Live Oak County Historical Commission
Live Oak County Historical Commission

                       City of George West

City of George West, became the county seat of Live Oak County in 1919. George Washington West, founder of the city paid to have courthouse erected and completed in 1920. 

Live Oak County Judge: Honorable Harry L. Hinton

Live Oak County Historical Commission & Marker Chair: S.T. Brown, Jr.

Author of Narrative-Thelma Lindholm

George West Marker Sponsor: Live Oak County Commissioner's Court

 

Subject Marker Text:

 

Founded 1913 by George Washington West, rancher and civic leader, who secured railroad route through Live Oak County and provided several municipal buildings and plots for others. Became county seat in 1919. Market and shipping point for cattle and cotton. (1967) Marker is Property of the State of Texas.

 

 

APPLICATION NARRATIVE and BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR OFFICIAL TEXAS HISTORICAL SUBJECT MARKER:

 

George West

 

     This is a brief history of the town of George West as it was seen in yesteryears and as it is seen today. [1967]

 

     The founder of George West, was George Washington West. He was born March 10, 1851, near Memphis, Tennessee. He came with his parents, when a child less than two years old, to Texas, settling in Lavaca county. The West family was wealthy, but when the Civil war was declared, George's father, Washington [West], invested heavily in Confederate currency and when General Lee surrendered, the West family was left penniless.

 

     George was forced to go to work to help support his father and mother.

 

     George's first trip to Live Oak County was in 1864. He was about 14 years old and Live Oak County was just 8 years old. Young George desired and dreamed of helping develop and owning a part of this young county.

 

      In 1881, this dream materialized. He and his wife, Kittie (he had married Miss Kittie Searcy in 1876) came to Live Oak County and bought about 100,000 acres known later as the West Ranch. (1)

 

     Attempts to acquire a railroad through Live Oak County began with the organization of the county, (2) so in 1912 Mr. West put his efforts into action. He donated $100,000 in cash and the 13 miles of right-of-way through his Ranch and helped in securing the right-of-way from San Antionio [sic] to Corpus Christi---The S.A.U. and G Railroad came through in 1913.

 

     Mr. West had felt certain of two things; the railroad would come through his ranch and that after the railroad was built, the County Seat would be moved from Oakville to his town.

 

     Mr. West selected a town site, naming it George West. This site was selected approximately one mile west of the Nueces River and approximately in the geological center of the county, about 80 miles south of San Antionio [sic] and some 60 miles from Corpus Christi.

 

     To take a quick look at activities in these early days, you would have thought all of the big machinery of Texas was here in George West. Dump trucks were hauling dirt to fill up low areas. There were ditch digging machines, wagons pulled by mules, the entire place was like A Story of Ants, even to the Singer, who came a little later; Marion Smith could sing and he enjoyed singing; the "Cookoo Song" was his favorite.

 

     Mr. West at once built a $60,000 hotel, one of the best between San Antonio and Corpus Christi. He built a $50,000 school building and furnished it completely. He erected two steel bridges across the Nueces River near the town and made other gifts amounting to more than $240,000 to his town and Live Oak County as a whole. (3)

 

     Before any town lots were put on sale, he had installed a modern water system, sewer system; every resident, by contract had to connect with city water and sewer-no private water wells---still true today.

 

     A fire station was built on Houston Street [main street in town] and it was equipped with a modern fire engine, of its day, and a fire plug on the corner of every other block.

 

     Many of the homes were just temporary homes for the workers [tents]; soon all of these temporary places were replaced by permanent homes.

 

     You entered town by the way of the Old Bridge, as it is called today. Houston street came to a dead end after crossing the railroad tracks at the depot.

 

     Mrs. Riggs had a hotel on the corner of the block facing the entrance to town. Her hotel was very unique; the main part was a two-story building on the corner which was the family home, dining area and kitchen, most of the second floor rooms were for rent. As more rooms were in demand she built a one or two room building. These rooms were built almost around the City Block. It was a Modern Motel, built about 35 years too soon. (4) You turned the corner at the Riggs Hotel and faced the West Hotel; to your left in front of the West Hotel, was a half-block enclosed by at least an eight-foot-high fence. This was the "Feed Pen." Mr. West had subdivided a large are of his ranch and placed it on the market for farms. These farmers came from Yorktown, New Braunfels, Seguin, Brenham and from other farming areas. Among these early settlers who are still living here or who have descendants living here now are: Emil Richter, Joseph Repka, C.J. Moravits, George Voelkel, Juan Reyes, Paul Bednorz, Otto Buxhamper, Charles Ledwig, Demas Bednorz, Felix Richter, Pancho Ybanez, Sedan Breiten, Jose Velasquez, Henry Hadamek, William Gawlik, Frank Schattel, Joseph Kolodizie, August Schellhouse, Anton Pawlik. (5)

