Texas Escapes
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Texas Ghost Town
Val Verde County, West Texas

2 miles N of Hwy 90 on FM 1865
65 miles W of Del Rio
15 miles W of Langtry
70 miles E of Sanderson
146 miles E of Alpine

Book Hotel Here > Del Rio Hotels
Pumpville Baptist Church, Texas
Pumpville Baptist Church
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, November 2003
Like Longfellow, the ghost town along the railroad tracks west of Sanderson, Pumpville's purpose was to provide water for steam locomotives belonging to the Southern Pacific. The railroad personnel formed a nucleus of Pumpville's population.

The ranchers got tired of playing solitaire, so they'd sort of come into "town" and discuss the weather with the railroad employees. Before long, it wasn't unusual to see three or four people gathered near the railroad tracks. A town was born.

When the need for steam was killed by diesel locomotives, the railroad sent their people elsewhere and the ranchers went back to their ranches. About the only congregating done today is in the tidy and well kept Pumpville Baptist Church, which is the only building in Pumpville still in use today.
Langtry and Dryden Texas Highway Signs
If you see this sign, you'll know you're close to Pumpville
TE photo
Cactus in Pumpville Texas
A Pumpville "residence"
TE photo, August 2000

Pumpville, Texas Forum

  • Remembering Pumpville
    Dear TE, What a great magazine you have produced. Very enjoyable. I do not remember much about Pumpville except it had a store and one gas pump but in 1936, when I was 12 years old, my father contracted to build a ranch house just outside of Pumpville,TX. It was for a family by the name of Cam Longley and was to be on their ranch. My father hauled most of the materials by truck from San Antonio and most of the workers also came from S.A. We literally set up camp on the site and lived through the summer under a "cedar arbor" and in tents. I imagine it was hard on my parents but it was a great adventure for me as I had my own rifle and shot a lot of jackrabbits and a javelina hog. We fed our dogs from these animals so they were not wasted. Many times I was allowed to ride out on horseback to be with and try to help the ranch cowboys. What a thrill. It was hard times during those years and my family was glad to have the job since many had no job at all. I recently ran across a contract from my father's papers: It is a simple one page contract to build the house for the Longleys and outlined the payoff: $35 per week (to work 7 days a week) and a $810.00 profit paid at the completion. These were the "good old days". Thanks for allowing me these old memories and it would be exciting if after all these 70 years some descendant from the Longley family was around and could add to my recollections. Thanks again. - B.L.Craighead, San Antonio, April 12, 2007

  • Subject: Pumpville Texas
    After reading some of the stories on your Texas Escapes website, I had to relate my family’s story on life in Pumpville, Texas. We lived in Pumpville for a year in 1979-1980. It had to be one of the most interesting and defining times of my life. I was not in school at the time…about 5 or 6yrs old. My family is from Del Rio, Texas. My father was doing everything he had to keep our family happy. He had been out of the Army for a few years and had a hard time finding a good job, but the job market in Del Rio at the time was not good. He had driven trucks long haul for the past couple of years, and was in the process of applying to colleges. The opportunity came up for work close to home and my father took it! It required moving, but offered housing…. Later we would get good laughs at this!

    Pumpville. We moved into our house at the end of town…..almost a block long! Of course we first had to remove the rabbit pens, as it was being used for a barn and storage, but was a nice little house. It was right across the service road from the rail road tracks…about 30 feet. This would make for an entertaining life! The house would shudder when trains came through! We could not play records because they would get scratched. The radio dial would change! We had to stop and hold up my mothers china cabinet! All good fun! On those late night trains, my sister and I would ‘ride’ our twin beds across the room as the train vibrated the house! On one occasion my sister had fallen out of bed, only to find herself trapped under a run away bed! No harm, just good memories!

    My father’s job was to drive the bus from Pumpville to Comstock, the nearest school at that time. Then he was a custodian during the day, and drove the bus home again. This was an adventure at times as well. Early mornings and late nights on Highway 90 saw many wild animals. On one occasion, my father nearly missed driving off the Pecos high Bridge when he swerved to miss a run away Mule! On one drive, out of nowhere, they hit a DUCK! It was slightly injured, but lived.

    Pumpville was a ghost town then. We added a little life to it, but not enough to be a town. There were a few dilapidated homes, the boarded up church, the closed general store and post office, and a double wide trailer where a local rancher lived with his family. I remember picking through those old houses and looking at people forgotten things. I learned to look at nature. I watched the trains go by... and sometimes stop at inopportune times… like when we were on the other side of the tracks! Riding bikes and hiking in the desert was a pass time.

