Eventually there would be people from 20 different countries working
for the Texas & Pacific Coal Company, most coming from Italy or Poland.
Families of similar nationalities congregated together, and soon areas of
Thurber where known as Italian Hill, Stump Hill, Polander Hill, and New
York Hill, where company executives and clerks lived.
In 1905, the average miner earned $54 per month. Houses rented for $6 to $9 per month,
medical care by company doctors and nurses cost from $1 to $2, water was $2,
electricity (from the first electric plant built in 1895 that made Thurber the first
city in Texas to be completely electrified with amenities including refrigeration and
running water) was $.25 per drop, and the weekly newspaper cost $1 per year, delivered.
Miners resented the $1 per month the company withheld from their pay for riding the
train to work.
At one time it was estimated that 65 percent of the miners were single men, most living
in the homes of other miners. As many as 6 individuals lived in a room, sleeping on cots
and paying the housewife $28 to $30 per month for their room, meals, and laundry.
The company allowed employees to draw a portion of their wages before payday in the form
of a checkbook, or scrip, made up of coupons ranging in value from 5 to 50 cents. Once
an employee began using scrip, it was difficult for him to get out of debt to the
company. As you can imagine, the scrip system was beneficial to the company because
the coupons were only redeemable in company-owned stores. Over a period of 20 years,
50 percent of company store receipts were in the form of coupons.