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via Weatherford and Mineral Wells
Visiting a Ghost Town: Thurber

by John Troesser


Parker County, Central Texas North

32° 45' 33" N, 97° 47' 6" W (32.759167, -97.785)

At the intersection of US Hwy 180 & 80.
Interstate 20
FM 920, 2421, 51, 1884, and State Hwy 171
30 miles W of Fort Worth
57 miles W of Dallas
ZIP codes 76085-76088
Area code 817
Population: 30,854 (2020)
25,250 (2010) 19,000 (2000) 14,804 (1990)

Book Hotel Here › Weatherford Hotels

Back in the 19th Century, the Texas legislature passed a law stating that an effort should be made to place the county seat of each county to within five miles of the geographic center of the county. Well, evidently the people of Weatherford took this as a challenge. Not only is their town in the center of their county but their courthouse is built over the exact center.

I find this very impressive, but during our visit not one person called this to our attention. But just because they don't brag about it doesn't mean they aren't proud. They know! Like a lot of other things in Weatherford, it's understated. Like when they mention "elegance unexpected on the edge of the Texas frontier". An understatement.

Weatherford, Texas - Santa Fe Depot
Weatherford’s Restored Santa Fe Depot
Photo Courtesy Lou Ann Herda, 2002

The Weatherford Chamber of Commerce and Visitors' Center is located in the restored Santa Fe Depot two blocks east of the courthouse at: 401 Fort Worth Street, 817-596-3801

Contact them for an impressive collection of brochures, both informative and entertaining. There's one for the historic driving tour featuring 59 historic buildings, another for the cemetery tour, one for events and attractions, one each for lodging and dining and even one provided by the Antique Dealers Association directing you to their members.

Weatherford Hotels

Weatherford TX - Parker County Courthouse
Parker County Courthouse
Photo Courtesy Terry Jeanson, October 2005

Parker County Courthouse in Weatherford

Built in 1885 and designed by Dodson and Dudley, the courthouse has recently been beautifully restored. And did I mention it's exactly in the center of the county? You may see a few of the bumper stickers from last year which say, "Welcome to Weatherford, please don't drive into our beautifully restored Courthouse".

Unique also is its absence of a lawn. Old timers will tell you it was removed so they could expand the cemetery and others swear it is a clever way to reduce the population of lawyers. Whatever the reason, one can drive close enough to eavesdrop on the more interesting trials.

Weatherford, Texas Attractions

  • Chandor Gardens
    There is more understated elegance in the recently reopened Chandor Gardens. Four acres inside the city at 710 West Simmons. Open Mid-March through Mid-November, they wisely close during August. Group tours are by reservation only. Call 817-613-1700. Tickets are also available at the Chamber of Commerce.

  • Stagecoach Factory
    Since Weatherford was near the Butterfield Stage Line and had its own line to Fort Griffin, it's appropriate that the only existing stagecoach factory (they will make an occasional chariot) should be here. Mr. Brown the owner and craftsman recently filled an order of five for a movie studio and one of his models is featured in the movie Maverick. Charles Goodnight is credited with inventing the chuckwagon for his trail drives and Mr. Brown has built these too, one of which appears in the annual Parker County Frontier Days Celebration Livestock Show and Rodeo.

  • Weatherford Events

  • For shopping enthusiasts, Weatherford features First Monday Trade Days taking place Friday, Saturday, preceding the first Monday of each month.

  • Parker County Peach Festival
    Named by the Texas Legislature as "Peach Capital of Texas", the festival attracts over 25,000 people annually. It takes place the second Saturday in July on the square around the courthouse. Definitely a family affair.

  • Parker County Frontier Days Celebration Livestock Show and Rodeo draws crowds Wednesday through Saturday first full week in June.

  • Weatherford Hotels › Book Here

  • Weatherford History
    History - It's hard to get away from it in Weatherford. After putting five cents in the meter for one hour of parking, we walked into the Downtown Café and there it was on the walls – history! Sepia photographs of Weatherford's past. Peaches as big as grapefruit! Watermelons as big as Yugos! 

    Courthouses in the geographic center of the county! Even some of the customers looked historic. The food was a little slow in coming, so we went next door where I had seen a rack of old postcards through the window. Well, it wasn't an antique store but a Butane company, and proceeds from the postcard sales go to the Abandoned Cemetery Association. There are over forty abandoned cemeteries in Parker County.

    On the west wall are about twenty framed photographs of the Courthouse. Big ones, little ones, courthouse with snow, courthouse without snow, courthouse with circled wagons, courthouse circled by Model T's. An aerial view too. I think the only missing view was a subterranean one of the foundation.

    On the east wall more history. The only photograph extant of Boze Ikard, the character portrayed by Danny Glover in the movie Lonesome Dove. This photo was only recently discovered (after the book was written and the movie made). Both Ikard and Oliver Loving are buried in Weatherford's Greenwood Cemetery.

    By the way, if you have a beef with Larry McMurtry about the story you might want to drive up to Archer City about 97 miles northwest and discuss it with him. Archer City has a nice 1892 Sandstone Courthouse, but it's a few miles off-center. Since Mr. McMurtry seems intent on filling every building in Archer City with books, it might be a good idea to visit soon, before he gets to the courthouse.

    Weatherford Mineral Wells and Northwest Railway
    You may want to take advantage of Weatherford's bargain parking meters and walk to Mineral Wells.

    Well, it's possible. For those of you not familiar with Rails to Trails, it's a program to convert abandoned or unused rail lines to bike, equestrian and/or hiking trails. An excellent way to travel leisurely cross-country without encroaching on private property. Weatherford and Mineral Wells are connected by the roadbed of the old Weatherford Mineral Wells and Northwest Railway, once known as the Water, More Water and No Whiskey Railroad. It's 22 miles to downtown Mineral Wells, with Comfort Stations conveniently spaced along the way.

    Weatherford Chronicles

  • Joe B. Frantz on Small Towns
    From the Foreword to Eighter from Decaur: Growing Up in North Texas
    by Jim Tom Barton, Texas A&M University Press, 1980

  • Tragedy Over Weatherford - The 1945 night-time collision of two B-29 Superfortress Bombers by Bob Hopkins


    Part I - Weatherford ›
    Part II - Mineral Wells
    Part III - Palo Pinto
    Part V - Thurber
    Possum Kingdom Lake

    Parker and Palo Pinto CountiesCounty map

    Trip Part II - Mineral Wells › next page

    First published April, 1998
    © John Troesser

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