Monday, December 3, 2012

Gilliland (Knox County) - December 2012 photos

Some ghost towns in Texas have long and detailed histories replete with tales of ambition, grandeur, innovation, and sometimes lawlessness and mayhem. And then there are ghost towns like Gilliland, which is located on Farm Road 1756 in north central Knox County, within an hour's drive from the Panhandle.

Gilliland December 2012 #01
Downtown Gilliland today

Located smack dab in the middle of nowhere, Gilliland never grew to any great size - boasting a reported peak of 120 residents in 1947 - but those that called Gilliland home worked hard to build it into a community that could take care of itself. The first white settlers to put down roots here established a community called Coyote, and their efforts managed to attract some Norwegian families from Bosque County, who migrated to Coyote in 1890. The community established its own school district on May 1, 1892, and opened the doors of its school in 1895, with Oma Aker serving as the community's first teacher. When Coyote resident O.M. Olson opened a post office inside his home in 1907, the post office was named after district judge W.A. Gilliland, and the name quickly stuck to the town itself.

Gilliland December 2012 #02
Abandoned and deteriorating general store at Gilliland

Gilliland December 2012 #03
Remains of Gilliland's garage

Gilliland December 2012 #04
A peek inside the disheveled garage

A cotton gin was built just outside Gilliland in 1910 and later modernized in 1936. Gilliland's population grew from 50 in 1925 to 120 in 1947, with the school, four businesses and one church serving the town's needs.

Gilliland December 2012 #05
Gilliland's abandoned gas station and grocery

Gilliland December 2012 #06
Closer look at the rusting Esso gasoline pumps (today, Esso is known as ExxonMobil)

Gilliland December 2012 #07
One of numerous derelict houses in Gilliland being reclaimed by the elements

The most important building in Gilliland appears to have been its school. Although small compared to many modern school buildings in Texas today, Gilliland's school featured numerous classrooms, a cafeteria, and a gymnasium that doubled as an auditorium for plays and assemblies. Over the years, the school absorbed other schools in the region, which undoubtedly contributed to the town's growth. In 1948, however, it was Gilliland's turn. The town's high school was transferred to the city of Munday, some 20 miles south of Gilliland, leaving the town with only a grade school that continued to operate until the school itself was closed down in 1975.

Gilliland December 2012 #08
Gilliland's school building as seen from the rear

Gilliland December 2012 #09 Weatherbeaten swingset at the Gilliland school

Gilliland December 2012 #10 Ingenious front gate to Gilliland's school - students can fit through, but cattle cannot

Gilliland December 2012 #11 Front door to Gilliland's school building

Gilliland December 2012 #12
Stage in the gymnasium, still outfitted for a school play

Gilliland December 2012 #13
Bleachers in the gymnasium

Gilliland December 2012 #14
Hallway between classes with rotting and deteriorating floor - walking on the floorboards is NOT recommended

The closing of Gilliland's school appears to mirror the fortunes of the town itself; in 1990, the population was reported as 103, but ten years later, the number plunged to only 25. Today, there may be even fewer than that.

Gilliland December 2012 #14
Front gate to Gilliland Cemetery

Gilliland December 2012 #15
Some of the numerous graves at the cemetery

Gilliland December 2012 #16
Memorial to World War I and World War II veterans at the cemetery

Gilliland December 2012 #17
One of Gilliland's denizens had a striking name

Gilliland December 2012 #18
Tombstone for a nurse

Gilliland Cemetery is approaching its sesquicentennial, and unfortunately some of the older gravestones have been damaged or disappeared completely. A couple of graves caught my eye in the far corner of the cemetery - the only known African-Americans buried in Gilliland. Whoever interred them apparently felt the need to not only isolate their graves from the general population at the cemetery, but also to stamp the word "Negro" on each of their headstones.

Gilliland December 2012 #19
Grave marker for Herman Williams

Looking back at the photographs I took of Gilliland, while I am proud of the images I've been able to share with you, there were so many more images of the ghost town I could have captured. I've been looking forward to visiting Gilliland for a long time, and while the chances are remote that I will ever set foot in the townsite again, if I ever do, I will definitely have to grab more photos of this small but proud town nestled in the Rolling Plains, just southeast of the Panhandle. Sometimes, the best stories come out of the smallest towns, and in the case of towns such as Gilliland, it's not just a matter of what the town has built - but also what it has left behind.


  1. You do such good work. Thanks

  2. I wish I could see all this in person. So interesting. And thanks for sharing!

  3. I lived in Truscott (nearby) in the 70's. Gilliland was not much of a town even then, but it did have a store/gas station and we used to play basketball and have community gatherings in the school gym.
    Thanks for this site - I wish there were more of them about the small almost-gone towns of Texas

    1. You lived in Truscott? That's where my grandmother lived. Scottie Burgess. Nice to see a Truscott reference!

  4. Wasn't there a grain elevator in or near Gilliland,around 1960? I am sure I remember hauling grain into the Elevator there during the 1960 harvest.I also remember parking the truck behind those two buildings that are marked downtown.I Also bought gasoline at the ESSO station several times,and one time waited out a rainstorm in front of the ESSO station.

  5. Hi, Charlie - if you take a look at the picture of the cattle guard in front of the school, you should be able to make out the grain elevator in the distance. At least I think that's the elevator you saw; there were a couple of farm tractors hauling equipment around there when I visited.

  6. I and my family were raised there , my grandfathers are: Onie Welch and Sam William Stone, my father is leonard Welch, his sister and husband owned the grocery stire, Paul and Erna Lee Hirn . My Parents graduated fron the school there , Leonard and Carolyn Joy Welch . We saw a completely different town and all of the hard work that our families farmed . Things and times really do change .

  7. The pictures are good , thank you , On behalf of my family, the , Welch , Stone, Horn, Massingill, :)

  8. What was Gilliland's school mascot?

  9. My father's family was from Gilliland his name Ramon Quintero. I was raised in Truscott myself. Seeing these pics brought back some good memories.

    1. Hey cousin. Same here. Tomas Quintero

    2. My father Ronnie Byrd is from Gilliland. His father is GW Byrd. Mother is Ethelyn Would love to see if anyone remembers him. THey are laid to rest in the Gilliland Cemetary

  10. It looks like the pictures are no longer showing due to not having 3rd party hosting. My father, and his ancestors back until the 1800 are from Gilliland and I would love to send him some of these pictures. As a matter of fact most of his kin "Cooks" are buried in the Gilliland Cemetary. If you would be able to email me the pictures I would be ever so grateful. Thank you!


  12. Hello. I would like to introduce myself. My name is Keri Byrd and I came across this page, and I was in awe. My father grew up in Gilliland, but he will not talk about it much. The pictures are not showing due to 3rd party hosting, but I would love to see them if you still have access to them…

    My grandfather WW2 VET GW BYRD and Ethelyn ‘Cook” Byrd are laid to rest in the Gilliland Cemetery. She was the ‘lunchlady’ and I have her diploma from the health board. I would love to see this beautiful town that is now just empty. My dad told me he was raised dirt poor, and this blows my mind that this is the town he was raised in.

    1. Keri, send me a email address to I may have some pictures. My family were Gilliland folks

  13. Someone please give me address to the school