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Historical Sites FULL
Using guidelines set up by the Texas State Historical Survey Committee, the Bee County Historical Survey Committee has arranged to mark with the official state medallion 38 buildings or sites, and to honor individuals prominent in the history of Bee County.
The local historians, organized formally in 1958, the year of the county’s centennial celebration, have done much to preserve local recorded history dating back to the 1830’s.
Following is the inscription and location of each of the 38 Bee County medallion markers:
The Bee County Chamber of Commerce and Bee County Historical Society are pleased to present this brochure.
1 - BEEVILLE ON THE POESTA
Long before Mexico granted land (1834) on Poesta Creek to the first settlers, Anne Burke and James Hefferman, savage Indians roamed this valley at will. Their colony, although successful at first, soon met disaster. In 1836, James Hefferman, his brother John, and John Ryan, who had planned to join Texas patriots at Goliad, were planting a crop in a field at this site when they were massacred by Comanches. Also killed was James’ family in his picket house upcreek. Bee County was organized in 1858 and named for Col. Barnard E. Bee, a Republic of Texas statesman. Soon after, choice of a county seat came into hot dispute. A site seven miles east on Medio Creek was chosen for “Beeville.” But 10 months later, voters made the 150-acre donation of Anne Burke O’Carroll permanent county seat, on the banks of the Poesta. The new town, first called "MaryviIIe” for Mary Hefferman (relative of those killed in 1836) was soon renamed Beeville. In its first decade, It had two stores, one saloon and a blacksmith shop. First Courthouse was built for $750 on west side of present square, 1860. First railroad came though, 1886, and a larger Court-house was soon built. After it burned, the present one was erected In 1913.
on back of marker: “Gift of Mrs. William Heuermann, a great-granddaughter of
Samuel Reed Miller, a member of Austin’s old three hundred colonists and
physician to Gen. Sam Houston after the battle of San Jacinto. Miller later had
a ferry on the Nueces River. Has many descendants in South Texas.)
2 - COOK HOME
by John Cook, who was born in 1846 in Texas-bound wagon train; at 17 was in
Civil War; in 1866 married Frances Miller. Lived in rock house near this site.
With son, R.J., contributed
much to area cattle industry with fine registered H Herefords. House erected
1897 of select long-leaf pine placed to catch gulf breezes. Each room opens on
a porch. Has four fireplaces with mantels of mahogany, maple, oak. Architecture
is Victorian. Owned by William D. Dugat and family since 1941.
3 - FIRST CHRISTIAN CHURCH
Corner of Walton and Commerce, Pettus First Christian Church built in 1905. First church to serve the needs of the Protestants in Pettus.
a Christian Church at request of land donor, Mrs. S.B. Hodges. Contributions
came from all denominations. On Au-gust 29,1906, the First Christian Church
(Disciples of Christ) was organized with 25 members. For many years the Baptists,
Methodists and Disciples conducted a union Sunday School and worshipped here.
Its tall white spire became the town landmark.
4 - CAMPO SANTO
Burial Ground off Refugio Highway (Not accessible to public)
on headright of an 1829 settler, Jeremiah O’Toole, ~ from New York. The
isolated oak log home of O’Toole stood on San Patricio-La Bahia Road; his
family fled repeatedly from H Indians or invading armies. In time other
pioneers built homes nearby in Corrigan settlement (named for O’Toole’s son-in-law).
Community is now extinct. Ten acres were donated in 1871 by Ellen O’Toole
Corrigan and brother, Martin, as site for ~ Sacred Heart of Jesus Church (now
razed) and grounds. This cemetery is a reminder of the courageous pioneer
settlers. (Inscribed on back: “Early settlers included Jack Barry, B:F. Burns,
John Corrigan, Nicholas Dunn, D.C. Grover, John F. Hynes, William Kennedy, P.F.
Latting of Lattington Store, William Leahy, D.R. May, Hugh J. O’Reilly,
storekeepers D.S. and Carolina Page, Phil Welder.)
05 - JIM LITTLE HOMESTEAD
built about 1870 of cypress and heart pine that came by steamer from Florida to
Saint Mary’s, then by oxcart to site. Kiln on ranch made caliche blocks for
chimneys. Good water well Country store made this a camp site for such
travelers and Mexican horse traders. A stage stop on San Antonio-Brownsville
Road until railroad came into area, 1886.
06 - TOWN OF PETTUS
capital of Bee County, Pettus was settled in the 1850’s when John Freeman
Pettus (1808-1878) set up his sprawling ranch about four miles south of here.
The son of one of Stephen F. Austin’s first 300 colonists, Pettus was an
extensive cattle and horse breeder. The town, previously called “Dry Medio” for
a nearby creek, was named for him during the Civil War. The community was in
the vicinity of two important Indian skirmishes in Bee County in 1859 and the
1870’s, but the town slept until 1886 when the tracks of the San Antonio &
Aransas Pass Railroad reached this site. It then awoke to become the cattle
shipping center for the area. In the same year, John S. Hodges, a pioneer
citizen, laid out the townsite and donated land to be used for streets and
S.A.& A.P. right of way. For years the railroad stockyards and depot were
places of bustling activity as freight trains came for loading and wood-burning
steam engines took on water. In 1909, the presidential train of William H. Taft
stopped at the Pettus water tank. The tank — a final monument to steam
railroading here — was razed, 1965. ln1929 the Houston Oil Co. brought in its
well, “No. 1 Maggie Ray McKinney,” and from that time Pettus has played a
continuing useful role in Texas economy.
