ZEPHYR      Brown County   Milepost 336+1041’       

Origin of Station Name


Location named by an early land surveying crew, for strong wind caused by a cold front which they encountered at this point.  In Greek mythology, Zephyrus was the god personifying the west wind.


Agency Opened


December 31, 1885

1886 Personnel


L. B. Jones                    Stationmaster          $60/month


Mike Ryan                     Section Foreman    $55/month


Four laborers in this section:  Frank Panesi, Fred Ruettig, James Vickers, Fred Frank.  Each paid $1.25/day, all including Ryan boarding with Mrs. Mary Carling.


1890 Insured Structures


Depot                            $920

Section House               $655 (Section No. 38)


1921 Depot(s)


New depot built 1914, 24’ x 80’  AT&SF standard plan with a double bay window, one of only two like it anywhere on the GC&SF, the other one was at Bangs.  Tin shingle roof.


1946 Traffic Report


No coverage

“The Earth” Press Coverage


No coverage

Employee Magazine Coverage


No coverage

Junction Other Lines



Agency Closed


Railroad Commission authorized discontinuance by Order dated April 3, 1956 in Docket 1371 RO.  Agency closed May 15, 1956.


Photographic Images



Operating Bulletins



Railroad Commission Complaints



Legal Department Files


One file, re discontinuance of agency.



            Zephyr was officially established with the opening of a post office on December 28, 1879.  The application to the postal service stated an area population of 198.  The post office and therefore the town picked up and moved about a mile to meet the Santa Fe when it built through this area in 1885.  The railroad gave the town an advantage enjoyed by few other equally sized communities in that era, and by 1900 the population was reported at 925.  The 1900 census showed that Henry A. Saunders, age 31, was then serving as Wells Fargo express agent at the Santa Fe depot.  R. P. Long and A. D. Gentry were Santa Fe agents in January and April, respectively, of 1904.  In that year, the Santa Fe offered westbound passenger service at 9:20 a.m.  (train no. 77) and 8:58 p.m. (train no. 75) and eastbound passenger service at 7:10 a.m. (train no. 76) and 8:05 p.m. (train no. 78).  Each of these trains picked up and dropped off mailbags in this era and later years.  In later years local resident Carl K. Belvin vividly recollected his service as a “mail messenger” assigned to pick up the mail from the depot and deliver it to the post office.  The final mail messenger was Walter K. Stucke; railway postal service ending while Esta Matson was postmaster.


            Zephyr’s name proved unfortunately apt.  At about 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 29, 1909, as a storm front approached from the northwest, a tornado dipped through the darkness and touched down about five miles away.  It slowly churned straight towards the community, making a tremendous sound.  In the few minutes before it hit, many families heard it and scrambled for the safety of their storm cellars.  At 11:45 p.m., the tornado wiped clean a 300 yard wide swath through the heart of the small community, destroying a two story limestone schoolhouse, two churches, a merchantile store, a lumberyard, and a number of residences.  34 people were killed, most instantly.  The storm generated intense lightning, described by one witness as falling balls of fire.  This lighting set the lumberyard ablaze, and it was to this flickering light that the survivors emerged in what one recalled was an eerie calm.  The Western Union telegraph line along the railroad had been demolished by the storm, and so two men climbed aboard a railroad handcar and pumped themselves 12 miles west to Brownwood to call for help.  The following day the Santa Fe furnished special service to carry wounded victims to its hospital at Temple.


            Because of its location on the railroad, a significant number of visitors and onlookers surveyed the scene, even if only briefly from the window of a passenger coach, and accordingly photographs of the damage were widely circulated.  These photographs, along with journalistic reports of the time, would later be used to rank the Zephyr tornado as an F4 storm on the Fujita intensity scale (“devastating”, this category having windspeeds between 207-260 mph; there are only about ten category F4 tornadoes in the country annually).  The survivors pulled together and rebuilt their community, which to this day has a disproportionately high number of storm cellars.


