This is the eighth article of the ghost town series. Previous articles can be found below:
- Ghost towns of the Concho Valley: Tom Green County
- Ghost towns of the Concho Valley: Coke and Sterling County
- Ghost towns of the Concho Valley: Concho and Schleicher County
- Ghost towns of the Concho Valley: Kimble County
- Ghost towns of the Concho Valley: Mason County
- Ghost towns of the Concho Valley: Crockett and Sutton County
- Ghost towns of the Concho Valley: McCulloch County
(KLST/KSAN) Everything is bigger and better in Texas, including the number of ghost towns. According to Texas Highways, the Lone Star State is home to 511 ghost towns, which is the most a state has.
Reagan and Menard County are home to a combined total of four ghost towns.
The town of Best is located on the Santa Fe Railroad in southwestern Reagan County. Best was started in 1924 as an Orient Railroad switch after an English stockholder named Tom Best according to the Texas State Historical Association. The town was developed as a supply center after oil was discovered in 1923.
TSHA says that by 1925 the population of Best was an estimated 3,500. Although a model town was imagined for Best, oil-boom followers gave it a wild reputation as seen in the novel The Big Fist (1946) by Clyde Ragsdale.
The town’s reputation was so bad that all the murders, shootings, brawls, and more gave the town an extremely unique slogan:
“The town with the Best name in the world and the Worst reputation”
The town began to decline rapidly in 1925. By 1945 only 300 residents remained with a few businesses. In 1983 a service station post office and two families according to TSHA. In 1990 TSHA reported a population of 25 and a population of two in 2000.
Fort McKavett, Texas
Located in southwestern Menard County just 20 miles southwest of Menard is Fort McKavett. TSHA shares that a community of civilians is associated with a military post known as Camp San Saba in the 1850s. (Camp San Saba is not to be confused with Camp San Saba in McCulloch County.) Many citizens left Camp San Saba when the fort closed in 1859 for fear of protection.
In 1868, the military reactivated Fort McKavett, bringing a civilian community together to grow again, this time as Fort McKavett and not Camp San Saba. The new community was named after Captain Henry McKavvet who was killed at the Mexican War battle of Monterrey. TSHA reports Fort McKavett had a church, a school and a variety of shops in 1880. In 1883 the fort closed, causing the community of Fort McKavett to hurt economically. However, civilians did not scatter when troops left this time as they did with Camp San Saba.
Three churches, a broom and mattress factory, a weekly newspaper and 80 residents made up this community in the mid-1890s. According to TSHA, the school had two teachers and 28 students in 1904 before consolidating with the Menard Independent School District.
By the late 1920s, the population of Fort McKavett was an estimated 150 residents but fell to 136 in the early 1930s. TSHA reports the populations remained the same through the mid-1960s. The population fell to 15 in 2000.
Efforts to restore the old military post at Fort McKavett began in the late 1960s. The State of Texas acquired the school and one of the barracks in 1968, placing them under the control of Texas Parks and Wildlife. By 1990 17 buildings at Fort McKavett have been restored says TSHA.
The Fort can still be visited from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information click here.
The town of Stiles, 18 miles north of Big Lake in north central Reagan County, was donated by Gordon Stiles because sheep and goat ranchers began to settle the area in the 1890s according to TSHA. In 1894 the post office was established after William G. Stiles applied for it.
TSHA says that since Stiles was the only town in Reagan County during the time, it was chosen as the town seat when the county was organized in 1903. Publication of the Stiles Journal began in 1907 under John Marvin Hunter.
TSHA reports that Stiles had a population o f191in 1910 and a frame courthouse. In 1911 William Martin, of Comanche, built a new courthouse from limestone that was quarried from a hillside nearby.
TSHA shares that Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railroad bypassed stiles and went to Big Lake instead. The original railway had the tracks go to Stiles but the right-of-way changed the route due to ranchers refusing to grant permission for the road to cross their land.
Oil was soon discovered at the Santa Rita oil well near Big Lake in 1923, causing the population of Stiles to decline. In 1925, Big Lake became the county set following an election further causing Stile’s population to drop to 75 residents. TSHA says that by 1939 the post office was discontinued. In 2000 the population was four.
The town of Texon was established 85 miles west of San Angelo after the Santa Rita oil well was drilled in 1923. Soon after, TSHA says, M.L Benedum and Joe Trees from Pittsburg purchased some of the Texon Company’s leases. Through this, the Big Lake Oil Company was formed to develop the field.
TSHA shares that from 1924 to 1926 the Big Lake Oil Company President Levi Smith had planned and built Texon for its employees and their families south of the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway tracks. In addition to houses, the Big Lake Oil Company also constructed a church, grade school, theatre, hospital, tennis court, golf court and more. Privately owned businesses were also housed in company buildings like barbers, a drug store, cafe, fairy, ice house, grocery store, bowling alley and more.
The president of Texon, Smith, also sponsored the Texon Oilers, a semi-professional baseball team made up of company employees according to TSHA.
TSHA says that by World War II, oil field production was declining. By 1952 the population of Texon had fallen to 480. The Plymouth Oil Company, another Benedum-trees property, took over the Big Lake Oil Company in 1956. In 1962 the ownership passed to Ohio Oil, now known as Marathon Oil, which decided not to maintain the town of fewer than 100 residents. By 1986 the post office had closed. In 1996, TSHA reports less than 10 people lived in Texon.