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 few remaining structures from the town.
|An old house miner's home(?) near Mingus, a coal-mining town on US 80.
|Thurber brick line the forgotten sidewalk next to the Altus (Oklahoma) depot.
|Ruins of the old brick works
|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.
|A Thurber garden border at my home in Denton County, Texas. Read my blog as to how I found these treasures!
|Closer to the entrance...
|... and a boring interior. Still, I'd live here.
|The well by the dugout was brick lined and sturdy.
|Thurber's cemetery is well-tended by its historic society. Unmarked graves are now marked, and old markers are preserved - good job, peeps!
|A beautiful view of Thurber from the north. The building in the background is a club/restaurant on New York Hill.