The Town - A Brief History
In 1882, when the Southern Pacific Railroad reached what is now Sanderson, the area started to be settled in earnest. Over the years, the railroad provided many jobs for the town and played an important roll in the local economy. In the early 1900’s cattle and sheep ranching took hold in the area. And the railroads provided a means to get the animals to market. In the 1950s oil and gas production started to establish in the area providing even more jobs.
In its heyday, Sanderson had a little over 3000 residents. But over the years the population has been in steady decline. Some of this decline has been related to economic forces and some related to local tragedy. In 1965, a large flash flood destroyed a large area of town and killed 28 people. This resulted in the Army Corps of Engineers constructing a series of retention dams around Sanderson to prevent a flashflood of this nature from happening again. You can see these dams from the highway, and the school’s football field also acts as a retention pond.
In early 90s, a train heading west bound from Sanderson collided with a train coming east bound from Marathon. Several locals were killed in the collision and the accident resulted in the railroad moving its crew terminal to Alpine. Along with this move went many local jobs, once again hurting the local economy and forcing residents to move to find work.
The oil and gas industry dried up for much of the area in the 2000s. This has resulted in even more loss to the economy and jobs.
At one point, this was a happening little town in the desert. There is a lot of history here, from Judge Roy Bean to train robbers. If you drive around the town and notice the many deserted buildings, try to imagine the once vibrant local economy. The Princess Theater used to provide locals with entertainment. There used to be a dozen watering holes for the locals to get a cold drink after a hard day of ranching or working the railroads. The large cut mountain on the east side of town, which is now the shooting range, used to be a rock quarry for the railroads.
The lifelong residents of Sanderson have seen this town transform over the years. Despite the hardships that have resulted in the town's population decline, there is still a great sense of pride and hope in this town. And as evidenced by the out of towners that have started to move here, and the investors buying abandoned buildings, it appears to be contagious. The Princess theater is planned to be repurposed as a beer garden and music venue. The Cactus plaza is being repurposed into a business center and the building across the street into a commercial kitchen. The old train depot is undergoing renovations for purposes not yet known. The old hotel on Oak Street is slated to be converted to a banquet venue. Heck, we even bought the Desert Air and are in the process of renovating it.
We believe that Sanderson is on the cusp of a revival. It may be families moving out to Sanderson to enjoy a slower pace of life and a small, but quality school system for their kids. It may be that oil and gas pick back up in the area and play a role. We hope that tourism plays a big part of this revival as people discover this little gem of a town. When this happens, they’ll have a cute comfortable little motel to stay at…
Z Bar Trading Co. is an interesting and fun store that likely has just what you need. It's hardware store meets antique store, meets nursery, meets home goods.
The Ranch House Restaurant is the main restaurant in town. Their hours vary, so you might want ot call ahead to make sure they're open.
Dusty Bottoms Grocery is a small store with food basics and regular hours.
When all else fails, the Stripes Gas Station is the place to go for food. Their breakfast tacos are pretty good if gotten fresh.
Julio's Bar is just the place for those that want a drink and to shoot pool. Call Julio (number posted on the bar door) and he'll come open the joint for you.
The Bi-Cenntenial Park in the middle of town has nice shaded areas, a playground, and public pool.
The Hiking and Nature Trail is an easy walk up and around the hills that surround half the town. It offers beautiful views and plenty of nature sightings. Its the perfect spot for sunset views.
Swing by the Terrell County Visitors Center for more info on the town and surrounding areas.
Click here to visit the Sanderson Chamber of Commerce page. It is current with all the events happening in Sanderson which include the annual Snake Days, Cactus Weekend and Fourth of July Celebrations.
The Terrell County Memorial Museum has more information on the town's history. Click here to visit their site.
Cactus Capital of Texas
Sanderson is a popular destination for naturalists. Come explore the town hiking and nature trail to discover west Texas vegetation, birds, wildlife and insects.