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South Texas Living

Texas Times: A Ghostly Texas Halloween

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U.S. Sen. John Cornyn
October 29, 2009 | 2,016 views | 1 comment

(This story not in print. Only available online.) Whether it's an abandoned town along the railroad, or the dusty site of famed Old West gunfights, Texas is home to a wide variety of ghost towns that offer an intriguing escape to a bygone era, or perhaps a creative alternative to traditional trick or treating on Halloween.

Once home to nearly 10,000 residents, the town of Thurber is today one of Texas' most famous ghost towns. In the early 1900s, Thurber was one of the most important mining sites in Texas, and at one point it was the largest town between Fort Worth and El Paso. In the 1920s, however, the move by railroads to switch from coal to oil in order to power their locomotives brought the Texas mining industry to its demise, and Thurber along with it. By the late 1930s, Thurber was virtually deserted. As of the 2000 Census, there was only a population of eight residing in Thurber. While today only six original buildings are standing in Thurber, there are eight historical markers, including the Snake Saloon, Hotel Knox & Mining Office, New York Hill, the brick plant, the cemetery, St. Barbara's Catholic Church, Big Lake & Dairy, and Thurber's first coal mine.

For different reasons, the port town of Indianola in Calhoun County, met a similar fate to that of Thurber. Officially founded in 1846, Indianola-then called Indian Point-had already become a landing area for German immigrants who were headed to West Texas. During the Mexican War, Indianola became an important deep-water port and home to an army depot that provided supplies to frontier forts in West Texas. Because of its location, Indianola became the chief port through which European immigrants traveled to West Texas. The first post office opened in Indianola in 1847, and the town grew quickly over the next several decades. From Indianola, the world's first shipment of mechanically refrigerated beef was shipped to New Orleans-beginning a new chapter in the transportation of perishable goods. Indianola was growing and prospering, with a population of 5,000, when a disastrous hurricane struck the Texas coast on September 16, 1875. The storm destroyed the low-lying town and took many
lives. Residents who survived attempted to rebuild on a smaller scale, but another hurricane in 1886 brought devastation again to Indianola. A resulting fire destroyed all but two buildings. Indianola was largely abandoned by 1887. Today most of Indianola is underwater, due to beach erosion. A few fishermen have built houses along the coast, despite the fate of their predecessors. A historical marker reads "Site of the town of Indianola, 1844 to 1886."

To the far west, near El Paso, lies the ghost town of Lobo, which, according to the Big Bend Sentinel, "has been inhabited solely by dust devils, Mojave rattlers and ghosts for the past couple of decades." In the 1850s, however, Lobo was home to the Van Horn Wells - the only source of reliable water in the region. The wells were also a stop on the San Antonio-San Diego mail route. The railroad built a depot and cattle loading pens in 1882, and by 1907, a post office was opened and named Lobo for the wolves that had roamed the area. Throughout the 1900s, Lobo endured ups and downs, including an earthquake that ruined the town's only hotel and the introduction of a cotton gin that eventually became too costly to operate and was forced to shut down. In 1988, Lobo was put up for sale for $60,000 by then-owner businessman Bill Christ. Purchased in 2001 by a group of individuals from Germany, today the town's official web site reads, "Lobo, Texas is a private property and not intended for
settlement or long term visits of people other than the owners and their personal friends."

Northwest of Fort Worth are the remnants of a true Wild West frontier outpost, Fort Griffin. The town, often called the Bottom or the Flat, was started in the 1860s and quickly earned a reputation for its lawlessness and colorful personalities. The town attracted notorious characters such as Doc Holiday and Wyatt Earp, along with women such as Mollie McCabe and Lottie Deno and outlaws like Johns Wesley Hardin. By 1874, Fort Griffin had become so violent and lawless, the commander of the nearby military fort with the same name placed the town under government control and kicked out a number of residents. For the next several years, Fort Griffin would serve as an important supply source for buffalo hunters. The town thrived until the buffalo population dwindled and the Texas Central Railroad decided to lay its tracks through Albany to the South. This coupled with the military fort's closing brought Fort Griffin's bustling days to an end. Today, the site is preserved as Fort Griffin
State Historical Park.

Though their lifeblood is long gone, Texas ghost towns offer a glimpse into the events that led to the rise and fall of these early Texas communities.

Sources: KHOU;; Texas State Historical Association;;

Sen. Cornyn serves on the Finance, Judiciary, Agriculture, and Budget Committees. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee's Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County District Judge.

Your Opinions and Comments

Ken Semlinger  
Poth, Tx  
October 31, 2009 9:55am
Nothing like the ghostly Texas wind to carry away the boring stench of politics. This is the most enjoyable news out of Washingon in years. Thanks Senator.

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