West Texas photographer Jason Penney has once again come through for
our readers with the images you see here.
Jason Penney's Observations of Toyah (2000):
"I was in Pecos, Texas today and on the way back, I stopped by
Toyah, Texas (I-20 mm 22). There is nothing in this town other than
a truck stop on the highway. If you didn't go into it, you would never
know this old architecture even existed.
Included are pictures of the main street through the old part of town.
Courtesy Jesse L. Moore, Jr.
street scene in 2000
Photo Courtesy Jason Penney
left building contained the Youngblood Hotel and the Walker
The middle building (columned) contained a bank, the post
office and telephone office on the first floor and the
Masonic Lodge and Eastern Star on the upper floor.
The white building to the right held the Hart Grocery, the
Ruhrup Drug Store, and the Thomason Barber Shop.
The bank closed in the late 1930s and the Hart Grocery in the early
1940s. The other businesses were still operating when I graduated
high school in 1945."
Store / Hotel / Community Center / Barber Shop
"Toyah was a Division point for the Texas & Pacific Railway and
the hotel was used almost totally by train crews who were laying over
Courtesy Jesse L. Moore, Jr.
photo Courtesy Jason Penney
graduated from high school in Toyah, class of 1952. John Billieter
and I were the only two seniors that year. My Dad (L.E. Adams) had
a grocery store and a dry goods store on the east end of the building
that is shown on main st., the rest of the building was hotel rooms......
" - Alvin R. Adams
"An old hotel on the top and a mercantile store below" -
"The picture was actually our community center and Mr. Thomason's
barber shop. I went to school (in Toyah) from 1961-1967" - John
The hotel/mercantile building has been torn down and removed. Only
the rubble of the foundations remain. - Mike Donovan, April 02,
( See Update)
The bank is awesome looking. It has a lot of old style architectural
designs. You can tell that they put a lot of work into it.
photo courtesy Jason Penney
parents banked at this bank in the late 1930's. The bank close and
business moved to Pecos.
The building also housed the Post Office and telephone exchange. The
second floor was the Masonic and Eastern Star Halls. - Watson Moore,
May 07, 2001
bank building in Toyah was destroyed by a tornado at 7:00pm on June
Photo Courtesy Mrs B. G. Johnson
Old postcard courtesy texasoldphotos.com
The abandoned high school was huge by West Texas standards. Notice
all the pigeons on the right side of the roof.
There must have been money in this town at one point.
Elementary and High School
2000 photo Courtesy Jason Penney
view of the Toyah Elementary and High School
2000 photo Courtesy Jason Penney
picture of the "High School" is an El-Hi school. I attended grades
1-4 here and my brother 1-12. I lived in Toyah from 1936 to 1946.
My father was J.L. Moore the District Roadmaster for the Texas & Pacific
RR" - W. Moore
"This building served both elementary and high school until replaced
in the late l940s or early 1950s. Toyah schools were later consolidated
in Pecos, Texas." Jesse L. Moore
"The old school that was two story was built in 1912 but in the
60's it was our gym, because the second story floor was torn out and
the basketball court was put in. I went to school there from 1961-1967."
- John A. Taylor
"Finally, I found this house on the East side of town, one
of the few that weren't abandoned. They built it up like an old ghost
town and it does look like one. It has a barber, a livery stable,
a blacksmith, saloon, etc.
They have a very nice collection of various cacti and a walking path
through it all. They call it 'Mesquite
I couldn't find anybody home to answer any questions, but the sign
explains a bit of it. The sign invites you to walk through, but unfortunately,
I was in a hurry on business."
Baptists and Methodists only had preachers on alternate Sundays.
We attended preaching every other Sunday at the Methodist church
even though we were members of the Baptist Church. It worked out
well for everyone." - 1991 photo courtesy Jesse L. Moore, Jr.
Ortega's Bar & Grill
2001 photo courtesy Erik Wherstone
noticed on the Letters to the Editor page that a few people were asking
about the bar and grill building out near Toyah.
name of the building is Chata Ortega's Bar and Grill. You really can't
see the first part of the name very well from the highway. After doing
a little searching on Google for the name Chata Ortega's, I came across
a few websites that mentioned it being in the movie Fandango.
They filmed parts of the movie at the Rattlesnake Airforce base in
Peyote, and apparently some of the buildings in Toyah were used also.
I did notice that the building was burnt out in the movie also, so
it had caught fire before 1985." - Erik Whetstone, April 12,
Coal Chute, 1917
Courtesy of National Archives at College Park, Maryland
ICC Bureau of Valuation Records, Texas & Pacific Railway
Submitted by Eugene Pofahl
Women's PTA Baseball Team
Photo courtesy Jesse L. Moore, Jr
The material contributed to the Toyah page after the first photographs
were sent in by Jason Penney has been substantial.
Some of the information may appear to be repetitive, but in printing
the letters as they were received
- some questions are answered and minor mysteries are explained.
