Dalby Springs Residents Say ‘We’re Still Here’
The Small Town Tour doesn’t just cover the up-and-coming or thriving communities within the Ark-La-Tex. Sometimes we get a chance to introduce you to the towns that used to exist.
When I began researching communities this week, I came across a town called Dalby Springs, located on the far western side of Bowie County, Texas. Wikipedia called it a ghost town and I thought it sounded like a fun place to visit.
I grabbed my water bottle, writer’s notebook and camera and drove west on I-30 until I was just between New Boston and Mount Pleasant, then took exit 186 for Farm to Market Road 561. I kept looking for an old saloon or dilapidated hotel with shutters barely hanging on to its decaying frame, but that’s not what I found.
Instead, a brown sign pointed me toward a historical marker, down a dirt road in farm country toward a little white church which stands next to a cemetery. I parked on the side of the road and investigated, the stench of cow manure tickling my nostrils.
Admittedly, I was somewhat disappointed by my find. This wasn’t the “ghost town” I’d imagined. There were no cowboys walking down the dusty road, the metallic ring of spurs against boots echoing in the distance.
Rather, Dalby Springs is still a community populated by hardworking people, many whom have lived here for most of their life. Wanda Barajas is one of those folks, and she was happy to regal me with stories about her town.
In 1953, Dalby Springs was annexed as part of DeKalb, Wanda told me, even though the area residents still consider themselves residents of Dalby Springs.
“I left in 1957, but returned in 1975,” Wanda said. She and her family came back and bought the old store where her mother had run the post office until it had moved to DeKalb. They tore it down and built a convenience store and gas station that opened in 1983 and remained open until 1998.
Other area residents include James Dalby, a descendent of the original settlers, and he continues to farm there. His family left its indelible mark on the area, which is evident on signs for Dalby Road, one for the Dalby Springs Community Center, and one by the old well that still reads Dalby Springs.
In 1969, Eugene Bowers and Evelyn Oppenheimer published “Red River Dust,” a book which featured a section on Dalby Springs. “That book made my niece so mad,” Wanda said, “because it made it sound like there is nothing in Dalby Springs anymore and that nobody lived here.”
But Wanda is still there, even if she has watched members of her family die, like the brother she buried in the Dalby Springs Cemetery two years ago.
Wanda is proud of the community’s history and now feels much like her niece did when she called Oppenheimer after the book was published and said, “I want you to know that I am somebody and I do live here and I’m proud of where I was born and raised.”