by Vena Bob LeSueur Gates
from “The History of Coleman County and Its People,” 1985
It has been reported that Talpa was founded as early as 1883 and in 1886 when the Santa Fe Railroad came to this section of the county, however, not all right of ways for the laying of tracks were obtained until 1890-1891. The Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway Company bought some land from W. P. Cusenbary and his two brothers, D. B. and E. T., on February 17, 1886. (The Cusenbarys had purchased several sections of land in this area, making one of their first transactions in 1883). W. J. Sayre came to Talpa as a telegrapher and agent for the railway company. The railroad first built a section house one mile east of Talpa, with the depot being erected and completed in 1891-1992, in the town site. Talpa was started as a switch-place on the railroad.
Just who named Talpa or decided on the name is not known, but there have been a number of conflicting stories as to its origin. Some say it was named for the catalpa tree and others from a rock, possibly talpatate, a rock of superficial origin resembling caliche.
The elevation of Talpa is 2018 feet above sea level. Talpa was known as a two county town, since it is located in Coleman County on the west boundary, just over the line of Runnels. For many years, it served not only Talpa residents, but the farmers and ranchers of both Coleman and Runnels Counties. Cotton, grain, sheep, goats, hogs, horses, mules, poultry, wool, mohair, all kinds of supplies and groceries were shipped in or out by the railroad.
Among the founders and early developers of Talpa were W. P. Cusenbary and his wife, Willie (Skiles), D. B. and E. T. Cusenbary, W. T. Laughlin and W. J. Sayre. The original town of Talpa was mapped out in the early part of 1900, north of the railroad track, consisting of 30 blocks, with lots varying from eight, nine, ten and twenty to the block. The streets were also named. The first lots were sold in late 1900 and early 1901. The W. J. Sayre Addition, south of the railroad tracks, was mapped out in the early part of 1901. W. T. Laughlin bought acreage, south of the railroad, from the Cusenbarys in which much was mapped out in 1901 and called the Laughlin Addition. This was west and southwest of the Sayre Addition. Mr. Sayre and Mr. Laughlin also purchased lots and blocks in the original townsite, with several still owned by the Laughlin heirs. In 1909, the Cusenbary Addition was mapped out, taking in part of the east, all of the north and part of the west boundaries of the original townsite.
Doctors who resided and practiced in Talpa and its boundaries were: (1) J. L. Jones, who came in December, 1903, and his family in 1904. They first lived in a two room house where the Methodist parsonage is now, then Mr. Laughlin built them a house in his addition. In later years, they ]ived near the school, with 1913 being one of his “big baby boom” years; (2) S. A. Lowrie; (3) J. W. James; (4) Guy R. Zachry; (5) C. E. Smith (these five are buried in Talpa Cemetery); (6) H. E. Whitacre; (7) C. H. Standifer; (8) Ernest D. Forman.
1903-1904, E. M. Jones of Coleman bought several lots and opened one of
the first Dry Goods Stores in 1904. It also served as a bank until
Sidney Turner and Ed A. Hattan came from East Texas in August, 1905.
In September, 1905, W. T. Laughlin, W. P. Cusenbary, E. A. Hattan and Sidney
Turner paid $100.00 to Mr. and Mrs. E. M. Jones for land to erect the First
State Bank of Talpa.
The Smith’s (probably B. U.) had the first hotel (frame) on Main Street. They purchased the lots in June, 1900. I. D. (Toll) Dunn had the first tailor shop in 1902. Fred Boyer, one of the first druggists and pharmacists, was followed by John Clay and J. Ben Harris. S. P. (Perry) Hale also had a drug store. In later years, Bill and Lillian Turk opened the drug store after Mr. Harris sold out. Pesry Hale and Eric Tate put in a picture show called the Gem. John Trammell had a livery stable. The “Rock” hotel, south of the railroad, was run by William Ledford.
Mrs. E. M. Jones organized the first Study Club, called the Talpa Reading Club in 1905, followed by the Talpa Shakespeare Club in 1906. Later, The Talpa Study Club, Home Demonstration, Lions Club, Pearce American Legion Post No. 558 and the Ladies Auxiliary, Troop 29 Boy Scouts, Little League,and Talpa Cemetery Association were among some of the organizations.