How can you not love a town whose school colors were a practical black
and white and where Baptists and Methodists shared a church? - John
More photos by Jason
More info about Toyah, Texas
I just found your great pictorial essay
about the Texas Ghost Town in Reeves County, West Texas, and have
some interesting information to add to it. My husband's great-uncle,
Frank W. DeJarnette was a Texas Ranger assigned to the area in 1885.
J.T. Morris was the first sheriff of Reeves County and was involved
in a dispute with the Rangers because they wouldn't loan him a pair
of mules. On the evening of August 18, 1885 a drunk Sheriff Morris
took the train from Pecos
to Toyah and was quoted as saying,
"I run Pecos and damned if I don't run Toyah."
As he grew drunker and more abusive, citizens notified the rangers.
Ranger Captain Gillespie sent Ranger DeJarnette with orders for
Ranger Sergeant Cartwright to arrest the sheriff and hold him until
he sobered up. Cartwright, Corporal Hughes, and Privates DeJarnette
and T.P. Nigh found Morris in The Favorite Saloon, mean drunk and
waving his six-shooter around. In the shootout that followed, Sheriff
Morris killed Private) Nigh and was himself killed by the other
Rangers." We came across this account in TEXAS RANGER TALES: STORIES
THAT NEED TELLING by Mike Cox (Copyright 1997, Republic of Texas
Press-an imprint of Wordware Publishing, Inc. p.186-188.) We were
researching Frank W. DeJarnette because my husband inherited his
old Colt 45 and a handwritten document detailing his arrest for
murder along with Rangers Cartwright and Hughes. My husband contacted
a clerk in the Reeves County Courthouse who obligingly went into
the basement and found a follow up to our information. The Rangers
were all "no-billed" and their $500 bond returned to them. - Vanda
M. Powers (Mrs. William S. Powers), August 23, 2012
My Great Grandparents are James Mortica Johnson and Mary Elizabeth
Johnson and my Grandfather is John Isaac Johnson. They moved to
Toyah I believe around 1900. and many of my aunts were born there.
I believe we share the same Great Grand Parents!...... Mort was
a judge in Toyah from 1906 to 1908 and my Grandfather Ike was a
Texas Ranger... - Alma Birdell Johnson's son Pete Pisciotta of Reno
NV, February 10, 2009
Texas Train Wreck
This is a photo of Texas & Pacific locomotive #638. I was told that
this engine was in a head-on collision near Toyah on New Year's
Day 1947 and that several of the crew members shown in this photo
were killed in the crash. more
- John Scott, Greenville, Texas, April 10, 2007
[Would anyone know] who the architect was who designed the fine
buildings in Toyah -- the bank, mercantile, etc., complex and the
high school? I once had this information but have lost it. I am
working on an historical novel based on a travel diary my aunt wrote
in 1920. Toyah was mentioned in the diary as follows: "The most
important towns we passed through on Monday, July 12, were Toyah
and Kent." In recreating the time and place, I would like to include
the name of the architect. Thank you for your help. - Virginia Howard
Meterie, Louisiana firstname.lastname@example.org, May 10, 2006
I recently married a woman who was raised in Toyah. She was a student
of the last class in the Toyah high school. Her family were then
the Sanchezs' but her mother remarried to Jim Burchard- a well known
rancher from Toyah. I visited her mother over Easter 2006 and attended
the joint churches' Easter celebration there. A very small but welcoming
community. I am British, soon to move to Texas. Toyah was a dustbowl
- and one of the most beautiful places I have visited in the US.
- Malcolm Alexander, April 30, 2006
Toyah, TX and Mesquite Thorn
Toyah holds a special place in my heart and always will. My mother
and father grew up there, went to school there and married there.
After a brief look around Texas, they returned to Toyah and settled
in. It saddens me to see Toyah in its current state. I remember
a town bustling with activity (as much as there is for a small town),
and the dynamics of human life. My heart longs for the those days.
I have seen many people come and go, along with the much anticipation
for better days. I have read the stories on your site and have been
moved by the experiences people have had in Toyah. My experiences
number too many to summarize.
I wish to thank the people who have appreciated Mesquite Thorn.
My father and I spent many long hours building a place that could
remind one of simpler times. A place where a little history and
amusement could be shared with all who passed through. If Toyah
has only one story passed along about it, no matter its current
state, the memory of this special place will always live. - Christopher
Sanchez, January 09, 2005
has two tire shops, a Grill & Saloon, Truck Stop and an RV Park.
We also have two grants for houses. We should start building 14
new homes this Summer. Thanks for you site. - Sandra Terry, Mayor
City of Toyah, February 22, 2005
Update - Toyah Hit by Double Whammy
An article by David J. Lee in the Odessa American reported that the
town’s 100-year old bank building was destroyed by high winds on June
17th, and that “only a section of the west wall and a vault were left
The town had also been flooded on April 4 of 2004 when storms delivered
eight inches of rain in about two hours. A dike built to protect the
town was overwhelmed by the volume of water and nearly every house
in Toyah was flooded as a result.
