abandoned

Scranton

Scranton Academy

Traveling from Tennessee in 1875 to seek better lives for their families, David C. Lane and brothers Joseph and Aaron Brown settled in the western part of Eastland County and established the community of Scranton – named after a surveyor employed by the Houston & Texas Central Railroad.  By 1880 the community had enough school-age children to build its own school.  That same year a cotton gin was constructed to help the local farmers prepare their crops for market.  Elisha E. Chunn, recently arrived from Alabama, opened Scranton’s first general store in 1891 – the same year that the town received a post office.

Scranton was prosperous enough after the turn of the 19th Century that the area’s farmers raised money through subscriptions to build a college preparatory school.  In 1903 Alabama educator, Orrin C. Britton helped open the Scranton Academy for high school students on a 12-acre site.  The academy included a two-story main building, separate boys and girls dormitories, a dining hall and athletic fields.  At its peak, the Scranton Academy had a student body of more than 350, with some students traveling from as far away as Fort Worth.  World War I devastated the school when its oldest male students enlisted in the military.  As a result, the school closed in 1917.

Meanwhile, as the town became a regional trade center during the 1910s, a dry goods store, hardware store, and two grocery stores opened in Scranton.  The Scranton Reporter started publication in 1911.  A boll weevil infestation in 1917 crippled the cotton industry, forcing most farmers to switch to peanuts as a cash crop.  Despite discovery of the Ranger oil field in 1917, the cumulative effects of the Great Depression sent most Scranton residents to the cities for jobs.  The population decline continued after World War II, effectively sealing Scranton’s fate.

Scranton School Gymnasium – This concrete-framed stone structure was built during the Depression with funding from the WPA.  Owned by the Scranton School District, it was the center of activity for the community.  The building was destroyed by fire in the 1960s.

Post

Santa Fe Railroad Depot

Where Post, Texas sits today was cereal manufacturer Charles W. Post’s second location for his proposed model town (see Close City).  It was the second only due to its geographical location near the center of Garza County – the state legislature’s preferred location for the seats of county government.  Post is situated just below the rim of the Caprock Escarpment of the Llano Estacado, which forms the southeastern boundary of the Great Plains.  This area of Texas had long been the buffalo-hunting grounds of the Plains Indian tribes.  The Indian’s removal by the U. S. Army in the 1870s allowed cattle ranchers to safely pasture their herds.  For thirty years after its creation by the state legislature, citizens in Garza County were vastly outnumbered by livestock.

In 1906 C. W. Post began purchasing ranches in Garza and Lynn counties, ultimately totaling 225,000 acres, most of which was subdivided into 160-acre parcels.  Post platted a townsite in 1907 and began construction his social experiment, the town of Post City.  He established the Double U. Company to manage construction of the town as well as its promotion and lot sales.  Part of the effort to attract land purchasers included lining the streets with trees and prohibiting alcoholic beverages and prostitution.  Post City’s first post office was housed in a tent, as were many of the town’s businesses while they waited for buildings to be completed. In addition to houses, the Double U. Company built the Algerita Hotel, cotton gin, and a textile manufacturing plant – Postex Cotton Mills.  By 1910, when the Santa Fe Railroad arrived, a bank and a school had been built and the town’s first newspaper had started publication – the Post City Post.

Another experimental effort of C. W. Post to increase the value of his land was rainmaking.  Explosives, attached to kites that were tethered to towers atop the escarpment, were detonated in the atmosphere at timed intervals.  And while rainfall frequently occurred after the explosions, it was never determined whether the explosions caused the rain or not.

The town of Post, Texas – with a population of 1,000 people – was incorporated in 1914, which was also the year that Charles W. Post died.  By 1916, after an extensive real estate campaign, Post and the surrounding area contained approximately 3,000 inhabitants and 14 private corporations which together held over 1.2 million dollars in capital stock.  That year the town, with financial support from Post’s estate, made an unsuccessful bid to become the site of West Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College, which would later become Texas Tech University.  The town continued to grow, even through the Great Depression and Dust Bowl years.  Postex Cotton Mills was sold to Ely and Walker Dry Goods Company of St. Louis in 1945.  At the time of its sale, it employed 375 workers who produced over six million yards of cloth each year.  The mill, now owned by Burlington Industries, has remained the town’s largest employer.

Santa Fe Railroad Depot – This was one of four stations in Texas designed by Kansas City architect Louis Curtiss between 1909 and 1911.  Reinforced concrete was used for the structure and the architectural ornamentation.  The depot has been restored by the Post Chamber of Commerce.

REFERENCE:  Paul M. Lucko, “POST, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hgp10), accessed April 06, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Whitewright

Grayson College Chemistry Building

One of the first settlements in Grayson County was established by immigrants from Kentucky around 1850 three miles east of the current town of Whitewright, in the middle of the state’s richest farmland.  Kentucky Town received its official designation when a post office was established in June 1954.  The town – located along stage and freight lines from Shreveport and Jefferson – grew and prospered until the mid-1870s, when the Texas and Pacific Railway bypassed the town.  In the early 1870s, New York investor William Whitewright, Jr. had purchased a large tract of land located in the path the expanding Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad.  By 1978, Whitewright’s land had been surveyed as a townsite and his two agents, Tennessean James H. Reeves and Kentuckian James M. Batsell, were selling lots in the new community.  Due to its rail connection, Whitewright attracted settlers and businesses.

