3111 W Walker St.Breckenridge, TX 76424 (254) 559-6502


Library Hours
Monday - Thursday
10:30 am to 12:30 pm & 1:30 pm to 5:30 pm
Closed Friday, Saturday & Sunday
*Computers automatically shut down at 5:00 pm

Reserve items online at brecklibrary.org
(Click on "Search Our Catalog!" Button).

Returned items can be placed in the book drop
located near the front door of the library.
Our library also has OverDrive,
an online eBook program,
free for patrons.
For setup information of the Libby app, by OverDrive,
please call the library at
(254)559-5505 for assistance.

Breckenridge Library
209 N. Breckenridge Ave.
Breckenridge, Texas 76424

Phone: 254-559-5505
Email: brecklibrary@att.net

Director: Heather Schkade

Check out this amazing rocking horse we have available for sale. This delicately restored piece is about 36´at the tallest point and could be yours for only $50. You must call the Museum at 254-559-8471 if you are interested. This is a first-come-first-served item, and there will be no holds. The buyer must transport the rocker from the Museum (no deliveries whatsoever).

116 W Walker St, Breckenridge, TX, United States, Texas
(254) 559-8471

From Boomtown to Ghost Town: Ranger, Breckenridge, and Thurber Museums Recall Early 20th Century Oil Rush

Driving east on Interstate 20, I crest an incline in the rolling landscape between Abilene and Fort Worth. In the valley below, a brick smokestack cuts a dramatic profile against the surrounding hills. The tower rises from the horizon like a sentinel, watching over the site where the bustling town of Thurber stood at the turn of the 20th century.

In those days, the electric plant’s 148-foot-tall smokestack loomed over wood-frame houses and grand Craftsman homes, a mercantile and opera house, churches and schools. Now, nothing of Thurber is left but the chimney, a handful of buildings, and a cemetery.

In the early 20th century, the 148-foot-tall smokestack loomed over wood-frame houses and grand Craftsman homes, a mercantile and an opera house, churches and schools.

When I’ve almost reached the smokestack, I exit the interstate and drive a couple of blocks to the W.K. Gordon Center for Industrial History of Texas, where I’ve come to learn why Thurber disappeared. The Gordon Center, a branch of Tarleton State University, is my first stop on a trip that includes the Roaring Ranger Oil Boom Museum in nearby Ranger and the Swenson Memorial Museum in Breckenridge. Together, the three museums (in Erath, Eastland, and Stephens counties, respectively) chronicle the region’s booms and busts in the early 20th century, a Texas tale that echoes throughout the state to this day.


With the advent of mining here in the late 1880s, Thurber developed as one of the state’s most prominent coal towns, providing coal to power trains on the Texas and Pacific Railroad. In 1897, a second industry developed in Thurber when the Texas and Pacific Coal Company began using shale from the nearby hills to make bricks. Some of those bricks were used to pave Austin’s Congress Avenue and Fort Worth’s Camp Bowie Boulevard, where they’re still visible today.

Inside the museum, I take a seat inside a replica of the Thurber opera house to watch a short film about the town’s history. The film explains how Texas and Pacific Coal built an entire town to serve the mines. At its peak Thurber was home to 10,000 people, an ethnically diverse group of mining families that together comprised the largest city between Fort Worth and El Paso. The company owned the houses, stores, schools, and saloons. Residents didn’t pay city or school taxes, but the miners worked in dangerous conditions and were subject to the whims of the company officials who ran the town.

After the movie, I wander among the museum’s replicas of old Thurber buildings, including a bandstand and livery stable. When I step inside the drug store, I’m greeted by the voice of an unseen “proprietor:” “Hello! Welcome to Thurber’s only drug store, the center of all social activity. We carry an outstanding line of pharmaceuticals and potions as well as toys and fancy goods.”

In the Thurber mines, the men crawled into small tunnels and lay on their sides, propped on one arm, to dig the coal. A life-size diorama, complete with the repetitive sound of the pick prying coal from the wall, shows a man working in this uncomfortable position. I crouch to view the scene from a miner’s perspective and am overcome with both claustrophobia and gratitude that I work above ground.

With the 1901 discovery of oil at Spindletop in Beaumont, prospectors ramped up their search for oil in other parts of Texas. W.K. Gordon, the superintendent of the Thurber mines, was among them. He had another motivation to drill: The Allies’ need for oil during World War I had created a domestic oil shortage even before the United States entered the conflict.

“Indirectly, the oil booms were because of war,” explains Shae Adams, the Gordon Center’s curator of exhibits and education. “People knew that if they found oil, they could sell it to the government.”

In October 1917, Gordon struck oil near Ranger, 16 miles west of Thurber. At the Gordon Center, a replica of an oil derrick re-creates the drama. Visitors can push a button to hear the rumble in the earth and see a simulated oil gusher. Ironically, Gordon’s success indirectly led to Thurber’s demise. Railroads began to power trains with oil instead of coal, and roads were paved with petroleum-based asphalt rather than brick. Texas and Pacific closed the Thurber coal mines in 1926 and the brick plant in 1931. It sold the houses and salvaged materials from other buildings. By the late 1930s the town was virtually gone.


As Thurber’s fortunes busted, Ranger’s boomed. The Roaring Ranger Oil Boom Museum illustrates the transition with a collection of black-and-white photos, newspaper articles, and 1920s souvenir publications. The museum building—the 1919 red-brick Ranger railroad depot—still has the vintage ticket windows and clock, making it easy to imagine waiting for the next train to arrive from Fort Worth. During the height of the boom, from 1917 to 1921, the depot saw 1,500 people pass through its doors every day.

Breckenridge Fine Arts Center

The Center is committed to furthering the arts and artistic environment by establishing and maintaining the fine workshop facilities and providing high quality exhibits for the general public since 1985. Home of the Kathryn Leach Doll Collection showcasing 750 dolls from

Boomtown Breckenridge Murals

Winner of the TDA "Best Public Improvement Project" in 1999, this outstanding outdoor collection of mural art inspires the imagination to step back in time and experience boomtown first hand. Influenced by black and white photographs taken by Basil Clemmons, of Breckenridge in the 1920



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