Population: 839 (2004)
Oil well “Old Faithful” near Thrall, 1930. Thrall was the site of two oil booms, first in 1915 and again in the 1930s, which resulted in 200 oil wells being drilled in nearby farms.
Latitude: 30.597148 Longitude: -97.297148
Hwy 79 at CR 424/Bounds Road
Courtesy of Raymond Fuchs
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Town of Thrall - Historical Marker
An 1876 International & Great Northern railroad siding called "Stiles Switch" for landowners J. E. and F. M. Stiles, grew into a shipping point for the Swiss and Germans who settled in this area. The post office that opened in 1901 was named for Methodist minister and historian Homer S. Thrall. Nearly oil discoveries and sudden growth caused the town to be incorporated in 1915. The 38.21-inch rainfall of Sept. 8-9, 1921, gave Thrall a world record. Since 1961, Texas A&M University agricultural research center had operated here. Farming remains the basic local industry.
Latitude: 30.5897 Longitude: -97.2986
Address: 104 S Main St
TOWNSITE OF THRALL, WILLIAMSON COUNTY, TEXAS
Historical Narrative by Clara Scarbrough‑
Thrall is located in the rich Blackland prairies of southeast Williamson County, and somewhat to the south and east of the townsite are creeks which, in the 1800s, were heavily timbered and along which wild cattle abounded. Therefore, the settlers who came to the general area before 1876 chose this for their homes because of their interests in the cattle business or agriculture.
The actual location of Thrall proper was determined by the establishment of the first railroad in the county--the International and Great Northern--which extended its lines west from Rockdale toward Austin in 1876, creating the communities of Thrall, Taylor, and Hutto, in Williamson County. The Stiles family had extensive land holdings in the Thrall area at that time, and the railroad built a spur to the Stiles cattle pens, at which point they designated a station stop. The railroad stop was called Stiles Switch, later to be renamed, Thrall.
Seaborn and Rebecca Fincher Stiles migrated to Texas in 1849 from Tennessee, settling in adjoining Milam County.
Their sons, James E. and Frank N. Stiles, throughout their adult lives, operated as business partners, and in 1868 purchased a ranch not far from the Thrall community. In 1870, they enlarged the ranch to encompass what would become the town of Thrall, their holdings totaling about 10,000 acres. Frank N. Stiles was born in Tennessee in 1841, married Marina F. Thomas of Alabama in 1875, and died in 1911. James E. Stiles was born in Tennessee in 1835, married Eliza Thomas in 1875 (born in Alabama in 1855).
A small village soon grew around the place known as Stiles Switch, which served as a shipping point on the railroad and as a tiny community for the German and Swiss immigrants who arrived in the 1880a and 1890s to settle the farmland around the future Thrall.
The first churches serving pioneers of the area later to become Thrall were those established in rural communities and villages, which encircled the future site of Thrall. These included churches at Noack, Sandoval, New Fern, and Wuthrich Hill. Most were Lutheran churches established by German or Swiss farmers who settled the area during the last two decades of the 19th century. The first church established in Thrall primer was the American Lutheran Church, founded June 25, 1916, with ten members. Its congregation numbered 400 in 1974. Soon after this church was established, a Methodist and a Baptist Church were formed. They are semi-active at the present time. The town also has a small Negro Baptist church.
Civic activity in Thrall is carried on through two organizations--the Volunteer Fire Department, and the Fireman's Auxiliary.
The community at one time had a Lions Club, but it is dissolved, and citizens are members of civic clubs in nearby Taylor. The City of Thrall operates a kind of unofficial Chamber of Commerce, seeking to promote the industry in the community and supporting other civic projects.
The Thrall Public Schools include an accredited High School with separate facilities for homemaking and music, a gymnasium, and two elementary schools.
Until 1915, Thrall remained a village serving agricultural and cattle interests nearby. The discovery of oil in 1915 necessitated more services from the community than a local post office and general store, and it was after 1915 that churches, schools, additional businesses, gins, and local organizations appeared.
The town gained in population from just a handful, not listed in the Texas Almanac prior to 1920, to a population of 272 in 1920, the growth due largely to the petroleum industry nearby. The town has grown rather steadily since 1920. Its population in 1936 was 422; in 1960, 600; and in 1970, 619. There have been no spectacular bursts of growth, however, since the oil field was developed.
