University of Texas Arlington

Thurber, Texas History Collection:

A Guide

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Thurber (Tex.)
Title: Thurber, Texas History Collection
Dates: 1894-1983
Abstract: The town of Thurber, Texas became a bustling coal mining town after the Texas and Pacific Coal Company set up shop in 1888. The completely company-owned town soon attracted a large multi-ethnic worforce to work the mines and boasted a population of more than 8,000. Following labor uprisings in 1903, the town also became a 100 percent union shop city. Once train engines began transitioning to oil rather than coal, the town witnessed a swift decline, becoming a ghost town after the mines and brick plant were closed in the 1920's and 1930's. This collection contains newspaper clippings, a blank receipt book, a thesis, printed articles, a photograph, and photocopies of clippings and photographs. All materials pertain to Thurber's boomtown glory and subsequent ghost town days.
Identification: AR160
Extent: 5 folders (0.2 linear ft.)
Language: Materials are in English.
Repository: Special Collections, The University of Texas at Arlington Libraries

Historical Note

Once home to more than 8,000 people, Thurber, Texas is now a ghost town located in far north Erath County. Thurber became a bustling coal mining town after coal deposits were discovered in the area in 1886 and the land was sold to the Texas and Pacific Coal Company in 1888. Thurber began attracting workers from all over the world to work the mines including large groups of Poles, Italians, Irish, Russians, and Mexicans. This lent a decidedly international flavor to the town and night schools were soon set up to teach English to the miners. A completely company-owned town, every house, business, saloon, church, and school in Thurber was owned by the Texas and Pacific Coal Company. The town even boasted a brick manufacturing plant and an opera house. In 1903, Thurber also became a 100 percent union shop city when, following a United Mine Workers uprising, the Texas and Pacific Coal Company recognized unions. The decline of Thurber began during the 1920's as railroad engines began relying on oil rather than coal. First the mines closed and the brick plant soon followed. The town died out, turning the once busy, multi-ethnic city into a ghost town.

Scope and Contents

Collection contains newspaper clippings, blank receipt book, a thesis, articles, a photograph, and photocopies of clippings and photographs. Newspaper clippings and articles relate to the history of Thurber and include many reminiscences from former townspeople. The blank receipt book is from the Dry Goods-Hardware store of the Texas Pacific Mercantile & Manufacturing Company in Thurber. The thesis is entitled Thurber: The Life and Death of a Texas Town (1946) by Mary Jane Gentry also pertains to Thurber's history. The photograph is of four men in a business office. Several visible calendars in the office date the photograph to either late 1921 or early 1922.



Open for research.

Index Terms

These materials are indexed under the following headings in the catalog of The University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons or places should search the catalog using these headings.
Gentry, Mary Jane, 1912-1996.
Hall, T. R.
Texas and Pacific Coal Company--History--Sources.
United Mine Workers of America. Local 2763 (Thurber, Tex.)--History--Sources.
United Mine Workers of America. District 21--History--Sources.
Thurber Historical Association (Tex.)
Ghost towns--Texas--Thurber--History--Sources.
Labor unions--Texas--Thurber--History--Sources.
Thurber (Tex.)--History--Sources.
Alternate Titles
Texas Labor Archives

Related Material

  • AR88: Thurber, Texas Photograph Collection
  • AR399: Thurber Historical Association Records
  • AR401: W.K. Gordon Sr. Papers, 1890-1995
  • AR421: W. K. Gordon, Sr., Papers, 1888-1986
  • OH41: Oral history interview with Lawrence Santi (1974)
  • OH63: Oral history interview with Eddie Webb and Nelle Wooding (1981)

Administrative Information


Thurber, Texas History Collection, AR160, Box Number, Folder Number, Special Collections, The University of Texas at Arlington Libraries.

Administrative Information

Grant Support

The retrospective updating and conversion of this finding aid was supported with funds from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC) for the Special Collections "Documenting Democracy: Access to Historical Records" project, 2014-2015.

Note to the Researcher

Collection also known as Thurber Coal Miners Collection.

Researchers should be aware of the extensive amount of material pertaining to the history of Thurber available in the Southwest Collection at Texas Tech University. The Nita Haley Memorial Library in Midland, Texas, is also a point of interest to the researcher interested in the history of Thurber, Texas. There are also a number of photographs of Thurber, Texas, at the Tarleton State University Library.

Container List

Box Folder
1 1 "Thurber: The Life and Death of a Texas Town," M.A. Thesis, 1946
U.T. Austin, Mary Jane Gentry
2 Data Submitted for Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Souvenir, by T.R. Hall, 1913
Clippings; 2 U.M.W. Contracts, 1910-1912; 1912-1914
3 Thurber Articles: Roberts, Dick, "Coaltown, Texas - A Thurber Tale,"
Texas Highways, November, 1974
True West, April, 1975
4 Thurber Historical Association bulletin, newspaper articles, map, Heritage of Texas Labor, page 9; Initiation fee receipt (signed by Santi), 1923 1964, 1983, undated
5 Dry Goods-Hardware receipt book, undated