Town limit sign near the site where
a monkey made a fatal mistake.
In 1890, the Wichita Valley Railway laid tracks across the Lazarus Ranch to connect Wichita Falls with Seymour. They laid a spur line to the ranch headquarters by Tom's house to facilitate cattle shipment. Tom established a supply store at the end of the line as a supply point for the local cowboys and railroad workers to purchase essentials.
In 1908, Charles Mangold purchased the whole operation and established several business's, including a small hotel, located next to the main rail line. He plotted a town site and began advertising lots for sale. By 1912, enough people had established residence in the community that a post office was applied for. The first name submitted for acceptance by the post office was Mangold, but there was already a town by that name so it was rejected. The next name submitted was Mankins, to honor Tom Mankins. This was accepted and the town of Mankins was officially born with 55 people calling it home. The town continued to grow as a supply point for the surrounding area and eventually included several stores, a thriving bank, two churches, several hotels, restaurants, its own telephone exchange, two schools educating over 400 students and a moving picture theatre.
During this time, a local cowboy, Dick Dudley, gained fame for being a superb horseman, able to ride even the meanest, rankest wild horse. In 1914, a traveling wild west show came through the area and offered cash prizes for cowboys who thought they could ride several of the unbroken wild horses the show had. Dudley rode them all, one after the other, collecting all the cash prizes. While collecting his winnings from the owner of the show, Dudley found out he was having financial difficulties and was trying to find a buyer. Dudley returned his winnings for sole ownership of the show, the contracts of the performers and all of the show's assets. Under his guidance, the show traveled throughout the small tows of West Texas. Although not a roaring success financially, Dick managed to turn a small profit. More importantly, he discovered he very much enjoyed show business.
Dudley expanded the show to include circus-type acts and carnival attractions like rides, games of chance and side-shows such as "Elephant Boy" and "The Snake Girl." During its heyday, the show employed as many as 250 people. For four months every winter, the show, the animals and most of its employees settled in Mankins for the off-season. For 70 years, well into the 1980's, the town benefited from the influx of winter residents and the additional cash they brought in, but ultimately, it wasn't enough.
|Dick Dudley's stone house in Mankins|
The consolidation of the ranches and farms and better roads making it possible for residents to live and shop in larger cities began taking a toll on the town. Another limiting factor was the continued lack of potable water. Often, the town required water to be brought in by rail or water tanks. Fewer residents meant fewer students in the Mankins school district and in 1947, it consolidated with the Holliday school district and the school closed its doors. The depopulation continued until the post office closed in 1958. Today, Mankins is a virtual ghost with an official population of just 10 hardy souls, a few empty houses and scattered debris documenting lives of the past.
|Abandoned structure in Mankins|
For many years, travelers told of seeing elephants, zebras and other exotic animals roaming around among the homes and in cages along the road as they passed through Mankins. One time, a semi-truck driver noticed one of the elephants was standing right beside the highway. Unfortunately, he was staring at the elephant when a monkey who had escaped from his cage decided to run across to the other side of the road. The driver didn't see him in time, the monkey wasn't fast enough and Mankins remains the only place in Texas where a monkey was killed while crossing the road.
|Another abandoned building in Mankins.|