We all know money is tight these days, but time away from the hustle and bustle of city life is important for all of us. The peaceful stillness of an evening where the only interruptions you’ll hear are bullfrogs, the occasional car, and probably that drunk dude on the other side of the park. Welcome to Thrifty, an oasis in the desert.
Located on the branches of the Jim Ned Creek, Thrifty was once actually named Jim Ned. Before it was named Jim Ned, it was ranchland. The rancher must have been a kind person, because he let people live on his property and develop an economy. As times were tough, the town adopted the name Thrifty. The new name would serve as a reminder to citizens; waste not, want not.
By 1876, the slow but measured growth of Thrifty was beginning to pay off. The town had a school with 16 pupils, a livery and dry goods store that served the surrounding counties, and even a saloon/hotel. These developments, however, led residents to ungodly excesses, and by 1880, the town was already in a decline. A cotton gin was opened to try and salvage what business they could, but when the Frisco Line and the Santa Fe both bypassed Thrifty, the days of metropolitan life were numbered. With cotton sales slumping due to the great Rayon-Polyester war of 1915, the gin was converted to a parchment pulp.
As the few Thriftyites left were desperate for money, they thought it would be important to teach the Brown County area how to save money. Living outside of their means led to famine, but being thrifty led to feast. “The Thrifty Penny” was first published in February of the same year. With local face-to-face sales and barters, the Penny helped replace what was lost when the dry goods store closed, and sales were brisk in Winchell, Trickham, Doole, and Mercury. A young businessman in Brookesmith caught wind of the Penny and asked if he could franchise it. Since the iron horse had forsaken Brookesmith much as it did Thrifty, the residents agreed. However, there was a clause. A franchise fee of 4 cents was to be paid with each paper printed. Thus began the “Thrifty Nickle” you all know and love today. While the cost of franchising the paper has gone up significantly since 1915, the paper now has a readership of tens of thousands in multiple regions of the state.
What’s there in Thrifty now? Nothing. The Penny has long gone, fading into the annals of history before Lake Brownwood was even impounded. The old wooden plank bridge is gone too, washing away in the flood of 2002. County Commissioners briefly considered not replacing the bridge over the Jim Ned, as daily traffic on the old bridge was less than 50. Former Commissioner Steve Adams said that “At least 30 of those 50 were people who drove to Thrifty, saw there wasn’t anything there, did a U-turn, and drove back over the bridge.” The ghosts of Thrifty still speak on the creeks of the Jim Ned, and there’s a roadside park with parking, trash cans, and access to the water. We aren’t sure who is in charge of it or where it came from, but some of the best snapping turtles and softshell turtles in the region can be caught there. More popular with vagrants than fishermen, perhaps you’ll have better luck than this reporter did.
And better luck than the community of Thrifty did.