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Reeves County TX
Reeves County

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Texas Ghost Town
Reeves County, West Texas

31°18'48"N 103°47'35"W (31.313312, -103.793000)
Interstate 20, U.S. 80, and FM 2903
About 15 miles W of Pecos the county seat
23 miles N of Balmorhea
About 40 Miles NE of Kent
Population: 90 (2010) 100 (2000) 115 (1990)

Toyah Area HotelsPecos Hotels
Toyah Texas road to Schoolhouse
"And even the bare-worn common is denied."
Stephen Michaels
Toyah Revisited

Captions from Oliver Goldsmith’s poem
"The Deserted Village"

“Even now the devastation is begun,
And half the business of destruction done;
Even now, methinks, as pondering here I stand,
I see the rural virtues leave the land…”

Toyah, Texas Topics:

The Toyah Experience
  • Toyah Revisited - "capturing the story"
    Photos by Stephen Michaels.
    Captions "The Deserted Village" by Oliver Goldsmith
  • Jason Penney's 2000 Observations next page

    Toyah Chronicles

  • History in a Pecan Shell
  • Mesquite Thorn next page
  • Toyah Letters next page
  • Toyah Churches next page
  • Toyah Forum next page

    Toyah Old News
  • Ignacy Paderewski and Amelia Earhart in Toyah next page
  • Train wreck near Toyah on New Year's Day 1947 next page

  • Toyah Revisited

    "I guess it is more about capturing the story rather than the physical buildings.” Stephen Michaels - Photographer
    Stephen Michaels on Toyah:
    "Toyah now has a very different look than 2000. The images I’m sending now show only Toyah's past. Amazingly, it still has a story to tell. The truckstop is still there (where I parked) but it looks like it has been vacant for a good while.
    Toyah Grill sign
    The "Toyah Grill" sign looks decent, but I could not tell what building it belonged to. The Toyah post office, well, I’m not sure they still have one. There is a building with a mailbox in front, and a few PO boxes inside....but no sign, no flag, nothing that says it is an active post office.

    I wish I had looked at Texas Escapes coverage of Toyah before I visited the town so I could have taken better perspective shots. I know I stood on the corner where the hotel would have been.

    TE’s mention of the bank being destroyed by a tornado in 2004 is correct. All that remains today is a lonely free-standing wall. The hotel, mercantile, etc. are completely erased from the block.

    The bank is now just a pile of bricks and debris. The front was overgrown with weeds and trash cement.
    Toyah Texas ruins
    "No more the farmer's news, the barber's tale…"
    Toyah Texas rusted car
    “O luxury! thou cursed by Heaven's decree,
    How ill exchanged are things like these for thee!”
    There was an old car parked right at what was most likely the corner of the building. I had to shoot the car very tight to try and keep the "trash" out of the image. At the west corner of the building there stands a section of wall with stairs and a window. I took that shot and it shows all that is left of Main street. The street signs are still in place, but for several blocks there is nothing but empty lots and weeds.
    Toyah Texas street ruins
    I did notice an old sign in the rubble that read "Historic bricks 4 sale. $1.50, your choice." I wonder if there were any buyers. Even if you had wanted to buy them, who would you have given the money to?
    Corsicana brick in Toyah Texas
    An East Texas brick finds its way to West Texas
    I did take a few house images...all vacant now of course. There was one church that was vacant, and another had a few cars out front. One building said "Toyah City Hall" but even that building had its lamp posts torn up out of the ground and laying in front. I highly doubt that that building has been used for any purpose recently. The fire department looked the same.
    Toyah Texas fire engine and deserted street
    I found three Volunteer fire trucks scattered about the town, parked next to hydrants, but they had not been registered since 2004.

    On the outskirts of town I did see a few houses that could still be habitable. During my hour long walkabout, I only saw one pickup truck go speeding down a dirt road off into the distance.

    Even Mesquite Thorn,Texas is closed off.

    The images I took show Toyah as it WAS in its day. The roads are lonely now. Even Main Street is "gone." But I do feel I captured spirit of Toyah. After all, that is what Texas Escapes was designed to show. If we are lucky we can catch a few buildings to show as examples of what had been, but for cases like this, we are left with a few images that can only capture the mist of a town before it is totally gone.