Ed P. Eason was Editor and Proprietor of the Talpa Tribune Newspaper, beginning in 1905. W. A. Forman had a Mercantile Store; Phillips and Son had an ice house; Ira Phillips ran a confectionary, later Stanley Wood; R. L. McElrath did tin work, plumbing, etc.; W. J. Sayre and Will Musray sold real estate and insurance; W. M. Kidd had a Dry Goods and Mercantile store, later W. E. Bush. Brown and Meeks ran a grocery store; M. M. Slaten sold coal arid owned a gin; N. A. Perry of Brownwood also opened gin property in Talpa, probably the one southeast of the depot on the south side of the tracks and later owned by Floyd Hollinger; Hatton and Turner were in real estate; Dunn and Stigler were barbers; H. A. Montgomery owned the Talpa Hotel (Rates: $1.25 per day, meals, 25 cents; Regular Boarders $16.00 per month); W. M. Ledford was in real estate and a traveling saleman; Will Roberts, Jr. was an agent for the Henry Bosch Company in Chicago - specialty wall paper; The Talpa Camp W. O. W. met every Saturday night betore the second and fourth Sundays and the Talpa Lodge No. 920, A. F. A. M. met on Saturday “on or before” the full moon in each month. N. R. Hine was the Secretary.
On the 1910 Census, the following businesses and occupations are listed:
(1) School teachers, William O. Hines and Miss Lexie F. James, daughter
of Dr. J. W. James;
In 1911, Hood and Skiles had a grocery and feed store. Skiles was a nephew to Mrs. W. P. Cusenbary. O. N. Vaughn built a two story rock and brick building, with a one story of same structure attached, around 1906-1907. In the bottom of the two story there were several grocery stores, one being a Red and White owned by Ralph M. Edens. Mrs. Sayre, in later years, lived in and rented rooms in the upstairs; the Sayres having purchased the building. W. T. Gregory had his mercantile store in the one story. The buildings are still standing, but in very poor condition.
Some of the earlier filling station and garage owners were Ivy Mayfield, Alvin (Puny) Hudgins, the Browns, J. M. Thompson, Al Hintner, Wess Bomar (at one time had the Gulf Distributorship, later Bill Kennedy); in later years, J. M. Thompson, Coleman (Jack) Parker, Homer Monroe, Johnny “Boy” Decker, Bill Turk, Tommy Rush and Darrell Green.
Some who had grocery stores were R. W. (Bob) Brown, Edens Red and White, E. E. Evans, Davis Grocery (owned by Ralph Davis and Edgar Herring) sold to Will Moore (known as the rustler), Maud Richardson, the Sikes, Kenneth and Barbara Faulkner, Mr. Fancher and Lost Track General Store (also a feed store and service station).
Some of the cafes and restaurants were owned and operated by Grover Pratt, Rube and Bee McClure, Minnie Partridge, Anne Dial Bomar, Joe Trammell, and Bernice Partridge. The Partridges also had a domino hall and Frank had an insurance agency.
Charley Kennedy had a barber shop with Wes James of Valera. They were also experts at removing warts with an acid. Charley added a tailor shop and sold clothing and shoes, later moving his barber shop to the cafe building where the McClure’s had their cafe.
Harve Sullivan was one of the last to have a blacksmith shop. It was behind where the present post office is. Public scales were also back of this building. There have been several feed stores, with the last one run by Tommy Rush and now Darrell and Ann Green.
Hazle Sayre Bryan ran her father’s insurance business after his death, later assuming the agency. She and her husband, Roy Shannon, also had a mercantile store and a picture show in the Sayre building in the 1950’s.
E. C. Marrs is believed to be Talpa’s first oil man, coming from Knox County in 1912. His daughter, Rea, married Henry Jameson. In 1914, through Mr. Marrs, F. J. Clemenger of Houston came to Talpa to begin active operation. In the 1950’s there was another oil boom in Talpa. There is still some activity there today.
L. F. Wade was Editor, Publisher, Printer and Devil of the Talpa Post Newspaper, published weekly as of July 21, 1911. Dr. E. D. Forman was manager of Formans Pharmacy in the Red Cross Drug Store; J. T. Gaines was the depot agent, later W. F. Price. (Jerry Williamson was one of the last agents); W. J. Sayre and J. C. Lewis were in insurance, with offices over E. M. Jones and Company; Willis Head was owner of a dray line (also a barber); Sparks and Lewis owned the “One Acre Hog Ranch”, selling registered Duroc-Jerseys; M. L. Marrs was buying grain; Price and Trammell (partners) in Red Pole cattle, mules and registered jacks; A. V. Livingston raised and sold registered Merino sheep. In 1915, Floyd Hollinger and Lester Freeman built a new $10,000 gin plant.
The officers at the bank were W. F. Cusenbary, President; J. A. Norris, E. M. Jones, A. Cusenbary (Mrs. W. P.), A. C. Herring were Vice-Presidents; Charles Price, Executive Vice-President and Cashier, and H. E. Evans, Assistant Cashier. Directors were W. C. Wright, F. M. and W. P. Cusenbary, A. C. Herring, Charlie Price and H. E. Evans. It was a guaranty fund bank, with surplus, undivided profits over 10M and capital of 20M. Later, H. E. Evans became president of the bank. All of his children at one time worked in the bank along with Wayne Bennett. The bank was sold to the Coleman County State Bank in the early 1940’s.
