Thurber (located midway between Fort Worth and Abilene on Interstate
20) was a company owned town, founded and controlled from around 1888
through the 1930's by Texas and Pacific Coal Co. (after 1933, Texas
Pacific Oil Company). At its height, it was the largest town between
Fort Worth and El Paso. Every building and inch of ground was owned
100% by Texas and Pacific Coal Co. Every resident lived in a company
house, shopped at company stores, drank at the company saloon, attended
a company school, danced at the company opera house, and worshiped in
MAJOR ASPECTS OF THURBER'S HISTORY
Thurber was the most important mine site in Texas for 30 years. 3,000
tons of coal were produced daily. This coal provided fuel mainly for
the Texas and Pacific Railroad, but a dozen other RRs also used Thurber
coal. By ensuring a plentiful coal supply, Thurber helped railroads
open up the great southwest.
Thurber had the best equipped brick plant west of the Mississippi. Manufactured
from the area's rich deposits of shale clay, Thurber brick paved hundreds
of miles of Texas highways and streets: Congress Avenue in Austin; the
Galveston sea wall; the Bankhead Highway; Camp Bowie, Main Street, and
the stock yards in Fort Worth, etc.
was headquarters of the Texas and Pacific Coal Company which, under
the leadership and persistence of W. K. Gordon, brought in the McCleskey
discovery well at Ranger (16 miles west) for the company. Troops in
World War I, which had been at a standstill, were given the "go-ahead"
when this news was received abroad, as Russia had cut off oil supply
to the Allies. Ranger yielded in one year twice the wealth of the best
years in the California and Klondike gold fields. It was the key that
opened the door to West Texas oil production and made the University
of Texas the richest university in North America. Every Thurber home
had running water and electricity. In fact, Thurber was the first totally
electrified city in the United States. A power plant was erected in
1895, as well as an ice plant with a 17 ton capacity, the largest ice
plant in the southwest. By 1915, each home also had natural gas for
The Thurber coal miners' strike of 1903, which ended when a contract
was signed by John L Lewis and Edgar L. Marston (for Texas & Pacific)
in the old Worth Hotel in Fort Worth, was the beginning of the labor
movement in the southwest. Thurber became the only totally unionized
town in the world, and had two UMW Locals; the English Local and the
Hundreds of European immigrants, representing eighteen ethnic groups,
began working as coal miners and brick makers. The priest at the Catholic
Church heard confessions in six languages. Thurber was a "melting pan"
for Eastern European immigrants, providing an interesting and colorful
cultural and ethnic mix. OTHER FACTS Thurber was the site of the last
regularly scheduled stage coach in America. It ran from the Hotel Knox
to Thurber Junction (now Mingus, Texas). The Metropolitan Opera troupe
stopped in Thurber en- route from the east coast to the west coast.
(The Italians loved operas.) Famous voices were heard in the Thurber
Opera House, where ceiling fans had been installed (a rarity at that
time). The Opera House seated more than 650 people, and VIP's had their
own box seats.