Photographing any time between early morning and evening hours anywhere can be challenging but in the Southwest deserts—difficult at best. Glaring light, extreme heat, blowing wind—usually unfavorable conditions for any pleasant photo shoot.
Do these environmental situations hinder a cemetery-hopping, fanatical tombstone photographer. No! When the opportunity presented itself, I seized it.
The El Camino Del Rio (FM 170), the River Road, quite the roller coaster-type highway, leading through mountains and canyons as it followed the Rio Grande. We began the 51-mile adventure at Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center east of Lajitas and followed it to Presidio, dipping and curving all the way.
First stopover and birth place to all Chili Cook-Offs worldwide—Terlingua—ghost town with ancestral, active cemetery, adobe ruins, handful private residences, guest house, and a few businesses. As one writer expressed, “Terlingua, a magical little ghost town scattered across the low hills along Highway 170, used to be populated by the hard-scrabble folks who worked in the mercury mines. But in the 1970s, river guides began moving into the abandoned stone structures, and now Terlingua is home to friendly outdoors enthusiasts, artists, miscreants, and drifters lured by the stunning sunsets and remote environs.” Wow, sounds like right out of a cowboy movie, doesn’t it?
TERLINGUA—Famous Texas Ghost Town (sign text transcribed)
With the mother-ore cinnabar strike in 1890, Terlingua became the world’s quicksilver capital, yielding 40% of our nation’s need by 1922. Its name from Terlingua (three tongues) Creek nearby was coined by Mexican herders, Comanche, Shawnee, and Apache who lived on its upper reaches. Howard E. Perry’s two-story mansion overlooked his Chisos mining company and townsite, where 2000 miners once used its jail, churches, ice cream parlor, and theater. The mine flooded, mineral prices fell, and Terlingua died after WW II.
TERLINGUA CEMETERY: (signage)
WELCOME to Historic Terlingua, in Texas’ Big Bend region between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park. Once an abandoned mining village, the Ghostown is now the center of a charming desert community.
This cemetery dates from the early 1900’s when Terlingua became a flourishing mercury mining place for residents and mine workers that succumbed to dangerous working conditions, gunfights, and the influenza epidemic of 1918. Life was good but could take harsh turns in the remote, untamed region known as the Big Bend.
The Terlingua Cemetery is still used by the local community—evidenced by the newer graves. Each November 2, people gather here to celebrate the Day of the Dead and offer their respect to the departed.
The Terlingua Cemetery is part of the Terlingua Preservation Foundation. Your generosity will help the foundation to continue to preserve and protect this important National Landmark.
There have been many interesting cemetery headstones captured through my camera lens over the past 15 years. However, photographing the diversified, unique final resting places at Terlingua Cemetery—fascinating despite the oppressive, early morning heat and glare. Many of the wooden crosses were decades old, examples of extreme desert air. Every cemetery different culturally, traditionally, and religiously, and this one no exception. Conservative burial estimates—400.
A way of life personally unfamiliar lay scattered among the rocks, wood, memorabilia, and earth. So enjoyed my 30-minute intense view into the lives and traditions of rugged individualists who once called Terlingua home.
Held in the arms of my desert, I assuredly rest in peace.
Please visit my Peering Through the Cemetery Gate gallery at www.corinthrose.com for additional Terlingua Cemetery images…pages 7-10.
Thanks for dropping by!