Texas Hill Country Ghost Towns to Visit for Forgotten History

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Tony Maples Photography


Sometimes, the past vanishes in the mists of time, leaving behind empty ghost town where thriving communities once stood. Several of these exist in the Texas Hill Country but don’t expect outlaws and old west heroes in all the towns. Some of them existed mundanely but had citizens who went on to better things, while others feel too lively to be real ghost towns. For a taste of forgotten history, visit these Texas Hill Country ghost towns.

1. Bankersmith

Bankersmith Railroad Tunnel formerly close to a ghost town now hosts millions of bats

Photo: Facebook/Robert Hurst/Texas Railroad History

A banker named Smith gave the name to the town of Bankersmith, which thrived until the 1920s, though the population never rose above 50. The Great Depression saw a drop in the number of citizens in town, and today, the biggest group of living beings is the bat colony in an abandoned railroad tunnel. This is only one of two railroad tunnels in Texas. If you visit, you’ll encounter bats and rattlesnakes in the tunnel. There also stands the now-closed Bankersmith Hall, which once hosted live music performances and private events. Interestingly enough, in 2012, the town became Bikinis, Texas, for a short while when Doug Guller purchased some of the town on Craigslist. He reverted the name to Bankersmith in 2015.

2. Gruene

Gruene was once among the Texas Hill Country ghost towns but has come back to life

Photo: Facebook/Gruene Historic District

Believe it or not, many counted Gruene among the Texas Hill Country ghost towns until it came back to life. Most of the town’s citizens abandoned it during the Great Depression. And the town sat as a ghost of its former, thriving self until the 1970s. Then, an architecture student worked to inventory the historic buildings left abandoned in Gruene. He convinced the developers of the site to register the town in the National Register of Historic Places rather than raze the buildings for condos. A year later, Pat Molak purchased Gruene Hall and revitalized it to become the popular draw it is today. Though Gruene no longer exists as its own town – it’s part of New Braunfels – it remains as a reminder that even ghost towns can be restored to life.

3. Luckenbach

Luckenbach's post office was disbanded in 1971 making it officially a ghost town

Photo: Facebook/Luckenbach Texas

Though widely known as a country music haven, Luckenbach technically is a ghost town. As happened to Bankersmith, a Texas folklorist, Hondo Crouch, purchased Luckenbach in 1970 for $30,000. He used his ownership of the town to govern the operations of Luckenbach’s dance hall. Today, the town maintains a negligible population, but visitors swell the number each weekend.