Orange County Ghost Towns
For most people, the mention of a ghost town brings to mind an image of a street of falling down buildings on a dusty street, broken glass in the windows of long closed stores, and tumbleweeds blowing in the wind, and dust inches thick all over everything. The ghost towns of Orange County are not that type of ghost town. They tend to be acres of overgrown land with, at best, the foundation blocks of a few long gone buildings hiding in the weeds.
Lemonville, also known as Lemon, was located on what is now Farm Road 1130 in northern Orange County. The first development of the site was in 1898 with the construction of the Texarkana and Fort Smith Railway. The town plat was filed in 1901 and the Lemon Lumber Company, owned by Alexander Gilmer, began to buy town lots from William Manuel. In 1902 the post office was opened with Cornelius P. Ryan as its first postmaster.
In 1900 the mills were cutting over 30,000 board feet per day. In 1901, Gilmer installed new equipment and the production increased to over 100,000 board feet per day. After Gilmer’s death in 1906 the mills were run by others, including the Miller-Link and Peavey-Moore lumber companies. The locally available timber was cut off and market prices dropped and the mills were gradually shut down. In 1928 the post office shut down and the town was eventually abandoned. The population at one time had numbered 300.
Echo was founded in 1880. The Texas and New Orleans Railroad was being run from New Orleans to Houston and the Louisiana Extension Railroad Company was given the task of building the last link of the railroad, crossing the Sabine River. The land immediately east of Orange had been found too swampy for the railroad, so the site was pushed north and east of Orange. The site was named Echo because the railroad sounds “echoed” through the swamp.
A quarantine station had been established in 1880, but the town plat was not filed until 1903. By 1930 the quarantine station had been removed and Echo had become an industrial site with about 15 dwellings.
The T&N.O. Railroad became the Southern Pacific Railroad and Echo served as a freight yard. 1965 saw construction of the starting point of the Sabine River and Northern Railroad. This line would be the connector for the Southern Pacific to the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway and would service the timber industry of the region.
In 1964, shallow draft commerce on the Sabine River at Echo was 219,000 tons. Much of that trade was due to the Alpha Portland Cement Company plant being built at Echo.
Maps in the early 1980s showed a church and two businesses. Echo was by then within the city limits of Orange. In 1990 Echo reported a population of 25.
Terry was located at what is now the junction of the Southern Pacific Railroad and Farm Road 1135, 13 miles west of Orange and 11 miles east of Beaumont.
Terry was probably named for J.L. Terry, an official with the Texas and New Orleans Railroad. The railroad had been built on a section of land awarded to the T & N.O. in 1860. The first railroad from Orange to Beaumont was abandoned in 1863. It was rebuilt in 1876. The first post office was built in 1877.
In 1884, a post office, named Pearl, was established. A revised town plat was filed in 1887 and the post office was renamed as Terry Station. By 1889 Terry Station was closed, leaving only the main Terry post office.
French Acadians had settled in Terry in about 1860 and in Sept., 1877 completed the second Catholic Church built in Southeast Texas.
The Reverend W. H. Crawford, a Methodist circuit rider, was pastor of Terry’s Methodist church in 1881.
In 1892, rice farming had begun in Orange County, and about half of the farming was done at Terry. In Nov., 1892, 70,000 pounds of rice was shipped by rail to a New Orleans mill.
By 1898, the Terry rice farms were irrigated by the Cow Bayou Canal Company and the Des Moines Canal Company. In Feb., 1898, 135, 260 pounds of rice was shipped by barge from the Bland rice farm on Cow Bayou.
In 1908, Kichimatsu Kishi established the Kishi Colony at Terry. Kishi imported Japanese rice farmers and truck farmers and had a very prosperous farm until the production of rice was halted by the intrusion of salt water, partly from the discovery of oil at the Oilla Field and the development of the field beginning in 1913. Kishi recovered from the irrigation problem by switching from rice to vegetables.
Also in 1913 in an attempt to cash in on the Orange lumber boom, C.E. Slade founded the Terry Lumber Company and established a sawmill at Terry. The lumber company went bankrupt in 1917, and the mill was dismantled and moved away.
Terry was never more than a rural community with a peak population of about 200 in the years 1900-1915. By 1939, the population was about 40 and the post office was discontinued. In the mid-1970s only a few scattered rural residences remained.
Loss of timber and other economic changes caused people to move into Orange and other surrounding towns. What has been left behind are only a few physical signs of occupation, but to those who lived in those towns are many memories of the days when the towns were occupied before the ghosts took over.