Thursday, September 15, 2011

"Vanished" ghost towns

Every once in a while, a ghost town in Texas vanishes. It isn't swallowed by thick East Texas woods or submerged beneath a lake. It simply - POOF! - ceases to exist whatsoever. For want of a better term, I call these sites "vanished ghost towns."

In order for a ghost town to cling to "life," there must be some tangible remains of the old town still in existence. The Texas ghost towns of Jonesboro and Spivey are both hanging on by a thread with exactly one grave each, but sometimes not a single grave, not a single foundation, not even a bit of town masonry survives. That's when the ghost town in question has vanished once and for all.

The following is a short list of vanished ghost towns in Texas provided for your perusal. Enjoy.

ALABAMA (Houston County)
A former steamboat stop on the Trinity River, founded in the 1830s. On January 30, 1841, the Republic of Texas established Trinity College at Alabama, the first college anywhere in Texas. Alabama received its own post office in 1846, with A.T. Monroe as postmaster. The town apparently thrived for the next three decades as a shipping point for plantations in Houston County, but as the railroad slowly replaced the steamboat in the 1870s, Alabama's fortunes declined. The post office shut down in 1878, and most businesses and residents moved away from Alabama over the next decade. A school managed to operate in Alabama until 1897. By the time of the Great Depression, only a few scattered homes remained. The state established a Centennial Marker at the townsite in 1936, but today that site is a barren field on private property. Absolutely no remains of the old townsite appear to have survived.

JIMTOWN (Dallas County)
Those of you who ever stopped at Carl's Corner on I35E north of Hillsboro (before it turned into Willie's Place and then an oversized Petro) might appreciate the appeal of an older version of the basic concept that came to life during the administration of Rutherford B. Hayes. James "Jim" Bumpas operated a store just south of Dallas when he wasn't farming, and the store obtained its own post office in 1878. After that, Jimtown became a hub for farmers who needed medicines (Bumpas was also a country pharmacist) or general provisions for home and hearth. Throughout the town's history, Jimtown featured a livery stable, a wagon yard, a school that served 100 pupils, and a "union church" that served the needs of Baptists, Methodists, and Cumberland Presbyterians all under one roof. The school eventually evolved into the Jimtown Independent School District, incorporated in 1914. However, the steady growth of Dallas could not be curtailed, and the school district merged with Dallas in 1925. Jim Bumpas died in 1903, and his store lost its post office and transformed into a feed store until the wrecking ball destroyed the heart and soul of Jimtown in 1940. Nothing is known to survive from the old town; even Jimtown Road (which ran in front of the store) was renamed Clarendon Drive. If anyone has knowledge of the fate of the union church at Jimtown, please let me know.

QUAKERTOWN (Denton County)
The story of Quakertown deserves special mention due to the fact that this town was intentionally eradicated because of racial tension and prejudice. Quakertown was established in 1870 as a black community right in the middle of white Denton, and it set up its first school in 1878. Not long afterwards, Quakertown boasted a decent collection of restaurants, stores, and churches. However, Denton's white establishment sniffed at Quakertown's dirt roads and unpainted houses, and the nearby College of Industrial Arts in Denton (now Texas Woman's University) felt its close proximity to Quakertown threatened its chances at accreditation. In addition, Denton's political heavyweights started eyeing the creek that flowed through Quakertown as an ideal location for a new city park. Blacks and whites alike who spoke out against the plan found themselves on the receiving end of violent threats, and in 1922, faster than you could say "Jim Crow," Denton's white population voted to annex Quakertown and thus eradicate it, moving or demolishing all houses and buildings at the townsite and creating the Denton Civic Center Park where Quakertown once stood. The park has since been renamed Quakertown Park, but don't bother looking for any trace of the old town there - it's completely gone. One old Quakertown house, however, has been relocated to the Historical Park of Denton County; it now serves as the Denton County African American Museum.

WHO'D THOUGHT IT (Hopkins County)
As one person described it, "a forgotten town with an unforgettable name." Who'd Thought It was apparently organized as a farming community sometime after 1900 just north of fellow ghost town Sandhill (or south - I've heard it both ways) on Farm Road 1536. The first store at Who'd Thought It was operated by one Levi Kearny, and at its height during World War II, the small town had two stores and a number of scattered houses, and the local children attended school at Sandhill. In my own search for the town, I have yet to find any remnants of this community with the funny name, and I haven't even found Who'd Thought It on any maps in the archives of Hopkins County. I have apparently found a few scant remnants of Sandhill as well as a map giving its location as just north of Farm Road 1536 east of Tira, but if anyone has some information about the locale and fate of Who'd Thought It, please share.

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