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Day Trips

Ghost town a reminder of Texas' industrial history

By Gerald E. McLeod, Fri., Feb. 22, 2013

Day Trips
Photo by Gerald E. Mcleod

The W.K. Gordon Center in Thurber brings to life the story of the final remains of one of Texas' most famous ghost towns. Like a towering gravestone, the red-brick smokestack along I-20 marks the spot of what was once the largest town between Fort Worth and El Paso.

After coal was discovered 75 miles west of Fort Worth, the Texas & Pacific Railway built a mine to feed their locomotives. In 1897, the company began making bricks that paved Congress Avenue in Austin, built the Fort Worth Stockyards, and shored up the Galveston Seawall.

For almost 40 years, Thurber was a complete company town. Oil-burning locomotives meant Thurber's demise. W.K. Gordon, the company's last on-site manager, oversaw the dismantling of the town in the 1930s.

Gordon had insisted on the preservation of a few remnants of the town now divided by the interstate. On the hill next to the museum are the original bandstand, a miner's house, St. Barbara's Catholic Church, and the new New York Hill Restaurant. On the north side are the smokestack, firehouse, manager's house, and the SmokeStack Restaurant in the former hardware store.

The W.K. Gordon Center gives context to the ghost town of Thurber. For information, go to www.tarleton.edu/gordoncenter, or call 254/968-1886. On the second Saturday of April, the Thurber Historical Association sponsors a tournament on the old bocce ball courts.

1,125th in a series. Collect them all. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of "Day Trips," is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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