Grayson College President’s House

 

By 1888, Whitewright had become an incorporated town and center for cotton production.  The town had a newspaper, a post office, several businesses – mercantile stores, hotels, a bank and cotton gins – a public school and Grayson College.  At the beginning of the 20th century, Whitewright’s population was over 1,800 and continuing to grow.  A branch of the Cotton Belt Railroad from Commerce to Sherman established a station in Whitewright in the 1920s, enhancing its status as a marketing and commercial center for producers of cotton, wheat, and corn.

Kay Kimbell grew up and attended public school in Whitewright, dropping out in the 8th grade to work in a grain mill.  He founded the Beatrice Milling Company in Whitewright in the early 1900s.  The company grew into Kimbell Milling Company, which became the center of a diverse business organization.  When he died, he owned or served as a director of over 70 corporations that included wholesale grocery, insurance, feed and flour mills and a grocery chain.  Kimbell was an avid art collector and established the Kimbell Art Foundation in Fort Worth in 1935.  He left his fortune to the foundation with instructions to build a first-class art museum in Fort Worth.

REFERENCE:  Brian Hart, “WHITEWRIGHT, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hjw10), accessed December 08, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Catarina

Catarina Hotel

 The name Catarina has been associated with the area since at least 1778; legend holds that it is the name of a Mexican woman killed by Indians on or near the site.  Today, tractor-trailers hauling oilfield equipment and pickups carrying workers barely slow down as they pass through what was once the town of Catarina.  The Catarina Hotel sits forlornly on a sweeping curve of U.S. Highway 83 as it enters the town.

The town was established after Asher Richardson, a rancher, decided to build a railway link from Artesia Wells to his planned town of Asherton. In return for an easement through the nearby Taft-Catarina Ranch, Richardson agreed to allow the ranch to establish a railroad depot, with cattle-shipping pens, on his railroad. By 1910, when the Asherton and Gulf Railway began operations, these cattle pens had become the nucleus of a small community built by Joseph F. Green, the manager of the ranch. Green moved the ranch headquarters to the depot and added a bunkhouse, a commissary, a hotel, a post office, and a small schoolhouse. By 1915 the little town had twenty-five residents and had become famous in the area for the Taft House, an expensive mansion that Charles Taft, the owner of the ranch, supposedly built with oversized bathtubs to accommodate his brother, President William Howard Taft.

Catarina Farms, a development project, built roads, sidewalks, and a waterworks and an impressive new hotel and installed electric power and a telephone exchange. Agent Charles Ladd imported entire orchards of fruit-laden citrus trees to impress prospective investors with the area’s agricultural possibilities. By 1929 Catarina had between 1,000 and 2,500 residents, a bank, at least two groceries, a lumber company, and a bakery. Short supplies of water, marketing problems, and the Great Depression hurt the town. By 1931 the population had dropped to 592, and many of its businesses had been forced to close. In 1943 Catarina had 403 residents and seven businesses; in 1956 it had 380 residents and three businesses. By 1969 some of the town’s most picturesque old buildings had been abandoned, and the population was 160. Catarina is on U.S. Highway 83 ten miles southeast of Asherton in southern Dimmit County.

REFERENCES:  John Leffler, “CATARINA, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hnc25), accessed May 08, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Fowlerton

Fowlerton School

Driving on State Highway 97 east of Cotulla, TX there is nothing to identify what was the town of Fowlerton, other than a non-descript post office, a few mobile homes, and the standard highway city-limits sign.  Once upon a time though, it was a thriving town of 2,000 people.  On my recent visit, I was able to locate the remains of the old school (above) and a small church.  The school building has elements of the early International Style – specifically the corner window, the unadorned brick wall, and the thin porch roof supported by equally thin columns.  Given the more typical rural vernacular architecture of that time, this school would have been seen a very modern.

The Fowler Brothers Land Company (James and Charles) founded and developed the town in the early twentieth century in an ambitious attempt to develop a 100,000-acre tract that had once belonged to the Dull Ranch. They induced the San Antonio, Uvalde and Gulf Railway to extend its lines into the planned town, built two dams to provide water for irrigation and a new hotel, and laid 200 miles of public roads. They also built a cotton gin, installed an expensive water system, and conducted an aggressive advertising campaign to attract settlers and investors.

The land surrounding the townsite was divided into tracts of ten to 160 acres; for $25 dollars down and $10 a month an aspiring farmer could buy farmland and a receive a complimentary town lot. Land seekers (some called them “land suckers”) responded by moving to Fowlerton by the hundreds. By October 1911, when the SAU&G made its first trip into Fowlerton, the town already had two hotels, three general stores, a bank, twenty-five miles of streets, a telephone system, and 1,200 residents. By 1914 Fowlerton’s population was estimated at 2,000, and that year the town became the home of a summer normal school.

After 1917, however, the town rapidly declined; most of the farmers had suffered financial reverses due to a draught, low commodity prices, and marketing problems. Meanwhile, the Fowler brothers were targeted by a number of lawsuits accusing them of fraudulent marketing practices. The town thereafter “literally seemed to fall apart,” according to a former resident. By 1925 Fowlerton’s population had dropped to 600, and by 1931 only six businesses were reported there. By 1949 the community had 300 residents and four businesses and by 1964 200 people and two businesses. In 1972 the population was 100. In 1986 one newspaper called Fowlerton a “near-ghost town.”

REFERENCES:  John Leffler, “FOWLERTON, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hlf27), accessed May 08, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.