The town of Texola comes by its name honestly. Not only does it sit at the border of Texas and Oklahoma on Route 66, but because it also sits at the 100th Meridian, some its citizens have changed addresses from Texas to Oklahoma and back again in the past without ever having packed their bags as the border was resurveyed on eight occasions.
Dating from the early 1900s, the community has always borne a name combining the two states it has been part of, originally being called Texokla and later Texoma before settling on the name it bears today. A territorial town site, the first post office, newspaper, and railroad established themselves there five years before Oklahoma’s official statehood and within a few years of statehood the town’s agricultural roots were well established with the building of cotton gins and grain mills. With oil booms and the laying of Route 66 the local economy swelled but in spite of those economic boosts the population never grew more than around six hundred people and by the forties the population went into a decline from which it never recovered. At the last census, the population of Texola stood at thirty six and little is left of the its heyday, with the main business section of town along 66 and just to her north being for all intents abandoned and decaying. Even the Oklahoma state line sign that once stood at the border is now gone.
In the face of that deterioration, there is a one woman force named Masel Zimmerman slowly preserving the little town she never expected to call home. Seeking a new home in the Tennessee region to gain exposure for her paintings, Miss Masel and her husband had struck out across the country a few years ago, but after a series of ominous events they found themselves staying in Texola after breaking down there in the midst of their trek. Since then she has come to love the town and its history and has built quite a life there for herself and her art. The couple purchased one of the decaying buildings on 66, the Watering Hole #2, gutted and remodeled the building and added the Tumbleweed Grill, thus converting the thirties era building into a roadside cafe and convenience stop as well as a small gallery to display her paintings for sale.
As Josh and I sat taking in her bought air and admiring her paintings, we chatted with she and a Norwegian family who had come in just after us. It was all at once heartwarming and heartbreaking to meet people who had traveled from so far wanting to see the real America Route 66 represents to them by renting a car and driving the remnants of its length and to meet this wonderful woman native to neither Oklahoma nor Texas who has made it her mission to preserve the tiny town she fell in love with unexpectedly.
In spite of Texola’s current condition, since her first acquisition Masel has purchased various properties in the town with the intent of restoring them when possible and otherwise preserving them as they are by halting the rate of decay. Currently she is in the process of restoring the town poolhall located next door to her café, the scene where the photo at the bottom of this post took place. (She found the photograph during the renovation process.) An exact opening date is not set at this time for her latest project, but the café is open from 7am to 7pm daily and is not only a welcome sight when riding in the miserable west Oklahoma/Texas heat but by stopping in and supporting Miss Masel you’ll be supporting the preservation of an otherwise vanishing hub of Route 66.
Keep up with Masel and the Tumbleweed Grill here.