The First Presbyterian Church in Taiban was built in 1908 for $250, over half of which came from loans from “the ladies of the Baptist church and the Taiban Savings Bank.”* Hopes must have been high in Taiban back then: the railroad was there, newly relocated from a more northern route. There was a bank, a hotel, a school, and a contract to build 50 homes. There were already over 400 residents.
But then, trouble arrived, in the form of the Pink Pony Saloon and Dancehall. The town was broken into factions; periodic elections made alcohol legal one time, then illegal another, back and forth all the way into the 1930s. By that time, the effects of a long drought and the Depression, as well as the ongoing alcohol wars, took their toll, and the Presbyterian church held its final service in 1936.
After World War II, there were only about fifty residents. But with the church closed down, it looked as though alcohol had won: bars were the tiny town’s only successful businesses. People from surrounding dry counties in eastern New Mexico and the Texas panhandle would travel to Taiban when they felt a need to quench a certain thirst; the wealthiest patrons would fly in, landing at what became known as the Taiban International Airport.
But life was hard, dry-land farming harder. Passenger train service was gone, and the roads were necessarily hospitable. By the 1960s, only one business – a bar – remained in town.
Today, the bar’s gone.
But photographers take the time to pull off the road (which is more hospitable now) to take pictures of what’s left of the First Presbyterian Church. Somewhere along the line, concrete steps and a handrail were added to make for easier access. There’s graffiti now, on the walls – prayers and Bible verses and a sketch of Jesus with outstretched arms as if to say, “Write on these walls, my children.”
Taiban, New Mexico