The businesses in Thrall in 1974 were C. A. Johnson & Sons, Inc., manufacturers of farm machinery; employing 10 to 12 persons; Thrall Grain Co. (grain storage and mill), owned by A. A. McVoy of Rockdale and managed by O. Brunken; Thrall-Texas Grain Storage, Inc., owned by Calvin Janak; Thrall Cooperative Gin Company; Jack Emert's Grocery; Dvorak Motors; Kattner Garage and Grocery; Emil Walthers Service Station;
The petroleum industry near Thrall includes two fields which are operated: the I. B. Barron field south of town, which employs about three people on a regular basis; and the Abbott field, also south of town, owned by H. H. "Pete" Coffield of Rockdale, and employing seven or eight men. Both are small scale operations.
The Stiles Farm Foundation employs a farm manager, who lives on the experimental farm with his family.
He is at present Calvin Rinn. `'he farm operation uses ten to twelve workers regularly, and more during harvest and other busy seasons. The program includes experiments with cattle and hogs, methods of improving production and quality through the use of feeds, and increasing food production through the use of fertilizer and other techniques.
Railroad service in Thrall was curtailed soon after 1950 when such services were discontinued in smaller towns throughout the nation. The I. & G.-N. still runs through Thrall and will pick up of leave car-load shipments. This is of particular importance during train harvest season when several carloads of grain are shipped out. Passenger service is available at nearby Taylor.
James E. Stiles died in 1910. His birth year has been rechecked, is listed on his tombstone as 1816.
Eliza Thomas Stiles (Mrs.) died in March 1927.
* Additional material regarding present-day Thrall furnished by Ir. Alvin Ribbeck, tax collector for the City of Thrall.
St. John Lutheran Church Historical Marker Dedication 11/04/2007
Historical Marker Text
ST. JOHN LUTHERAN CHURCH
ST. JOHN LUTHERAN CHURCH DATES TO 1917, WHEN AREA LUTHERANS JOINED WITH THE REV. ARTHUR E. HARTMANN, PASTOR OF A TAYLOR CHURCH, TO ORGANIZE A NEW CONGREGATION. MEMBERS MET IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOL AND IN HOMES UNTIL CONSTRUCTING A BUILDING HERE IN 1921. THE CHURCH HAS A LONG HISTORY OF SOCIAL SERVICE; ONE EARLY PROJECT INVOLVED SENDING CLOTHING TO THE NEEDY IN EUROPE FOLLOWING WORLD WAR I. MEMBERSHIP GREW STEADILY, ESPECIALLY IN THE 1930s AND 1940s DURING THE PASTORATE OF THE REV. WILLARD ANDER. THE CHURCH BUILT NEW FACILITIES AT THIS SITE IN 1957 AND TODAY ST. JOHN LUTHERAN CHURCH CONTINUES TO SERVE AS A SPIRITUAL LEADER IN THE COMMUNITY OF THRALL. (2007)
MARKER IS PROPERTY OF THE STATE OF TEXAS
Adam Lawrence (1799-1878), pioneer farmer and cattle raiser, donated this tract in 1840. Born in Kentucky, he received a Texas land grant, 1822. Fought in Texas Revolution (1836) and many Indian battles. Once jumped horse 20 feet into the river below to evade war party.
Shiloh Baptist Church Historical Marker
Founded Nov. 2, 1854, by 18 charter members. Services and revivals were often held under brush arbors at two early meeting sites (located 3 mi. NE and 2 mi. S of here). Building retains its simple pioneer style even with modern interior and siding. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1968
Zion Lutheran Church Cemetery
The Sandoval Community was settled by Carl Streich in 1882. The settlement consisted of German, some Austrian and Swiss, and a few French immigrants.
On March 25, 1893, twenty-six families formally organized Zion Lutheran Church. The first pastor was J. Rode, and the services were conducted in the German language.
On September 29, 1894, Paul and Emma Herbst donated one acre of land across the road from the original church to be used for a church and a cemetery.
This cemetery, located five miles north of Thrall, Texas, on County Road 425, is unfenced and contains eighty-seven known gravesites and ten unknown gravesites that are marked with white, iron crosses. The oldest documented gravesite is for Bertha Lehmann, a baby girl who died in 1893. The last person buried in the cemetery is Kurt Bohlen who died on July 29, 1998.
There are three veterans buried in our cemetery. Two of them served during World War I: Henry Fuessel died in France, and one is unknown. Erich A. Schlickeisen served in World War H.
The cemetery still serves as a burial site for the members of Zion Lutheran Church and their families.