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 Texas : Towns A-Z / West Texas : Verhalen

VERHALEN, TEXAS

Reeves County, West Texas
Hwy 17, 22 miles S of Pecos

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Ruin of a barn, Varhalen, Texas
Barn in Verhalen
Photo courtesy Rob Hann

VERHALEN, TEXAS

By M. A. ( Al ) Cate

Verhalen is in Reeves County, located 22 miles south of Pecos, Texas on State Highway 17 at the intersection of County Road 331 . It was named Verhalen Switch by the Pecos Valley Southern Railroad. It was named for Ray P. Verhalen, one of the pioneer farmers of Reeves County.

In 1910 Ray Patrick Verhalen lived in Marshall, Texas where he and his brother, George ran a nursery with their father, Stephen John Verhalen. Ray became ill with TB. His father took him aside and said, "Now, Ray, you get on the train and go west until the air is dry, then get off and get well". The train was the Texas & Pacific from Marshall. Pecos is where he got off. Certainly, the air is dry in the Pecos area.

In 1911, Ray bought a section of land, Section 153, Block 13, 22 miles south of Pecos on the Balmorhea Highway, (Hwy. 17) from Prof. W. C. Wellborn. The road at that time was more like a trail rather than a highway. This was new land and the brush had to be cleared. It took the hired laborers 16 months to get the land ready for his first crop of Alfalfa, a popular crop at that time for the area.

The farm was adjacent to Highway 17 and was the section of land north of the road running west from Highway 17 (CR 331).

Ray Verhalen stayed until about 1920 then he returned to Marshall, Texas and married Jenny Cameron. The Cameron's were in the nursery business, also. Ray & Jenny had 6 boys, Steve, Cameron, Jack, Pat, David and Tommy.
YOUNG, NEW FARMERS ARRIVE

At the end of World War II in 1945, young veterans, looking for jobs and careers, discovered an opportunity in West Texas. It was found that under-ground water in Reeves County was abundant. Young people in their 20's from El Paso Valley, Howard County, Callahan County and other parts of Texas moved into the area, opening up a whole new era. They purchased raw land, cleared the brush, drilled water wells, prepared the land and planted cotton. Production was great, each farmer produced 2 to 3 bales of cotton per acre .

Paymaster (Western Cotton Oil) helped finance each farmer, and also built several new cotton gins.

At one time in the 1950's there were 14 cotton gins between Pecos and Balmorhea off/on Highway 17. (Pecos Double battery saw gin, roller gin, Locker Gin, Pecos Valley Gin, Sargent Gin, Hoban Roller Gin, Planters Hoban Gin, Verhalen Gin, Farmers Coop Verhalen Gin, Kerley Bros. Gin, Saragosa Gin, Planters Saragosa Gin, Moore Gin, Balmorhea Gin, Mockingbird Gin, Alamo Gin).

The Kerley Gins are the only cotton gins still in operation in Reeves County in 2006. The Kerley Brothers operate the Alamo Roller Gin just west of Verhalen and their Kerley Gin, just south of Verhalen.

Trans Pecos Cotton Association was instrumental in getting the U. S. & Mexico Bracero Program of 1942 re-instated under Public Law 78 in 1951and several thousand men from Mexico were brought into the Pecos area to harvest the cotton crops. Each farmer had to provide housing and facilities for the number of braceros they needed to harvest their crop.

VERHALEN MERCANTILE

Six men who farmed in the Verhalen area could see what a problem they would have transporting their men, (about 300 braceros each) into Pecos, over 20 miles away, each week for groceries and how hard it would be to get them all back to the farm after a "night on the town". A partnership was formed, a building was constructed and the Verhalen Mercantile Co. opened in the fall of 1952.

The founders of Verhalen Mercantile were Edward (Eddie) J. Carpenter, Willis R. Winters, Frank Crews, Fred Chandler, Sr., Fred Chandler, Jr., and Billie Sol Estes. L. C. Moore managed the store for a while then Gene Cummings was manager for a couple of years. May 1, 1955 M. Alfred (Al) Cate became manager and Nan, his wife, was bookkeeper. Employees at that time were, Gus R. Natividad, Alicia Roman, Luis Roman, Evelyn Ashley, E. P.Hernandez. and Reynaldo Briceno. During the cotton harvest season as many as twenty additional employees were hired for the season.

