson County Jail

    In order to provide local law enforcement in the wake of Mexican bandit attacks, Culberson County was organized in 1911. The following year the county commissioners accepted plans for construction of this red brick jail. Although prisoners at times dug through the brick walls, the structure was used until a new courthouse which included a jail was completed in 1964.

    El Capitan Hotel

    El Capitan Hotel c. 1930
    Old postcard TE archives

    Scenes of Van Horn
    "I was wandering thru Van Horn on my way to New Mexico in 2006 and saw this neat house and fence." - Sarah Reveley
    Van Horn, Texas ruins and iron fence
    Old iron gate, Van Horn, Texas
    Old wheel gate and fence, Van Horn, Texas
    Old wheel gate and fence, Van Horn, Texas
    Photos courtesy Sarah Reveley, 2006
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    Van Horn Texas
    Van Horn
    Photo courtesy Sarah Reveley
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    Diesel Fried Chicken, restautant sign in Van Horn, Texas
    "Diesel Fried Chicken" - Restaurant sign in Van Horn
    Photo courtesy Rob Hann, 2003
    Van Horn Texas Forum

  • Subject: Texas School House
    I know of another one room Texas school house in existence. It is in Culberson county, north of Van Horn. I know it exists, because it was my childhood school house and my teachers have now converted it into their home. It sits at the base of the Guadalupe Mtns. It was in use until about 1988. - Erick Nance, December 08, 2010

  • Subject: Woman on a burro
    I have enjoyed Jason Penney's photos of far West Texas. My husband and I just returned from our first trip out there. It was really quick. For some reason, he got it in his head he wanted to go to Dell City. But we had a few memorable moments, beginning in Van Horn. I have a question for for someone who knows whom I would be asking about. Perhaps you could direct me to more information about her. We were privileged to get to see this woman riding through town (Van Horn) perched atop a burdened, exhausted, heavily-laden, black and white spotted burro late in the day last Wednesday. To see that worn little burro with his little head nearly dragging the ground was heart-wrenching. His rider wearing many clothes, topped off with a dark brown fringed leather jacket, sat like a queen upon a throne of layers and layers of blankets and maybe other clothing. Her hat was pulled way down on her head so that we could really only see her sun glasses. They walked at a snailís pace but rushed a little to get underneath a tiny mesquite tree where they rested in the sparse shade for a few minutes before resuming their trip. It appears that she carried all her worldly goods on that little burro. The temperature was at least 100 degrees. One of the locals said she comes around now and then. She travels all over, from way down in Big Bend to El Paso and all points in between. I didnít get a photo. I just didnít feel right about it. Besides, we didnít know how to approach her. But the way that poor little burro was bent over, it would have been a perfect picture. Does someone know whom I am talking about? I would appreciate URLs or directions to finding out more about her. She must be a fascinating person! Thanks. - Linda Lowe, Bedford, Texas, May 21, 2006, charleslinda.lowe@comcast.net
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