Thurber, Texas - population about 10 - is considered to be Texas' premier
ghost town. Here's why: barely 100 years ago, Thurber used to have 9,000
residents. Today, it's merely a pit stop on Interstate 20.
Thurber began as a company-owned town. The Texas and Pacific railroad
owned the mineral rights to the vast (and only) bituminous coal deposits in
Texas, and lured thousands of skilled coal miners from the north and from
Europe to get it out. Setting up a small settlement ringed by tree-covered
hilltops, Thurber, which was named after one of the majority shareholders in
the company, quickly grew as businesses set up shop. One of the more
prosperous secondary operations in Thurber was its brick works. Today,
crazy people like me go all aflutter upon finding Thurber bricks embedded in
buildings and sidewalks.
Italians, Polish, Germans, and Irish immigrants soon called Thurber home.
Being a company-owned town, the workers found that they did not have
much say in the way they were (mis)treated, and made their discontent
known through several strikes. From 1900 to ca. 1925, America had
experienced many mining strikes, some ending violently such as the one in
Ludlow, Colorado, in 1914. The miners in Thurber became the first and only
Texas miners to unionize, and discovered Texas to be an anti-union state.
However, Thurber managed to become the first all-Union (and the same
Union) town inside a company-owned town in the United States.
As coal-burning locomotives gave way to diesel engines, and workers
remained unsettled, the Texas and Pacific Railroad Company closed shop.
Though vast amounts of coal still lay undisturbed around Thurber, the
discovery of oil not far away in Ranger, Cisco, Mingus, and Gordon spelled
doom for the coal works. The coal miners left, too, moving to more friendly
environments. The Thurber brick works quickly succumbed as well, and
Texas and Pacific wasted no time in dismantling most of the town and selling
it for scraps.
Today, Thurber boasts some scenic ruins, a very interesting, international
graveyard, two restaurants (one inside the old ice house), and an Industrial
Museum. And that's about it. So the next time you find yourself just east of
Abilene, or west of Fort Worth, on windy Interstate 20, stop by in Thurber
and visit with its ghosts.
|My son David looks for rocks in front of the smokestack, one of
the only remaining structures that indicate a town used to be here.
|An old house miner's house (?) near Mingus
|Thurber brick line the forgotten sidewalk next to Altus (Oklahoma) depot.
|Ruins of the old brick works
|How to Get There
Thurber lies on Interstate 20 between Fort Worth and Abilene. You
can't miss it, as the coal mine's chimney sits right beside the
highway. To see for yourself, click on the map.
|The Texas & Pacific tracks have been paved over, but still remind of the
busy industry around Thurber a mere eighty years ago.
|The Thurber cemetery is full of international graves, as the city was home
to many immigrant miners and their families. Hint: to gain access to the
locked cemetery, visit the Ice House Restaurant. You'll leave your driver's
license with the clerk, and she'll hand you the key to the gate.