abandoned

Shafter

Shafter Silver Mine

The history of Shafter is closely tied to silver mining. There is evidence that the Spaniards prospected for valuable ores in the area during the early 1600s, but Shafter became a mining town only after September 1880, when John W. Spencer, a freighter turned prospector, found silver ore there. Spencer showed an ore sample to Col. William R. Shafter (later General), commander of the First Infantry Regiment at Fort Davis, who had it assayed. In June 1882 Shafter and his partners (two Army friends John L. Bullis and Louis Wilhelmi) leased some of their acreage to a California mining group which, in late summer 1883, organized the Presidio Mining Company and contracted individually with Shafter, Wilhelmi, and Spencer to buy their interests. Each received 5,000 shares of company stock and $1,600 cash. At the same time the manager of the company, William Noyes, found silver deposits on the acreage, valued at $45 per ton. The silver deposits found by Noyes were on one of the two sections owned by Bullis’s wife, and Bullis refused to sell. He claimed that the two sections had been bought by his wife with inherited family money and were not his or his partners’ property. He secured a court injunction to stop mining on that section, but the company continued work in the other sections. When the injunction expired in the spring of 1884, the Presidio Mining Company resumed operations in the productive Bullis section. The company hired more workmen and installed milling machinery.
A post office was opened in Shafter in 1885. Though the Bullises sued to retain their interest in the land and a lower court ruled in their favor, the Presidio Mining Company won a decision in 1887 before the Texas Supreme Court. Freed from litigation, the company stepped up its operations as Noyes hired nearly 300 men to work the mine. Workers in the Presidio Mine at Shafter came from several ethnic groups and geographical areas. Mexican citizens and black Americans found better-paying jobs there, and miners from California worked at Shafter until they left to prospect for Alaskan gold in 1897. Shafter miners lived in company houses, shopped at the company store, and received medical care from the company doctor. Just after 1900, Shafter had a population of 110 and two saloons, a dance hall, and a school. During the 1920s and 1930s the Shafter mine closed and reopened several times. In 1928 the Presidio Mining Company sold the mine to the American Metal Company, but there was little change to the mining operation. In 1942, with increased production costs and a shortage of miners, the mine closed again, but by 1943 Shafter had a population of 1,500; at that time it also had twelve businesses that served the military population that was stationed at two bases in the county. After Marfa Army Air Field and Fort D. A. Russell closed, the population of Shafter declined, reaching twenty by 1949. Though from the 1950s through the 1980s several attempts were made to reopen the Presidio Mine at Shafter, the town and the mines remained deserted.

REFERENCE: Julia Cauble Smith, “SHAFTER, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hns37), accessed March 17, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

 

Mentone

Mentone Community Church

As the only town in Loving County, Mentone has been dubbed the Smallest County Seat in Texas.  The Community Church (above) is one of only five to six non-residential buildings in the town.  The church was moved to Mentone in 1930 after the Pecos River flooded nearby Porterville destroying the town.  This is the oldest building in Loving County.

James J. Wheat, St. (1871-1931) came to Loving County from Ward County in 1919 or 1829 after three crop failures and a stint as an irrigation project promoter in Grandfalls, TX.  Upon arrival he recognized the possibilities for oil production in the unexplored county bought several hundred acres of land as well as leasing mineral rights from local landowners for division into small drilling tracts.  He organized the Wheat Guarantee Company, selling shares to the public for $40 each in an effort to raise enough money to drill test wells.  With partner Bladen Ramsey, Wheat organized the Toyah-Bell Oil Company and leased acreage on the Russell ranch one mile east of the site of Mentone in southwestern Loving County.  Toyah-Bell, later renamed Ramsey Production Company, drilled two wildcats. Both wells were productive. Although the wells were plagued with problems, they attracted the attention of larger oil exploration companies. Wheat and Ramsey sold their interests in the wildcats to Hadlock Oil Company and Lockhart and Company, which developed Wheat field. J. J. Wheat’s discovery led to a long-producing field which yielded nearly 22,000,000 barrels of oil by 1989.

The town of Ramsey was laid out by Wheat and Ramsey in 1925, after they discovered oil nearby. The name was later changed to Mentone when the postal service rejected the name. The site remained unsettled until 1931, when a post office was authorized.  The actual town was preceded by two earlier settlements.  The first community, named Mentone by a French surveyor from Menton, France, was established in 1893 by a group of men who came to Loving County and formed the Loving Canal and Irrigation Company.  They organized Loving County, made their Mentone the county seat, and received a post office. Three years later they abandoned the town.  The post office closed, and the county was declared unorganized.  The second town was founded in 1905, when E. L. Stratton, head of the Stratton Land Company of Chicago, led a group of settlers to Loving County.  They called the town Juanita and later renamed it Porterville.  After the present Mentone was founded two miles to the northeast, most of the residents of Porterville moved to the new site.