07 - FIRST BRICK BUILDING ON SQUARE
Corpus Christi, BeevlIle Victorian architecture. Built 1892 by grocer J. C.
Thompson L4 (1836-1905) of brick from the Calavaros kiln near Elmendorf. ??
Upstairs in 1892 was law office of Lon C. Hill, who later founded Harlingen.
Afterward on second floor was “Beeville Light Guard” armory. Acquired in 1910
by Eureka Telephone Company, building was communications headquarters
(1912-1920) for Southwestern Telegraph and Telephone and then for Southwestern
Bell until 1957. (In-scribed in base. “Restored 1957 for law offices of John N.
08 - EVERGREEN CEMETERY
1, Beeville Original Townsite, donated 1859 by Anne Burke. First owned by G. W.
McClanahan, land was bought 1862 by county for ‘public burying ground.” In
1872, H. W. Wilson donated northeast strip, land was added on the northwest,
and court gave consent for a fence. Cemetery was restored in 1970.
09 - ROUNTREE ROCK HOUSE
land bought 1875 by Joseph Gustav Rountree (1838-1 880) who planned house
be-fore his death. Built 1881 by his young widow, Elizabeth Cornelia, with aid
of her father, John Stillwell. The lumber was Florida pine, hauled from
Rockport. Stone, quarried as caliche and hardened by the air, came from nearby
Mulas Hills. Structure has withstood major storms and is still owned by
descendants: Adele Rountree, Anne Marie Rountree Anderson and sons.
10 - COMMUNITY OF NORMANNA
dates from about 1850. First town, two miles west, was called San Domingo for
its location near junction of San Domingo .and Dry Media Creeks. After railroad
was built, 1886, citizens moved to Walton (new flag station) to be online. Name
honored Sheriff D.A.T. Walton. When Norwegians settled area, 1890’s, Walton
became Normanna. Word originally suggested the qualities of old Norse heroes,
but through local usage came to mean “Home of the Norseman.” Town thrived for
years, then declined after series of fires and advent of the automobile.
11 - THE CAMP EZELL HOUSE
settler’s “box” home, board-and-batten construction. Lumber is Florida
long-leaf pine from a house torn down in Old Saint Mary’s by Robert A. Ezell.
Has three chimneys; one served as flue for dining room fireplace and kitchen
stove. Food was prepared on both. EzelI (1845-1936), a stone mason, built at
this creek site in 1892. His wife, Sarah Jane, daughter of the influential
legislator L. B. Camp, was born at Mission San Jose, San Antonio. Six of the
Ezells’ sons had popular orchestra 1896 to 1904. Present owners, Camp and Helen
12 - PAPALOTE CREEK
yards south passes Papalote Creek, crossed by the fierce Karankawa Indians who
found kite-shaped pebbles and named it Papalote, which means “Kite-Shaped” or
Wing-Shaped. Along its banks came the leaders of the Power and Hewetson
colonists, holding Mexican land grants in the 1830s. On its Rata tributary
there is evidence the Mexican Army camped on its way to suppress the Texas
Revolution. By 1857 the town of Papalote had emerged. It was the center of
entertainment for the county, boasting of a circular dance hall built by
cowboys trading steer yearlings at $3 a head for lumber. There were rooster
fights, ring tournaments and horse races. In 1886, when the railroad came, the
town was booming. After the turn of the century, however, Papalote began to die
away. A land company sold lots to settlers from as far away as Hawaii.
Expecting to grow citrus fruit trees, they were disillusioned when the first
killing frost doomed the project. Threats of Pancho Villa’s raids continued as
late as 1916, when women and children hid in a brick schoolhouse. In 1948, Main
Street was bypassed by U.S. 181. Today there is no post office — only a rural
route for the few remaining households.
13 - GEORGE HOME
in 1890 by Will H. and Julia George of materials from early house on land
inherited from her father, Major J. H. Wood (Texas cattle empire builder) who
came from New York to join Texas War for Independence. Remodeled in 1900, house
is raised cottage architecture and has elegantly detailed interior woodwork.
Many social and cultural functions were held here at turn of century. Present
owner is Mrs. Mary M. Welder, a Wood descendant.
14 - EARLY TRAILS IN BEE COUNTY
pack trails and wagon roads that marked this area at least 300 years have
developed such modern roads as U.S. Highway 181. The old trails of Indians,
wild cattle and Mustang horses formed highways for 17th, 18th and 19th century
expeditions coming from Mexico to claim sovereignty for Spain over land in
Texas. When pioneers established land grants in this section, they also found
Indian trails useful, placing towns along them. Beeville, the county seat, was
situated at the natural intersection of San Patricio-Helena Road with
Goliad-Laredo Road. About 20 miles south, the Matamoros-Goliad Road (Camino
Real to old-timers) was probably the most historic road in this area. In the
years 1861-1865 the “Cotton Road” called “lifeline of the Southern Confederacy”
— crossed Bee County. A later route of great value was a cattle trail that
channeled thousands of Longhorns north from the Rio Grande to the Red River and
up the Dodge City Trail of the Chisholm Trail to northern markets. In this area
were also La Para (or grapevine) Road, the lndianola-Papalote Road, and a road
to now-vanished Saint Mary’s, a port on Copano Bay, off the Gulf of Mexico.
15 - CAPTAIN A. C. JONES
the builders of Southwest. Born in Nacogdoches County, son of very early
settlers. Became a cattleman; served as sheriff of Goliad County in 1858-1860.
