The Coal Mines at Thurber
By Frank Chamberlain
Lover’s Retreat is located near Mineral Wells in Northern Palo Pinto County. It has long been one of the most picturesque locations in the county and has been a favorite recreation spot since people have lived in the area. The huge rocks that jut from the earth and numerous ledges and naturally occurring caves contribute to the scenery of the place.
Although there is little debate about the beauty of Lover’s Retreat, there are several divergent accounts about the origin of the name. The first of these involves an early Palo Pinto County settler named Lovers and a batch of menacing Indians. According to this legend, Lovers was out working with horses when he encountered a group of Indians who began to chase him. With the Indians closing in quickly, the man was forced to leap from his horse and climb the rocks in a desperate attempt to escape. He climbed into a small crevice in the wall of one of these large rocks and hoped for the best. Fortunately for Lovers, his pursuers were unable to find him in his hiding place. He was so well hidden that the Indians even stopped to drink from a natural spring that was located only four feet below the cave he was occupying. After waiting in this cramped location for several hours, Lovers reemerged and sneaked home, bringing with him an incredible story and a name for the vicinity of his retreat.
The Indian legend of the Retreat is a bit more romantic, but also involves a pursuit and narrow escape. In this version, two Indian lovers were pursued and forced to seek refuge in these rocky confines. The maiden of this story was being forced by her father to marry the son of a chief of another tribe. On the day before this arranged marriage, she eloped with her lover, much to the chagrin of her father who sent out a patrol of warriors to capture the wayward duo. Like Mr. Lovers of the previous story, these two also ducked into a cave to avoid the rapidly approaching search party. Their choice of hiding places contributed to an incredible stroke of luck that prevented their capture. The cave that the pair occupied was located directly above a creek that runs through the area. One of their pursuers was headed straight for this hiding place when a medicine man warned him that caves located above water were haunted. Not wanting to engage any supernatural forces, the warrior and his crew left the area, leaving the two lovers undiscovered and unharmed. The two emerged from the cave and made their home in this refuge for many years before eventually joining another friendly tribe and living happily ever after.
A second version of this tale has the star-crossed lovers meet a much bleaker fate. Apparently, the Great Spirit was not watching over the pair in this version of the story, as the search party captured the hiding duo and executed the brave. As the warriors were preparing to return the maiden to her father, she broke away and jumped to her death from the forty-foot embankment, thus reuniting with her lover in the Happy Hunting Ground in the Sky.
Whether either of the two incidents actually occurred will probably never be verified, but there is no doubt that Indians did frequent the area. Numerous Indian artifacts have been found in the area over the years that indicate a onetime Indian presence at Lover’s Retreat. It is obvious that Indians and settlers alike have enjoyed the beauty of the area for many years.
Palo Pinto Historical Commission. History of Palo Pinto County, Texas, Dallas, TX: Curtis Media Corporation, 1986. p. 541-542.