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
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.
you see this sign, you'll know you're close to Pumpville
TE photo, August 2000
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
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,
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
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
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
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
in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing Texas,
asks that anyone wishing to share their local history and vintage/historic
photos, please contact