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45°Southwestern Historical QuarterlyApril The Birth ofa Texas Ghost Town: Thurber, 1886—10.33. fy MaryJane Gentry. Edited with an introduction by T. Lindsay Baker. (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2008. Pp. 256. Illustration, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN: 9781585446291, $29.95 cloth.) During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Thurber, which was located in die nordiwestern corner of Erath County, represented one of the most diversified communities in Texas as European immigrants, Mexicans, and local residents worked for Texas & Pacific Coal Company. Mary Jane Gentry documented Thurber's colorful history in her master's thesis, which was completed in 1946. After nearly sixty-two years, Gentry's never-before-published thesis is now available to a wider audience. Edited by T. Lindsey Baker, Gentry's The Birth ofa Texas Ghost Town: Thurber, 1886—1933 provides readers with a detailed history of the rise and fall of one of the most notable coal-mining and brick-producing communities in Texas. Additionally, the inclusion of Baker's introduction enhances the work as it examines Gentry's accomplishments and contributions as a Texas historian. Prior to the 1880s, Erath County based its economy primarily on agriculture and cattle ranching. However, Thurber's growtii and development was attributed to the Texas & Pacific Railroad extending its rail lines west of Fort Worth. With the increased demand for coal deposits to supply the railroads, William W. Johnson and HarveyJohnson opened a coal mine near present-day Thurber. By 1887, theJohnson Coal Company produced over four hundred tons of coal on a daily basis. Despite the mine's success, labor unrest at the mining settlement caused Johnson to sell the company. By November 1888, the newly established Texas & Pacific Coal Company purchasedJohnson's mining enterprise. During the early twentiedi century, William Knox Gordon, who served as a general manager for the Texas & Pacific Coal Company, was responsible for supervising Thurber's fifteen coal mines and directing die town's development. Under the management of Gordon, the company chartered a new business, which was known as die Texas Pacific Mercantile & Manufacturing Company. By die early 1900s, the company operated a general store, saloons, a printing office, schools, bakery, dairy, churches, a slaughterhouse, and an opera house. While these businesses provided goods and services to Thurber's coal miners and nearby residents, tiiey also generated tremendous profits for die Texas & Pacific Coal Company. Although Thurber represented a prosperous mining community during the early twentieth century, economic factors led to the town's downfall. Demand for coal gradually declined as railroad companies switched to oil-powered locomotives . After the Texas Pacific Coal and Oil Company closed Thurber's mines in 1921, former workers gradually abandoned the town as they secured employment in other nearby communities. In 1930, Thurber's economic problems increased as the company closed the brick plant. During the next seven years, the Texas Pacific Coal and Oil Company relocated its general office to Fort Worth, demolished houses, donated school equipment, and sold public buildings . By 1937, Thurber resembled a ghost town as a few buildings and shacks lined the community's quadrangle. 20ogBook Reviews451 One of die work's strengths stems from the author's use of primary materials. For example, Gentry utilized the Adjutant General's Papers, Erath County Court House documents, local newspapers, naturalization records, and oral interviews. The inclusion of these resources not only serves the reader's interest, but they also add to die author's credibility. The book is well written and thoroughly researched. While the work provides readers widi an excellent account of Thurber's vivid history, it also serves as a significant addition to the historiography of Texas communities during the late nineteendi and early twentiedi centuries. Any historian interested in Texas history , urban studies, and business history would find diis book a valuable resource. Tidewater Community College, Chesapeake, VirginiaKevin M. Brady Building the Borderlands: A Transnational History ofIrrigated Cotton along the MexicoTexas Border, by Casey Walsh. (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2008. Pp. 246. Illustrations, photographs, maps, charts, bibliography, index. ISBN: 9781603440134, $47.50 cloth.) For eighty years, from 1880 to i960, cotton was a preeminent crop along the stretch of the Rio Grande that separates Texas and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9560
Print ISSN
0038-478X
Pages
pp. 450-451
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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