On April 6, 1920, the citizens of Talpa and the surrounding community met for the purpose of organizing a wool warehouse company. Charles Price was appointed chairman and R. H. Alexander, secretary. They voted to build a wool warehouse which would be incorporated for $6,000.00, having 240 shares at $25.00 each. There were seven directors elected (only six recorded), Feb McWilliams, A. D. Richey, Jr., R. H. Alexander, Harry Hubert, H. E. Evans and Charles Price. These directors were elected for one year and they were to manage and look after the welfare of the company. On February 5, 1921, a meeting (their second) was held to accept the resignation of George Rae as president with H. E. Evans elected to succeed him. They voted to have a wool sale on March 15, 1921, and sell in the manner as in the past, sealed bids. There was a statement made on the condition of the warehouse and the balance of the stock, which was 12 shares, were sold which made the 6M needed to be incorporated. Prior to erecting this warehouse, wool had been stored in a building near to where the El Rancho Cafe was, with the permanent structure erected along the railroad tracks (northside) and west of the depot (some two blocks). For several years, Tom Richey of Lampasas had the warehouse leased. B. D. Roberts was his first manager, followed by Dexter (Deck) Huey and John J. (Johnny) Decker, who came to Talpa from Menard in 1955. In 1958, the company held a meeting and offered the lease of the warehouse to Johnny. He leased on a yearly basis until his retirement in the early 1980’s. The warehouse is now under lease to West Texas Wool and Mohair as a gathering point for local wool. Doyle Condra has been secretary of the company for several years.
South Texas Lumber Company had a lumber yard here for many years. From one of their ledgers, 1914 through 1919, some of the managers were W. W. Clack and Frank E. Bennett. Harry Crews was also a manager for several years. He and his family lived in the company house. (Another great place for the kids to play in when it was loaded with lumber - with permission). The building is now owned by Gordon Brookshier.
John Anderson (December 23, 1872 in Sweden - May 18, 1947 in Talpa) came to Talpa in 1916. He first worked for Earl Davis. He was a carpenter and later had a shop in the front part of his home. He made many items of furniture of which some of us are proud to still have in our possession. We kids always enjoyed visiting “Mr. John” and watch him in his work. It is said he had no family, yet he had a large “family” - the people who lived here!
A landmark of Talpa was the Main Street. On the west side, sidewalks were from three to four feet higher than the street. Many ranchers tied their horses in front of the stores. It was handy as a loading dock; some of tIre men used to play checkers, hanging their feet over the drop, as well as a play area for children. When the highway department relocated the route of Highway 67 in the 1950’s, one side of the street (south of the present highway) was filled in and paved. On the north side of the highway it remains as it was.
Uncle Jess Dancer was appointed official mail carrier between the depot and post office on March 2, 1923, succeeding S. N. King. He used a two wheeled push cart. Some of us kids were lucky enough to ride on some of these runs. It was always exciting when we met the train. When Mr. Crume was postmaster, the post office was in the northwest room of his two room house. The outside mail slot is still there. (Later additions were made to this house when it belonged to D. W. Grounds). Then the post office was moved to the Sayre building, then the old bank building and to its present location.
The first lake was built by W. P. Cusenbary, later owned by the S. P. Hale family and known as the “old lake” north of town. Nathan Meeks also had a lake southeast of the railroad and depot. The town of Talpa (then referred to as Talpa Town) purchased the water system from S. P. Hale in 1933. In 1948, the city bought Charlie Hale’s entire water works, meters, etc., with no title to the land. Part of this equipment was later sold to Lawn when they established their water system and ours was improved. The town of Talpa was incorporated the later part of 1938. Prior to this incorporation, plans were already in motion for the new lake which was built one arid a half miles south of town in 1939-1940. This lake is no longer used by the townspeople; they now get their water from the Coleman County Water Cooperative. With an election held April 7, 1982, Talpa was unincorporated.
In 1953, a second-hand fire truck (a 1927 Reo), was bought from the Coleman Fire Department for $200.00 (now owned by Tommy Gates). Through the years, two army surplus trucks were purchased and converted, which are still in use. The old S. P. Hale building (where he had his drug store) and lots were purchased from Charlie Hale for the use of the City Hall.
to the closing of the bank, later the depot. Talpa was a good-sized town,
with many houses, businesses and people. The oil boom in the 1950’s
helped to keep it alive for several more years. Many of our old timers
are now gone but those of us who remain are still proud of our little town.
the Coleman County website.