In Civil War Cavalry of Col. John S. “Rip” Ford for four years. Fought at
Palmito Hill, war’s last battle, 34 days after the surrender of Gen. Robert E.
Lee. In 1886, raised $75,000 to build S.A.& A.P. Railroad from San Antonio
to Beeville. Aided in getting G.H.& S.A. to extend line from Victoria here
in 1890. Was county treasurer, banker and the president and general manager of
Beeville Oil Mill.
16 - McCLANAHAN HOUSE
Oldest business structure in Beeville. Erected about 1867 on east
side of Courthouse Square, near Poesta Creek. General store, lodging house, post office. Pioneer
western style, with southern porches. Built by G. W. McClanahan, Beeville’s first merchant, school
teacher, postmaster, county clerk, inn keeper, and Sunday School superintendent.
17 - MEDIO CREEK
the Spaniards about 1800 because of its midway position between the San Antonio
and Nueces Rivers. Rises in Karnes County; empties into Mission River. Crossed
by explorers, padres, soldiers, settlers who traveled on early ox-cart roads
that led from Mexico to Mission La Bahia at Goliad. The Cart War of 1857,
between Texas and Mexican teamsters on the freight route between San Antonio
and Gulf ports, originated along San Patricio Road, southernmost of the three
roads. The Mexican cart drivers used Mesquite beans as feed for their teams,
starting the Mesquite brush which thrives along the creek. Settlers were
attracted here by the tall grass and many veterans of the Texas Revolution were
given bounty fl lands in the area. First post office in Bee County was
established in 1857 at Medio Hill pioneer community, once a downcreek
settlement. In 1909, the town of Candlish was founded within 50 feet of here,
with a hotel, general store, school. The store closed; Candlish became a ghost
town. In 1938-1939, on Medio and Blanco Creeks, fossil beds yielded 1,000,000-year-old
fossils of a new mastodon species (named Buckner’s Mastodon), rhinoceros,
elephants, alligators, camels and three-toed horses.
18 - ST. PHILIP’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
unit, transept, built 1893 on this site purchased in 1890 for heirs of G. W.
McClanahan. In 1910, nave added with funds from sale of block of land given to
the Missionary Jurisdiction of Western Texas by English-born 4 H. W. Wilson,
1888. Early members donated furnishings, bell tower, and in 1896 inscribed
memorial bell. First Protestant parochial school in county was organized here
in 1954. Gothic design retained in 1964 renovation.
19 - GENTRY DUGAT
Colorful historian, orator and journalist. Born on nearby ranch, son
of Alex and Martha (Page) Dugat. Earned Law degree. Worked on seven Texas newspapers; edited Cotton
Ginners Journal. Wrote biography of post-Civil War editor-orator, Henry W. Grady. World War I
veteran, Methodist, Mason; member of Sons of American Revolution, Lions. Collected rare books,
newspapers, artifacts. In 1958 organized and chartered Bee County Historical Commission.
20 - THE A.C. JONES HOME
1906 by Mrs. Jane Field Jones (1842-1918), philanthropist builder of a local
school and teacher-age, widow of “Father of BeeviIIe," Captain A. C. Jones.
Occupied 1918-1966 by Mr. and Mrs. Allen Carter Jones
II. Still property of descendants. Early 20th century Baroque architecture with
large formal rooms, 8 fireplaces, hardwood floors, high ceilings. Has been site
for entertainment of Texas leaders, including governors.
21 - ARANSAS CREEK SETTLERS
known residents were Karankawa Indians who named creek. On this stream was one
of the most famous ranches in early Texas, occupied in 1805 by Don Martin de
Leon, who in 1824 founded Victoria. In 1830’s, Irish colonists came by way of
Copano Bay, settling down creek. Anglo-Americans from older settlements came by
road and trail, stopping mainly up creek. Stock raising, trucking and freighting
provided livelihoods in the rich, new prairie land. In 1850 Patrick Fadden sold
to Fort Merrill corn and vegetables from 1835 land grant of his uncle, Father
John Thomas MaIloy. Fadden and W. R. Hayes freighted supplies to settlers in
1860s. Hayes had early post office in his home, 1870; was county judge
1876-1892. John Wilson, an 1850s up creek settler, brought first Durham cattle
to country; built one of first wooden fences, enclosing 600 acres of homesite
with rough heart pine plank. On creek’s north bank stood ranch of Frank 0.
Skidmore, founder of Skidmore, who gained fame for building first
barbed-wire fence and windmill in county. He promoted breeding of registered
Herefords and in 1886 gave much right of way to San Antonio & Aransas Pass
22 - PRAEGER BUILDING
Antonio businessman Albert Praeger (1864-1930) moved to
Beeville in the 1890s to open a
hardware store and tin shop. He built
this Romanesque Revival structure in 1906 to house his business, which included
buggies and wagons as well as barbed wire and tools. In 1925 when Sam Mitchell
became store manager, the second floor storage space was converted into
apartments. Since the turn of the century, this has been a landmark on the
23 - WILLIAM E. MADDERRA HOME
superintendent of the Beeville school system for 34 years, William EIdridge
Madderra (1870-1936) was responsible for much of the development of the town’s
early educational pro-grams. Madderra, for whom a local school building is
named, purchased this home in 1907, 7 three
years after its construction, and lived here with his wife, Donna (Irwin),
until his death. The house features late Victorian detailing and a three-sided
bay to the right of the porch.
