Newgulf: From Sulfur Boomtown to Texas Ghost Town

[Texas Gulf Sulphur Company], ca. 1939, by Richie, Robert Yarnall, DeGolyer Library, SMU.

[Texas Gulf Sulphur Company] ca. 1939, by Richie, Robert Yarnall, DeGolyer Library, SMU.

Now online are 49 photographic prints of Texas Gulf Sulphur Company interests (ca. 1939) in the company town of Newgulf, Texas. The images of the Texas Gulf Sulphur Company (later known as Texasgulf Inc.) are part of a TexTreasures 2014 grant project intended to digitize 1,000 prints and negatives taken by Robert Yarnall Richie (1908-1984) that depict non-oil-related Texas companies (ca. 1937-1969). These items are part of the DeGolyer Library’s Robert Yarnall Richie Photograph Collection, which consists of industrial and corporate photographs taken by Richie throughout his career.

DeGolyer Library digital collections are part of CUL Digital Collections, which contain thousands of digitized photographs, manuscripts, imprints, and works of art held by Southern Methodist University’s Central University Libraries special collections.

[Texas Gulf Sulphur Company], ca. 1939, by Richie, Robert Yarnall, Degolyer Library, SMU.

[Texas Gulf Sulphur Company] ca. 1939, by Richie, Robert Yarnall, Degolyer Library, SMU.

The Wharton County town of Newgulf, Texas, was established in 1928 by the Texas Gulf Sulphur Company. This company town was named “Newgulf” via a contest conducted for employees during its construction in which Marie Ertz, who worked at the Houston office, devised the winning name in deference to the Texas Gulf Sulphur Company’s original company town called Gulf (Newgulf, TX, TSHA).

Newgulf was founded atop the Boling Dome, an underground rock structure with an area of about 5,500 acres on the western bank of the San Bernard River primarily in Wharton County. Its contents include petroleum, sulfur, and a significant salt dome. Sulfur production at the Boling Dome began in March 1929 through the use of the Frasch method by which steam is pumped into the ground to melt sulfur, then the resulting liquid sulfur is pumped out in order to remove it (Boling Dome, TSHA).

Texas Gulf Sulphur Company, which became known as Texasgulf, Incorporated beginning in 1973, has produced more sulfur from the Boling Dome than any other sulfur mine in the world, with a total production of 80.5 million long tons of sulfur successfully extracted from the earth as of 1990 (Boling Dome, TSHA).

[Texas Gulf Sulphur], ca. 1939, by Richie, Robert Yarnall, Degolyer Library, SMU.

[Texas Gulf Sulphur], ca. 1939, by Richie, Robert Yarnall, Degolyer Library, SMU.

Built in a section of Wharton County that had previously lacked any paved roads, Newgulf had 400 company-owned houses, ranging from one to three bedrooms, which were leased to employees. The town’s prosperity and population peaked in 1940 with 1,586 people, as well as 15 businesses that included but were not limited to a café, two dry-goods stores, two pharmacies, two grocery stores, a movie theater, a company-built post office, a hospital, a library, a school, and a nine-hole golf course with a clubhouse (Newgulf, TX, TSHA).

However, the prosperity in Newgulf, Texas, brought forth from the sulfur industry was not to last. The sulfur industry faced difficulties by 1956 as foreign sulfur prices began to drop and the industry began producing more sulfur than it was able to sell.  Newgulf was hit especially hard in 1957 when the construction of several Texas Gulf Sulphur plants away from Newgulf coincided with a national recession, leading to both layoffs of Newgulf employees, and the start of the company selling empty houses in the town by 1961 (Newgulf, TX, TSHA).

With the onset of technological changes in sulfur mining, there was a reduced need for employees and the town population stalled at 963 from 1980 to 1990, and only 100 houses remained in Newgulf in 1990. The businesses and resulting infrastructure of

[Texas Gulf Sulphur Company], ca. 1939, by Richie, Robert Yarnall, Degolyer Library, SMU.

[Texas Gulf Sulphur Company], ca. 1939, by Richie Robert Yarnall, Degolyer Library, SMU.

