“Like most passionate nations, Texas has its own history based on, but not limited by, facts.” – John Steinbeck
Straddling the border between Texas and New Mexico is the forgotten ghost town of Glenrio. Once a monument along the boom and bust highway of Route 66, it now remains home to only the critters and the blowing tumble weeds of the vast prairie. In 1901, the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad came through the area and two years later Glenrio was born. The name Glenrio, which stems from the English word “valley” and the Spanish word for river, is neither a valley nor along a river.
In 1905 the region was opened to small farmers, who settled on choice 150-acre plots and a year later the Chicago, Rock Island and Gulf Railway established a station at Glenrio. The settlement began to bustle with cattle and freight shipments. Initially the area was primarily populated by large cattle ranches, but as time passed, much of the surrounding land was planted in wheat and sorghum.
The Swift Rise of The Glenrio Community
By 1920, Glenrio had a hotel, a hardware store and a land office, as well as several grocery stores, service stations and cafes. A newspaper, the Glenrio Tribune, was published from 1910 to 1934. There were no bars on the Texas side of the community, since Deaf Smith County was dry, and no service stations on the New Mexico side because of that state’s higher gasoline tax.
During the prosperity of the 1920s, politicians and entrepreneurs decided that America needed a national highway system. A decade later, Route 66 was born. In 1938, just months after the final pavement through Llano Estacado (the Stacked Plains) terrain of Route 66 was finished, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath was filmed in Glenrio for three weeks.
During the 1940s, the highway quickly became a supply line for a nation at war. In the post-war boom of the 1950s, Route 66 became “America’s Main Street,” as families piled into their chrome-laden two-tone Impalas, traveling to exotic vacation spots like the Grand Canyon and Disneyland.
Unfortunately, It Suffered The Fate Of Many Route 66 Small Towns
Though Glenrio’s permanent population never rose over thirty people, the town survived with its tourist-based businesses catering to the many travelers along Route 66. In 1955, the small town suffered a severe blow when the Rock Island Depot was closed. But, the town was doomed to extinction when Interstate 40 was built, bypassing the small community.
By 1985, only two residents remained in the small town and the Texas post office was the only business open. It too has long since closed. Today, the town is only visited by those travelers wishing to relive the story of old Route 66. The ghost town remains home to the long closed Little Juarez Café. The dusty collection of empty buildings also includes the old motel, a gas station and post office.
Glenrio’s old main street, which still stands intact, continues on to old Route 66, a dirt road following the old Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad right of way. Alternatively, you can return to I-40, where you will see an old gas station at the exit to Endee. Glenrio is located in extreme northwest Deaf Smith County, Texas, and along the eastern border of Quay County, New Mexico.