in a Pecan Shell|
The town was born in 1890 as a section house
for the Pecos River Railroad. Their post office was granted in 1906.
In the 1930s, the population could truly be counted on the fingers of both hands
- that is one still had the full complement of fingers and thumbs.
in town doubled during WWII
- to two.
The town continued to swell to 40 and then 60 people.
In the mid-1960s Orla was an established oil supply center and the population
reached its zenith of 250 Orlanites.
The population decreased to slightly
under 200 from 1970 through 1990. (See
Reader's Forum below)
remains an equipment shipping point.
to Red Bluff Lake, Guadalupe Mountains, Carlsbad Caverns recreational areas.
Established 1890 on Pecos Valley Railroad. Developed during land promotions. Had
school, general stores, hotel, livery stable. In 1931 remaining merchant and postmaster
Hal Old moved 1/4 miles west to new highway.
Photo courtesy Rob Hann
1906 postal route map showing the relative location of Orla and ghost town Dixieland|
Courtesy Texas General Land Office
Orla Texas Forum:
Orla Baptist Mission
James Hughes was pastor of this church in 1953 – pic is of James, Sallie &
Janet Hughes. We would drive out from Pecos
on Sunday morning, and quite often were invited to someone’s home for lunch and
the afternoon instead of driving back to Pecos
and back out for the evening service. We were there when Hall Olds had the only
service station and café. We now live in Conroe, TX and I retired from Alsay Inc
(industrial water well drilling co) after 20 plus years as comptroller there.
I was born and raised in Pecos
– graduating from Pecos Hi in 1949. - Sallie Hughes, September 12, 2007
Remembrance and History I lived in two of the
Pasotex Pipeline Oil camps near Orla, Texas from birth to age 6. The first camp
was referred to as the Guadalupe camp and the other we called the Orla camp. The
camp houses were extremely well built having screened in porches and hardwood
floors. Our yards were outlined by pitted flat rocks. Gentle rolling hills once
covered by an ocean surrounded the camps. Guadalupe Peak could be seen in the
distance, more visible in the evenings.
Some of the families in our community
included Jim and Esther Powers, Lucky and Pauline Cooley (children: Monte, Tishe,
& 2 more sisters), the Dennis family (children: Mike and Jalrea), Bill and Doty
Price (children: Butch and Priscilla), and my parents, Charlie and Mildred Phillips
(children: Sandy & the twins, Chuck & Wally). There were many more, but I was
too young to remember. Many of these individuals are no longer with us. We lost
Monte Cooley to Vietnam around 1967. He was such a treasure...I've often wondered
where he would be today had that not happened. We used to play marbles together
in the sand and rocks.
There was a little Baptist church in Orla just
off the Jal highway that we attended whenever a preacher was available. My mother
played the piano there. A recent visit found the roof leaking, the double entry
doors standing ajar, old scripture material scattered about, and a fox living
in the back.
As of September 2006, there is a little grocery store sitting
back of the historical marker off Hwy 285 that is currently open and operated
by Bessie Mitchell. I admire her spirit and keeping the flame for travelers in
need. Oil derricks outlined in lights stand like Christmas trees across the desert
from Orla to Kermit.
burn is being conducted along the nearby Pecos
River as a pilot project to clear the salt cedar. The rationale, I am told,
is to prevent water uptake by the cedar and the clogging of the river by the trees/plants.
The last burn was five years ago.
Although located in a remote, isolated
part of Texas, the area is rich in history. This
land near the Pecos River was traveled
by American Indians (later tribes being Apaches and Comanches), Spanish explorers,
and gold-seekers bound for California. On March 8, 1854 during a survey expedition
in search of the best railroad route to the Pacific, Captain John Pope forded
the Pecos River at the least threatening
point. It is situated on the Loving-Reeves county line one mile south of the Texas-New
Mexico boundary. The crossing, which was eighty feet wide and 2 ˝ feet deep (Kermit,
1984), became known as Pope’s Crossing. Stages traveling the Butterfield Overland
Mail route used this passage. Later in 1936 when Red Bluff Dam and Reservoir was
created on the southern edge of New Mexico and five miles north of Orla, Texas,
the crossing was inundated. Another piece of history linked to the area was the
Goodnight-Loving cattle trail which extended across the region near the Pecos
Orla sunsets and sunrises are beautiful. Together with my memories
of the desert smell of greasewood and dust, I return periodically for balance
and harmony. - Sandy Phillips Countryman, September 30, 2006
Bubba's Bus Route and the Day the Water Tank Fell
I Iived in Orla Texas from 1961 through 1968 until I graduated from Pecos High
School. Life in Orla was made to say the least. Our memories were good for the
time we lived there. At that time, there was much activity in the area with oil
and gas, and later about 1967, a sulphur boom came along with several exploration
companies coming in to the area. .. more
- Michael E. Beckham, September 16, 2005
one of those internet Yankees who bought some acres of land in West
Texas, located somewhere just outside of Orla.
My wife and I took
a driving vacation, in April, to see if we could locate a few of my impulse buys,
including that one around Orla. Well, you'd think you could find 87 acres of land
but, in West Texas, t'ain't all that
easy. In fact, we never did.
We did stop by the Orla Post Office, which
was closed for the day, and by Miss Bessie's general store. According to a handwritten
"Orla's population today" sign hanging in the post office, Miss Bessie is half
of the town's population. I've never known everybody in a town before, so we're
looking forward to meeting the other fifty percent of Orla, Texas -- maybe on
our next visit. - Alan Koss, August 06, 2005
PS The reason
I wrote this is 'cause you guys still carry Orla's population as it was in 1990,
at around 200... Not any more... It is, to all intents and purposes, getting ready
to join your roster of Texas ghost towns.
Father worked for Pasotex Pipeline very near Mentone,
Texas. I went to the school in Mentone. The year I started to school there
were about 4-5 seniors that graduated from there. I went to the first, second
and part of the third grade there. Then, we had to go to Pecos,
Texas for the rest of my school. I graduated from Pecos,
Texas in 1959. So, I know the school closed long before the 1970's. From Mentone,
Texas, we moved down the road to Orla, Texas. We lived at the Standard Oil
Pump Station called, Orla Station.
Orla had a grocery with a post office
in it and a cafe next door. There was a "motel" but people lived there. There
was also a church. My Father helped get a school bus started from Pecos
for all the Oil company children and ranchers children. When we first started
there were my sister and myself and two other girls that were sisters. Their Father
also worked for an oil company. When I graduated, there was the biggest bus that
they made. I don't remember how many children were on the bus but it was full.
- Rita Ann (Lee) Wagner, August 28, 2004
Towns of the Pecos