24 - BLANCONIA (OLD N2) CHURCH
first Baptist church in Refugio County was organized on April 22,1855, and met
in the Doughty schoolhouse near Refugio. In 1865, the first sanctuary was
erected (Smiles west) and named for the cattle brand of member and benefactor
N.R. McDaniel. The Blanco Baptist Association was organized at the “N2” church
in 1873. In 1888 the fellowship moved to Blanconia where the first sanctuary on
this site was built in 1891. One of the oldest Baptist churches in South Texas,
Blanconia church served as a nucleus for growth of area churches and has
ordained several pastors.
25 - CADIZ BAPTIST CHURCH
congregation, originally known as Lapara Baptist Church, was organized on Aug.
12, 1877, by 32 charter members. Services were held under a brush arbor and in
a schoolhouse before a sanctuary was erected on Lapara Creek. The building was
moved here in 1920, and the church was renamed for the Cadiz settlement. The
facility later was enlarged to accommodate the growing church. In 1960 the congregation
won the Rural Church of the Year award. In recent years the church has aided
disaster victims and supported ministerial students and Christian crusades.
26 - FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
in Beeville began meeting together informally as early as 1885. In 1890-91 the
Rev. Henry Runner Laird (1842-1925) was sent to officially organize a
congregation in Beeville, and this church was begun with twenty-six charter
members. A sanctuary was built on the corner of Walton and North St. Mary’s
Streets in 1892, and much surrounding property was acquired by the church in
succeeding years. In 1968 the congregation merged with the Ebenezer
Presbyterian Church to form the First Presbyterian Church of Beeville.
27 - MEDIO CREEK BRIDGE
in 1897 by the New Jersey Iron and Steel Company, this bridge has served as one
of the major crossings on the road from Beeville to San Antonio. Funding for
the bridge was acquired from the sale of bonds from Bee County’s Permanent
School Fund. Construction costs totaled $3,990. The steel pratt through truss
bridge, with a wooden deck and approaches, rests on a riveted-steel caissons,
or piers. It has survived numerous floods. The top of the bridge was rebuilt in
1922-23, and a new floor was constructed in 1947. The bridge remained in
service for vehicular traffic until 1987.
28 - TULETA
Rev. Peter Unzicker led a group of Illinois settlers here in 1906. Buying 53.4
acres of land of the original Uranga Grant and later Chittim-MiIler Ranch, he
founded Tuleta, named for the daughter of J.M. Chittim. A rail depot and post
office were opened. In 1909 Pastor Unzicker organized one of Texas’ first
Mennonite churches. Townspeople established the innovative Tuleta Agricultural
High School in 1910, with Miss Amanda Stoltzfus as principal. Once marketing
center for this fertile farming area, Tuleta also had a union church and
several business houses.
29 - FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF BEEVILLE
Beeville, the county seat of Bee County since 1860, did not have a secure bank until 1890, when the First National Bank of Beeville opened for business. Prior to that year, the town’s only banking facility was A.C. Jones’ General Store, where some area residents stored money under a loose floorboard behind the counter.
The increases in population and trade volume brought by the arrival of the San Antonio & Aransas Pass and the Gulf, ??tern Texas & Pacific Railways in the late1880’s made the ~ establishment of a bank necessary. In December of 1889 thirty investors met and organized the First National Bank of Beeville and elected A.C. Jones, Louis B. Randall, B.W. Klipstein, J.H. O’Connor, Viggo Kohler, J.C. Wood and J.R. Hoxie to the first board of directors.
First National Bank of Beeville operated on the courthouse square until 1894,
when it relocated to the vicinity of the railroad depot. Functioning at that
site for 66 years, the bank moved in 1960 and again in 1984 to be near major
auto routes. It is one of the few banks in South Texas to have been independent
and locally owned and operated for one hundred years.
30 - FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
1861, three years after Bee County was organized, the Rev. Berry Merchant of
Corpus Christi assisted Beeville Methodists in establishing the
Methodist-Episcopal Church, South. Between 1862 and 1870, circuit-riding
preachers ministered to the congregation, and worship services were often held
in Bee County’s original courthouse, a small wood-frame structure. The
congregation erected its first sanctuary, a wood-frame building, in the early
1870s at the corner of Bowie and Monroe Streets. In 1904, the congregation
relocated to this site and built a Gothic structure with stained glass windows.
It was replaced with a newer and larger worship facility in 1955. The
congregation was part of the Corpus Christi Methodist District almost
continuously until 1891, when Beeville itself became a district headquarters. A
district parsonage was maintained until 1922, when the city again was absorbed
into the Corpus Christi District. Denomination mergers caused the congregation
to change its name to the First Methodist Church in 1939 and to the First
United Methodist Church in 1968. It continues to play an active role in the
religious life of this community.
31 - FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH
church was organized in 1869 as the Beeville Baptist Church. Its first
sanctuary was built near Poesta Creek in 1871. The congregation grew quickly,
emerging as the largest among the 39 members of the regional Blanco Baptist
Association by 1876. The congregation changed its name to First Baptist Church
of Beeville about 1887. Through the efforts of the Rev. J. M. SaIlee and his
family, the church began a tradition of extensive foreign missionary work about
1900. The congregation built its fourth sanctuary at this site in 1957.
32 - ST. JOSEPH’S CATHOLIC CHURCH
The emergence of this church is associated with Catholic services held by itinerant missionaries in the homes of predominantly Irish settlers located along the Texas Gulf Coast in the late 1840s. The oldest written record of
Joseph’s Catholic Church dates to 1876. The first church structure, built in
1891, became the site of regular services by the Rev. Raymond Monclus in 1893.
