Southwest

Exploring the Ghost Towns of Texas

Texas has a storied history filled with triumphs and tragedies. Towns all over the state have grown up and blossomed into active communities, but for every busy city like Austin or Dallas, there are dozens of tiny towns that didn't make it. It is estimated that there are over 900 ghost towns peppered across the Lone Star State, even some near the Mexican border in varying stages of decay, some failing as recently as the 20th century. Some were abandoned due to the economic crisis, some due to the emergence of the interstates, and some just died along with their residents. From Port City and Galveston to West Texas (you'll come across them if you're driving to California), there are more ghost towns than you might think.

To be clear, not all of these towns are entirely abandoned. Some may have a few hardy citizens who are determined never to leave, while others are as quiet as the grave. Here are some noteworthy Texas ghost towns worth exploring. Get on Route 66 and check out some of the best ghost towns in Texas (maybe even in the United States).

1. Eliasville

An oil boomtown gone bust, this Texas town was settled in the 1870s, but really took off in the 1920s with the oil boom of 1921. Everything comes to an end, however, and Eliasville's population dwindled to barely 100 by the 80s.

2. Gilliland

Originally named Coyote, Gilliland was renamed after a district judge in 1907. Today Gilliland is little more than some disused buildings, rusting in the Texas heat.

3. Bluffton

The waters of Lake Buchanan submerged Bluffton after the construction of the Buchanan Dam in 1937. The town reemerged when water levels dropped during the drought in 2009. Pecans, corn, and cotton were the town's cash crops before the Lower Colorado River Authority acquired it for the building of the reservoir that would eventually drown it. The town hadn't been seen for over 75 years when it began to reappear.

4. Lobo

Lobo was mostly abandoned in the 1960s, and by 1991 it was a completely deserted ghost town. However, three people from Frankfurt, Germany, bought the entire town in 2001 are currently trying to revive it.

5. Toyah

Established in the 1880s, Toyah is the oldest town in Reeves County. The town operated as a trading post for West Texas travelers as it was located on a stagecoach line and had a station on the Union Pacific rail line. As the years passed, it faded into obscurity and was bypassed by the interstates for other cities. Eventually, its schools were consolidated with nearby Pecos, and according to the 2000 census, the town had a population of 100. A visitor to the town in 2008 reported to Texas Escapes that several fire trucks sit abandoned in the streets, and the town continues to decline.

6. Belcherville

Belcherville was established in 1886, but a devastating fire overtook much of the town in 1893, and many of the buildings were never rebuilt. As a testament to the resilience of Texans, however, the town remained populated until the early 1950s, by which time there were fewer than 50 residents. The 2000 census recorded 34 residents. Belcherville now sits on private farmland, and the abandoned buildings have been fenced off.

7. Independence

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Named for the signing of the Declaration of Independence, this town was once home to Baylor University and the Republic of Texas President Sam Houston. Now Independence is a collection of well-preserved ruins and relics of Texas history.

8. Terlingua

Terlingua ghost town was once a booming mining town, but by the end of World War II, Chisos Mining Company went out of business and deserted their abandoned mines. The Terlingua area is near Big Bend National Park and Marfa just south of Alpine, an area in West Texas, which has become a popular destination for tourists and continues to maintain minimal residents.

Terlingua's annual chili cook-off became famous for being the first in the world. Terlingua remains a unique destination along the Rio Grande that you should definitely add to your travel bucket list.

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Exploring the Ghost Towns of Texas