 

     When an Excursion train was scheduled to arrive for a "Good Road Meeting" or any "Public Gathering" of Mr. West's interest was held, the West Hotel was "Head-quarters" and a free barbecue was served. The cooking was done at the Ranch headquarters and food was served in the "Pen."

 

     Just down the street from the West Hotel was a barber shop; next door was Wright's Restaurant. If a stray donkey or a Ranch steer did not push the back screen door in and eat the vegetables, you could have a nice vegetable lunch---You could always tell when a night raid had been staged, the menu card would read "No vegetables today" or "Have been eaten out of vegetables." (6) 

 

     Across the street about where the Hutchins' Tailor Shop is today, Miss Audrey Smith and her father had a confectionery shop; Dr. E.E. Wilson had his office in that building also. Moving on down to another city block and a little later, Mr. C.Z. Canfield and Buck West [nephew of George West] had a general store. In this store, Mr. Canfield opened the first Post Office. (7) There was a Recreational Hall across the street. 

 

     Then there came a period when the stray donkey and the curious Ranch steer had to give way to the Town Cows. Every home had a good yard fence, but the cow could find a way to get in occasionally. There were the dreaded rattlesnakes, also; at each gate entrance you usually found a well seasoned six foot mesquite stick to assure safety from the gate to the door. It was not surprising to see what had all the semblance of a coiled snake...a cow had made an evening call while you had been out [cow patties were round coils].

 

     The second part of Mr. West's dream materialized on the 20th of January of 1919. County Judge T.H. Miller and Commissioners T.J. Lewis, J.L. Wilborn, W.R. McWorter, and J.H. Casey met in a special session to canvas the votes of the election of January 18. They reported 312 votes for moving the county seat of George West; 113 votes to retain it in Oakville. (8)

 

     If activity had slowed in George West, it was stepped up by a hundred percent. Almost immediately plans were made and executed to move the archives from Oakville. Mr. West provided space on the lower floor of the hotel and in the sample room, and a building between the hotel and the barber shop for some of the county officials. The County Attorney, F.H. Church's office was in the southwest corner room on the second floor of the brick school building. The treasurer, Andrew Tullis, had his office in this same building on the first floor. A real estate building on Houston Street housed the office of the County Judge. He held court in the same building. Elections were held in the Printing Office on Bowie Street. To drop in on the county officials, it took you just about all over town.

 

     On the 19th of March 1919 the Commissioners employed an architect of the Alfred Giles Company to draw plans for the county buildings. On August 11, 1919, the construction contract was let. It called for the buildings--courthouse-jail combination, to be completed during 204 working days. The same county officials who had canvased the election returns accepted the building. (9)

 

     Mr. C.L. Tullis, Sheriff at that time, was asked what he did with prisoners while he had no jail. He laughingly answered, "I guess they were afraid of a speedy trial; we had surprisingly few arrests". He went on to explain arrangements had been made with Bee County to care for any prisoners. (10)

 

     A Business Directory for George West during 1919 would have also included the following:

     J.D. Watson, Abstractor of Land Titles

     G.S. Miller, Physician and Surgeon

     Dr. Ben S. Brown, Dentist, Office in Cottage

     W.D. Trimble, For Tailoring, new location is East of Masonic Hall

     T.H. Miller-Otto Kendall Live Oak Title Company, Complete Abstracts of Title of all Live Oak County Lands.

     F.B. Grover, At George West Hardware Company. I am local agent for the Texas Cream Company. Bring in your cream.

     Riggs Hotel, Rates $2 per day...Special rates per week.

     Miss Margaret Stewart, Staple and Fancy Groceries.

     Fresh Meats..W. S. Chaney, Proprietor..next door to Post Office

     Knipling-Junker Land Company

     H.D. Tylor Lumber Company, R.E. Downing, Manager.

     The Variety Store-C.C. Schley, Propietor

[Continued below Documentation.]