St. Mary’s Academy, opened by the Sisters of Divine Providence here in 1896,
was replaced by St. Joseph’s Parochial School in 1931. A new church building
was erected in 1992 to serve a growing membership.
33 - COMMERCIAL NATIONAL BANK OF BEEVILLE
The Commercial National Bank of Beeville traces its history to January 1893 when several prominent citizens met to organize a financial institution. Elected as officers were Dr. L. B. Creath, A. G. Kennedy, John I. Clare, and D. C. Stone. The bank opened in May 1893 with a capital stock of $50,000.
Housed on the northwest corner of the courthouse square in a two-story brick edifice, the bank was successful from the beginning. Profits were posted from its first quarter of business, and by 1895 stockholders received a dividend of four percent.
The bank building was remodeled in the 1930s and was modernized and expanded in the 1950s. A new bank facility was added south of the original structure in 1965 and included drive-in teller windows. A banking facility was added at Chase Field Naval Air Station in 1967. The main bank building added more space and drive-in windows in 1976 and 1982.
A branch bank was added in 1985 at College North Shop-ping Center, and in 1991 the First State Bank of Mathis was established as a branch bank.
prominent citizens have been associated with the bank, including state
legislators. The bank continues to support
and serve the community.
34 - THE RAILROAD IN BEE COUNTY
June 14,1886 the first San Antonio and Aransas Pass (SA&AP) train arrived
in Beeville to a cheering crowd. The arrival marked the combined efforts of the
SA&AP President Uriah Lott; Beeville merchant, banker and cattleman Capt.
Jones; and rancher Frank Skidmore to route the railroad through Bee County.
When Lott’s proposed line from San Antonio to the Gulf at Corpus Christi was
opposed by the nearby town of Goliad, Jones granted land and substantial ~
funds, while Skidmore donated land and the Skidmore town-site. Many others
followed their example. Transformed from a village to a boom town and,
surrounded by new farming towns, Beeville became a shipping point for cattle
and cotton. In 1889, after the Southern Pacific completed a second line through
here to Victoria and the Port of Galveston, Bee County be-came a rail center
with connections far and wide for passenger and freight service. Passenger
service peaked in 1918, and by 1930, the Beeville-Skidmore line averaged 18
trains daily. During World War II, passenger service increased, but improved
highway travel led to its end in 1952. The Southern Pacific depot was razed in
1958, and the last train left Bee County in 1994, but the booster spirit of the
railroad era lives on. ???? colonists in 1829 boom town and, surrounded by new
farming towns, Beeville became a shipping point for cattle and cotton. In 1889,
after the Southern Pacific completed a second line through here to Victoria and
the Port of Galveston, Bee County became a rail center with connections far and
wide for passenger and freight service. Passenger service peaked in 1918, and
by 1930, the Beeville-Skidmore line averaged 18 trains daily. During World War
II, passenger ser-vice increased, but improved highway travel led to its end in
1952. The Southern Pacific depot was razed in 1958, and the last train left Bee
County in 1994, but the booster spirit of the railroad era lives on.
35 - PARK HOTEL
Reinhart C. M. Nelson, one of many mid-westerners lured to the area by the promotional literature of land developers, moved his family here
Minnesota in 1905. He built this structure in 1910. Named for its park-like
setting, it is an unusual example of standard 20th century hotel form. It
features innovative concrete construction, distinctive cast concrete Classical
columns, and a wraparound porch. The building was converted for use as a
private residence in 1920. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark 1995.
36 - BEE COUNTY
for Col. Barnard E. Bee (1787-1853), who served Republic of Texas as Secretary
of War, Secretary of State, and Minister to the United States. County was
created by legislative act on Dec. 8,1857; organized Jan. 25, 1858, from land
earlier in Goliad, Karnes, Live Oak, Refugio, and San Patricio counties. County
seat in 1858 was on Medio Creek; since 1860 at present Beeville. A cattle
region since Spanish times, Bee County became important beef producer in 1865.
San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad provided first modern transportation in
1886. Oil was discovered here in 1929.
38 - N.A.S. CHASE FIELD
June 1,1943, Chase Field was commissioned as a Naval Air Auxiliary Station to
train naval aviators during World War II. The base was named for Lt. Cmdr.
Nathan Brown Chase, who went down in the Pacific on a training flight in 1925.
After the war, Chase Field was closed until 1953, when it was reopened during
the Korean War to help with the over-crowding at NAS Corpus Christi. In July
1968, Chase Field was elevated in status to a full naval air station. With the
end of the
Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the number of armed forces
was greatly reduced and on July 1, 1991, Chase Field was put on the list for
closure. VT-26 was decommissioned May 22, 1992, with VT-24 and VT-25
de-commissioned on September 18, 1992. Finally, on February 1,1993, Chase Field
was officially disestablished, bringing an end to fifty years of service in
39 - THE RIALTO
The Rialto was built in 1922 as the flag-ship of a 22 theater chain for H. W. Hall and family. The Classic Revival theater was designed by W. C. Stephenson, a noted local architect. Mr. Stephenson designed the 1912 Bee County courthouse as well as many other local landmarks.
