Vanishing Texas Vernacular Architecture

Archive for February, 2012



Eola School

Eola is a tiny farming community in Concho County about ten miles east of San Angelo at the intersection of FM 381 & 765.  The former Eola school (pictured above) consists of two buildings built in different decades.  The older of the two is the white, one-story masonry building on the right.  The buff-brick and stone building on the left was built in the 1930s as part of the Works Progress Administration and includes the gymnasium under barrel-vault roof.  The buildings of commercial area (below right) in Eola are typical of of the early twentieth century - wood-framed, false fronts in front of gable roofs, shed roof covering the sidewalk, punched-openings for doors and windows with simple wood trim.

Downtown Eola

In the middle to late 1890s public school lands in the county were put up for sale at fifty cents an acre.  Spurred on by railroad promotion, a land boom resulted in the area of Lipan Flat, a section that stretched east from San Angelo to the Colorado River.  Eola was one of the communities created during this boom, which included many immigrants from central and eastern Europe.  Originally known as Jordan, the name was changed to Eola in 1902, reportedly after a small local creek named for Aeolus, Greek god of the winds.  In 1920 more than 100 people in the vicinity of Eola were reported to be of Czech descent.  The first family to settle in the area was that of Asher L. and Lizzie Leona (Hollman) Lollar, who established themselves at a site 3½ miles southeast of Eola in 1898.  By 1902, when the first local store was built, the community numbered four families.  Within the next two years a Baptist church was erected.  The first school was conducted in a church on the Will Stephenson ranch.  A two-story, two-room schoolhouse was built in 1906.  In 1908 the community had a windmill and an Odd Fellows lodge.

By 1914 Eola had a drugstore, a general store, and a population of twenty-five.  Its population rose from thirty-five in 1925 to 240 by 1931.  By 1940 the community had a population of 250, five churches, three general stores, three filling stations, two gins, a drugstore, a barbershop, a beauty shop, a laundry, a shoe shop, and a wholesale oil concern.  A nine-teacher school taught elementary and high school classes.  By 1955, after consolidation, the Eola school district was one of four remaining in Concho County.  In 1963 Eola had the school, one industrial concern, five other businesses, and five churches.

REFERENCES:  Mary M. Standifer, “EOLA, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (  Published by the Texas State Historical Association; Texas Escapes (


Downtown Barstow, TX

It’s not the Barstow made famous in the song Route 66.  Nonetheless, it made its mark on the history of West Texas.   Barstow is located in southwest Ward County about five miles east of Pecos on U.S. Highway 80.

The town was named for George E. Barstow, a Rhode Island land promoter who established it.  Barstow, the man, was of the world’s leading experts on irrigation.  He became interested in the Pecos valley in Texas after the state legislature passed an act in March 1889 to encourage the development of irrigation in West Texas.  The Pioneer Canal Company, with Barstow as treasurer, was chartered on July 6, 1889.  On September 30, 1889, Pioneer took over the Ward County Irrigation Company.  Barstow served as president of at least one of the Pioneer Canal Company’s later incarnations, the Pecos Valley Land and Irrigation Company.  An ad for the latter company, with a picture of Barstow as president, appeared in a 1909 issue of Cosmopolitan.

In 1891 Barstow joined other land developers in a project to promote a town on the Texas and Pacific Railway in western Ward County.  The townsite, laid out in 1891, was deeded by Mr. and Mrs. B. K. Brant and O. F. Brant to the Barstow Improvement Company in 1892.  Disagreement surfaced early over a name for the town, but by 1895 the community had taken the name of Barstow.  Barstow himself moved to Barstow in 1904 from New York City.  A post office established shortly after the town was organized.  That same year George E. Barstow formed the Barstow Improvement Company to promote the sale of land irrigated by the Pecos River.   He constructed irrigation canals and a dam and brought trainloads of prospective settlers to the town in land promotions.   The farms around Barstow grew grapes, peaches, pears, and melons.  In 1904 the Barstow Irrigation Company won a silver medal for grapes at the World’s Fair.  The same year an earthen dam on the rain-swollen Pecos River burst, and the resulting flood waters raised soil salinity levels, thus ruining many of the farms.  In 1907 and 1910 serious droughts plagued Barstow farmers.  Vineyards and orchards began to decline in 1911, and by 1918 farming ceased.

Barstow became the county seat when Ward County was organized in 1892.  A red sandstone courthouse was constructed in 1893.  By 1900 Barstow had a population of 1,103.  In 1914 the community had three churches, a bank, a hotel, an opera house, and a weekly newspaper, the West Texas Journal.  Two years later a power plant was built to generate electricity.  The population fell from 1,219 in 1910 to an estimated 490 in 1925.  In June 1938, after the discovery of oil in Winkler County and eastern Ward County, Monahans replaced Barstow as the county seat of Ward County.  Unfortunately, the beautiful sandstone courthouse was razed in the 1950s.  An old photo of the courthouse can be seen at (link below).