Newgulf was largely gone as better roads facilitated increased shopping in neighboring towns. The Newgulf post office closed in 1993 and by 1995 the mining site was manned by a mere skeleton crew with the golf course and elementary school, which eventually absorbed into the Boling Independent School District, among the only remaining institutions in Newgulf (Newgulf, TX, TSHA).

Today, Newgulf Elementary School is “one of the three campuses that comprises Boling Independent School District. Newgulf Elementary is located in the former town site of Newgulf, ‘the last company town in Texas'” (, 2013).

Newgulf is now considered by many as a ghost town, the sulfur production facilities and its prominent smokestacks left unused.

Texas State Library and Archives CommissionInstitute of Museum and Library ServicesThe non-oil-related Richie images of Texas companies were made available through funding from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission as part of the TexTreasures program. The TexTreasures program was funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services which is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute’s mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas.

by Brandon P. Murray, Digitizer/Metadata Creator, Central University Libraries, SMU


Merle R. Hudgins, “BOLING DOME,” Handbook of Texas Online, January 23, 2014,

 Merle R. Hudgins, “NEWGULF, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online, January 23, 2014,

 “Newgulf Elementary School,” Boling Independent School District, February 12, 2013,


About Cynthia Boeke

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22 Responses to Newgulf: From Sulfur Boomtown to Texas Ghost Town

  1. Tony says:

    Good history remark. If you are interested in modern day photos of Newgulf, you can visit this blog:

  2. Bart says:

    I love reading articles about ghost towns, like the long abandoned town of Bodie in central California. In terms of Newgulf, TX, I don’t know if I could ever live in a town that smelled like sulfur all day! Anyway, I loved the article. Very interesting stuff.

    • Cliff says:

      You get used to the smell. I went to elementary school there.

      • Richard Munguia says:

        Born 1947 in Wharton. Family moved to Newgulf. Dad worked in the construction part of the work. I started school in Newgulf in 1953, to 1958. Lived in the Hispanic section of the workers houses, avenue B. I remember a wagon pulled by horses that sold blocks of ice for the ice boxes. Dad had some pigs he was raising on the side of the reservoir. I had the responsibility of feeding and watering them. Wish I could make those days come back, rotten egg smell and all. A person gets used to things like that. Last time I went by there I saw a raccoon moving around the big old work buildings located near the smoke stacks. That was 2014

  3. elizabeth bray says:

    I lived in Newgulf from 1966 to 1971. The banner picture on this article is NOT Newgulf’s main street. which was mainly empty by the time I arrived. The golf course is a fun and easy 9 hole course. The townsite was maintained beyond compare by the company and provided many summer jobs for young adults (mostly boys) painting the exterior of the houses.

  4. Jim Balkum says:

    I was born in the hospital there in 1944. Dr. Simon was our family doctor until 1960. My dad didn’t work for TexasGulf but we went to the company dentist – I can’t remember his name. In 1963-’64 I drove a school bus to Wharton Jr. College and Newgulf was one of our stops. Took my mom there 20+ years ago just to see the old town. There were only a couple of toehold houses left, a few nice new homes and several For Sale signs on the open lots. The slab of the old hospital was still there and I was surprised at how small it was.

  5. Mike says:

    I was there last week, and so was Harvey. Water was down to about six inches throughout most of the town so I didn’t drive through. I was surprised at the amount of activity in a “ghost town”.

  6. Rox Sanchez says:

    Does anybody know what happened to the cemetery? I have relatives buried there and my aunt couldn’t find it when she last visited.

  7. Rox Sanchez says:

    Anyone know if cemetery still
    marked? My aunt couldn’t find it last year. We have relatives buried there. Thanks

    • Janet says:

      My grandfather worked for Texas Gulf and my mother and many of her siblings were born at New Gulf Hospital. I remember visiting New Gulf as a child before the town was closed—some of my best childhood memories. I still remember the rotten-egg smell of the sulfur as we approached and I knew that we were near!

      As far as cemeteries, during those times segregation was the norm and people were buried according to ethnicity, leading to the creation of “Mexican, Negro and White” cemeteries. There are two “Hispanic” cemeteries in the area that I am aware of—“Mexican Cemetery” in New Gulf (near the Country Club) and the Wharton Mexican Cemetery. Both are abandoned cemeteries and are maintained exclusively by volunteers and descendants of those buried there.