After a 1935 fire destroyed the interior of the theater, it was remodeled in an elaborate Art Modern style. The theater redesigned by John Eberson, a noted architect in 20th Century theater design, incorporated a varied mix of Art Deco and the Moderne with a touch of the Craftsman. Eberson is well known for the design of the Majestic theater of San Antonio.
The Rialto reopened in 1935 to serve as a cultural center for Beeville and the surrounding area. John Wayne, Jeff Chandler and Jimmy Stewart made personal appearances at the theater to raise money for the War Bond Drive for WWII. The Rialto also provided a venue for civic activities.
The 1936 Rialto was the only theater between San Antonio and Corpus to have refrigerated air. Other innovations were chairs curved to fit the back and the latest design in head-phones for the hearing impaired.
sixty years of operation the Rialto closed in the mid 1980’s. Future plans are
to restore the theater to its former glory.
BRIEF HISTORY OF BEE COUNTY
Bee County, located in deep South Texas, was created In 1858 by the Texas Legislature by taking parts of what are now the five contiguous counties — Live Oak, Karnes, Goliad, Refugio and San Patricio — for its 800-square mile area.
The county seat, Beeville, is the largest city on U.S. Highway 181 between San Antonio, about 90 miles to the north, and Corpus Christi on the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 55 miles south. Houston lies some 180 miles to the northeast on U.S. Highway 59, and Laredo and the Mexican border are another 132 miles to the southwest on the same highway.
With the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993, the two highways have greatly increased traffic and efforts are being made to widen both highways and make them interstate routes.
Bee County’s terrain is level to rolling, with black clay and sandy loam soils, the Texas Almanac states. Its early settlers were farmers and ranchers, and agriculture has played a major role in its economy to the present day. The first agricultural experiment station in the state was opened near Beeville in 1894 by Texas A&M College (now University), which continues valuable research projects there in the 1990s.
The discovery of oil in 1929 provided another industry, and the considerable quantities of oil and gas produced since then have made the petroleum business one of the county’s leading employers. Needless to say, the downturn in the industry in the 1980s had a severe impact on Bee County’s economy, but prospects for a brighter outlook began to appear in the early 1990s.
Naval presence felt
The establishment of a naval air station, Chase Field, in 1943, during World War II, brought both military and civilian personnel and their families to Bee County. Although the base was closed for a few years after the war ended, it was reactivated in 1953 and since then had consistently graduated some of the nation’s finest jet aviators until it was officially disestablished by the Base Realignment and Closure Com-mission on February 1, 1993.
Along with the men and women in the military and civilian workers came their families, many of whom were outstanding citizens who took lead ???? iflg roles in the county’s schools, churches, youth and charitable organizations, etc. Many of them made this area their home upon retiring.
In 1860, only two years after its organization, Bee County was listed as having 910 residents. By 1900, the county had grown to 7,620 citizens. The 1990 census gave the county 25,135 people, with 13,547 of them Beevillians.
Both 1990 figures have been questioned by city and county officials, who point to the increase in number of residents since the Texas Department of Criminal Justice decided to locate its first facility in this county in November 1989. Located southeast of the county seat, the William G. McConnell Unit, named for the late Beeville police chief, is the only TDCJ facility not occupying property which made up the former Chase Field Naval Air Station.
Most recent population estimates released by the U.S. Census give the county 32,359 residents, while Beeville has 13,129 citizens. Smaller communities in the county include Papalote, Blanconia, Skidmore, Pettus, Tuleta, Normanna, Mineral, Pawnee, Tynan, Clareville, Qrangedale, Cadiz, Olmos, Central, Candlish, Viggo, Quincy, Caesar, Colony, Central, Corrigan, Deaf Smith, Monteola, Poesta, Richland, Sid Smith and Yougeen. Many of these have long been absorbed into larger towns or simply ceased to exist.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice
By the end of 1999, Chase Field’s former location was listed as the site for a large number of TDCJ facilities, including:
The above listed facilities and the McConnell Unit had an authorized 1,866 employees in Bee County as of late September 1999.
From the beginning
But let’s return to the county’s beginnings. This area’s earliest known inhabitants were the Karankawa Indians, who left their gulf fishing to come inland during the winter in search of buffalo. Later the Lipan-Apaches hunted on these lands, and near the end of the 18th century, Comanche warriors made lightning raids in this county for more than 50 years.
After Columbus discovered America in 1492, the Spanish explorer, Cabeza de Vaca, was the first white man to cross this county, Grace Bauer said in her history written in 1958 to celebrate Bee’s centennial. Another Spaniard, Alvarez de Pineda, explored the Texas Gulf Coast region in 1519, and the French explorer, La Salle, came through this area in 1685.
After Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821 ,the Mexican flag began to fly over this part of Texas and the new republic opened up the land for settlers from the Old World. The colonization law gave the empresarios (land agents) and assigned territory in which to locate their colonists. John McMullen and James McGloin of Ireland were the two empresarios who brought natives from their homeland to this area, beginning in the late 1820s.
The original Bee County colonists arrived in 1829 and settled near the Papalote and Aransas creeks in the southern part of the county. Another schooner docked at Copano Bay in May 1834, bringing Mrs. Anne Burke, whose husband died of cholera at sea, and Patrick Carroll, who lost his wife in the same epidemic. In later years, Mrs. Burke married Carroll, and they and her son, Patrick Burke Jr., donated 150 acres of land for the townsite of Beeville on Poesta Creek.
