118. Photo courtesy Byron Browne, 2006
by Byron Browne
Terlingua is a town resolutely opposed to any inclination towards
modernization. It is a place that offers few outward indications of
its reluctant progression into the 21st century: the post office,
with its dark brick walls and smoked glass, is clearly a recent addition
to the landscape; the gas stations advertise $2.20 a gallon prices.
Wait, I have that wrong. Suggesting that Terlingua has more then one
gas station is incorrect. There is another however, it is 5 miles
down the highway, 5 miles closer to the dark silhouettes of Mexico's
mountains, in Terlingua's sister village, Study Butte. The only other
stations are either 80 miles north in Alpine or 95 miles northwest
My wife and I left Austin for Terlingua the first weekend of November,
the same weekend as the International Chili Cook-Off... next
Photo courtesy Richard Berger
representative view of Terlingua
in a Pecan Shell
started as a simple Mexican village on Terlingua Creek just
North of the Rio Grande. The name Terlingua is a corruption of Tres
Lenguas or three languages (tongues) that were spoken by the inhabitants
of the village.
When mercury-bearing ore was discovered in the 1800s, a mine
was opened and the tent village of the laborers and miners appropriated
the name Terlingua. The village became known as Terlingua Abajo,
or "Lower Terlingua".
At the turn of the century there were about 300 workers and they had
their own post office.
By 1905 the population was over 1,000 and when the mine closed in
1910, the post office moved 10 miles East, keeping the name Terlingua.
Cemetery at Terlingua
at Terlingua is still maintained (somewhat), although the miners
buried here are probably mostly forgotten to their families.
Its primitive and barely decipherable system of grave identification
and handmade markers make it a rather picturesque photo opportunity
for some people. Frequent mowing is not a problem in Terlingua.
In the 1920s,
Terlingua produced 40% of the Quicksilver produced in the
U.S. The town was split along ethnic lines with the Mexican laborers
living on the East side.
A school was built in 1907, but it was only a tent-like structure.
It wasn't until 1930 when the permanent school - named after mine
owner Howard Perry was finally opened.
theatre at Terlingua
The former movie theatre is now a dinner-theater.
became a household word due to a war of words between Dallas Morning
News Columnist/ Chili gourmet Francis X. Tolbert (the
X, like the S in Harry S. Truman, stands for nothing) and a columnist
for Holiday magazine. The barbed words led to a challenge which
lead to the first big chili cook-off back in the early 60s.
The Holiday critic who had written such scathing articles about chili
in, ended up retiring in Terlingua a few years after his visit there.
Tolbert wrote A Bowl of Red in 1962. This ode to chili
stirred up an renewed interest in the under-appreciated and nearly
(at one time) omnipresent Texas dish.
Shortly after the book's success, Mr. Tolbert founded the Chili
Appreciation Society International. Fellow columnist Wick Fowler
became a charter member and helped spread CASI. He even opened a Chapter
in Vietnam in 1969. Fowler shared his particular recipe in the form
of a kit he first marketed in 1964. It's still sold today.
CASI is an organization that uses its love of Chili to raise funds
for a variety of charities and worthy causes through regional cook-offs
See The Naming of Chili
by Luke Warm
More Texas Ghost
long since you've painted your ad down in Terlingua?"
"Well, Podner, that's too long."
| Barton Warnock
Environmental Education Center
HC 70, Box 375 Terlingua TX 79852
Your Hotel Here & Save
As is often the
case, I found your site while searching Google--this time for information
on Study Butte and Terlingua. Your description of Study Butte, comparing
and contrasting it with Terlingua, is *FABULOUS* and right on the
mark. ... Thanks for the laughs, the information and the great photos.
- King Douglas, January 12, 2005
... I was planning
to stay one evening in Terlingua or Study Buttes in Brewster County
before going into Big Bend National park for a couple of days. Can
you hear me laughing with embarrassment from there. I have a 1996
Rand McNally Travel Atlas and it shows Mentone and Terilingua as
in the same population symbol as Gladewater, Texas (the town I grew
up in about 6000 people). I also have a 1997 Texas Road Map and
it shows all three towns. It uses the 25,000 and under population
size marker for all three towns. It never occurred to me to verify
how many people were actually in the town. After reading your site
I read the population counts on the Texas Road map: Mentone has
50 people Terlingua has 25 people Study Butte has 120 people. ..
I enjoyed your Texas Ghost town site. - Alvin Bittner, December
To share history or photos of Terlingua, Texas, please contact
© John Troesser