By the 1920s , the town boasted 1,000 residents and several industries : the railroad , commerce from the mines at Boquillas and Terlingua , the guayule rubber factory ( the only source of natural rubber outside the Amazon rain forest at the time ) and a booming ranching industry .
Albion Shephard , a former ship ’ s captain
Capta��turned railroad surveyor ,
bought land in 1882 at a water stop along the brand-new Galveston , Harrisburg and San Antonio line 26 miles southeast of Alpine . He thought the rolling grasslands and volcanic hills resembled Marathon , Greece , and so when he platted the townsite , he named it Marathon . At the time there was already a smattering of settlers around the Pena Colorado Springs , including the Halff brothers , enterprising cattlemen who established their Circle Dot brand near what would soon become a thriving little town . They would later lease the land around the springs to the U . S . government to establish Fort Pena Colorado , a remote outpost along the Comanche Trail , in an effort to stem Native raids into Mexico .
Marathon sits just north of what used to be Fort Pena Colorado , now a county park . Springs and surface water in Maravillas Creek provided a life-giving oasis to the nomadic peoples of the Big Bend region for millennia , and later to the cattle industry and soldiers that displaced them . When the railroad came through Marathon was deemed an excellent water stop , and settlers soon came to supplement the sparse population of ranchers , soldiers and adventurers .