John Hefferman, his brother, James Hefferman, and their families were among the first colonists to settle in this county. When the Texas Revolution began in 1836, both brothers, a cousin and most of their families were massacred by Indians while they were working in a field, which was located on the spot now occupied by the county courthouse in Beeville.
Settlers found wilderness
When the Irish colonists claimed their land grants in what is now Bee County, they found grass knee-high in much of the territory and realized that it could be developed into a stockman’s paradise. Then a wilderness, the region contained such wild animals as panthers, wildcats, opossums, skunks and badgers. Deer, turkeys, rabbits, javelinas, ducks and geese furnished meat for the settlers, but they were forced to grow their own vegetables. They bought salt, coffee and sugar, which arrived by boat at the port of Saint Marys, then by oxcart to San Patricio and the banks of Poesta Creek.
Following the heroic defense of the Alamo in San Antonio and the tragic massacre of Col. James Fannin and his men at Goliad, came the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, in which Gen. Sam Houston and his army of Texians defeated and captured the Mexican General Santa Anna. During the disturbed days of the Texas Republic (1836-45), Bee County’s settlers still feared the Indians, but news of the fertile grass-lands brought more and more newcomers into this area, where vast herds of Longhorn cattle and thousands of Spanish horses roamed.
County established, named
Texas joined the United States in 1845, and in 1858, Bee County was created by the Texas Legislature and named in honor of Col. Barnard E. Bee, who served as President Sam Houston’s secretary of war and as President Mirabeau B. Lamar’s secretary of state during the days of the Texas Republic. The first county officials were elected on Jan. 25, 1858, and the Commissioners Court met for the first time on Feb. 10. The selection of the county seat was a hot issue, and was evidently settled in an April election when a 150-acre site on Medio Creek, about seven miles east of present-day Beeville, won out over two other offers of land. However, the Medio Creek location proved unsatisfactory and in another election held in February 1859, the residents voted to find a more central location. The county court then accepted the offer of 150 acres from the Carrolls and her son, Patrick Burke Jr., and Beeville-on-the-PoeSta became the new county seat.
Growing county organized
With Bee County created and organized and the officers of the county and district courts located in the new courthouse by November 1860, the county seat began to attract new citizens and some businesses. George W. McClanahan, who became the town’s first merchant in about 1859 or ‘60, erected a store (now known as the McClanahan House) on the court-house square in 1867, operating it until his death in 1874.
The War Between the States began when Bee County was only three years old, and while there was no actual invasion of Texas territory, the people experienced many hardships. About 75,000 Texans served in the Confederate Army, including several companies from Bee County.
In every war since then — Spanish-American, World Wars land II, Korea, Vietnam and Persian Gulf— many of the county’s finest young men (and women) have answered the call to serve in the military. The names of the county’s World War I dead are listed on a marker in the courthouse rotunda. The names of all the county’s war dead are read aloud every year at a Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 11.
Following are some other important events in the county’s history, presented as far as possible in chronological order:
By 1848 or earlier, Catholic priests visited regularly in the homes of Irish settlers in Bee County to perform marriages and baptisms and to celebrate Mass. Although the first records of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Beeville are dated 1876, the actual parish history goes back several years before that.
Protestant churches established in Beeville before 1900 include the
Many other local churches have been founded since 1900, including
The county’s smaller communities also have a number of churches, three of which were founded before or slightly after 1900.
all have historical markers.
Other community churches include
The county’s schools
Public schools in Bee County began operating as early as 1859, when T.J. Smith taught a few pupils in a tiny building erected near Normanna. McClanahan was the first teacher in a Beeville school (one room of his store in 1860. The first brick schoolhouse in Beeville was erected in 1894 and the first high school building in 1911.
Many outstanding teachers were involved with the educational development of the county’s early-day students, among them “Miss Gussie” (Mrs. John) Flournoy, who taught in Beeville from 1881-1908 and Professor William E. Madderra, who served as superintendent of the Beeville schools from 1900-1936.
During the early 1900s, there were about 20 common school districts in smaller communities throughout the county but the trend toward consolidation resulted in the establishment of only four school systems: the Beeville, Pettus, Skidmore-Tynan and Pawnee Independent School Districts.
Separate schools were provided for the Negro and Mexican-American students until their integration was finally completed in the 1 960s. The senior class from the Westside (or Mexican) school was transferred to A.C. Jones High School in the fall of 1938 and three members received their diplomas with the 1939 JHS graduating class.
In 1965, Bee County College, a two-year community! junior college, was established with Grady Hogue as the president. Following Hogue’s retirement in 1984, Dr. Norman Wallace served 15 years as president. In 1999, Dr. John Brockman became the institution’s third president.
In 1998, the school’s name was changed to Coastal Bend College to reflect the addition of two campuses offering many classes in Alice and Kingsville. By late 1999, more than 3,000 students were enrolled in academic, vocational and enrichment courses, and the college was providing cultural and artistic opportunities for the entire Coastal Bend.
Parochial schools in Beeville include St. Mary’s Academy, operated by St. Joseph’s and Our Lady of Victory Catholic churches; St. Philip’s Episcopal; and First Baptist churches.
County attracts business
In 1876, attorney John C. Beasley came to Beeville from Virginia and opened a law firm, one which is still in existence today. His son and grandson were lawyers and longtime members of the firm, and now one of his great-grandsons is active in it.
