Over the years, many towns have sprung up across Texas, but not all of these towns survived. Today Texas is littered with "Ghost Towns," each of which adds a little to the legend and lore of the Lone Star State, denoted by historical markers found at the old centers of these deserted towns.
Many of these ghost towns have become popular tourist attractions in their own right, even if the draw is a simple sign with an important piece of Texas history on it, but the following five stand out as the most important or bizarre of these Texas ghost towns.
From Indianola, a town wiped out by two hurricanes and a massive fire, to Dodge City, which still hosts old-fashioned ghost town gunfight reenactments, discover these formerly great Texas cities on your next drive through the Lone Star State.
Founded in 1846, this German point-of-entry town once served as a major port of Texas and the Gulf Coast, was occupied twice by Union soldiers during the American Civil War, and deployed the first mechanically-refrigerated shipment of beef in 1869.
However, a major hurricane destroyed the entire city was destroyed in September of 1875, taking with it 150 to 300 lives (of the 5,000 living there at the time). The city was rebuilt, though, and the residents pleaded for a seawall to be constructed. Unfortunately, the government of Indianola did not heed these requests and another hurricane leveled the town in 1886. A fire followed shortly afterward, and on October 4, 1887, the Post Office of Indianola permanently closed, which meant the town was officially considered “dead.”
Today, barely anything of the original town remains, most of which was washed away by over a century of tides. Just a lone historical marker and a small unincorporated fishing village remain in Indianola.
First settled in 1845 and named after the nearby creek, Cryer Creek was sparsely populated for the first 20 years of its existence. However, as more settlers arrived, more businesses opened like the general store in 1878 and the post office in 1879, which officially put Cryer Creek on the map. By the early 1880s, a district school, two stores, three churches, three cotton gins, and a population of over 100 had moved into the small town, but this population rise peaked in 1892 with 200 occupants.
Unfortunately, Cryer Creek is now yet another victim of being bypassed by the railroad. Although not technically "dead," the population of Cryer Creek has been less than 20 for over 30 years.
There are still a number of local businesses located in Cryer Creek, but if you’re looking for something interesting to do there, your better bet is to stop by historic downtown Corsicana, just a few miles south of Cryer Creek.
Once part of the rowdy "Old West," it is rumored a gunfight ultimately "killed" Helena when a wealthy rancher's son was shot down and the angry father persuaded the railroad to bypass the city.
Founded in 1852, Helena once served as the county seat of Karnes County (1854-1894), had a slew of local businesses including a newspaper, and was even known as “the toughest city in the world” for its new form of fighting, appropriately called the “Helena Duel.”
In this dueling method, duelists had their left hands tied together and each fighter was given a 3-inch knife. Since the blade is so short, a single stab can’t be fatal so the fighters are tasked with slashing away at each other until one bleeds to death from all the small wounds the other has inflicted.
Although its school was closed in 1945 and the post office in 1956, the town of Helena still maintains a population of between 50 and 100 people. Since it was officially declared dead around the middle of the 20th century, though, the State of Texas has restored the 1873 courthouse, the old post office, the Sickenius farmhouse, and the John Ruckman Home as museums.
Additionally, in December of each year, the Helena post office reopens for one day as part of the Christmas celebration along the Alamo-La Bahía route.
Located in central Texas, just outside the city limits of Austin, Dodge City is what some might consider a real "Old West" ghost town. Settlers first arrived in Dodge in the 1820s during the days of the Texas Republic, and the town was founded a few years later.
However, when much of the valley around Austin was flooded to make the Lake Travis larger, Dodge City was abandoned forever to the bottom of the lake, save two cabins that were relocated to Fort Tumbleweed near Liberty Hill, Texas.
Nowadays, these two historically preserved cabins play host to 1800s-style gunfight re-enactments every weekend throughout the summer.
Once used to offer protection to North Texas settlers, Fort Griffin is now a state park maintained by Texas Parks and Wildlife. Originally established as U.S. Cavalry fort in July of 1867, Fort Griffin defended settlers from early Comanche and Kiowa raids.
This fort only survived 14 years before the Red River War of 1874 greatly diminished the threat of raids by indigenous tribes and made the utility of the fort moot. The flag was lowered for the last time over the small fort town on May 31, 1879.
Today, visitors can visit the deteriorating site of the old hospital, check out a portion of the official state herd of Texas Longhorns at Fort Griffin, and watch “Texas’ Oldest Outdoor Musical” entitled “The Fort Griffin Fandangle” on two weekends of June every year.