Focus on the Backroads » Photo Journeys

FOCUS ON THE BACK ROADS: TERLINGUA, TEXAS: Best Little Ghost Town in Texas

Terlingua is located southwest Texas near Big Bend National Park.  It is the most visited ghost town in Texas.  The name Terlingua comes from two Spanish word, tres and lenguas meaning “three tongues”.  This was either because of the three languages that were spoken in the area at that time – English, Spanish, and Native American.  Some believe it refers to the three forks of Terligua Creek.  No mater how Ternligua received it name THIS IS A VERY COOL PLACE TO VISIT.

This area was first inhabited by Native Americans.  The first settlement was a Mexican village on Terlingua Creek.  In the mid-1880s, cinnabar, from which liquid mercury is extracted was discovered.  Although the Indians had known about the cinnabar for a long time – they used the brute red color for body pigment – this discovery slowly changed the area as mining began to produce mercury.  By the turn of the century,  it became know widespread that the region was rich with mercury which was being extracted by four major producers – Marfa dan Mariposa Mining Company, California Hill, Lindheim and Dewees, and the Excelsior Company.  A town had sprung up around the Marfa and Mariposa Mine which became know as Terlingua.  A post office was opened in 1899.

In May of 1903, Howard Perry, a Chicago industrialist, incorporated the Chisos Mining Company and began producing immediately.  Chisos Mining Company became the largest producer of mercury not only in the area but in the whole United States.  Production continued for four decades.

By 1905 the population of Terlingua at the Marfa and Mariposa Mine was about 1,000 people.  Another camp formed around the Chisos Mine, which was also named Terlingua.  In 1910 the Marfa and Mariposa mine closed and the post office was moved to the Chisos location.  The Chisos Mining Company owed and operated the entire town.  It had a general store, doctor’s office,  post office, the Chisos Hotel, a commissary, telephone service (sometimes), water department, and a school.  The town was split in two sections – one for the Mexicans and the other for the Anglos.  Later a gas station and theater were built.  In 1906 Howard Perry built a mansion that overlooked the camp.  It has been estimated that by 1934 the company had sold over $12 million in mercury – but like all good things must come to an end – production began to decline by 1936 and on October 1, 1942, the company filed for bankruptcy.  It was purchased by the Texas Railway Equipment Company and operated as the Esperado Mine until the end of World War II in 1945.  The population decline to a level that it was designated as a ghost town.

Tourism in the 1960’s and 1970’s, because of its proximity to Big Bend National Park brought new life to Terlingua.   Growth was slow – in 1990 it had a population of 25.  Today the population exceeds 250.  Terlingua is a very popular tourist destination, provided many outdoor activities such as rafting, hiking, camping, mountain biking, and of course it is a favorite destination for motorcyclist.  Terlingua is famous worldwide for its annual chili cook-off – in 1967 was crowned the “Chili Capital of the World.  Over 10,000 “chili heads” attend the cook off each year.

While in Terlingua make sure you visit the old Starlight Theater, for a great meal, drinks, and live entertainment.  Next door at the the gift shop, which was the company store, you can pick up a T-shirt or a Terlingua decal for the RV.

We save the best for last:  After a great meal, great entertainment, and a brand new T-shirt – the most spectacular activity to engage in is stargazing -UNBELIEVABLE!

 

Viva Terlingua……Jerry Jeff Walker

 

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