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Runnels County TX
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Texas Ghost Towns

Eighteen Ghost Towns
of Runnels County

by Alton O'Neil Jr.

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Editor's Note:
We received "Ghost Towns of Runnels County" as an e-mail in 2004 from its author Alton O'Neil Jr. Mr. O'Neil asked if would include its contents with our town coverage.

Mr. O'Neil's opus has been published in Runnels County and bears the following dedication:
"This booklet is dedicated to the memory of RANKIN PACE. He is the person who got me started on ghost towns at one of the Runnels County Historical meetings we had at Nancy Parkerís cabin near Content."

Runnels County Texas 1907 map
1907 Runnels County map showing 12 of the 18 ghost towns
Postal map courtesy of Texas General Land Office

The ghost towns included are (in alphabetical order):
Benoit aka Norwood, Blue Gap, Content aka Tokeen, Crews, Drasco, Hatchel, Marie, Maverick, Norton, Olfin, Oxien, Picketville, Pumphrey, Runnels City, Truitt, Valley View, Walthall, and Wilmeth aka Mazeland.

1. Benoit / Norwood, Texas

Benoit was on U.S. Highway 67 and the Santa Fe Railroad twelve miles northeast of Ballinger in east central Runnels County. The community was started in 1886 and named Norwood, but with the establishment of a local post office in March 29, 1906 it was renamed for J. Benoit, an early settler. The first postmaster was W. F. Hill who opened the first store in 1912 and was the last postmaster. At its peak Benoit had two stores, a gin, a blacksmith shop, and a one-room schoolhouse. The store changed hands several times and was owned by a Mr. Nutt when the highway was built; it came up to the stores doorstep. Mr Nutt sold the store to the highway department and the store was razed to make way for the highway. The population was 100 in 1940, but by 1950 the settlement had disappeared.

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2. Blue Gap, Texas

Blue Gap was near the Coleman county line twenty-five miles northeast of Ballinger in extreme northeastern Runnels County. A log post office, established there in February 1878 with James K. Paulk as postmaster, was the first in the county; it was, in fact, founded before the county was organized in 1880. The townsite was named for a pass through nearby Table Mountain. For a brief period Blue Gap was a stop on the Round Rock-Buffalo Gap stage line. The community was short-lived, however, and its post office was discontinued in March 1881. The old post office building was restored in the 1960s, and a Texas Historical Commission marker was dedicated at the site in 1966.

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3. Content aka Tokeen, Texas

Content, near Ranch Road 382 fourteen miles northeast of Winters in northeastern Runnels County, was founded by storekeeper Daniel W. Hale in 1881 and named by him "for the contentment of this valley." Hale became the first postmaster in 1882. Content had a school in 1882 and a hotel in 1888. At some time it had several stores, two gins, a lime kiln, and a blacksmith shop. In 1890 Content was the county's second largest town, with 200 people. The post office name was changed to Tokeen in 1905. The Santa Fe Railroad extension missed Content in 1909, and most residents moved to Goldsboro. The post office was closed in 1916, and after that the name was changed back to Content. The settlement had a population of twenty-five in 1940 and 1960. In 1970 there were only three houses left.

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4. Crews, Texas

Crews, Texas is located at the junction of Farm roads 53 and 382 in northeastern Runnels County. Various names were suggested for the town when the post office was established in 1892. One of the more popular names was Tillery, in honor of Richard Tillery a local sheepherder and fiddler who had a beard over five feet long. After some debate the name chosen for the town would be Crews for C. R. Crews, a Ballinger businessman. In 1892 J. D. Wise and a Mr. Broughton established a post office and store in Crews, with Wise as postmaster. The first school was held in the home of Betty Craig Sims. In addition to being the school teacher, she also rode to Glen Cove to get the mail. In 1888 a school was built a mile northeast of Crews. It had a dirt floor and split log benches and was referred to as the Pig Pen. A Mr. Dan Fannin was teacher. A frame building was built nearer town in 1890 and was called Lone Star. The Reverend Lockhart was the teacher there. In 1905 the school was move to Crews and it consisted of two rooms. A four-room brick school took its place in 1922. In 1930 the Dietrz school was consolidated with Crews and seven teachers were employed. A gymnasium was erected in 1940. The school was consolidated with others in 1948. Crews had many doctor through the years. The ones most popular were Dr. F.M. Hale, Dr. C.A. Watson and Dr. R.E.Burrus. In 1907 Dr Hale started a telephone system with the switchboard at his home and his wife as operator. At one time Crews had eleven business firms and two churches. The Methodist church was organized in 1890 and the Baptist in 1894. In 1922 the community's post office closed. Crews had one business and 150 residents in 1940. The Baptist church disbanded in 1968. In 1970 the Methodist church was all that remained of Crews.

