It has been reported that Talpa was founded as early as 1883 and in 1886 when the Santa Fe Railroad came to this section of the county, however, not all right of ways for the laying of tracks were obtained until 1890-1891. The Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway Company bought some land from W. P. Cusenbary and his two brothers, D. B. and E. T., on February 17, 1886. (The Cusenbarys had purchased several sections of land in this area, making one of their first transactions in 1883). W. J. Sayre came to Talpa as a telegrapher and agent for the railway company. The railroad first built a section house one mile east of Talpa, with the depot being erected and completed in 1891-1892, in the town site. Talpa was started as a switch-place on the railroad.
Just who named Talpa or decided on the name is not known, but there have been a number of conflicting stories as to its origin. Some say it was named for the catalpa tree and others from a rock, possibly talpatate, a rock of superficial origin resembling caliche. Talpa was known as a two county town, since it is located in Coleman County on the west boundary, just over the line of Runnels. For many years, it served not only Talpa residents, but the farmers and ranchers of both Coleman and Runnels Counties. Cotton, grain, sheep, goats, hogs, horses, mules, poultry, wool, mohair, all kinds of supplies and groceries were shipped in or out by the railroad.
Judging from the following account of Vena Bob LeSueur Gates, in “The History of Coleman County and Its People”, Talpa was a prosperous town in the early 1900s.
In 1903-1904, E. M. Jones of Coleman bought several lots and opened one of the first Dry Goods Stores in 1904. It also served as a bank until Sidney Turner and Ed A. Hattan came from East Texas in August, 1905. Turner and Hattan, along with W. T. Laughlin and W. P. Cusenbary paid $100.00 for land to erect the First State Bank of Talpa. On the cornerstone at the bank building reads: W. T. Laughlin, President; W. P. Cusenbary and Sidney Turner, Vice Presidents; E. A. Hatton (Hattan), Cashier. J. B. Dumas, Builder, September, 1905. The first hotel, built in 1900, was a frame building located on Main Street. I. D. Dunn had the first tailor shop in 1902. Fred Boyer, one of the first druggists and pharmacists, was followed by John Clay and J. Ben Harris. S. P. (Perry) Hale also had a drug store. In later years, Bill and Lillian Turk opened the drug store after Mr. Harris sold out. Persy Hale and Eric Tate put in a picture show called the Gem. John Trammell had a livery stable. The “Rock” hotel, south of the railroad, was run by William Ledford. One of the first doctors who resided and practiced in Talpa and its boundaries was J. L. Jones, who came in December, 1903. He and his family first lived in a two room house that later became the Methodist parsonage. 1913 was one of Dr. Jones’ “big baby boom” years.
Mrs. E. M. Jones organized the first Study Club, called the Talpa Reading Club in 1905, followed by the Talpa Shakespeare Club in 1906. Ed P. Eason was Editor and Proprietor of the Talpa Tribune Newspaper, beginning in 1905. W. A. Forman had a Mercantile Store; Phillips and Son had an ice house; Ira Phillips ran a confectionery, later Stanley Wood; R. L. McElrath did tin work, plumbing, etc.; W. J. Sayre and Will Musray sold real estate and insurance; W. M. Kidd had a Dry Goods and Mercantile store, later W. E. Bush. Brown and Meeks ran a grocery store; M. M. Slaten sold coal arid owned a gin; N. A. Perry of Brownwood also opened gin property in Talpa, probably the one southeast of the depot on the south side of the tracks and later owned by Floyd Hollinger; Hatton and Turner were in real estate; Dunn and Stigler were barbers; H. A. Montgomery owned the Talpa Hotel (Rates: $1.25 per day, meals, 25 cents; Regular Boarders $16.00 per month).
REFERENCES: Beatrice Grady Gay, “TALPA, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hlt03), accessed April 10, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association; “Talpa, Texas,” Texas Escapes (http://www.texasescapes.com/TOWNS/Talpa/Talpa_Texas.htm), accessed April 10, 2012; Vena Bob LeSueur Gates, “The History of Coleman County and Its People”, 1985