Ghost Town Wednesday: Running Water, Texas

Ranchers were first attracted to this area of Hale County, Texas because of an abundance of water.  The J.N. Morrison ranch was established in 1881 and many settlers who came to the area worked there.  Ranch operations continued to grow as other cattleman joined the partnership, including Christopher Columbus (C.C.) Slaughter. Slaughter wore many hats during his lifetime — as a Texas Ranger, banker, cattleman and more.  As a highly successful businessman, Slaughter made his four million dollar fortune in cattle ranching and land speculation.  Born in 1837, Slaughter was a part of history as the Texas Republic took shape.  Between 1877 and 1905 he managed to amass more than a million acres of land – from just north of Big Spring and stretching to the New Mexico border — and forty thousand head of cattle . A Dallas newspaper once called him “the Cattle King of Texas”, a title I might add was given to more than one Texas cattle rancher. In 1884 Dennis and Martha Rice purchased several sections of land in the area, hoping to establish a town and convince a railroad to lay track.1   They built a dugout south of the community of Edmonson and their settlement was first named Wadsworth.  In December of 1890 the first post office was established and on January 28, 1891 the settlement was renamed Running Water to highlight the presence of nearby flowing water. Rice was appointed the community’s first postmaster and worked as a railroad land speculator.  Later in 1891 a school was established and by the following summer, after establishing the Running Water Townsite and Investment Company...

Ghost Town Wednesday: Rush, Arkansas

Indian legends about long-lost silver mines brought prospectors to Marion County in north central Arkansas during the 1880’s.  News of shiny metallic flakes found in rocks caused a “silver rush”, bringing wealth-seekers from the nearby states of Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky and beyond, including the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama. After a rock smelter was built in 1886 along Rush Creek the first tests conducted in early 1887 proved to be disappointing — at least for those hoping it was silver in “them thar hills”.  Instead, those shiny metallic flakes were found to be another mineral when “green zinc oxide fumes were emitted in a spectacular display”1 — something akin to welding sparks perhaps.  Zinc mining began soon thereafter at the Morning Star Mine. Even though it wasn’t silver, settlers still poured into the county, some on the run from the law.  Others saw opportunities to make a living off the zinc rush.  Civil War veterans, merchants and other professional men and women came to open businesses and farm the area as well.  Land speculators were also looking to quickly make their fortunes, knowing that booms turned into busts sooner or later. The mining camp with its burgeoning population and business activity rose to about five thousand residents, which in turn necessitated the need for railroads in the area (which the zinc industry contributed to as well).  In 1916 papers were filed and the city of Rush was incorporated, later recognized as the most prosperous town, per capita, in Arkansas. According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture web site (see Footnote #1), it was “common to find...

Ghost Town Wednesday: Seven Rivers, New Mexico

  During the early eighteenth century, Spanish explorers mentioned this area and its unique water supply flowing from seven springs which fed the nearby Pecos River.  Despite those advantages, settling the area wasn’t feasible at the time due to the presence of hostile Plains Indians.  Around the time of the Civil War, however, Anglo settlers began making their way to the area and more soon followed. In 1866, Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving brought their herds and set up camps there and what is now called Carlsbad.  To the vast herds owned by Goodnight and Loving, John Chisum added an additional one hundred thousand to graze the Pecos River Valley. In 1867 two trading posts were established, one by Dick Reed and another nearby by Captain Sam Samson.  At the time, the area was called Dogtown because of the over-abundance of prairie dogs, but changed in 1878 to Seven Rivers, the same year the Lincoln County War occurred. The town was a place for ranchers and cattle-drivers passing through to gather, but during the Lincoln County War it also became known as a hangout for outlaws, rustlers and other shady characters – commonly called the “Seven Rivers Crowd” by locals.  Shootouts were common and it was said that hinged doors on the saloon were removable, used as stretchers to take away the unlucky ones not quick enough on the draw. Despite the criminal element, the town had grown to around three hundred residents by the 1880’s and added a post office, hotel, schoolhouse and a couple of saloons.  In 1888, lawman Pat Garrett and Charles Greene joined Charles and...

