Sylvester, Texas – Not quite a ghost town

In 1903 W.W. Sylvester was a promoter for the Kansas, Mexico, and Orient Railway. A rail line was being built from Sweetwater, Texas to Wichita, Kansas. 

The Compere brothers from Abilene, Texas learned of this new railroad coming and they wanted to create a town center for ranchers shipping cattle to Kansas City and aid farmers in having a way to sell their harvests. 

The Compere brothers purchased part of the AJ Ranch to build this new town. In honor of the railroad promoter this town would be named Sylvester. 

By 1905 the railroad reached Sylvester. A post office, bank, merchant shops, a cotton gin, and several other businesses opened at the promise of wealth. In 1909 the population of Sylvester reached 600. In 1927 the town became incorporated.  For the next ten years business and population grew. By 1940 farming declined in the Sylvester area. Largely due to the continued movement of the railroad. People took their business and farming to the larger towns created by the expansion of the rail line. 

The population of Sylvester declined to 405 in 1940 and continued to decline to a count of 79 in 2000. 

All that is left of Sylvester on Texas Farm to Market (FM) Road 70 are shells of buildings. 

From 1905 to 1940 this would have been a center for news and gossip. Who has just arrived and what are they doing?  Planting crops or starting a ranch?  As time passed the conversations would be on who is leaving and where are they going. During those years there were births and deaths. 

The school, once full of children’s voices and foot steps, is now a gaping hulk like the rest of the buildings. The school was located off the road we traveled but can be seen by a Google search of Sylvester, Texas. Same for the information I have included in this post. 

14 miles a little north of Sylvester is the town of Hamlin, Texas. Quite a busy little town this is even today in 2016. 

The old town center has some wonderful old buildings. 

What makes a town succeed and what makes a town fail?  I don’t have an answer for that.

I hope you have enjoyed this little visit to Texas off the beaten path. 



About Message In A Fold

I am an over the road truck driver in Drive-Away Transport part of the year, and the sole bookkeeper of this operation the other part of the year. I do a lot of whining until I can get in my craft room and play with paper and glue. View all posts by Message In A Fold

5 responses to “Sylvester, Texas – Not quite a ghost town

  • Erwin Vasily

    I enjoy the readings. I am learning a lot. Thanks! I am tempted to come out of 3+ years retirement. Got a DOT physical the other day. I know nothing about the Drive Away business.
    I am on my own. Family is all grown up. So, I think I would move to a city that has lots of outbound singles; school buses; and etc.
    Any suggestions?

    • Message In A Fold

      The wanderlust pull is sometimes hard to ignore. Congratulations on getting your DOT physical renewed.

      I would recommend you start at Penske Truck Rental. They shuttle their trucks around and need help from time to time. That would be the best option to start getting familiar with this business at a low cost.

      Running singles for the Drive-Away companies has a lot of up front costs if you have a dependable vehicle to be your “Chase Vehicle”. Tow hitch, driveline disconnect, some type of electrical line from the bobtail to your vehicle to make the turn, stop, and tail lights work.

      Check with Penske first.

      Thank you for finding my blog and reading it. I appreciate you.


    • Message In A Fold

      My husband makes custom hitches for the Drive-Away industry. If you would like to chat about the business and have questions contact Joe at his email – Leave a phone number and he will be happy to talk to you.

  • Sharon

    Wow! I really enjoyed this post. I originally found your blog because I was looking up some craft info, but thought I’d see if you had any newer entries. Having grown up in Texas, your photos especially brought back many memories. Maybe it’s because the state is so large that towns are sometimes few and far between? I don’t know. But I do remember seeing so many little ghost-like towns similar to Sylvester as a child and feeling rather melancholy as we drove through them. These had once been places people had lived in and had loved; they were hometowns with families and social gatherings and life stories were played out there. I don’t know what makes town succeed or fail, either. I just know that seeing the abandoned buildings and sparse everything in those kinds of places has always made me sad. The fact that you took the time to bring attention to Sylvester and tell its history is a gift to its past and to all its townspeople and to us too. Thank you.

    • Message In A Fold

      Thank you, Sharon, for your great comment left on my post about Sylvester, Texas.

      I know what you mean when you say a feeling of melancholy takes hold as you went through those long ago towns.

      In my job as an over the road truck driver I see so many of these little hamlets that once held promise. Yes, I too, think about the people that called these places home. What happened to them and where did they go. What they left behind is interesting and sad.

      Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post and leave a comment. I appreciate you.

      Warm regards – Leslie

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