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5. Drasco, Texas

Drasco, in north central Runnels County, was once called County Line because of its proximity to the Taylor county line. The community had to change its name when it got a post office because there was another place by that name in Texas. After other names were turned down also, a name composed of letters taken from the various names submitted by residents was formed. This name was Drasco. The post office was granted in 1909, but was discontinued in 1911. A school was started in 1903. In February of 1903 a Union Sunday School, composed of Methodists and Baptists. The Methodists organized in 1904 and built their first church in 1912. The Baptist organized November of 1907. They built their first building in 1908. As of today both these churches have been disbanded. The population of Drasco reportedly never exceeded thirty. By 1940 it had a population of fifteen and one store. The 1982 county highway map showed two churches and several businesses at Drasco, which was still listed as a community in 1990.

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6. Hatchel, Texas

Hatchel, on U.S. Highway 83 in central Runnels County, was originally named Vogelsang for Otto Vogelsang, a local settler. With the establishment of a post office in 1904, it was named for E. W. Hatchel, a storekeeper and the community's first postmaster. The Abilene and Southern Railway reached Hatchel in 1909, and soon the community comprised more than eight businesses, including a depot, cattle pens, and a gin. The first school was built one mile north of Hatchel and was called Bowman. Sometime after 1920 a two-story rock school building was erected east of the railroad near downtown Hatchel. A Baptist church was also erected near the school. The town declined, and by the 1970s it had lost its post office. The population of Hatchel was reported as fifty in 1940 and as sixteen in 1980 and 1990.

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7. Marie, Texas

Marie, in west central Runnels County on a county road just south of Farm Road 384, was named for the wife of Walter (Buck) Gentry, a local landowner, when a post office was established there in 1906. Walter C. Bass was the storekeeper and first postmaster. A gin was built in 1904 and operated until 1916. A school started at Marie in 1901. A Woodman Hall was built above the School. The building was also used by the churches. A Baptist Church was organized in 1903 and later a Methodist church was started when the Baptist dissolved in 1916. In 1916 a new two-teacher school was built; it was moved to Bronte in 1938. The post office was discontinued June 14, 1941. Around 1940 Marie had a population of twenty and one store. The rock store building and several foundations are still standing. In the last few years the store has been redone and is being lived in. Also a new home has been built on the old townsite.

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8. Maverick, Texas

Maverick, on State Highway 158 in western Runnels County, was named for Samuel Augustus Maverick, who owned land in the area. The post office was established in postmaster Marion Cobb's store in 1883. Later the community was moved a mile east. A school was started for Maverick residents in 1889. It was moved to Norton in 1937. At its peak Maverick had three stores, three churches, two gas stations, a barbershop, a Woodmen of the World hall, and three churches. In 1940 its population was sixty-nine. In 1980 the town had thirty-one residents, several homes, an abandoned church, a schoolhouse, and a store. The population remained the same in 1990.

* * * * *

9. Norton, Texas

Norton, on Farm Road 383 in west central Runnels County, was named for George W. Norton, who owned the townsite land. The post office opened in 1894 with Marion A. Wilkerson as postmaster. The first houses were built in 1901, and in 1902 the post office was moved. A school began operation in 1901, as did the first store, built by Robert Turner. Businesses included a gin and a bank which operated from 1923 to 1930. In 1912 a cyclone killed one resident and damaged buildings, and in 1929 a fire caused extensive property damage. At one time Norton had four different churches; a Baptist, a Methodist, a Church of Christ, and a Presbyterian. In 1968 the Norton School burned and the high school students were sent to surrounding schools. The elementary school was rebuilt but has since been closed. As of 2004 the Post Office remains open. Norton has remained a small town serving the surrounding rural area. Until the 1930s its population did not exceed fifty. In 1940 the town had a population of 120 and five businesses. The population was seventy-six in 1980 and in 1990.