Ghost Town Wednesday: Glenn Springs, Texas

This area near the present-day Big Bend National Park was known for its abundant source of water.  According to the National Park Service, evidence was found indicating that Indians used the water source – flint chips and bedrock mortar holes1 were scattered over the area indicating the area was once a permanent Comanche settlement. Some historians believe it may have been visited by a camel expedition led by Edward L. Hartz in 1859.  In 1836 Major George H. Crosman advocated for military use of camels in dealing with Indians in Florida because the animals could get by with little food or water.  When Franklin Pierce became president in 1853 he appointed his friend Jefferson Davis as his Secretary of War. Following the Mexican Cession of 1848 the army’s resources were depleted, but immediately following his appointment, Davis was confronted with the issue of dealing with Indian depredations, especially in Texas.  Based on his belief that the western United States was largely uninhabitable, he petitioned Congress to provide funds to test whether camels might provide a more efficient means of transportation to the desert Southwest than horses.  On March 3, 1855 Congress appropriated $30,000 to purchase and import camels for military purposes. The next president, James Buchanan, directed his secretary of war to continue the experiment by sending out more expeditions.  Some of the animals were eventually turned loose and some even fell into Confederate hands during the Civil War.  Ultimately, it was decided that although the camels were up to the task and proved to be excellent pack animals, the experiment was ended – soldiers and handlers detested them...

Ghost Town Wednesday: Tee Pee City, Texas

This ghost town in Motley County, Texas was once a Comanche village near where Tee Pee Creek merges with the middle fork of the Pease River.  In 1875 it was established as one of the first Texas Panhandle settlements as a buffalo hunting and surveyor camp by Charles Rath and Lee Reynolds. Rath and Reynolds brought the town with them when they arrived from Dodge City, Kansas, hauling in wagons, cattle, mules and dance hall equipment.  Of the one hundred-wagon train of settlers who had departed Kansas with them, about a dozen families remained to become the first settlers of Motley County.  Rath and Reynolds later moved on to the Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos and left others to run the camp. Some of the first homes were crude dugouts built into the creek bank and covered with brush and grass, temporary housing while waiting until more appropriate building materials could be purchased.  Picket houses were built with Chinaberry poles left behind by the Comanches and plastered with mud.  According to the Famous Trees of Texas web site, the town was logically named Tee Pee City. Isaac O. Armstrong and his partner were left to oversee operations in the camp after Rath and Reynolds moved on.   Armstrong was the proprietor of a two-room picket building – one room a hotel and one a saloon complete with dance hall girls.  He was also the owner of a general store which sold supplies to buffalo hunters in the area. The buffalo herds were plentiful and the hides traded in Tee Pee City were the greatest source of income for the...

Ghost Town Wednesday: Silkville, Kansas (Socialism Doesn’t Work)

It would be more appropriate to call today’s ghost town a “ghost commune”, established by Ernest Valeton de Boissère in 1869.  He was a wealthy Frenchman, born into a Bordeaux aristocratic family in 1810.  When Napoleon III came into power after the Third French Revolution, de Boissère departed France in 1852 for political reasons and immigrated to America. He was a disciple of Voltaire, a believer in freedom of religion and expression, as well as socialism.  He landed in New Orleans and attempted to establish a school and orphanage for Negro children, much to the disdain of his wealthy neighbors who apparently didn’t share his idealism.  Then his long-time interest in the silk industry brought him to Kansas. Through the influence of William Scofield, the financial agent of Baker University, de Boissère decided that Franklin County, Kansas would be the ideal location to not only produce silk, sell it and make money, but to put into practice his political and social views.  Thus, his idea was a mixture of capitalism and socialism, or as Daniel Fitzgerald wrote in Ghost Towns of Kansas, “ a curious combination of autocratic and socialistic rule, actually a scheme backed by capitalism yet dedicated to communal ownership.” His intent was to develop “a system of industrial and social life far in advance of either now prevailing in the world”.  He purchased three thousand acres of land and in early 1870 planted his orchards of walnut and mulberry trees.  de Boissère also brought forty families from France, experts in silk production, to supervise his “plantation”. By the end of 1870 the property included the silk...