 

Documentation:

 

1. Live Oak County Herald, August 31, 1939. Progress and Historical Edition. "Life of George W. West", Thelma Lindholm's Library.

 

2. The Lagarto News, Vol. 1, No. 14--This paper was published in Lagarto. Cecil Cunningham, Three Rivers has several of these early publications, dated in the year 1881. This Vol. 1 gave a brief history of efforts to secure a Railroad.

 

3. George West Enterprise, George West, Texas, May 3, 1917 - Advertising George West by the Meyer-Forster Land Co., George West, Texas. Library of Thelma Lindholm.

 

4. Interview: Mrs. Riggs to Thelma Lindholm 3-6-67.

 

5. Interview: Paul Bednorz to Thelma Lindholm 3-7-67.

 

6. Interview: Bill Trimble to Thelma Lindholm. Trimble was here in 1913 when the town was taking shape----still here 1967.

 

7. The Post Office was established in 1914. Letters from Mr. West to Mr. Canfield and Rep. John N. Garner and from Garner to Canfield establishing the post ofrfice on exhibit in the Live Oak County Museum in the Court House, George West, Texas.

 

8. Minutes of County Commissioners dated January 20, 1919--County Court House, George West, Texas.

 

9. Dedication Plaque in Hall of County Court House, George West, Texas.

 

10. Interview: C.L. Tullis to Thelma Lindholm. 3-8-67.

 

11. Deeds recorded in County Court House and Live Oak County Herald, George West, Texas. August 31, 1939-Early days of George West Churches Recalled. Library Thelma Lindholm.

 

12. Interview: Ministers of Church Ministerial Alliance to Thelma Lindholm 3-10-67.

 

 George West Schools

 

     The promptness with which the founder of the town of George West established a public school indicated a lively interest in education on the part of the citizens. This interest has led to the steady progress and growth of the school system.

 

     The public school system of George West had its beginning in 1913 in a very small, but well equipped green building, located where L.S. Morrison and Company and The Ben Franklin store is today. The teacher was Mrs. Peabody. Her pupils were children of families employed to open the town. Another year was spent in the same building with Miss Eva Gallagher (Mrs. Scott Lindholm now deceased) as teacher. Mr. West paid these teachers' salaries. (1)

 

     How the pupils and teachers must have felt when in 1915, they opened school in the spacious $50,000 brick school. Mr. West had it completely furnished and paid the teachers' salaries for several school terms. (2)

 

     The School system has had a steady growth. Today the George West School District comprises a little more than half of the County, operates eleven busses, five separate school buildings, a gymnasium, and a Lunch Room. (3) A new building is under construction at present; the Dedication is planned for some time in October of 1967. This new building is being erected on the grounds and will replace the building first used in 1915. (4)

 

1. Letter of Mrs. Scott Lindholm's published in Live Oak County Herald Historical Progress [Section] 1939. Library of Thelma Lindholm.

 

2. Ibid.

 

3. School Directory 1966-1967. S.T. Brown, Jr. to Thelma Lindholm.

 

4. Building under construction by Lambert and Fondren--Corpus Christi, Texas.

 

City of George West 1966-1967.

 

     George West on the S.A.U. and G. Rail Road of 1913, has had a steady growth to a population of approximately 2000 inhabitants. (1)

 

     It is in the same location, but Highways have been built through it; so that today, it is located at the junction of United States Highways 281 and 59. Highway 59 West gives a direct route to Laredo, East to Houston. Highway 281, North to San Antonio, South to Brownsville, by Highways 59 and 9, it is about 60 miles from Corpus Christi.

 

     The passenger train was discontinued in 1955, (2) it is no wonder, the Continental Bus has 12 Bus schedules through Geroge West each day; 6 North and 6 South. (3) A small Air Port has been opened about 3 miles from George West.

 

     A traveler, passing through George West, will be certain to stop for a meal. He will have to make a decision, "Which Cafe or Restaurant to patronize," as he has a choice of several.

