About 30 volunteers descended Saturday on the Route 66 ghost town of Jericho, Texas, to help the new owners clean up the long-abandoned motel property there.
Blair and Blanca Schaffer want to stabilize and beautify what’s left of the motel structure so Route 66 travelers can visit it safely.
A lot of the work Saturday involved removing assorted junk and collapsed boards from the rooms and yard. A brush hog was used to knock down the overgrown grass and weeds there.
Volunteers found all sorts of abandoned appliances, jars, and coils of barbed wire inside the rooms or garages. Tractor tires and other assorted junk, including from a collapsed windmill, were strewn around the motel’s courtyard. Dead trees that threatened the motel structure were cut down.
Here’s what the property looked like Saturday afternoon:
Blair said future plans include putting a new roof on the motel structure to arrest further decay. The motel must have been built well; many other structures would have collapsed decades ago.
Long term, Blair has said he wants to build simple but modern motor courts closer to Highway 70 where Route 66 travelers can stay in overnight. He also wants to establish a 10-unit RV park that caters to travelers hauling their horses cross-country.
The Schaffers plan another cleanup day in the future. To keep up with future events, go to the Jericho on 66 account on Instagram.
Blair has a direct tie to Jericho. His great-great-grandfather Alexander settled in Jericho after the Civil War, and the second-earliest burial at the nearby Jericho Cemetery is a Schaffer. The Schaffers bought a nearby home and have planted a garden there.
Delbert Trew, a longtime rancher and history buff in the region, reported Jericho was established in the late 1880s as a mail coach stop. Jericho Cemetery was founded in 1894 after a malaria outbreak killed several residents.
The Texas State Historical Association said Jericho was founded in 1902 as a station on the Chicago, Rock Island and Gulf Railway and established a post office the same year.
But the town never amounted to much:
At its height in the 1930s, Jericho had three stores, a grain elevator, a tourist court, and a garage and filling station. Jericho’s population was estimated to be 100 in 1933 and fifty by 1939. Its post office was discontinued in 1955, and by the 1980s little remained at the townsite.
Jericho earned infamy in Route 66 lore because of its “Jericho Gap.” Trew wrote:
The main reason for fame came from the stretch of highway between Alanreed and Groom which went through Jericho. Called “Jericho Gap” any rains caused the dirt roads to turn into black-gumbo-mud becoming almost impassible to the vehicles of the time. Nearby farmers made a good living with their teams of work horses pulling the travellers from the mud holes. Legend has it that the enterprising farmers hauled water at night to dump in the mud holes to prolong their source of income.
According to Route 66 Atlas, that dirt-road stretch of Route 66 lasted only until 1932, when U.S. 66 was re-routed to the north.
(Image of the Jericho cleanup day Saturday by the author)