Photo courtesy Rob Hann
By M. A. ( Al )
Verhalen is in Reeves
County, located 22 miles south of Pecos,
Texas on State Highway 17 at the intersection of County Road 331
. It was named Verhalen Switch by the Pecos Valley Southern
Railroad. It was named for Ray P. Verhalen, one of the pioneer farmers
In 1910 Ray Patrick Verhalen lived in Marshall,
Texas where he and his brother, George ran a nursery with their
father, Stephen John Verhalen. Ray became ill with TB. His father
took him aside and said, "Now, Ray, you get on the train and go
west until the air is dry, then get off and get well". The train
was the Texas & Pacific from Marshall.
Pecos is where he got off. Certainly,
the air is dry in the Pecos area.
In 1911, Ray bought a section of land, Section 153, Block 13, 22 miles
south of Pecos on the Balmorhea
Highway, (Hwy. 17) from Prof. W. C. Wellborn. The road at that time
was more like a trail rather than a highway. This was new land and
the brush had to be cleared. It took the hired laborers 16 months
to get the land ready for his first crop of Alfalfa, a popular crop
at that time for the area.
The farm was adjacent to Highway 17 and was the section of land north
of the road running west from Highway 17 (CR 331).
Ray Verhalen stayed until about 1920 then he returned to Marshall,
Texas and married Jenny Cameron. The Cameron's were in the nursery
business, also. Ray & Jenny had 6 boys, Steve, Cameron, Jack, Pat,
David and Tommy.
NEW FARMERS ARRIVE
the end of World War II in 1945, young veterans, looking for jobs
and careers, discovered an opportunity in West Texas. It was found
that under-ground water in Reeves County was abundant. Young people
in their 20's from El Paso Valley, Howard County, Callahan County
and other parts of Texas moved into the area, opening up a whole new
era. They purchased raw land, cleared the brush, drilled water wells,
prepared the land and planted cotton.
Production was great, each farmer produced 2 to 3 bales of cotton
per acre .
Paymaster (Western Cotton Oil) helped finance each farmer, and also
built several new cotton gins.
At one time in the 1950's there were 14 cotton gins between Pecos
off/on Highway 17. (Pecos Double battery saw gin, roller gin, Locker
Gin, Pecos Valley Gin, Sargent Gin, Hoban Roller Gin, Planters Hoban
Gin, Verhalen Gin, Farmers Coop Verhalen Gin, Kerley Bros. Gin, Saragosa
Gin, Planters Saragosa Gin, Moore Gin, Balmorhea Gin, Mockingbird
Gin, Alamo Gin).
The Kerley Gins are the only cotton gins still in operation in Reeves
County in 2006. The Kerley Brothers operate the Alamo Roller Gin just
west of Verhalen and their Kerley Gin, just south of Verhalen.
Trans Pecos Cotton Association was instrumental in getting the U.
S. & Mexico Bracero Program of 1942 re-instated under Public Law 78
in 1951and several thousand men from Mexico were brought into the
Pecos area to harvest the cotton crops. Each farmer had to provide
housing and facilities for the number of braceros they needed to harvest
men who farmed in the Verhalen area could see what a problem they
would have transporting their men, (about 300 braceros each) into
Pecos, over 20 miles away, each
week for groceries and how hard it would be to get them all back to
the farm after a "night on the town". A partnership was formed, a
building was constructed and the Verhalen Mercantile Co. opened in
the fall of 1952.
The founders of Verhalen Mercantile were Edward (Eddie) J. Carpenter,
Willis R. Winters, Frank Crews, Fred Chandler, Sr., Fred Chandler,
Jr., and Billie Sol Estes. L. C. Moore managed the store for a while
then Gene Cummings was manager for a couple of years. May 1, 1955
M. Alfred (Al) Cate became manager and Nan, his wife, was bookkeeper.
Employees at that time were, Gus R. Natividad, Alicia Roman, Luis
Roman, Evelyn Ashley, E. P.Hernandez. and Reynaldo Briceno. During
the cotton harvest season as many as twenty additional employees were
hired for the season.
To provide postal service to the local people and to accommodate the
braceros in getting money sent back home in Mexico, arrangements were
made with the Postmaster in Pecos
to operate a postal substation within the store and was called Verhalen
Verhalen Sub-Station remained open 1953-1996 providing all of the
services of any post-office. In 1996 Verhalen Post Office closed and
thirty (30) 'cluster' boxes were installed in front of the Verhalen
Store, by Postal Service for the remaining postal customers in the
In the mid 1950's the 18 families of the Verhalen community entered
a contest, sponsored by the Farmers-Stockman Magazine and Texas
A&M University for Community Improvement and Development, and
won Second Place in the State.
Signs with family names were installed along the roads pointing direction
to place of residence for everyone in the area. These were very attractive
signs and many of the frames and post remain, though the name may
not be legible, (or correct).
Verhalen Mercantile acquired some land from J. B. Kirklin and directors
donated a plot of it to The Community Progress Club (the club
included every family in the area), who built a Community Center Building
where the 4H Club met regularly as did the Square Dance Club, the
Bridge Club, the Home Demonstration Club, the Baptist Church and birthday
parties, wedding receptions, family re-unions and continues to serve
In 1975, the Verhalen Mercantile Store was sold to Joey McMahon and
later to Mr. W. A. Cape.
As more and more farmers began moving away because of the high cost
of production and low price of cotton, a few feed lots opened. Three
of them in the Verhalen area. However, by 2005 all of the feedlots
have closed. One of the feedlots was converted to a dairy and is operated
as Crider Dairy.
The one thing lacking
in the area was potable water. Everyone in the rural area of Reeves
County had to haul their household water from Balmorhea
or from Pecos. Some of the leaders
in the Verhalen Community organized and developed a non-profit Water
Supply Corporation in 1966 piping water from the foot hills of the
Davis Mountains southwest of Balmorhea.
Not only to Verhalen but to northwest and north of Pecos.
The water system is one of the largest, in miles of pipeline, in Texas
serving over 600 rural families with potable water.
When the Paymaster Verhalen Gin closed the W. A. Cape family purchased
and moved into the gin house and operated the Verhalen store. After
Mr. Cape died, his son, Dewayne, operated the store for 25 years until
closing it in 1996.
Verhalen is a community with eight families in the immediate area.
Madera Valley Water Supply Corporation has their office in the Community
Center Building. Several ranching families get their mail here from
the cluster boxes provided by the Postal Service.
© M. A. ( Al ) Cate
tanker in Verhalen
Photo courtesy Rob Hann
is one of the towns that has no listing in the Handbook of Texas
- a frequent source for information.
Book Hotel Here:
miles south of Highway 17 from Pecos lays the tiny city of Verhalen.
Little is known of Verhalen history other than it is the namesake
of a humble grape-farmer. Verhalen is a one street town, with no
businesses, and six homes on the east side of the highway. Sandwiched
between the homes is the active Verhalen community center, and remnants
of a general store.
Although the 2002 Rand McNally Texas state map lists the population
at 50, the community mailbox adjacent to the community center shows
16 listings. In addition to the homes, there is a variety of rusted
industrial equipment strewn on both sides of Highway 17. The six
residences are comprised of five trailers and a luxurious home on
the south of town surrounded by pine trees." - James Feagin,
June 19, 2005
Verhalen did catch the attention of photographer Rob Hann who took
the photographs shown here. Our thanks to Mr.Hann for sharing them
with our readers. Rob Hann's Texas and Southwestern photographs
will be published in book form under the title Where Have All The
See Lost Towns of the Pecos
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Towns | West Texas
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