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10. Olfen, Texas

Olfen, ten miles north of the confluence of the Colorado and Concho rivers in Runnels County, is a German Catholic community. In the early 1890s German Catholics who had immigrated to Colorado, Fayette, and other counties in Southeast Texas from 1846 to 1890 looked toward West Texas for farmland, a healthy climate, and a place to establish a Catholic environment. By the 1890s the railroad had built as far as Ballinger on the Colorado River. Bernard Matthiesen, from Ellinger in Fayette County, went by train to Ballinger in June 1891 and again in October 1891 by horse and wagon to look for farmland. In 1893 he bought land and moved his wife Elizabeth (Hoelscher) and family to what is now Olfen. In 1901 Matthiesen and Willy Glass wrote to Bishop John Anthony Forest in San Antonio and obtained permission to build a school, to be used also as a church. Father Frank Maas was the first pastor. The community was first called Fussy Creek, then Maas, and finally Olfen, after Olfen in Westphalia. The first mass in the church-school was the wedding mass of Bernard Niehues and Amalia Matthiesen. The new bride, given the privilege of naming the church, chose the name St. Boniface, for a popular German saint. The community grew quickly. In 1909 Father Frank Garmann, who had succeeded Father Maas, built a new church. In 1921 a group of men from outside Olfen, whipped up by the anti-German sentiment during and after World War I, took Father Joseph Meiser from the rectory, intending to tar and feather him. Unknown to them the housekeeper, who had managed to conceal herself, telephoned parishioners, and within minutes a caravan of cars was in pursuit. The men, seeing them, pounded on Father Meiser and shoved him out of the car, giving up the plan to tar and feather him. The 1909 church burned to the ground on January 15, 1922. The people immediately got to work and in ten months built a large and beautiful Romanesque church, dedicated on November 16, 1922. The community was still listed in 1990.

* * * * *

11. Oxien, Texas

In 1900, the heirs of John Harris of Galveston offered for lease a league of land in the southeast part of Runnels County. This area was to become known as the Oxien Community. On July 27, 1905 a post office was opened with W.W. McKissack as postmaster. The mail was brought from Talpa three times a week at first; when the town grew the mail was brought daily. At one time Oxien consisted of a cotton gin, a general store with post office, a telephone switchboard, and a filling station. In later years an another store and filling station were opened. Oxienís school was built in 1909. In 1913 the Oxien school and the Dietz school consolidated. The combined school was relocated on the Jarm Morrison place. In 1920 a larger building was erected. After this the school was know as the Dietz School District No 31. In 1930 this school was consolidated with Crews. In the early days church was held in the school house. In 1924 the Baptist Church was organized and a building built. It disbanded in 1937. The post office closed in 1913. The town site is marked with a few brick and rock foundations.

* * * * *

12. Picketville, Texas

First civilian settlement in Runnels County. Founded 1862 by frontiersmen whose picket houses and corrals gave place its name. It was located near the mouth of Elm Creek in the vicinity of present day Ballinger. Original settlers included Mr. and Mrs. John W. Guest and three sons; Henry and R. K. Wylie, their cowboys and Negro servant; Mrs. Felicia Gordon and five sons. In 1862, "Rich" Coffey's family also moved here. Indian hostilities of Civil War years (1861-65) caused these ranchers to band together for protection. In 1866, they left with cattle for open range. Their picket corrals later penned the trail herds of John Hittson, John and Joseph Henderson, and others.

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13. Pumphrey, Texas

Pumphrey is located in north central Runnels County on Farm Road 1677, ten miles northwest of Winters. It was settled in the 1890s and was originally called New Hope. It had a school in 1900 which grew to a four room concrete building by 1949, when all classed were transferred to Winters. The town was granted a post office on October 4, 1901 and the name changed from New Hope to Pumphrey for a local man, either W. M. Pumphrey or Lewis Pumphrey. At the peak of its prosperity Pumphrey had two general stores, a drugstore, a barbershop, a gin, and two blacksmiths. The Baptist organized on March 3, 1901. The services were held in the Schoolhouse until a building was erected in 1903. It was first called The New Hope Baptist Church, but the name was changed in 1926 to Pumphrey Baptist Church. The Methodist Church was organized on March 17, 1901. It served the community until it closed in 1954. The last store closed in 1950, and there were only nine residents in 1970. The town did not show any population in the 1980s.

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14. Runnels City, Texas

Runnels City, or Old Runnels, is a ghost town five miles north of Ballinger in Runnels County. It was designated the county seat when the county was organized in 1880. Its population was 250 in 1882, but the Santa Fe Railroad bypassed the town in 1886. When the railroad offered residents building sites and a general relocation of buildings in Ballinger, people in Runnels City accepted, and in 1887 Ballinger became the county seat. By 1947 a rock hut and a ruined two-story rock building were the only remnants of Runnels City.

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15. Truitt, Texas

Truitt was located ten miles east of Winters off Highway 1770. The town was named for the baby son of one the merchants, Truitt Billups. A post office was acquired March 21, 1904, with the appointment of John L. Golden. John Goldenís store was on the east side of the one street running north and south, and the Billups General Mercantile was on the west. The mail was delivered from Winters by John Brown the son of the justice of the peace. The post office was closed in 1912. Doctors Ash and Pool had their offices in the Branham drugstore. A Dr. Watson came in 1909 but moved to Crews two years later. A Telephone system was installed in 1904, with the office in the Billups store. There was also a hardware store and blacksmith shop on the east side of the street.