    My mother and I would walk out towards highway 90 to meet my dad and sister on the bus. I guess not having TV, being so far from town, and being there with family has stuck with me until now. I appreciate those things so much more. Those were simple times. Fun times. Well, that is not the whole story, but enough. We left Pumpville when my father was accepted into college in Uvalde. I have only been back 2 or 3 times, but not since 1990 or so. - Michael Hall, April 28, 2006

  • Subject: Pumpville
    Pumpville has a fairly significant appearance in Cormac McCarthy's novel "All the Pretty Horses" It's the last village in the U.S. that the two main characters in the story visit before crossing over into Mexico, where the majority of the book takes place. Jamie Barnes, Montgomery TX, January 28, 2006

  • I just came across your posting about Pumpville and wanted to mention a couple of things. My family ranched out beyond there from the early 1920s, when my Dad came to that part of the world to drill water wells. I was born in Del Rio in 1932, where we lived during the school year, but the family stayed the whole summer at the ranches. At that time, Pumpville was still a viable little cluster of residents. The water tanks were still used to refuel the steam engines which still remained in service. The general store was owned by Pelham Bradford, who also was the postmaster for the town. That shambles of a building pictured on your page may have been part of his store or outbuildings, in fact.

    I still own one of the ranches on down the road from Pumpville and we commute back & forth through there on many visits from Dallas, where I live. There has been some activity lately in Pumpville, work on the railroad and one of the old houses has been restored.

    The Church does meet regularly on Sunday, drawing attendees who are members of that regular congregation from ranches scattered around - some as far away from Pumpville as 50 mi. The preacher also comes from afar. Following the services, all the members serve a pitch-in dinner in a back room of the church building and it is the highlight social event and business gathering of the week! Visitors, especially hunters on the ranches, frequently stop for the services and are graciously invited to join in the meal afterwards. I believe Langtry has its own little congregation.

    I suppose the buildings might be occasionally infested with illegal immigrants, but frankly, if so - they would have to be very naïve! Ordinarily they avoid paved or even dirt roads likely to be traveled by ranchers, game wardens and Border Patrolmen, and take to the canyons & uninhabited remote buildings. We've been broken into a couple of times when absent, but nothing has been stolen but food and an occasional digital clock. Attracting attention to themselves is a very low priority to these folks and violence tends to attract attention. They usually don't walk hundreds of miles to find a better life with the objective of creating mayhem. I have never heard of any personal violence being done by them. My hunch is that the stories of "Railroad Killers" may have been designed by the tellers to shorten the adventure of the writer. Actually when I saw the warning paragraph, I fully expected it to be in regard to rattlesnakes, scorpions, tarantulas and cenipedes, - not two-legged threats! Thank you for your attention. Nellieanna Holdeman Hay, September 03, 2004

  • I'm one of Pumpville's former residents. In 1963, I was 9 years old and was in 3rd grade. My family got stuck in Pumpville and the three kids were bussed to a two-room schoolhouse in Langtry.

    In 1963, the town had around 50 residents, the old crank phones actually worked, and there was a post-office/general store with an old gas pump with the glass bowl on top (alas, it didn't work even then). When we moved there (due to car trouble), we lived in the not-even-then-used schoolhouse behind the old Baptist church. Soon, a house became available complete with some broken-down cars, an outhouse, and even a real hand pump outside for water. We used kerosene lamps for lighting, as well.

    Since moving from Pumpville, I've visited it thrice; once in 1982, once again in 2000, and a third time in 2002 with a friend.

    When I visited in 1982, the church was closed with many of the windows either broken out or boarded up. There was one double-wide mobile set up in a lot adjacent to the old general store. The old schoolhouse behind the church was in similar condition (actually I do remember that there were two small buildings. not just one). The general store was closed and in a sorry state. When visiting there in 2000, the general store looked like a tornado had hit it. I explored a bit and saw evidence of where the phone company and post office had been. The trailer was gone, but lo...the church had been totally remodeled, a surprise since there seemed to be nobody in the area to attend it. I'm guessing people living in nearby Langtry, a small town with a LOT of history, notably the "Jersey Lilly" saloon and more in the fantastic tourist information center, would likely be attendees. In 2002, it was in similar condition. Incidentally, the old two-room schoolhouse in Langtry was still standing in 2002, but was closed down. I'm sure nothing has changed. I even saw the old merry-go-round in the former playground. Amazing. - Gil Davis, May 31, 2004

    Readers' Warnings
  • On 6/1/02, on the way to Langtry, we stopped to visit Pumpville having just read about it on your website. I would like to pass along a word of warning to others who might be interested in "poking" around old railroad ghost towns ... be extremely careful!

    Be aware of the possibility of encountering illegal immigrants. These sometimes desperate fellows ride the rails that pass through these towns, unaware that the nearest highway may be miles away. [After encountering a group of men] and with stories of the recent "Railroad Killer" still fresh in our minds, we cut our adventure in Pumpville short. - Ralph Kepp, Horizon City, Texas, June 2, 2002
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