            Many communities along the railroad saw a considerable turnover in their Santa Fe agents, but this was not the case at Zephyr.  For nearly half of its duration, the agency there was staffed by a single individual who became a highly valued member of the community.  C. R. Boase accepted employment with the Santa Fe as night ticket clerk at Santa Anna in 1909, receiving a salary of $15/month.  Together with his wife and daughter (Maxine, later Mrs. James Briggs), the family moved to Zephyr when he accepted the position as company agent effective December 18, 1923.  He would faithfully serve in this capacity until the agency closed in 1956, completing more than 30 years of service to the company and the community.  He invested in local commercial real estate and became a landlord to the post office, the fire department and other businesses.  A 1979 photograph shows him seated proudly on the front seat of the community’s fire truck, surrounded by fire department officers and supporters.  By this time he had been a resident of Zephyr for more than 50 years, and seen a considerable amount of change in the community.


            Among the changes witnessed by Mr. Boase, the most profound must have been the evolution of his own profession.  He would have been extremely busy at his job upon arrival in 1923, when there was no paved highway connection to the outside world and the railroad was a lifeline heavily relied upon.  By 1956, there was little for him to do when he reported to work at the depot.  At a hearing convened by the Railroad Commission at the Brownwood Courthouse on March 21, 1956 to consider the Santa Fe’s application to discontinue the agency, Temple Division Superintendent A. B. Clements testified that ticket sales for all of 1955 were $132.47.  Freight and passenger revenue together $2388.75 and station operating expenses were about four times that much.  The most significant expense was the agent’s salary, of about $600/month.  This included the salary for a substitute to come from Bangs for two days a week as relief agent for Mr. Boase.  Clements testified: “the agent is getting along in years and I am reliably informed he has already made application to the Railroad Retirement Board to retire…he has much seniority, and is a good agent, and another job will be provided for him should he desire to remain in service.”  No protestant appeared to controvert the company’s evidence that continued operation of the station was unprofitable, and the Commission approved the application.  It was very unusual for the company to have kept a station open as long as it did in this case, when the expense and revenue figures were so highly skewed.  Normally the Santa Fe filed an application for discontinuance of agency as soon as expenses even slightly exceeded revenues, certainly not waiting for a 400 per cent excess as was the case here.  The only full carload freight traffic received at this station in 1955 was 11 boxcars of hay, shipped in as a part of a Federal drought relief effort, and this was nonrecurring business.  In January and February of 1956, the last two full months prior to the hearing, total station revenue from all sources was only $37.00.  In view of these numbers, one suspects that the company may have kept this agency open a few years longer than otherwise would have been the case, purely as a matter of accommodation to a popular agent until he was ready to retire.


            Zephyr’s population has never exceeded 1000.  There were 169 subscribers listed in the 1911 telephone directory, and 209 subscribers in the 1979 directory.  The town lost its only bank in 1928, and its cotton gin closed in the early 1940s as cotton cultivation shifted to the high plains.  In the 1940s the REA brought electricity to local residences, and direct dial telephone service was implemented in 1953.  The Zephyr Community Improvement Club has administered the community center since 1948, when the structure (a red sandstone building built as a Presbyterian church in 1909) was donated for such purpose by C. R. Boaze.  Exhibit A in the 1956 agency discontinuance hearing, a community summary which would have been prepared based on a report by Mr. Boase, estimated a population of 350 people within a three mile radius at that time.  Business establishments in the community were then reported to include three general merchandise stores, three service stations, two auto repair garages, one café, one butane gas station, one community center building, three churches, and one public school, including a high school.   


            The 1909 tornado caused a tragic loss of life, but seemingly engendered some unusually strong bonds among the surviving citizenry.  More so than other towns of similar size and circumstance along the Santa Fe, Zephyr retained a strong sense of community pride and confidence throughout the 20th century.  The residents worked together with authors Jesse B. (Avis) Bettis, Mattie (McKinney) Baird and Pauline Glass Hochalter to publish a remarkable history, “Zephyr Yesterday and Today” in 1979.  This community’s endurance of unexpected tragedy left the citizenry with a resilience born of collective memory forged under the most unfortunate circumstances.