Hazardous Business
Industry, Regulation, and the Texas Railroad Commission

Texas and Pacific Coal Company, Thurber, Erath County

Thurber in Erath County west of Fort Worth was once the largest coal-mining town in Texas. Bituminous coal was first discovered there in the mid-1880s. Within a few years, miners from all over the world had come to work the mines. The Texas and Pacific Coal Company was founded in 1888 to manage the mines. Thurber was a classic company town, with schools, churches, houses, library, saloons, entertainment, hotel, and city services all constructed and owned by the company. The miners received scrip that was good only at the company stores. The town was defended with a barbed wire fence and armed guards to keep out union organizers and other unauthorized personnel.

Remarkably, in 1903, the United Mine Workers successfully organized the miners at Thurber without violence. Labor-management relations were relatively harmonious until the 1920s, when Thurber entered a downward spiral caused by the conversion of the railroad industry from coal to oil. By the end of 1927, most of the miners had left Thurber for greener pastures, and by the end of the 1930s it had become a ghost town.

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Coal mining in Thurber

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W.D. Hornaday Collection, Prints and Photographs Collection, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission. 1975/70-1911.

Page last modified: August 18, 2011