    I have to admit, it was painful to photograph this town. I got stung by a bee, backed into a mesquite branch, kneeled down on a thorn pile, hit my head on the school’s swing set, and almost stepped on a snake. This may be one of the reasons Toyah is vacant." – Stephen Michaels, August 10, 2008
    Toyah Texas school and swings
    “Good Heaven! what sorrows gloomed that parting day
    That called them from their native walks away…”
    Toyah Texas cemetery and school
    Toyah Texas cemetery tombstone
    "The country blooms—a garden, and a grave."
    Toyah Texas cemetery iron gate
    Toyah Texas cemetery iron fence and  McClane tombstone
    Toyah Texas cemetery Richard McClane
    Toyah Texas cemetery wood tombstones
    Toyah Texas cemetery family plot
    Toyah Texas cemetery Koen tombstone
    Toyah Texas High School
    "…where birds forget to sing,
    but silent bats in drowsy clusters cling…"
    Toyah Texas High School front steps
    "No busy steps the grass-grown footway tread,
    for all the bloomy flush of life is fled…"
    Toyah Texas cactus garden
    "Where at each step the stranger fears to wake
    the rattling terrors of the vengeful snake…"
    Toyah Texas railroad tracks
    "While oft in whirls the mad tornado flies,
    mingling the ravaged landscape with the skies."
    Toyah Texas Highway and vegetation
    “…self-dependent power can time defy,
    as rocks resist the billows and the sky.”
    - The Deserted Village by Oliver Goldsmith

    Photos copyright Stephen Michaels

    More on Toyah, Texas

  • Toyah - History in a Pecan Shell
  • Jason Penney's 2000 Observations next page
  • Letters & Photos by Former Toyans next page
  • Toyah Churches next page
  • Mesquite Thorn next page
  • Toyah Old News
  • Ignacy Paderewski and Amelia Earhart in Toyah next page
  • Train wreck near Toyah on New Year's Day 1947 next page

  • Toyah History in a Pecan Shell
    The name Toyah is said to have come from an Indian word meaning “flowing water.” Several artesian springs found here, may have inspired the name. Toyah is Reeves County’s oldest townsite and began as a trading post and gathering spot for the owners and employees of the large ranches that surrounded the site. Prior to the arrival of the Texas and Pacific railroad, storekeeper W. T. Youngblood peddled his wares to the ranches before building an adobe store here. In its first few years, if Toyah wasn’t actually one of the earth’s ends, you could’ve probably seen one of them from Toyah. The arrival of the railroad changed things drastically. The railroad arrived, a post office opened and the town was included on the Overland Stage Co. (service to Ft. Davis and Fort Stockton) – all in 1881.

    By the mid 1880s the town had a sizeable hotel to complement the saloons and restaurants that were operating. It wasn’t until 1894 when the town opened its first school. By 1910 the town reported a population of 771 and its importance as a railroad stop increased. It became a changing point for railroad crews and hosted a busy spur for shipping cattle. But nothing lasts forever and after a few years, a new shipping point named Toyahvale was built – adding insult to injury by including the first town’s name in theirs.

    Toyah’s residents numbered nearly 1,100 by 1914. It maintained that number up through the crash of ‘29. Two years later Toyah’s population was reduced by nearly half. With 553 people serviced by 17 businesses, Toyah remained a respectable rival to the county seat of Pecos. At its high-water mark Toyah had four stores, two banks, four churches, and two rival hotels.

    By 1940s the town had declined to 464 and by the 1950s it was hovering just over 400.

    Another decline brought it to less than 200 in the 1970s, but it increased to nearly 300 for the 1980 census. The 1980s saw another decline, dropping to 142 by 1990 and to 100 for the 2000 census.

    HISTORICAL MARKER: (IH-20 & FM 2903)

    Began as division point, 1881, on T. & P. Railway, with shops, roundhouse, hotel, cafe. Water was hauled from Monahans and sold by the barrel. Stage took passengers and mail to Brogado. 1882 cattle shipping brought cowboy-detective Charles Siringo here to look for rustlers.
    Toyah Tx - Sulphur Well Natural Gas 1909
    Sulphur Well Natural Gas in Toyah 1909
    Postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/
    Editor’s Note: We were first introduced to Toyah, by photographer Jason Penney in 2000. Toyah was one of our first ghost towns, and due to the limited capabilities of the Internet at that time, we were prevented from doing Mr. Penney’s photos justice. Although they appeared as mere thumbnails, their presence gave former Toyahans an opportunity to share their memories via email. Through the letters received, we learned Toyah’s history which is a lot like many small Texas towns - only more so. A fatal train wreck, the 19th Century killing of a fugitive from Pecos, the Chinese basement school, the filming of a movie and the poignant establishment of the memorial “town” of Mesquite Thorn. For its size and its minimal contact with the outside world, Toyah produced a substantial and well-written history that was once sold at the (now defunct) truck stop. When a flash flood hit the town in 2004, we were notified of the incident within hours. When a company moved out of town, we were sent the happy news that the pressure of several local artesian springs improved. We were under the happy impression that Toyah was on the road to recovery. Although no staff members had ever visited the town, we considered Toyah our “mascot” for several years before bestowing that honor to Medicine Mound. We would’ve happily remained ignorant of Toyah’s continued decline but in early August of 2008, Stephen Michaels, photographer, trucker and webmaster of www.BigRigTravels.com spent an hour touring Toyah and recorded the images you see here.

