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Birth of a Texas Ghost Town

Thurber, 1886–1933

By Mary Jane Gentry; Edited by T. Lindsay Baker; Foreword by Larry Gatlin

Publication Year: 2008

In its heyday, Thurber was home to coal miners and brick plant workers from Italy, Poland, and as many as fourteen other European nations, not to mention the many Mexican immigrants who came to the area. In this, her master’s thesis, Mary Jane Gentry, who started the first grade in Thurber and graduated as valedictorian of its high school in 1930, records first-hand memories of the town’s vibrant charm. Now edited and with an introduction by T. Lindsay Baker, Gentry’s lively history of the rise and decline of a Texas coal town provides a unique window into a bygone era. Her narrative of rancorous labor disputes, corporate machinations, and the eventual shuttering of the plants and virtual disappearance of the once-thriving town will allow Thurber to live again, if only in the minds of her readers.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Tarleton State University Southwestern Studies in the Humanities


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pp. -

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-

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pp. ix-x

When I was sixteen and seventeen years old in Odessa, Texas, I was in Mary Jane Gentry’s American history class. Th at was at Odessa High School in 1964–65. As a teacher, she was hard; I mean, really hard. It was difficult to make an A. And for those who didn’t want...

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Editor’s Preface

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pp. xi-xiv

In 1975, when I was a graduate student about the age that Mary Jane Gentry was in the 1940s, I discovered her never-published history of Thurber. As a research associate in the History of Engineering Program at Texas Tech University, I was helping undertake a statewide inventory of ...

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Editor’s Introduction

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pp. xv-xxxv

Born in Boston, the daughter of a Texan father and a Canadian mother, Mary Jane Catherine Gentry became the historian of Thurber, perhaps the best known Texas ghost town. Her narrative, completed in 1946 though never published during her lifetime, served as the...

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pp. xxxix- xl

For nearly fifty years, Thurber was known as one of the most colorful towns in the Southwest. It was noted for its coal mines, enormous horseshoe bar, badger fights, and grappo. Immigrants, from all parts of Europe...

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Chapter 1 Introduction

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pp. 1-13

As one travels eastward from Ranger, Texas, along Highway 80, the scenery is rather commonplace until one reaches the eastern edge of the mountain, overlooking a great valley which is divided among three counties...

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Chapter 2 Coal and Brick

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pp. 14-33

Thurber coal and Thurber brick were well known throughout the state of Texas, and even though coal mining was the chief industry of the area, the production of brick was of importance too. Both industries were developed by the ...

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Chapter 3 Labor Difficulties

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pp. 34-74

It was in December, 1886, that the Johnson Company opened Mine #1 on the site later known as Thurber. The working force for two years was composed principally of men who had been at Coalville1 where the ...

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Chapter 4 Texas Pacific Mercantile & Manufacturing Company

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pp. 75-94

The role of the T.P.M. & M. Company was an important one in the history of Thurber. The Texas & Pacific Coal Company gave the miners an opportunity to earn money, and the T.P.M. & M. Company gave the miners an opportunity to ...

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Chapter 5 Living Conditions

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pp. 95-112

Officials of the Texas & Pacific Coal Company planned to build what they hoped would be a permanent camp around their new coal mines. Within a few years, hundreds of houses were constructed, and water and light ...

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Chapter 6 Recreation

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pp. 113-127

Recreational activities in Thurber were more colorful than those of any nearby town. Why shouldn’t they be? Thurber’s population was drawn from at least twenty different countries, and each group of people carried ...

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Chapter 7 Foreign Population

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pp. 128-138

Thurber depended primarily on foreign population to mine its coal; there were some negro miners and a few Mexican miners, but Europeans exceeded any other group in numbers. Some of these ...

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Chapter 8 Abandonment

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pp. 139-148

The gradual abandonment of Thurber began immediately after the coal mines were closed in 1921. From then until 1937, the process of dismantling and abandoning ...


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pp. 149-164


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pp. 165-186


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pp. 187-192


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pp. 193-205

E-ISBN-13: 9781603443975
E-ISBN-10: 1603443975
Print-ISBN-13: 9781585446292
Print-ISBN-10: 1585446297

Page Count: 248
Illustrations: 16 b&w photos. 2 tables.
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Tarleton State University Southwestern Studies in the Humanities
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OCLC Number: 680627830
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Birth of a Texas Ghost Town

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Coal trade -- Texas -- Thurber -- History.
  • Brick trade -- Texas -- Thurber -- History.
  • Coal miners -- Texas -- Thurber -- History.
  • Thurber (Tex.) -- History.
  • Ghost towns -- Texas -- History.
  • Thurber (Tex.) -- Ethnic relations.
  • Thurber (Tex.) -- Social life and customs.
  • Thurber (Tex.) -- Economic conditions.
  • Immigrants -- Texas -- Thurber -- Social life and customs.
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