The first business in Mentone was the Loving County Lumber Company, founded in 1930. In the spring of 1931 the county schoolhouse was moved from Porterville to Mentone, where it was replaced in 1935 by a brick building. By July 1931 Mentone had five cafes, five gasoline stations, two hotels, two drugstores, two recreation halls, two barbershops, a dance hall, a machine shop, and a dry cleaner. From March 1932 to September 1935 a weekly newspaper, the Mentone Monitor, was published. By October 27, 1933, Mentone reported a population of 600.

By the 1940s the population of Mentone had dropped to 150; only three businesses operated there in 1946. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s the reported population remained at 110, and the number of businesses continued to decline. From 1972 until 1984 no business was open in Mentone. At the end of the 1980s about 100 people, employees of the county and of oil service companies, lived in Mentone, which had two businesses.

Mentone is on State Highway 302 twenty-five miles southwest of Kermit and twenty-five miles north of Pecos in southwestern Loving County.

REFERENCES:  Julia Cauble Smith, “MENTONE, TX,” Handbook of Texas online  (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hnm33), accessed February 23, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Julia Cauble Smith, “WHEAT, JAMES JACKSON, SR.,” Handbook of Texas online  (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hnm33), accessed February 23, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Enochs

Church – Enochs, TX

There’s not much left to see in Enochs, TX these days except the remains of a post office, store, cotton gins, and this pretty little church.  Buildings abandoned in the Texas Panhandle either get ravaged by storms or just quietly fall apart and Enochs has some of both.  I was particularly attracted to the church by its simple lines, unadorned facade, and pueblo-styled steeple.  Its setting in the middle of a field, a half-mile off the highway only accentuated its forlorn condition.  Enochs developed as a trading center for the surrounding farms and ranches beginning in the 1920s and reached a peak reported population of 250 in 1940, when it had five stores.  In the 1980 and 1990 censuses its population was estimated at 164, and the town had several businesses and a post office.  Enochs can be found at the junction of State Highway 214 and Farm Road 54, three miles from the Cochran County line in southern Bailey County.

REFERENCE:  “ENOCHS, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hle23), accessed December 15, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Crabapple

Crabapple School

The Crabapple School is one of twelve old school buildings saved by The Friends of Gillespie County Country Schools, Inc.  All of them are picturesque, quaint and remotely located – the communities they once served, long gone.  Many of the buildings were built in the familiar German-Texan vernacular of the Fredericksburg area.

German immigrants who came to Fredericksburg in the 1840 and later, settled in the Crabapple area.  Many parents were eager to donate land so a school could be built near their homes.  The two families who were extremely anxious to give the land for a school were Crockett Riley and Mathias Schmidt.  It was decided to have a foot race to see who would have the privilege of donating the land.  Mathias Schmidt, a farmer, won the race.  The school was then built on the land he gave for this purpose.  The families donated their labor to erect a school building of native limestone, which opened in 1878 as Crabapple School #10.

This first building was a two-story rock house consisting of two rooms.  One room was a used as a classroom, with the other used as a teacherage or living quarters for the teacher.  The upstairs, used for storage, had an outside stairway.  About 10 years later, another room was added.  Between 1887 and 1910, this building also served as a post office.  In 1882, the second school building was built of limestone at a cost of $600.  It not only served as the school, but also as the Lutheran church, until the congregation built their own church nearby in 1897. There was only one teacher to teach all grades.

The highest enrollment was at the turn of the century with about 40 students.  Teachers’ salaries ranged from $80 per month in the 1920′s to $250 in the early 1950′s.  In all, 28 teachers taught at the Crabapple school.  Crabapple School was consolidated with Fredericksburg ISD in May 1957, when only nine students remained.

Crabapple is located in Gillespie County approximately 10.5 miles north of Fredericksburg.  

REFERENCE:  Martin Donell Kohout, “CRABAPPLE, TX,” Handbook of Texas online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hvcae), accessed January 31, 2014. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.  The Friends of Gillespie County Country Schools.

Clearview

 

Clearview Schoolhouse

I really like this little two-room school house.  The front facade is very different than the typical rural schoolhouse.  It looks to me that the person that built it had a good sense of design and proportion.  There are even nice wood details around the windows.  The building sits forlornly in a fallow field about one hundred yards off Highway 304 about 5 miles south of Bastrop.  I’ve visited with the archivist at the Bastrop County Historical Society Museum about Clearview.   She was able to tell me that she has a copy of a Teacher’s Daily Register dated 1952 and undated documents referencing Mable Echols as teacher and B. O. Washington as assistant.