Located about an hour West of Fort Worth on I-20, the remnants of Thurber are denoted by the tall smokestack standing off the interstate, and is one of the very few remains of what was once the largest city between Fort Worth and El Paso! A huge deposit of coal was being mined for the railroads, as the trains used the coal as fuel. Thurber was a “Company Town”, being one that was completely owned by the Texas and Pacific Coal Company, residents worked for the company, lived in the company owned homes, were paid with company script that was only accepted at the company stores, which of course could set their own prices. The perimeter of the town was fenced and entrance was restricted by armed guards, hoping to keep the unions out until 1913, when the town was completely unionized. It was also one of the first towns to be completely electrified, and boasted an opera house, baseball team as well as schools and churches. The town also produced Thurber Bricks, which were paving bricks still in use in the brick roads of Austin, the Fort Worth Stockyards and Galveston. The town declined when trains switched to from coal to oil, and the mine closed and the company switched it’s interest to the oil boom in nearby Ranger. As the workers moved, the homes were sold and moved away.
This past weekend we stopped off at the W. G. Gordon Center for Industrial History of Texas, a museum of Thurber ran by Tarleton University, and situated on the site of the brick factory. All but a small, crumbling wall of the factory are gone, and from the steps of the museum, looking out over I-20 towards the smokestack, it’s hard to imagine that the roads and fields were all once all homes. Almost nothing remains.
A really nice museum, you can watch a short documentary about the history of Thurber, then walk around the building to see many of the photos and items from Thurber. It’s probably the season, but I was most interested in the Thurber semi-pro baseball team, the Thurber Colts, part of the Texas Oil Belt League, which included teams in neighboring towns.
There are two restaurants in Thurber, New York Hill Restaurant, which was once a church, and The Smokestack, the old mercantile. Both restaurants have old photos of the town. We stopped just below New York Hill to see the old church, bandstand and an old caboose from Thurber. Across the highway, the Smokestack has a little shop, and we walked around the old fire station and took some pictures of the old buildings, before driving up the hill to the Thurber Cemetery.
There were over 30 different nationalities in the Thurber Company Town, all working together but they were buried separately in cemetery, which is divided up. There are so many unmarked graves, especially those of young children.
Some of my older pictures from past visits.
Things to do in the Thurber area
Ringling Lake Park in nearby Eastland offers hiking trails, fishing and an archery club on land once owned by the circus king, John Ringling. Click HERE to read more.
Thurber is home to both the Smoke Stack and New York Hill Restaurants.
Mary’s Cafe in nearby Strawn always seems to make the BEST OF list by various food critics around the state for both their chicken fried steak and their hamburgers. They don’t have a website, facebook page or anything else, but they always have a line.
The turrets of Greystone Castle can be seen from the I-20 on the South side of the highway, almost covered by the tops of the trees. A 6,000 acre game ranch, it also offers facilities for tours and weddings.
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