In the early 20th century, a prosperous coal and brick operation made Thurber a thriving city between Fort Worth and El Paso. Owned by the Texas and Pacific Coal Company, the booming company town became America’s first totally unionized town and one of the first with electric service. In 1917, the company’s entrepreneurial executive, W.K. Gordon, struck oil at nearby Ranger, setting the stage for the West Texas oil boom. Ironically, steam locomotives began burning oil instead of locally-mined bituminous coal. The company continued operation of the brick plant, but by the late 1930s Thurber was a ghost town. The W.K. Gordon Center for Industrial History of Texas, a component of Tarleton State University, uses lively interactive exhibits to trace Thurber’s boom-to-bust story. The museum and research center also highlights the broader industrial past of Texas and the Southwest. The adjacent Thurber Historical Association Park preserves relocated and restored Thurber originals — a miner’s residence, bandstand and St. Barbara’s Catholic Church, named for the patron saint of miners. Thurber’s original mercantile store houses a popular restaurant, standing in the shadow of Thurber’s 148-foot-high, century-old brick smokestack.