10 Texas Ghost Towns to Visit

A ghost town is defined as “a once-flourishing town wholly or nearly deserted usually as a result of the exhaustion of some natural resource.” (according to Merriam-Webster).  Recent research done by Geotab shows that Texas has the most ghost towns in the country, with 511. And what better time to visit one of these cool Texas ghost towns than Halloween!

Belle Plain– Belle Plain is in the Texas Panhandle in Callahan County, about 27 miles Southeast of Abilene. Established in 1875, it is said that the town is named after the 1st child that was born in Belle Plain, Katie Belle Magee. Established in the 1870s, Belle Plain was once a flourishing town with a local newspaper, a college and some mercantile shops. However, a severe drought in 1886 halted the town’s upward growth. Today, all that remains of the town is the crumbling main building of Belle Plain College and a few ruined businesses, homes and schools.

Carlton– Carlton is in Central Texas in Hamilton County, about 85 miles Southwest of Fort Worth. While this town was once popular because of its proximity to freight and storage routes, it thrived because of its cotton production. According to the 2000 Census, the unincorporated community has an estimated population of 70, with many of the town’s buildings abandoned.

Fort Griffin– Fort Griffin is in the Texas Panhandle in Shackelford County, about 50 miles Northeast of Abilene. It is a Texas state protected site known as the Fort Griffin State Historic Site. Fort Griffin is home to the Texas Longhorn cattle. In 1969, the Texas Legislature designated the Longhorn herd at Fort Griffin as the Official State of Texas Longhorn Herd. Fort Griffin, established in 1867 as a U.S. Calvary Fort, was known as one of the most lawless towns in Texas. The Fort was built to mainly protect the farmers and ranchers who lived in the settlement. However, it wasn’t long before the town was invaded by gamblers, gunfighters and hunters, who were leading their cattle to Dodge City. Remnants of the Fort remain today, including a bakery, barracks, first sergeant’s quarters, hand-dug well and mess hall.

Texas Haunted Places
Photo by Texas Historical Commission

Glenrio– Glenrio is located on the Texas/New Mexico state line in both Deaf Smith County in Texas and Quay County in New Mexico. Founded in 1903, it is the last stop in Texas, heading West on the former U.S. Route 66, once a popular stopping point for Route 66 travelers. By 1950, the town was booming with its newly opened gas station, motel and restaurant. However, when Interstate 40 was built in 1973, bypassing the town, the population decreased rapidly. In fact, by 1985, Glenrio only had 2 residents. Several abandoned buildings still remain today, including the above-mentioned gas station and motel, as well as a convenience store, a post office and a water well house.

Helena– Helena is in South Texas in Karnes County, approximately 70 miles Southeast of San Antonio. Established in 1852, it was the 1st seat of Karnes County until 1894. The town flourished over the years with 13 saloons, 2 hotels, 2 local newspapers, several mercantile stores, a boot store, a harness shop and a stable. Helena is known as the birthplace of the “Helena Duel,” a savage type of knife fight between two men. It has been said that the town was abandoned because of Colonel William G. Butler, a powerful and wealthy rancher who was out for revenge. In 1884, his son Emmett Butler was killed by a stray bullet after a saloon brawl, which he blamed the town for. When no one would take responsibility for the shooting, the Colonel vowed revenge on the entire town and arranged for the railroad tracks for the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railway to be constructed about 7 miles away from Helena. The State of Texas has restored, as museums, the 1873 courthouse, the old post office, the John Ruckman Home and the Sickenius Farmhouse.

Independence– Independence is in Central Texas in Washington County, about 12 miles Northeast of Brenham. It is the former home of Baylor University, Texas’ oldest (opened in 1846) continuously operating university, before its move to Waco in 1885. Today, all that’s left of the university are 4 columns of the campus’ main building. Founded in 1835, the unincorporated community was once Texas’ wealthiest communities. Today, with an estimated 2000 Census population of 140, the historic ghost town features an array of ruins from homes and a hotel, as well as a few points of historical interest, including the Margaret Houston House.

Indianola– Indianola is in the Texas Gulf Coast Region in Calhoun County, approximately 41 miles Southeast of Victoria.  Founded in 1844, Indianola was well-known as a port city, being the main entry point for German immigrants entering Texas. At one time, considered the 2nd largest port in Texas, it went through a huge economic boom. In 1875, a powerful hurricane slammed into the small town of 5,000, killing between 150-300 of its residents and destroyed the town. While the town did rebuild, another powerful hurricane swept through Indianola in 1886, forcing its residents to move elsewhere.

Lobo– Lobo is in West Texas in Culberson County, about 12 miles South of Van Horn. Founded in 1882, Lobo was once a desert town and a thriving cotton farming community, which was completely abandoned by 1991 after farmers discovered that the cost of irrigating their crops was more money than they were making as an income.

Medicine Mound– Medicine Mound is in the Texas Panhandle in Hardeman County, approximately 24 miles West of Vernon. With no one living in the town, all that remains of Medicine Mound today are 2 buildings. The former Hicks-Cobb General Store is now a cultural and regional history museum. The former W.W. Cole Building, which at one time housed a bank, a drugstore and a post office, as well as a gas station, is completely abandoned.

Terlingua– Terlingua is in West Texas in Brewster County, approximately 80 miles South of Alpine. Country Living named Terlingua one of the 18 Spookiest Ghost Towns in America, while Fodor’s named it one of the World’s 20 Eeriest Ghost Towns. The town went through a huge period of growth in the early 1900s after the emergence of several mines, including the Chisos Mining Company, founded by Howard Perry of Portland, Maine. However, at the end of World War II, the price of minerals dropped, causing the miners to pack up their families and move to more profitable areas. Today, along with several abandoned homes and mine shafts, there are a few restaurants and shops that are open, mainly for tourists and visitors of the Big Bend National Park. Texas Ghost Towns

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