Though it is a ghost town today, Thurber once had a population of perhaps as many as 8,000 to 10,000. At that time (1918–20) it was the principal bituminous-coal-mining town in Texas. The site of the town is seventy-five miles west of Fort Worth in the northwest corner of Erath County. Mining operations were begun there in December 1886 by William Whipple Johnson and Harvey Johnson. Isolation forced the operators to recruit miners from other states and from overseas; large numbers of workers came from Italy, Poland, the United States, Britain, and Ireland, with smaller numbers from Mexico, Germany, France, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, and Russia. Black miners from Indiana worked in the mines during the labor troubles of the 1880s. The force of predominantly foreign workers, many of whom spoke little or no English, enabled the company to maintain a repressive environment for many years. Following inability to meet a payroll and a resulting strike by miners, the Johnsons sold out in the fall of 1888 to founders of the Texas and Pacific Coal Company, including Robert Dickey Hunter, who became president of the new company, and H. K. Thurber of New York, for whom the town was named.
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