    • Mark Clapp says:

      I lived in Newgulf from 1957 till 1990. Worked there from 1979 till 1992. The old cemetery was not in the town but out side it on what was the backside of Newgulf heading for Dontal. Last time I drove by it which was years ago it was still cared for by someone. It had fell into disarray years before. If the road is still open on the back side of town you would drive into Newgulf past the golf course and drive straight on though the old townsite. As you leave town on the far side you would go over what was once an old rail line and then take the a right. The cemetery will be down on the right about a 1/4 mile. Good luck

    • Amy says:

      It’s down Don Tal Road a little past the main turn into Newgulf off of Hwy 1301 heading towards Pledger.

  8. A C Shelton says:

    I posted a link of the Newgulf Hispanic Cemetery that I took in 2014 on the link above.

  9. Michael Franks says:

    My great grandfather, Budd L. Franks worked at the original Frasch process Sulphur co in Sulphur, La. Then moved to Gulf, TX near the beginning of Tg in 1919, where he would become the Loading Superintendent of the company in both Gulf, and Newgulf, and where 4 generations of his family all worked for Tg. My great grandfather started a migration of many residents of Sulphur, La, to Gulf and later Newgulf. Few probably realize this, but you will find many Tg Newgulf/Gulf, TX families who have lines that go back to Sulphur, La.

    Clarification, in the article above makes it seem as if Newgulf Elementary was absorbed into Boling ISD after the sulphur mine and subsequent town site closed and shut down operation in 93/94. This is not accurate. Newgulf Elementery has always been apart of Boling ISD from the beginning of Tg having built the school.

    Tg also had its own semi-pro baseball team back in the 20s and 30s, back when that was a “thing” in American society. My great Uncle Howard Lee “Brownie” Brown and others were hired to work for the company and given jobs, specifically to play on the semipro baseball team. He was later in life, inducted into the Texas baseball Hall of Fame.

  10. I lived in Newgulf, as did my dad and grandparents. My mother and her family also lived in Boling, but not in the town of Boling. They lived about a mile away. We had several people in our family that worked for TG (Texas Gulf Sulphur Co). My company, Chaka, Inc. also worked for several oil and gas exploration companies that have drilled wells on and around the Boling Dome. I give my history as evidence that I’m very familiar with the Boling Dome and the town of Newgulf.

    I do NOT believe the aerial photo showing the plant with smoke stacks and surrounding buildings to be a photo of the plant at Newgulf. I do not believe any of the landmarks match TG’s Newgulf location. It is possibly a photo of one of their other locations. They had several locations around the world including Mexico and Canada. Prior to their large, long term operations in Newgulf, they had a location near Matagorda, Texas in Matagorda County. They also had a location at Spindletop and at several other Texas Gulf Coast salt domes.

    PCS Phosphate (successor to Texas Gulf Sulphur) sold the majority of the land they owned on the Boling Dome to H&L Newgulf, Inc. in about 1998. H&L Newgulf subdivided part of the former Newgulf Townsite into a subdivision called Lasata. Recently, H&L Newgulf closed the golf course.

  11. Leo Castillo says:

    Cemetery is behind newgulf by old railroad

  12. Leo Castillo says:

    I was born and raised in Newgulf, and currently live behind Newgulf, I just can’t leave this place I will always, and I mean always be my home. Sure miss the Good Ole Days!

  13. Walter Overstreet says:

    My father-in-law, Sylvester Kucera, retired from Texas Gulf Sulfur in Beaumont, but started his career with them in Newgulf and was transferred to Beaumont.

  14. Ann Clement says:

    Our father , John Clement, worked at TGS until about 1939. Not sure of that date.
    I went to school in Long Point, Tx. and have a few pictures. My younger sister
    was born in Long Point,. I have a piece of the Sulphur and it still smells after all
    these years. I played with Robert Anderson and his younger brother Stanley Earl Anderson who lived in New Gulf. Just wondering if any of my classmates are still alive….around 88yrs

  15. J Hill says:

    Remember Newgulf well. Worked in the field for a while. Grew up in Wharton, knew several folks whom worked for Tg. It was beginning to fold up when I left. Would love to go back for a look around again. But really have no other reason to be in the part of the state anymore.

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