The Hills of Thurber
There was Graveyard Hill, Brickyard Hill, New York Hill, Italian Hill, Polander Hill and Stump Hill. And Shale Pit (Steam Shovel) Mountain, Dairy Mountain and Coal Miners Mountain were called mountains, but they were actually hills.
The history of Thurber can be divided into two slightly overlapping eras: the Coal Era (1886-1921) and the Oil Era (1917-1933). New York Hill is associated with the Oil Era. In 1917, after the T & P Coal Co. hit oil at Ranger (15 miles west), the company brought in experienced oil people, mostly from New York State, to run its oil operations. These newcomers were accustomed to more comfortable homes than the usual Thurber houses. So the company spent $250,000. in building 31 fancy homes on the hill east of Little Lake. And this hill became "New York Hill" because of the origin of its residents.
Since the T P Coal and Oil Co. (name change) was headquartered in Thurber, daily travel between Thurber and Ranger was required. The company ran two "locals" (trains) a day to carry pipe, tools, supplies and some commuters to Ranger. Other Thurberites made the 15-mile drive to the Ranger Oil Field by car. In 1920 with muddy, dirt/gravel roads, low-powered cars, flat tires and blow-outs and the formidable Ranger Hill to climb, this trip could be an episode.
Ranger Hill lay several miles west of Thurber and had a rise of about 200 feet in a mile. With a poorly-tuned 20-40 HP car or truck, it was a task to climb this hill. When Ranger Hill was conquered, there was a feeling of accomplishment, and a roadside park at the top of the Hill enabled one to pause (or exult), cool down the car or make repairs. If the vehicle were well-tuned, with three forward speeds and gear shift, there was little difficulty. But most trucks with a load had to strain.
In the days of the Ranger Oil Boom, Model T Fords were the most popular and affordable cars. In 1925 a new Model T sold for $260. From 1909 to 1927, 26,000,000 Fords were manufactured. The T developed 20 horsepower and had two speeds forward: low and high. It had no equal on muddy roads, and with a "high center" and 30 x 3-1/3 tires it was almost impossible to stick. But climbing hills, like Ranger Hill, was another story. It was a common, but amusing sight to see Model T's backing up Ranger Hill! On the earlier Model T's the gravity-fed fuel tank was under the driver's seat, and with a half-empty tank and an incline, the gasoline would not reach the carburetor. Back up the Hill! This problem was corrected in later models by locating the fuel tank under the dashboard. But there was another problem which necessitated backing up Ranger Hill. The Model T had three pedals: one for low speed, one for reverse and one for braking. When the low-speed clutch band became worn, the reverse pedal was used to back up Ranger Hill.
Flat tires and blowouts were common because most roads were not paved and tires were not durable. There were no steel belted or tubeless tires and no tire guarantee. All cars carried an air pump, a jack and tire-changing and flat-repairing tools. The "Monkey Grip" cold patch tube repair kit with glue for sticking the patch on the inner tube was a necessity. A strong man could lift a Model T to set it on blocks to fix a flat.
In 1933 the Oil Co. moved its headquarters to Fort Worth. The choice homes on New York Hill, which cost $8,000. to build, were sold for $250. and moved elsewhere. After 16 years of activity, Thurber's New York Hill was reclaimed by mesquite trees.