To provide postal service to the local people and to accommodate the braceros in getting money sent back home in Mexico, arrangements were made with the Postmaster in Pecos to operate a postal substation within the store and was called Verhalen Sub-Station.

Verhalen Sub-Station remained open 1953-1996 providing all of the services of any post-office. In 1996 Verhalen Post Office closed and thirty (30) 'cluster' boxes were installed in front of the Verhalen Store, by Postal Service for the remaining postal customers in the Verhalen area.
YOUNG, HAPPY PEOPLE

In the mid 1950's the 18 families of the Verhalen community entered a contest, sponsored by the Farmers-Stockman Magazine and Texas A&M University for Community Improvement and Development, and won Second Place in the State.

Signs with family names were installed along the roads pointing direction to place of residence for everyone in the area. These were very attractive signs and many of the frames and post remain, though the name may not be legible, (or correct).

Verhalen Mercantile acquired some land from J. B. Kirklin and directors donated a plot of it to The Community Progress Club (the club included every family in the area), who built a Community Center Building where the 4H Club met regularly as did the Square Dance Club, the Bridge Club, the Home Demonstration Club, the Baptist Church and birthday parties, wedding receptions, family re-unions and continues to serve the people.

In 1975, the Verhalen Mercantile Store was sold to Joey McMahon and later to Mr. W. A. Cape.

As more and more farmers began moving away because of the high cost of production and low price of cotton, a few feed lots opened. Three of them in the Verhalen area. However, by 2005 all of the feedlots have closed. One of the feedlots was converted to a dairy and is operated as Crider Dairy.
MADERA VALLEY WATER SUPPLY
The one thing lacking in the area was potable water. Everyone in the rural area of Reeves County had to haul their household water from Balmorhea or from Pecos. Some of the leaders in the Verhalen Community organized and developed a non-profit Water Supply Corporation in 1966 piping water from the foot hills of the Davis Mountains southwest of Balmorhea. Not only to Verhalen but to northwest and north of Pecos. The water system is one of the largest, in miles of pipeline, in Texas serving over 600 rural families with potable water.

When the Paymaster Verhalen Gin closed the W. A. Cape family purchased and moved into the gin house and operated the Verhalen store. After Mr. Cape died, his son, Dewayne, operated the store for 25 years until closing it in 1996.

Verhalen is a community with eight families in the immediate area. Madera Valley Water Supply Corporation has their office in the Community Center Building. Several ranching families get their mail here from the cluster boxes provided by the Postal Service.

M. A. ( Al ) Cate
Old tanker in Varhalen, West Texas
Old tanker in Verhalen
Photo courtesy Rob Hann
Verhalen is one of the towns that has no listing in the Handbook of Texas - a frequent source for information.

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Verhalen, Texas Forum
  • "Twenty miles south of Highway 17 from Pecos lays the tiny city of Verhalen. Little is known of Verhalen history other than it is the namesake of a humble grape-farmer. Verhalen is a one street town, with no businesses, and six homes on the east side of the highway. Sandwiched between the homes is the active Verhalen community center, and remnants of a general store.

    Although the 2002 Rand McNally Texas state map lists the population at 50, the community mailbox adjacent to the community center shows 16 listings. In addition to the homes, there is a variety of rusted industrial equipment strewn on both sides of Highway 17. The six residences are comprised of five trailers and a luxurious home on the south of town surrounded by pine trees." - James Feagin, June 19, 2005


    Verhalen did catch the attention of photographer Rob Hann who took the photographs shown here. Our thanks to Mr.Hann for sharing them with our readers. Rob Hann's Texas and Southwestern photographs will be published in book form under the title Where Have All The Cowboys Gone.

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    This page last modified: April 27, 2009