Van Horn

Mountain Trail Region


Serving the tourism industry wasn’t always the principal pastime for residents of Van Horn. During a particularly rowdy period in its past, avoiding gun fights took precedent, accompanied by a bit of grim humor. The first man to be buried in Van Horn’s cemetery, local rancher A. S. Goynes, suggested a fitting motto for the community in the late 1800s that read “This Town is So Healthy We had to Shoot a Man to Start a Cemetery”, a catchy phrase that hung for years in the lobby of the now-historic Clark Hotel. Goynes, however, was shot and killed by his brother-in-law in an argument over a watering hole shortly after his catchphrase caught on. The arrival of the railroad spurred growth in the region but gunfights remained an occasional option for resolving conflict, a predicament not uncommon along Texas’ early western frontier. It took the turn of the century, a more effective law enforcement, and the opening of national parks to the north and south of Van Horn to provide it with a friendlier character, one it shares with thousands of travelers today who pass through the town on their way to the Guadalupe Mountains and Carlsbad Caverns to the north or the Big Bend region due south. Visitors once stayed at the historic Clark Hotel, the oldest building in Van Horn that now serves as the Culberson County Historical Museum. Today, tourists often choose to check into the historic and renovated Hotel El Capitan, a Henry Trost-designed classic.