Month: August 2013

Wink

Named for Col. C. M. Winkler, famed Texas Confederate soldier, Winkler County was originally settled by Comanche Indians who ruled the area until 1874.  Cattle ranching was the economic driver of the county until 1926, when oil was discovered by Roy Westbrook on the Hendrick Ranch.  The Hendrick Oilfield transformed Winkler County almost overnight.

By mid-1927 the Wink Townsite Company was selling lots in Horse Wells pasture of the T. G. Hendrick Ranch.  The oil boom brought new people to Wink, causing a shortage of housing.  Newcomers set up tents and built makeshift houses.  Wink was originally named Winkler for the county.  When a post office was requested, postal authorities notified the applicant that there was already a Winkler, Texas, post office already in operation.  The citizens shortened the name to Wink and received a post office in 1927.

That year the first public school was organized, and a temporary building was constructed.  A Sunday school was started by November 1927, and the population of the town was reported at 3,500.  By 1929 that number climbed to 6,000.  The boom brought lawlessness-bootlegging, prostitution, gambling-to Wink.  Even the city government, which was organized on June 4, 1928, came under the control of a well-organized underworld.  On October 16, 1928, District Judge Charles Klapproth declared the incorporation election void, and the city government was reorganized.  In December of that year the first municipal building was constructed; it was a jail.  In 1929 the Texas-New Mexico Railway built its tracks from Wink Junction to Wink, connecting the town to Monahans and to New Mexico and providing a much-needed transportation outlet for the crude being pumped.  In the 1930s the boom declined; the population hovered around 4,000, and the number of businesses fluctuated between fifty and 180.  It was during this time in the late-20s to early-30s that the Rig Theater (photo above) was built.  The building’s façade features highly detailed brickwork in a variety of patterns.  Stone parapets with diamond-shaped finials cap the brick walls.  A small version of a drilling rig topped the canopy over the building’s entrance.  An early manager of the Rig Theater was Joe A. “Pop” DeIorio.

By 1933 the town was legally incorporated.  Five hospitals and fifteen doctors served injured oilfield workers, expectant mothers, and epidemic victims.  Law and order became the rule.  Throughout the 1940s the population continued to decline from 1,945 to 1,521, and the number of businesses decreased from 130 to forty.  In December 1947 Winkler County State Bank opened in Wink.  Wink entered the 1950s a stable community with a population of just over 1,500.  The number of businesses varied in the decade from twenty-five to fifty.  In 1958 the railroad from Wink Junction to Wink was abandoned.  During the early 1960s the population rose to over 1,800 but dipped to under 1,200 by 1968.  The number of businesses jumped between fifty-five and twenty.  In July 1960 the federal government approved an application by Wink for more than a million dollars in urban renewal funds to upgrade and rehabilitate 221 acres within the city limits.  National attention focused on the small oil town, which used the money for paving and curb and gutter work.  The population continued to decline to under 1,200 in the 1970s and 1980s.  In the late 1970s the oil economy improved, but the number of businesses slipped to a low of five by the late 1980s.  Wink is on Monument Draw, State Highway 115, and Farm Road 1232, seven miles southwest of Kermit in southwestern Winkler County.

REFERENCES:  Julia Cauble Smith, “WINK, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hlw42), accessed December 15, 2012.  Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Tennessee Colony

Tennessee Colony was founded in 1838 by settlers who came from the Old South by wagons, seeking fertile, watered farm lands.  Early families included the Sheltons, Avants, Hanks, and Seaglers.  The moist climate and fertile soil was suitable for growing cotton, and a number of cotton plantations prospered.  Their cotton was shipped from Magnolia Ferry on the Trinity and created great wealth.  Early businesses were a general store, blacksmith shop, cabinet shop (which made furniture still found in area).  The town was a trade center for places as far away as Dallas.   The plantation era reached a climax in grandeur on the properties of F. S. Jackson, a settler from Virginia.  Circuit riders held religious services in homes until a log cabin church could be built, probably in late 1838; a second log church succeeded this one.  Masons attended Magnolia Lodge No. 113 near the Trinity River for years, but in 1857 obtained charter for Tyre Lodge No. 198, A.F. & A.M., in Tennessee Colony.  They then worked to build a 2-story church-school-lodge hall, which was finished in 1860 (and was to be used until 1948).

In 1851 a log school opened, and Grant Kersky was the teacher.  The schools were outstanding, especially those taught by a Mr. Hooker and by Professor Sidney Newsome.  They drew patronage from Palestine and other area towns.  Remembered students included Addison and Randolph Clark, later to become founders of a college that would be forerunner of Texas Christian University.  Descendants of original colonists still live here.

A post office opened in 1852.  The community experienced racial tensions in the years before and after the Civil War. In 1860, for example, two white men from Mississippi, named Cable and Wyrick, were accused of plotting a slave uprising.  They were suspected of encouraging slaves to poison the town’s water supply and kill most of the white citizens.  Cable and Wyrick were quickly tried and hanged. In 1869 a man named Seymour arrived in town to open a black school, but settlers objected to this and forced him to leave.