Toyah did receive some state funds to repair basic infrastructure,
but there won’t be any money forthcoming for the privately-owned bank
building which was sitting vacant at the time of the storm. It’s not
known whether the lot will be cleared, but Toyah has lost several
buildings in the last few years.
Our thanks to Charlene Beauchamp of Kermit and Lexie
Nichols of Monahans for notifying us and forwarding the Odessa American
June 19, 2004
It is with
great sadness that I report to you, that the bank building in Toyah
was destroyed by a tornado at 7:00pm on June 17th, 2004. That building
and two trees were the only things damaged in the whole town. We
talked to the man who had bought it and was restoring it. He was
making it into a residence, antique shop and convenience store.
He said he is selling the salvaged materials. In this picture, you
can clearly see the old safe, right behind the cement columns.
My husband is B.G. Johnson, borned and raised in Toyah Tx. His father
is Garland Johnson. His mother is Ruby Cleveland Johnson Cunningham.
Both are deceased. Many may remember her as the woman with the place
to park RV's and trailers for the weary traveler.
We were there this morning, doing some work on his grandfather and
great grandmother's graves. The flood that came through a few months
ago caused a great deal of damage to the cemetery west of town.
The flood caused a lot of damage to many houses in Toyah. Water
was four feet deep in some places. The woman who bought my mother
in law's house, said she woke with a strange feeling, got out of
bed only to hit the water. She told us of going to unplug appliances
and seeing the light on the refridgerator glowing from under the
water. The flooding occurred once before in 1941. My dear mother
in law was always fearful of it happening again. - Mrs B. G. Johnson,
Midland Tx, June 20, 2004
I have my own
website, www.bygonebyways.com. I was doing a trip last week exploring
Hwy 80 through western Texas for my website and your site was a
great help. - Jeff in Tucson, July 14, 2004
Thanks for taking the time to respond... I had gone through the
1st time in May and have pics of one of the cars in Toyah you mentioned.
If you ever need any old maps/pics of items along the old Hwy 80
corridor through western Texas, I may be able to help you out. I
will be certain to add your pages to my web links. Cheers, and keep
up the good work. - Jeff in Tucson, July 14, 2004
I'd driven through around 1991 in the middle of the night and stopped
in (unsuccessfully looking for a bathroom!). A few years later,
I spent some time taking pictures, wandering into the old bank (the
safe area was still visible) and going through the Mesquite Town.
I was intrigued with the town and am glad to have the opportunity
to learn more about it. It looked like a wondeful place to have
grown up. Thank you again for taking the time to set up the web
site! - Greg Moore, May 25, 2004
I am an alumni
of Toyah, Texas. My Name is Anita Martinez, my married name is Pina.
There is a lot I would like to add to the Toyah [page]. It is very
informative but it is missing a major component of the city. The
HISPANIC side! How can I get my story to the world wide web? My
daddy built the Catholic Church and my grandfather sounded the 12
noon siren everyday for 50 years. There is so much I want to say.
Please assist me. Many Thanks - Regards Anita Martinez Pina, April
I worked in train service for the T&P railroad and recall staying
at the Scott Hotel. You would register in at the desk and get the
keys to a room and it was like a ghost hotel because you never saw
anyone that worked there. My father worked in Toyah from 1935 to
1947 and stayed at the same hotel. - Utah Carroll Rogers, Arlington,
Texas, April 04, 2004
I wanted to
thank you for the notes you have made on Toyah. I grew up in Toyah
and my grandmother, Virginia Gibson, still lives there (across from
the mesquite town built for Shawna). My great great grandfather
built the original high school and the bank. I spent two weeks of
every summer going back to Toyah and it holds a lot of my heritage
and memories, everything from chasing horn toads to Sunday church.
Thank you for recording them. - Sydna Gibson, 28/May/2003
I was recently
surfing the web and ran across your web page on Toyah, Texas. I
was very pleased to see Mesquite Thorn featured on this site. You
see, I grew up in Pecos in the 80's and early ninety's. As a teenager
I befriended a young girl my own age and thus proceeded to engage
in a long, loving relationship with the entire family. The town
might be small, but the family values were far from ghostly. My
friends older sister, who brought life and vibrancy wherever she
went, did pass away when we were still in high school. Although
this was the most painful tragedy of my youth, I was happy to see
that your page had a short bio on the history of Mesquite Thorn.
Although, when we were young teenagers romping around the emptiness
of the town and playing hide and go seek underneath the gym in the
school, Mesquite Thorn was just an idea in the mind of one of the
most sincerely kind man I have ever known. - Jacobs, April 23, 2003
visited Toyah. There has been some demolition since the photos you
display were taken. The hotel/mercantile building on main street
has been torn down and removed. Only the rubble of the foundations
remain. The bank building, the white building and the school house
still remain though. - Mike Donovan, April 02, 2003