Since it is February, I would like to tell you the story of Valentine, Texas, which we passed by yesterday. Valentine is the ony incorporated town in Jeff Davis County Texas. It has a waning population: now likely less than 180 people, although the sign boasts a population of 217 . In fact, Valentine looks something like a ghost town. The gas station and the store are boarded up and most of the houses are abandoned.
Valentine was founded in 1882, when a railroad crew had finished laying the tracks to the point where a water and fuel depot would be needed. It was Valentine’s Day, so the story goes, and they named the depot Valentine. The president of Wells Fargo and a major stockholder in the railroad was named John Valentine, which is the less romantic and probably real reason for the name. Valentine is halfway between L.A. and New Orleans, almost exactly 1000 miles each way. . In 1900 Valentine had two saloons, a butcher shop and a general store. Area ranchers shipped cattle out of Valentine but by the 1950s with the increase of trucks being used to haul cattle, Valentine’s railroad depot was closed down. At that point Valentine was no longer a thriving railroad community and the majority of the businesses closed down.
But the town still has heart. Jesus Calderon (who goes by Chuy), has been mayor there for 40 years. In addition to being mayor, he taught in the Valentine Independent School District. The school, K-12, has about 40 students. Some years they only graduate five or six from high school, some years one, but the whole town turns out to celebrate the graduates.
The town isn’t so small that it doesn’t have a post office. This is actually their claim to fame. This time of year they receive thousands of cards to be re-mailed bearing the Valentine postage stamp. The cards come from all over the U.S. and as many as 30 foreign countries.
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