Arthur Nichols started a gin and store in 1906. School was in a one room building, but with two teachers. It was consolidated with the Meadows School in 1915. Elmer Burke the Baptist minister held services at the schoolhouse. At one time there were eleven dwellings in Truitt. When the railroad was laid through Winters instead of Truitt, the town was doomed. All the buildings were moved away the next few years and there is nothing to show were Truitt was located except the cemetery.

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16. Valley View, Texas

Valley View is a community at the intersection of State Highway 158 and Farm Road 2111, six miles northwest of Ballinger in Runnels County. The Pearce School was built in the area in 1887, but the community name Valley View originated when a Baptist church by that name organized in the school in 1908. A schoolhouse was built nearby the next year and called Valley View. The Pearce and Valley View schools merged in 1920 to establish Hagen School, named after the first superintendent. The school was destroyed two different times. In 1922 by a cyclone and in 1932 by a fire. It was rebuilt each time. In 1942 it was moved near the highway and in 1948 the building was moved to Ballinger. Local resident J. A. Patterson helped bring about the moving of a Runnels City church building to Valley View about 1917. This church consolidated with the Barnett Church in 1946 under the name Valley View. The 1980 county highway map indicated one business and a church at the townsite. Nowadays all that remains is empty buildings and a few memories.

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17. Walthall, Texas

A stage line connecting Camp Colorado in Coleman County with Fort Concho in Tom Green County had a station at the crossing of the Colorado River, four miles southeast of present Ballinger. A settlement grew up here which at first consisted of one store, a house, and a dugout. Later a school was built across the river. The settlement acquired the name of Walthall. Nathaniel T. Guest, who had settled at the site in 1869, built the first wood house in 1876. A post office was established on June 6, 1877 with William G. Hightower as the fist postmaster; he also ran the general store. The Walthall Methodist Church was organized in the Archibald Beniah Hutchison home in 1879. The Colorado Baptist Church was organized on December 29, 1878. The latter group worshipped in the Walthall schoolhouse with the Rev. J. T. Averetta being the first pastor. In 1879 Rev. Thomas Wadlington Cotton was chosen pastor and remained with the church until 1884. On January 12, 1880 a petition was signed by 158 qualified voters of the area to organize a new county. On January 12, 1880 the Coleman County Commissioners Court approved the petition, sectioned the new Runnels County into four precincts, and ordered an election of county officials to be held on February 16, 1880. The first commissioners were William Moses Guest, W. G. Preston, P. M. Pemberton and P. S. Turner , with W. W.Copeland as clerk. Sylvester Adams was made county judge; John McEwen Formwalt was made the first sheriff; and Jacob Benjamin Cotten was made the tax assessor-collector.

The Commissioners Court met for the first time on March 10, 1880 and selected Walthall as the temporary county seat with the home of Rev. Thomas Wadlington Cotton as a temporary courthouse. Later, an election on April 14, 1880 made Runnels City the new county seat. The first schoolmaster at Walthall was John Nichols Winters. The last postmaster was Nathaniel T. Guest who closed the office in 1881. When Camp Colorado was closed, there was no need for the telegraph station and Walthall declined. In a few years it was a ghost town. All that remains today is the cemetery.

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18. Wilmeth / Mazeland, Texas

Mazeland, named for the maize that grew in the area, was founded on May 25, 1903, when a store and post office was opened on the Hutchison Ranch with Mrs Hutchison as postmistress. A school was erected in 1904, on land donated by M.T. Hensley, a mile and a half northeast of Mazeland.

In 1910 a two-story building was erected and more teachers employed. In 1915 the building was remodeled again. At one time there was a church, and a community auditorium at the school. The school consolidated with Winters in 1947. By 1906 settlement in the area had shifted to a mile east of the school house. This section was named after a popular Ballinger banker, Jo Wilmeth. Joel Smith and his wife started a store in Wilmeth. Housewives would bring the mail from Mazeland and leave it at the store. Mrs Smith saw the need for a post office in Wilmeth and became postmistress when one was opened in April 1, 1907. Richard Nash bought the Mazeland store in 1907 and became postmaster in of Mazeland.

The following year he moved the store and post office to Wilmeth. Both post offices closed in 1909. At one time Wilmeth had two blacksmith shops a gin, a store and post office, a barber, and a telephone system with over 60 subscribers. A Methodist church was built at the Mazeland school in 1913. Members of the Church of Christ erected a building in 1916. The Baptist organized in 1906 at Mazeland, meeting in the schoolhouse. In 1909 the Methodists and Baptist built a tabernacle at the school. The Baptist built a church at Wilmeth in 1921. The Church of Christ closed in 1962, the Methodist in 1949, and the Baptist in 2004. The Wilmeth store was closed in the 1970's.

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