The first railroad arrived at nearby Palestine in 1872.  In 1884 Tennessee Colony had three churches, a school, a steam gristmill, a cotton gin, and a population of 200.  The population dropped over the next few decades, as businesses moved to Palestine.  In 1914 Tennessee Colony had a population of 100.  A few grocers and cotton gins served the area, and it had a telephone connection.  During the twentieth century the town functioned as a small agricultural center.  Tennessee Colony is off of Farm Road 321 fourteen miles northwest of Palestine in northwestern Anderson County.

REFERENCES:  Charles E. Moss, “TENNESSEE COLONY, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hlt08), accessed August 01, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association; Historical Markers for Tennessee Colony Cemetery and Tyre Masonic Lodge No. 198, Texas Historical Sites Atlas, published by the Texas Historical Commission, accessed August 08, 2013.

Lockhart

Lockhart, county seat of Caldwell County, was named for Byrd Lockhart, who in 1831 received the land that later became the Lockhart townsite as partial payment for his surveying work for the Mexican government.  During the 1830s settlement in the area was limited by the threat of Indian raids, but after the battle of Plum Creek in 1840, more settlers began to arrive.  By the mid-1840s, several families had made their home near Lockhart Springs, and when Caldwell County was established in 1848, the new town of Lockhart became the county seat.  Lockhart was incorporated in 1852 with a mayor-council government.  By that time the community was well established: Isabel Stewart began publishing a weekly newspaper in 1849 or 1850.  The Lockhart Academy, opened in 1850, was probably the first School in Caldwell County.  A Masonic lodge, built in 1850, provided meeting space for both school and church functions.

By 1855 at least five different churches had been organized.  An 1858 census of incorporated towns listed Lockhart with 423 residents.  In the late 1860s Lockhart became a starting point for the Chisholm Trail, and, as such, developed as a regional trading center in the early 1870s.  Beginning in 1874, however, the arrival of the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway in the southern part of the county and the subsequent establishment of Luling cut into business activity at Lockhart for several years.  Lockhart continued to grow, but did not recover its dominance of the county economy until after 1887, when the completion of the Lockhart-San Marcos section of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas line increased access to outside markets.  By 1890 Lockhart had electricity, a waterworks, streetcars, four schools, seven churches, and a national bank to serve its 1,233 residents.  Aiding its economic growth was the establishment of two more rail lines: in 1889 the San Antonio and Aransas Pass connected Lockhart and Shiner (by way of Luling), and in 1892 the Missouri, Kansas and Texas extended its track from Lockhart to Smithville.  In the 1890s and early 1900s Lockhart became an important regional center for processing cotton, with a cottonseed oil mill opening in 1893 and a compress in 1901.

The turn of the century also brought the establishment of the Dr. Eugene Clark Library (still extant and said to be the state’s oldest continuously operating city library) and Kreuz’s Market (still selling barbecue in the early 1990s).  The census of 1900 showed that the city population had nearly doubled in ten years, rising to 2,306.  The discovery of the Luling oilfield in 1920 again put Lockhart in economic second place in the county, but some Lockhart citizens were able to benefit from investments in the field.  Though it did not boom as Luling did, Lockhart grew steadily, its population rising from 3,731 in 1920 to 5,018 in the early 1940s.

In 1923, materials salvaged from Ross Institute, a former school for Lockhart’s Caucasian children, were used in 1923 to build the Lockhart Vocational High School (photo above) for African American students. The Rosenwald Foundation of Chicago, which funded many African American schools in the South in the early 20th century, provided the design and part of the construction cost. The school district and local African American citizens raised the majority of the funds for its completion.  The two-story brick and stucco schoolhouse contained six classrooms, a principal’s office and a large auditorium that also served as a social center for the neighborhood.  Prominent brick and stucco pilasters on the unadorned main facade rise above the parapet.  The east and west sides of the building have large banks of windows to maximize natural light.  The lower level has a centrally located portico with double doors that divide the principal facade.   R.A. Atkinson was the first principal of the school, which received state accreditation in 1926. At the time two years of high school coursework were offered here, and students could attend the twelfth grade in Luling. In 1946, the facility changed its name to G.W. Carver High School. It closed in 1964 due to school integration, but the building was later used by the Head Start program.

During World War II the Lockhart-to-Luling branch of the railroad was abandoned (in 1942) as part of the war effort, but as each city had another rail line, neither was irreparably damaged. The agricultural nature of the county economy was reflected in the major businesses in Lockhart at that time: cotton gins and compresses, a creamery, a poultry-dressing plant, a peanut shelling and processing plant, and livestock marketing and shipping facilities.

During the 1960s the population of Lockhart leveled off at slightly more than 6,000. In the early 1970s, residents became concerned that Lockhart might develop into a bedroom community for commuters to nearby Austin. In 1973, in an effort to avoid such a development, a group of Lockhart residents established the Lockhart Industrial Foundation, the function of which was to attract new businesses to Lockhart. Though in the early 1990s some Lockhart residents were commuting to jobs in Austin, the Foundation was fairly successful in attracting industries to Lockhart.  In 1978 the courthouse and several blocks of downtown Lockhart were listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

REFERENCES:  Vivian Elizabeth Smyrl, “LOCKHART, TX (CALDWELL COUNTY),” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hfl07), accessed August 02, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.  “Lockhart Vocational High School”, Texas Historical Marker #14288, Texas Historical Commission.