Heritage, Volume 5, Number 2, Summer 1987 Page: 40
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Thurber, Texas: The Life and Death of a
Company Coal Town. John S. Spratt, Sr.;
edited by Harwood P. Hinton. Austin:
University of Texas Press, 1986. 138
pages, black-and-white photographs,
John Stickland Spratt, born in 1902,
grew up in the Thurber-Mingus vicinity.
In 1920 Spratt entered the University of
Texas at Austin, where he would earn his
doctorate in 1953 while on the faculty
of Southern Methodist University. His
book, The Road to Spindletop: Economic
Change in Texas, 1875-1901, won the
Carr P. Collins Award from the Texas Institute
of Letters in 1955. A student of
twentieth-century economics, Spratt was
keenly aware of his personal knowledge of
the life of a small town in a time now
past. More importantly, as Hinton notes,
"he also understood the role that management,
technology, and progress played in
hastening the destruction of the two
Today, a red brick smokestack is all that
remains of Thurber. When Spratt was five
years old at the turn of the century the
company town had 1,400 men on the
payroll and was entering its most prosperous
years. But the discovery of oil in
Ranger Field marked the end of coalburning
locomotives, and Thurber's industry
In the 1960s, Spratt began research on
a book about his native town. What began
as a study of the effects of technological
change evolved into a memoir.
The manuscript remained unfinished
when Spratt died in 1976. From this
manuscript, Hinton has distilled a history
of the town from 1906 to 1920. Hinton
writes, "For those who knew Thurber and
Mingus in bygone days, [Spratt] provides
a memorable nostalgia trip. For those
who travel Interstate 20 and wonder
about the ruins languishing in a valley a
few miles east of Ranger Hill, here is an
explanation. Steam engines no longer
snort and pound, the whistles are stilled,
and the coal soot is gone, but the personality
and significance of this picturesque
world live on in these valuable
A Book to Celebrate
A Book to Celebrate
By Mary Lou Burkett
Like the "Tales of King Arthur," this epic poem
in blank verse celebrates the "fighting men of
Texas" from the days of the Texas revolution to
the present. Eighteen full-page illustrations by
Joan Hilbig portray such fighting men as
Travis, Bowie and Houston. Mrs. Burkett researched
letters, journals and primary history
to assure fidelity to historic events. The author,
who has written a musical about Spindletop,
makes her home in Baytown.
6 x 9, illustrated,
ISBN 0-89015-571-2, hardback ............... $9.95
Available at your favorite bookstore or you may order
from EAKIN PRESS, P.O. Box 23066, Austin, Texas 78735.
Phone orders accepted (Visa or MasterCard)
512 / 288-1771.
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 5, Number 2, Summer 1987, periodical, Summer 1987; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45437/m1/40/: accessed February 22, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.