REFERENCES:  Glenn Justice, “BARSTOW, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online; Claudia Hazlewood, “BARSTOW, GEORGE EAMES,” Handbook of Texas Online (  Published by the Texas State Historical Association;  Texas Escapes, (


Hi Way Cafe

When I took this photograph in June 2010, there was loud music coming from the left side of the building leading me to believe that if they were drinking 7-Up (as advertised on the side of the building) they were mixing it with something stronger.  This was confirmed when the door opened and a rough-looking guy yelled in my direction, “Hey, ya wanna drink?”.  I declined politely and headed down the road to Marfa.

Valentine, the smaller of Jeff Davis County’s two towns, is on U.S. Highway 90 and the Southern Pacific Railroad in the southwestern part of the county, thirty-six miles west of Fort Davis.  It was founded and named when the Southern Pacific Railroad crew, building east, reached the site on February 14, 1882. Trains began running the next year, and a post office was established in 1886.  In 1890 Valentine had a population estimated at 100, two saloons, a general store, a hotel, and a meat market.  Two years later only one saloon was left, but the population had risen to an estimated 140.  Valentine became a shipping point for local cattle ranchers, and by 1914 the town had an estimated population of 500, five cattle breeders, a news company, a real estate office, a grocery store, a restaurant (pictured above), and the Valentine Business Club.  In the late 1970s the town had an estimated population of 226, a high school, an elementary school, and two churches.

Apropos of its name, the Valentine Post Office involves the entire town in designing its annual postmark.  Drawn by students at the Valentine school, the winner is selected by the City Council.  Once approved by the Postal Service in San Antonio, the design is used for that year.  Romantics from around the world send cards and letters to be postmarked by the Valentine Post Office every year.

REFERENCES: 1) Martin Donell Kohout, “VALENTINE, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (  Published by the Texas State Historical Association.  2) Texas Escapes -


Former Toyah Elementary and High School

Despite its name, an Indian word meaning “flowing water”, Toyah looked pretty arid when I visited.  Perhaps nearby artesian wells  or water flowing in Billingslea Draw inspired the name.  Toyah is the oldest townsite in Reeves County, founded as a trading post for the large ranches in that area.  In the early 1880s, before the railroad reached Reeves County, W. T. Youngblood and his family moved to the area in a covered wagon with a stock of general merchandise. Youngblood began his business by visiting each ranch as a peddler.  At the time he was also building a one-room store of adobe.

In 1881 the first train arrived in Toyah, and that year a post office was established.  By October 20, 1881, Toyah was described as a town of tents, saloons, and restaurants. At the end of the year the Overland Transportation Company announced stagecoach service from Toyah to Fort Stockton and Fort Davis-six times each way weekly.  By 1886 the community also included the A. M. Fields Hotel.  The first public school in Toyah was established in 1894 with one teacher and five grades in a one-room building.  By the 1899–1900 term the school had forty-two students and two teachers; the next year the student population increased to fifty-five, though there was only one teacher.

The abandoned school building pictured above was built in 1912 and served as both elementary and high school until the late 1940s, when it was replaced.  According to former students, the second floor was removed in the 1960s and the building used as the school’s gym.  Although there aren’t any newer school buildings nearby.  The Toyah school district was later consolidated with the Pecos school district.

Two famous people were forced to stop in Toyah in the late 1920s or early 1930s, although they were not there at the same time.  World-renowned pianist Ignacy Paderewski and his family were traveling by rail when their train was forced to stop in Toyah while debris from a winter storm was cleared from the tracks ahead.  To their good fortune, their railroad car stopped across the street from the stationmaster’s house.  The stationmaster’s wife took the Paderewski’s servings of her English Plum Pudding.  Thus began a lifelong friendship between the two couples.  In September, 1928, Amelia Earhart was forced to land her plane near Toyah when it developed engine trouble during a cross-country flight.

Toyah reported a population of 771 in 1910, and the town became a major cattle-shipping point on the railroad.  By 1914 the population of Toyah had increased to 1,062, and it remained above 1,000 until the Great Depression hit in 1929.  In 1931 Toyah reported a population of 553, with seventeen businesses, including a bank.  At one time or another in its history, Toyah had four churches, four stores, two banks, two hotels, two lumberyards, and a drugstore.  Toyah was incorporated in 1933, and the number of businesses rose to twenty.

REFERENCES:  1)  Julia Cauble Smith, “TOYAH, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (  Published by the Texas State Historical Association.  2)  Texas Escapes -


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