Another business established before 1900 which is still operating today is the Beeville Bee (1886) and Beeville Picayune (1890), which merged in 1928 to form the Beeville Bee-Picayune. The latter now has both third- and fourth-generation journalists on its staff — descendants of Picayune publisher ~ Thomas R. Atkins and his son, George H. Atkins, who served as both Picayune and Bee-Picayune publisher in his 52-year career (1907-59). The latters’s son-in-law, Fred C. Latcham, Jr., completed his 40th year as publisher in 1999, and his two ~ sons, Chip and Jeff Latcham, are now co-publishers.
Four other firms established in the 1890s were still active until recently: First National Bank (1890); Commercial National Bank (1893); Burrows Hardware Co. (1893); and Hall’s Inc. (1899). Both Burrows and Hall’s were closed for good in the 1990s. The Commercial National Bank’s stock was sold to First Prosperity Bancshares in October1999 and its name was changed to reflect the change in ownership. Only the First National Bank retains its original name.
In 1886, the first railroad (San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad from the Alamo City to Corpus Christi) came through Beeville and in 1889, a second one (Gulf, Western Texas and Pacific Railway) arrived. Both were brought here Iargely through the intercession of the public-spirited Capt. Allan Carter Jones, known as “the father of Beeville” because of the many civic projects he sponsored and often helped underwrite.
Although the railroads’ arrival brought about a surge in population and business opportunities, their history came to an end in 1987 (when no more trains arrived from the north) and 1995, when the last rails were removed and no trains could come here from the south.
In 1890, Beeville was incorporated as a town, with Jones as the first mayor; in 1908, it became a city with a mayor and four aldermen; and in 1912, the voters adopted a commission form of government with a mayor and two city commissioners. In 1951, the present system of five council members (one of whom is named mayor) and city manager was adopted. In 1970, Beeville’s first Hispanic mayor, Humberto Saenz, was elected; since then, other Hispanics, including Jesse T. DeRusse Jr., John Ybañez and Carlos Salazar, have served as head of the city government. Kenneth Chesshir is the current mayor.
Two Hispanics have been elected Bee County judge, Jimmy Martinez and the current judge whose term began Jan. 1, 1999, José Aliseda.
Many organizations begun
In 1890 the Bee County Fair Association was established; it was followed by other organizations like the
The Bee County Chamber of Commerce was launched in 1888, when the Bee County Immigration Association was organized to attract new citizens to come here. In 1899 the name was changed to Beeville Businessmen’s Club, and in 1911 the Young Men’s Progressive League was formed. The civic body became known in 1925 as the Chamber of Commerce, which was incorporated in 1940. The CofC has sponsored the annual western parade since 1937 — first, in con-junction with the South Texas Hereford Association’s fall show and sale, and in recent years, with Western Week.
Many of the county’s lodges, clubs and organizations have long histories. A few of these are the Beeville Masonic Lodge (established 1860); Rosetta Club (1902); Beeville Fire Department (1905); Order of Eastern Star (1908); Knights of Columbus and Boy Scouts (1912); American Legion Post (1920); Rotary Club (1921); Business & Professional Women’s Club and Order of Rainbow for Girls (1922); Wednesday Luncheon Club (1924); Kiwanis Club (1935); Mothers Club (1937); Girl Scouts (1939); Beeville Garden Club (1953); Navy League (1955); Junior Service League (1963); and Beeville Art Association and Pan American Round Table (1964).
Although several wooden hotels were built in the county before the turn of the century, none of those is still standing —many were destroyed by fire. Even Hotel Kohler, the first modern one, a three-story stucco structure erected in 1932, was razed less than 50 years later, and now the new City Hall, which was moved to that site in 1987, occupies the Kohler’s location at the corner of Washington and Cleveland streets.
At present, several motels provide lodging and/or meals for the traveling public, including the Best Western Texas Inn Inn, Beeville Executive Inn, Esquire, and El Camino.
This is not intended to be the final history of Bee County. Other authors, beginning with Thomas R. Atkins in 1908, traced the county’s early days for the Beeville Picayune, as did Mrs. I.C. Madray with her history, much of which appeared serially in the Bee-Picayune, in the 1930s and was published in book form in 1939.
Grace (Mrs. Paul) Bauer wrote a brief county history at the time of Bee County’s Centennial in 1958, and Camp EzeIl, retired editor of the Bee-Picayune, compiled a fairly complete history in his “Historical Story of Bee County,” which was published in 1973.
Beginning in 1991, a new Bee County Family History was prepared, with Mrs. Lois Chestnut of Beeville as project director for the publishers, Curtis Media Corp. Volunteer history enthusiasts throughout the county assisted with this volume, which was designed to preserve the heritage of all families who live or have lived in Bee County. Descendants of pioneer settlers and newcomers alike collected the stories of their families, along with old and/or new photos of some of the members, for inclusion in the latest history.
The book also contains the history of the county from its early days to the present — including businesses, organizations, schools, churches, transportation, communication, agriculture, military, communities, etc. compiled from the earlier histories, it makes a worthy companion to the histories written in 1908,1939,1958 and 1973.
History is still being written in Beeville and Bee County, whose story is an ongoing one which must be updated from time to time. The vision of their progressive citizens is not limited to the present but to an even bigger and brighter future for all.
Through the erection of these and subsequent Texas Historical Commission official medallions and markers, residents and visitors alike will be able to appreciate and under-stand the sacrifices and contributions of the county’s citizens from the arrival of the first colonists in 1834.
this fact, the Bee County Chamber of Commerce and Bee County Historical Society
are pleased to present this brochure
Updated Thursday, December 21, 2006 20:57
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