    Today Toyah is truly a “deserted village” and so, for captions, we chose lines from Oliver Goldsmith’s poem about the lure of wealth and the ruin of rural life. – Editor
    Toyah, Texas 2012
  • Subject: Toyah
    We visited Toyah on August 2, 2012 and took the following photos. The town seems to be going through a boom at this time. We notice a new house built northwest of town and signs routing trucks around the town. It seems the oil boom is helping this little community survive a little longer. There were numerous “No Trespassing” signs on buildings. The Ford Pinto still runs, hope they got the recall notice. - David Tullos, August 23, 2012
  • Toyah TX High School Building in 2012
    Toyah High School Building
    Photo courtesy David Tullo, August 2012
    Toyah TX Ruins 2012
    Toyah Ruins
    Photo courtesy David Tullo, August 2012
  • Subject: Toyah, Texas
    I traveled thru Toyah around 2004. I stopped there and observed the R R water tower & Plaque near the downtown R R x-ing. I'm surprised someone hasn't mentioned these facts. Your website is very good. - T W McCardle, May 20, 2015

  • Subject: More info about Toyah, Texas
    I just found your great pictorial essay about the Texas Ghost Town in Reeves County, West Texas, and have some interesting information to add to it. My husband's great-uncle, Frank W. DeJarnette was a Texas Ranger assigned to the area in 1885. J.T. Morris was the first sheriff of Reeves County and was involved in a dispute with the Rangers because they wouldn't loan him a pair of mules. On the evening of August 18, 1885 a drunk Sheriff Morris took the train from Pecos to Toyah and was quoted as saying, "I run Pecos and damned if I don't run Toyah." As he grew drunker and more abusive, citizens notified the rangers. Ranger Captain Gillespie sent Ranger DeJarnette with orders for Ranger Sergeant Cartwright to arrest the sheriff and hold him until he sobered up. Cartwright, Corporal Hughes, and Privates DeJarnette and T.P. Nigh found Morris in The Favorite Saloon, mean drunk and waving his six-shooter around. In the shootout that followed, Sheriff Morris killed Private) Nigh and was himself killed by the other Rangers."
  • We came across this account in TEXAS RANGER TALES: STORIES THAT NEED TELLING by Mike Cox (Copyright 1997, Republic of Texas Press-an imprint of Wordware Publishing, Inc. p.186-188.) We were researching Frank W. DeJarnette because my husband inherited his old Colt 45 and a handwritten document detailing his arrest for murder along with Rangers Cartwright and Hughes. My husband contacted a clerk in the Reeves County Courthouse who obligingly went into the basement and found a follow up to our information. The Rangers were all "no-billed" and their $500 bond returned to them. When we visited the Pecos Museum several years ago, we were disappointed to find that they had nothing about this event. We told a docent about it, but she didn't seem particularly interested, so don't know if they followed up. We plan to visit the area again next month. Hope you find this useful. - Vanda M. Powers (Mrs. William S. Powers), August 23, 2012

    Toyah Update: 7-26-10
    Groovers ’71
    http://vimeo.com/13484898 > A film by Robert Hunt

    From our introduction to Toyah by photographer Jason Penney in 2000, to the 2008 visit by Stephen Michaels, the town of Toyah has firmly implanted itself as our mascot community.

    In the last 12 years we have seen how, over time, a town can be reclaimed by nature; even while the underlying spirit remains strong. It took 10 years before we got to visit the town, but now, thanks to the extraordinary art of Robert Hunt, you can make the trip whenever you’d like.
    - Editor

    Reeves County TX 1920 Map
    Reeves County 1920s map showing Toyah
    SW of Pecos
    From Texas state map #10749
    Courtesy Texas General Land Office

    Take a road trip

    Toyah, Texas Nearby Towns:
    Pecos the county seat
    Balmorhea | Kent
    See Reeves County

    West Texas

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