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Revisiting Thurber’s booze and bootlegging history

July 17, 2008

STEPHENVILLE, TEXAS—Tarleton State University’s W.K. Gordon Center for Industrial Texas will relive the wild history of Thurber, Texas, on July 27. The free program will begin at 2:30 p.m., during which Gene Rhea Tucker will present “Beer and Bootlegging in Thurber.”

During Thurber’s heyday, the coal company owned the town and all of its businesses, including the saloons. The bars were very profitable for the company and attracted many thirsty miners and brick workers. Two popular saloons were the Snake and the Lizard.

The saloons were forced to close with the start of statewide prohibition in 1918. Many residents, especially European immigrants, continued to produce beer and wine in their homes and found a wide market for their products in Fort Worth and the West Texas oil fields.

While Thurber may now be a ghost town, neighboring towns still flourish by selling alcohol. One example is Mingus, the town immediately north of Thurber in Palo Pinto County. The town remains open for alcohol sales as it did in Thurber’s roaring days and also features colorfully named saloons such as the Boar’s Nest and Mule Lip.

Tucker earned his bachelor’s and master’s in history from Tarleton. As a graduate student, he worked at the Gordon Center as an assistant and wrote his thesis on Thurber’s mercantile company. He is currently working on his dissertation at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Tarleton State University’s Gordon Center is a museum and research facility located about halfway between Fort Worth and Abilene at exit 367 on Interstate 20. The museum is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and closed on Monday. For more information, call (254) 968-1886.

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