Marathon, Texas

Marathon, Texas

The Gage Hotel in Marathon. Photo by Rosie Hatch

Marathon, the second-largest town in Brewster County, is located on the Southern Pacific Railroad at the intersection of U.S. highways 90 and 385, twenty-six miles southeast of Alpine in the northern part of the county. The town was founded when the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway built across what was then part of Presidio County. A crew building east from El Paso reached the townsite in March 1882. At that time the area had already attracted a few settlers. Among the first were two brothers from San Antonio, Solomon and Mayer Halff, who established the headquarters of their Circle Dot Ranch near Peña Colorado Springs, four miles southwest of the townsite. In 1879 the Halffs leased part of their land to the federal government for the establishment of Camp Peña Colorado, which became the local center of population before the railroad. Capt. Albion E. Shepard, a former sea captain who had worked as a surveyor for the railroad, bought land in the area on March 10, 1882, and established the Iron Mountain Ranch, north of the site of future Marathon. When he applied for a post office in September 1882, he estimated that the local population was about 130 and "increasing rapidly." A post office was established there on February 13, 1883. Shepard named the site Marathon because its terrain reminded him of the plains of Marathon, Greece.

The railroad turned Marathon into a shipping and supply point for area ranchers. In 1884 the population was estimated at fifty, and local businesses included four livestock breeders, one sheep breeder (Shepard), and one saloon. At that time the principal products shipped from Marathon included livestock, wool, and large game animals, including deer, antelope, and bear. In that year Jim P. Wilson shipped an entire trainload of cattle to Marathon, then hired fourteen Mexicans to drive the herd, on foot, to his ranch in Green Valley, some sixty-five miles to the southwest. On December 1, 1885, Shepard deeded Section 18 of Survey Block 4 to his son, Ben E. Shepard, for five dollars. Ben had it platted and sold the first lot to Otto Peterles on March 25, 1886. In 1887, when Brewster, Buchel, and Foley counties were formed out of Presidio County, Marathon was designated the county seat of Buchel County. In 1897, however, Buchel and Foley counties, which had never been organized, were disestablished, and their territory officially became part of Brewster County, which thus became the largest in Texas.

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Martin Donell Kohout | © TSHA

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Adapted from the official Handbook of Texas, a state encyclopedia developed by Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). It is an authoritative source of trusted historical records.

Adopted by: Keirstin Gayle Pratt
Adoption Message: In honor of my roots and my family: The Coes, Crawfords and Shackelfords. I also currently work at the Gage Hotel, and I am honored to have the opportunity to keep teaching travelers and other people about Marathon's rich history. Just in case you didn't know, it's pronounced Marath'n, and if you know, you know! If you ever find yourself in Marath'n, holler!
Until: May 20th, 2025

Belongs to

Marathon is part of or belongs to the following places:

Currently Exists


Place type

Marathon is classified as a Town


Latitude: 30.20516880
Longitude: -103.24462050

Has Post Office


Is Incorporated


Population Count, 2021 View more »