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Dryden - Dying Along the Railroad

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Tiny little Dryden, Texas , population about 13, is one of just two communities in Terrell County, which sprawls across 2,358 square miles in the Chihuahuan Desert of southwest Texas. Like Dryden, the county, comprised mostly of large sheep and cattle ranches, is sparsely populated, with only about 1,100 people calling it home.

Long before any settlements were established in the county, a number of Native American
tribes roamed the region, leaving behind much evidence of their lives including arrowheads, tools, pictographs on cliff walls, and caves where burials have been found.

The earliest exploration of the area was made by Spanish Captain Jose de Berroteran in 1729 when he commanded an expedition to explore from Mission San Juan Bautista up the Rio Grande River to the mouth of the Rio Conchos.



Remains along the railroad tracks in Dryden, Texas

Remains along the railroad tracks in Dryden, Texas, Kathy Weiser, February, 2011.

This image available for photographic prints and downloads HERE!




Captain Samuel Highsmith, under the command of John Coffee Hays, crossed the county in 1848 in an expedition to open a road from San Antonio to El Paso. Under Lieutenant William Echols in 1859, caravans of the U.S. Camel Corps crossed the county searching for a shorter route to Fort Davis.

Both Dryden and the county seat of Sanderson, just 20 miles to the northwest, were founded when the
Galveston, Harrisburg, & San Antonio Railroad, was built through Terrell County in 1882. The settlement, was named for Eugene E. Dryden, the chief engineer of the railroad. The small town, which began with only a railroad section house soon became the center for several ranching-based businesses, including the Pecos Land and Cattle Company, which was established in Dryden in 1884.

By 1886 W. W. Simonds, manager of the Pecos Land and Cattle Company, had built a large frame building for a post office and a store, as well as two adobe houses as residences for the Simonds family and and the ranch foreman. The company also drilled a water well, which supplied the town. A post office was established in 1888.

The following year, a man named Beverly Carter Farley came to work for the Pecos Land and Cattle Company, remaining with them until the company was sold in 1895. He then bought several sections of land and ranched on his own. In 1908, he built the Dryden Hotel and a store. Four years later, in 1912, a combined schoolhouse, community center, and church were built to serve the community.

Galveston, Harrisburg, and San Antonio RailroadOne of the biggest events in the area occurred on March 13, 1912 when one of the last train robberies in Texas occurred. On the evening of March 12th, the Galveston, Harrisburg, & San Antonio Railroad Train No. 9 pulled away from Del Rio, Texas with engineer D. E. Grosh at the throttle at about 8:00 p.m. Shortly before midnight, it stopped in Dryden to take on water and as it was preparing to pull away, outlaws Ben Kilpatrick and Ole Hobek climbed aboard the engine. The masked men then ordered the engineer to proceed to the first iron bridge east of Baxter’s Curve, which is about half way between Dryden and Sanderson.There, the bandits ordered the train to be stopped and the passenger cars and caboose to be uncoupled from the engine, mail, and baggage cars. Without the passengers, the engine then went across the bridge and about half a mile further down the tracks, where the robbers had horses waiting, ordered the train to stop again and proceeded with the holdup.


Whole Ole Hobek stayed with the engineer, Ben Kilpatrick went back to the baggage car with David Trousdale, the Wells-Fargo express agent assigned to the train. When the pair passed by a shipment of iced oysters, Trousdale picked up an ice mallet, and hid it in his clothing. Kilpatrick then filled a bag with about $60,000, but, as he was preparing to leave, Trousdale struck him on the head with the ice mallet and killed him. The express manager then armed himself with the bandit's gun and when  Hobek grew impatient and came looking for his partner, Trousdale shot him.


The official time of the robbery is listed at 12:05 a.m. Afterwards, the engineer backed up the train, re-coupled the passenger cars and continued on to Sanderson.

Agent Trousdale helped unload the dead bodies and turned over the six weapons the robbers had been carrying. The dead bodies of Ben Kilpatrick and Ole Hobek were held up for photographs and were later buried in a joint grave at the Cedar Grove cemetery in Sanderson.


Ben Kilpatrick also known as “The Tall Texan,” had previously ridden with the Wild Bunch led by Butch Cassidy , as well as with Thomas "Black Jack" Ketchum.Ole Hobek was also known as Ed Welch, Ed Walsh, and Ed Beck. It is believed that Ben and Ole met at the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia where they were both serving time for robbery. Kilpatrick was released in 1911 after serving ten years of a 15 year sentence for participating in the Hole in the Wall Gang robbery of the Great Northern train outside of Wagner, Montana in July of 1901.



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Ben Kilpatrick and Ole Hobek  killed near Dryden, Texas,  March 13, 1912

Ben Kilpatrick and Ole Hobek killed near Dryden,  Texas, March 13, 1912.

This image available for photographic prints and downloads HERE!


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