 

1. Interview: Dorris Campbell, City Office, George West to Thelma Lindholm. March 6, 1967.

 

2. Interview: J.H. Straw, Rail Road Depot Agent, George West to Thelma Lindholm on March 6, 1967.

 

3. Interview: Ramsey, Continental Trailway Bus Station Manager to Thelma Lindholm on March 16, 1967.

 

The United States Weather Bureau

Official

 

     The United States Weather Bureau established an observer's station in George West, Texas, (elevation 161 feet) in 1916, with Mr. F.H. Knipling as observer. He continued until 1922, and was succeeded by Mr. L.G. Wilder, who turned it over to Mr. C.C. Schley in 1928, the latter continued until his death in 1962. His son, Brooks, succeeded him and is observer at the present time. [1967]

 

     The lowest yearly precipitation was 7.65 inches in 1917, and the highest was 46.30 inches in 1919. The greatest daily precipitation occurred on September 15, 1919 and was 12 inches. The yearly average over the period from 1916 through 1956 was slightly above 26 inches. (1) The farmers are beginning to wonder about the farm production for 1966-1967. In November 1966 we had no rain; in December we had .07 of an inch. The total rainfall for 1966 was 25.47 inches.

     The yearly average over the period from 1955 through 1966 was 25.47 inches. (2)

 

Not so Official

 

     When Mr. C.Z. Canfield was Postmaster, and during the years that he was manager of the Canfield Mercantile business in George West, instead of he and his friends going for a morning cup of coffee, they decided on the weather for the day and often for the next few days. Men of all ages and from every "walk of life" were from time to time grouped together. You would see Drs. Wilson, Bomar, and Brown; H. Wright and Frank Schenoskey, Cafe proprietors; Mr. W.A. Kendall and later his two sons, Otto and Cecil; others certain to be there were the Tates, Sinors, and the Stewarts. You would also find Sam Warner, Old Juan Reyes, Charlie Pugh, C.C. Schley and others from the adjoining area who were in town to buy the week's supply of groceries. Perhaps they did not believe all of these sayings, but they were good ice breakers for conversation:

  • If the moon had a ring last night, a storm was coming. The number of stars within the large ring around the moon indicated the number of weather changes during that moon.
  • If the moon had a halo, the next day would be foggy.
  • If on a rainy day the sky cleared at sunset, more rain for the next day.
  • When a hen suns herself, it indicates a change of weather.
  • Wolves howl, weather certain to change.
  • An early flight of geese south indicated an early cold winter.
  • Sea gulls drifting inland indicated a storm at sea--the farther inland the more severe the storm.
  • Hogs rooting trash for a bed indicated a severe change of weather.
  • Ceniza (purple sage) in blossom, rain within three days.

Official or Unofficial, Who is to say?

  • Long hot summer is followed by a severe cold winter.
  • A cow kicking a hind foot as though kicking mud off, rain follows within three days.
  • A new moon seen in the early hours of the evening was certain to open a new field for conversation and arguments that were never settled: a new moon with points straight up, to some, meant that during that moon there would be no rain; the moon was holding all of the water; to others it filled with water and spilled over. The difference of opinion culminated from whether they were talking from Indian or Mexican lore. The moon that was tipped on the point, meant rain: from the other school of thought, the hunter could hang up his powder horn,---no rain.
  • Planting seeds in the light, dark, waning of the new moon all entered into the conversations.

The youth of 1967 may find the above saying of their Grandfather and Great Grand-fathers amusing---but who knows, they may have been reminiscing of days of their fore fathers. It made good conversation and most enjoyable listening. This we do know, they did not have a Radio or a Television to turn on to hear the weather forecast.

 

1. Interview: C.C. Schley, City Weather Observer, George West to Thelma Lindholm 1956.

 

2. Interview: Brooks, Schley, Weather Observer, George West to Thelma Lindholm, March 30, 1967.

 

3. Just gathered from the people of those days. Thelma Lindholm.

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Lynette Chen, Sarah McClesky, and Bob Brinkman, Director at the THC Marker Archives in Austin for sharing this narrative and folder information.

 

Live Oak County Courthouse

The Honorable Jim Huff, County Judge for Live Oak County, welcomes you to the Live Oak County Historical Commission (LOCHC) Website. The Live Oak County Historical Commission is an arm of the Live Oak County Commissioners' Court; appointees are selected at the beginning of odd numbered years and serve two year terms. Judge Huff and the Live Oak County Commissioners support and approve actions of the LOCHC in coordination with the Texas Historical Commission (THC).

 

Live Oak County Commissioners:

Precinct 1: Richard Lee

Precinct 2: Donna Kopplin Mills

Precinct 3: Willie James

Precinct 4: Emilio Garza

The Commissioner's Court is committed to the preservation of our county's history. Judge Huff and your local commissioner welcome suggestions.

The Honorable Jim Huff, Live Oak County Judge.

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