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 Texas : Towns A-Z / Ghost Towns / Panhandle / Route 66 :

JERICHO, TEXAS

Texas Ghost Town
Donley County, Texas Panhandle
Located at intersection of Texas Highway 70 & I-40, Exit 124
50 miles E of Amarillo
11 miles W of Alanreed

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Home of "Jericho Gap" of Route 66 Fame

by Delbert Trew

Jericho was founded in the late 1880s as a mail coach stop to change horses and feed any passengers aboard. The faint tracks led across bare prairie from Saint's Roost (modern day Clarendon) to Fort Elliott (today's Mobeetie). Composed of a dugout with drinking water hauled in wooden barrels from a nearby spring, settlers began to gather as the Indians were removed to reservations after the Red River Wars ended in the late 1870s.

The Jericho Cemetery was established in 1894 after an unusual outbreak of Malaria killed several settlers. The cause was traced to stagnant water at the spring where drinking water was obtained. Improvements to the facility were made eliminating the stagnant water.

Construction started in 1900 on a railroad track built by the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Texas Railroad Company. Most local settlers and their stock teams worked on the construction project. The first official train ran on July 6, 1902. Cattle loading facilities were constructed to accommodate nearby large ranches and a huge water storage reservoir was built by the railroad to refill steam engines and provide water for people and livestock. Many of the settlers came to the new settlement by emigrant cars pulled by the steam engines.

Jericho became famous in legend and folklore after Congress authorized a new coast-to-coast highway in 1926, calling it Route 66. Its passage through Jericho added prosperity with several gas stations, stores and a motel built to serve the travelers.

The main reason for fame came from the stretch of highway between Alanreed and Groom which went through Jericho. Called "Jericho Gap" any rains caused the dirt roads to turn into black-gumbo-mud becoming almost impassible to the vehicles of the time. Nearby farmers made a good living with their teams of work horses pulling the travellers from the mud holes. Legend has it that the enterprising farmers hauled water at night to dump in the mud holes to prolong their source of income.

With the railroad, Route 66 and well-traveled Highway 70 going through their town, citizens of Jericho believed their fair town was destined for greatness. In the 1930s, Route 66 was moved one-half mile north, by-passing the town and spelling doom for its future.

Today, Jericho is a ghost town, with one occupied home amid scattered ruins, cement foundations and piles of junk.

Delbert Trew

 
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