Specters of The Past Haunt These Tom Green Ghost Towns
Stories of the rise and fall of communities in Tom Green County read like tragic novels. There is a common thread in the downfall of many communities in our area, the loss of a railroad.
There was a time in our history when railroads coming and going used to define the economy and viability of a community. It certainly played a part in making many formerly bustling Tom Green County towns now listed as ghost towns.
Here are some of the best-known ghost towns in Tom Green County
As sure as I write that Orient, Texas is a ghost town, someone will pop up and claim they still live there. Certainly, Orient had a population of 40 back in 2000. However, in 2020, the official U.S. Census listed no residents in the town. Shout out to nearby houses and businesses, including the Fiber Co-op, Everything About Cars, and Waller's RV Sales and Service.
Most identify their address now as San Angelo.
The town of Orient derived its name as it was a location on the once booming Mexico and Orient Railway. They had a post office from 1909 until 1964. In 1909, there was also a general store. Orient even had Skinner school with two teachers in 1930, but the town's population was only listed as 10 in 1930. There was Wooland Station and scattered houses then.
Ben Ficklin, Texas
A tragedy ended Ben Ficklin, so, in the truest sense, it might be a literal ghost town. This was the original county seat of Tom Green County from 1875-1882. Located on the east bank of the South Concho River, the city had a tragic fate, much like the man who gave the town its name.
One tragedy at a time, we'll start with Benjamin F. Ficklin. To put it mildly, this man had a colorful life. He was instrumental in founding the Pony Express, was active in The Confederacy, was implicated in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln (later exonerated), and tragically died after a fish bone lodged in his throat.
The tragedy also ended Ben Ficklin, the town. On August 23, 1882, The town was destroyed by a flood. Sixty-five people died. Many of those already dead were washed out of the cemetery and their bodies had to be re-buried. They can be found in the Ben Ficklin Cemetary, which is higher on a hill today, to avoid this grisly fate in the future.
The town is named after Richard Franklin Tankersley, one of the first white settlers on the Concho River in 1864. What used to be the town can be found on Highway 67, Farm Road 2335 in West Central Tom Green County. In 1914, the town had a population of 40, a general store, and two grocers. Three was a school with 83 pupils and three teachers in the mid-1930s.
By the end of the Great Depression Tankersley was in decline. Today, no residents are listed by the census, although the West Texas Boys Ranch is nearby and some homes and businesses are in the area.
There is still a community center and a few churches but by most accounts Knickerbocker, Texas is a ghost town. I give this disclaimer since any time the town is called a "ghost town, " people in the vicinity go wild and demand a retraction.
Knickerbocker was second in size to San Angelo and political influence in Tom Green County after Ben Ficklin was washed away in 1882. Two of the town's early settlers were related to the great American author Washington Irving.
Knickerbocker had two of everything necessary in the 1890s during its boom: two gins, two saloons, two blacksmiths, two hotels, and two stores, according to Texas Escapes. It also had an early sanitorium since sending patients to dryer climates from across the country became popular during that time as a treatment for many maladies, including tuberculosis.
There was an element of the Old West in Knickerbocker as a lawless element used to hang out there. Two members of this group were involved in the last full-sized train robbery in Sanderson Texas in 1912.
The ruins of Stephen Dexter Arthur's cotton gin can still be found near the bridge at Dove Creek.
Lone Wolf, Texas
Lone Wolf really is a ghost town. The Lone Wolf Bridge is a certified paranormal location. Numerous investigations have taken place there. In September 1936, a flood left many bodies at the bridge site. Many paranormal investigators claim to have Electronic Voice Phenomena or EVPs from reported ghostly presences at the bridge.
There were previous tragedies at the bridge during the Indian Wars. The body of Chief Lone Wolf's son was found near the site of the original bridge. Many believe that Lone Wolf's spirit still searches for his son in the location. In fact, many blame the tragedy in 1936 on a curse laid on the land by Chief Lone Wolf.
Lone Wolf was said to have been considered initially as a site for the Tom Green County courthouse, according to Texas Escapes. Unfortunately, the town was never platted, and most of the residents at that time were most likely squatters.
Today, the bridge is a pedestrian bridge, but the stories of ghosts persist, even though Lone Wolf is nothing but a ghost town, and the lands where it stood are now part of San Angelo.