Commercial

Catarina

Catarina Hotel

 The name Catarina has been associated with the area since at least 1778; legend holds that it is the name of a Mexican woman killed by Indians on or near the site.  Today, tractor-trailers hauling oilfield equipment and pickups carrying workers barely slow down as they pass through what was once the town of Catarina.  The Catarina Hotel sits forlornly on a sweeping curve of U.S. Highway 83 as it enters the town.

The town was established after Asher Richardson, a rancher, decided to build a railway link from Artesia Wells to his planned town of Asherton. In return for an easement through the nearby Taft-Catarina Ranch, Richardson agreed to allow the ranch to establish a railroad depot, with cattle-shipping pens, on his railroad. By 1910, when the Asherton and Gulf Railway began operations, these cattle pens had become the nucleus of a small community built by Joseph F. Green, the manager of the ranch. Green moved the ranch headquarters to the depot and added a bunkhouse, a commissary, a hotel, a post office, and a small schoolhouse. By 1915 the little town had twenty-five residents and had become famous in the area for the Taft House, an expensive mansion that Charles Taft, the owner of the ranch, supposedly built with oversized bathtubs to accommodate his brother, President William Howard Taft.

Catarina Farms, a development project, built roads, sidewalks, and a waterworks and an impressive new hotel and installed electric power and a telephone exchange. Agent Charles Ladd imported entire orchards of fruit-laden citrus trees to impress prospective investors with the area’s agricultural possibilities. By 1929 Catarina had between 1,000 and 2,500 residents, a bank, at least two groceries, a lumber company, and a bakery. Short supplies of water, marketing problems, and the Great Depression hurt the town. By 1931 the population had dropped to 592, and many of its businesses had been forced to close. In 1943 Catarina had 403 residents and seven businesses; in 1956 it had 380 residents and three businesses. By 1969 some of the town’s most picturesque old buildings had been abandoned, and the population was 160. Catarina is on U.S. Highway 83 ten miles southeast of Asherton in southern Dimmit County.

REFERENCES:  John Leffler, “CATARINA, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hnc25), accessed May 08, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Driftwood

Driftwood, seventeen miles northwest of San Marcos in central Hays County, grew up in the 1880s as a supply center for neighboring ranches and farms.  Pioneers settled in the area, then known as Liberty Hill, as early as 1850, but most settlers arrived in the early 1880s.   The community grew rapidly in that decade, perhaps as a result of its access to the new rail terminals at Kyle and Buda.   By 1890 Driftwood had a post office, a school, churches, a cotton gin, and a general store.   From a low of ten in 1925, the population grew to nearly 100 during the middle years of the twentieth century, then dwindled to fewer than twenty-five by the 1970s.   In 1945 Driftwood became part of the Buda school district.  A century after its founding, the community remained a quiet Hill Country crossroads served by a general store and post office. In 1990 the population was twenty-one.

REFERENCES:  Daniel P. Greene, “DRIFTWOOD, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hnd45), accessed December 09, 2012.  Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Cele

 

Cele General Store

Cele was established in the 1890s and was supposedly named for Lucille Custer, daughter of a local store owner.  A post office opened there in 1896 with John Pitts Johns as postmaster. When the office was discontinued briefly in 1899, the community’s mail was sent to nearby New Sweden.  The Cele post office reopened that same year but was again discontinued in 1902, when mail was routed through Manor.

The Cele Store was first established as the Richland Saloon in 1891.  Although there was never much of an actual tow, the building was a combination general store, feed store, saloon and restaurant for the Czech settlers of the Central Texas area.

Marilyn Weiss and the late Marvin Weiss purchased the store in 1951 and ran it continuously for 56 years.  In December of 2007, the store closed briefly but was reopened on September 6th 2008 by Brandon Fuchs, grandson of Marilyn and Marvin Weiss.  The building has appeared in the several movies – A Perfect World (1999), Secondhand Lions (2003) and the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Cele is two miles west of Farm Road 973 and seven miles north of Manor in northeastern Travis County.

REFERENCE:  Vivian Elizabeth Smyrl, “CELE, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hrc35), accessed December 04, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Wharton

Wharton, the county seat of Wharton County, is on the east bank of the lower Colorado River, forty-five miles from the Gulf of Mexico.  It was part of the Caney Run mail route established by the Republic of Texas in 1838.  The community was named after two leaders in the struggle for Texas independence, brothers John and William Wharton.  The plantation community was first settled in 1846 by some of Stephen F. Austin’s original colonists, and a post office was established in 1847.  The first lieutenant governor of Texas, Albert Horton, was an early settler.  Land for the courthouse square was donated by William Kincheloe and surveyed by Virgil Stewart and William J. E. Heard.  Early settlers came from Alabama, Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia, and Mississippi. Jewish immigrants, arriving as early as the 1850s, established additional businesses and began the Congregation Shearith Israel, the only synagogue in a three-county area.  Other settlers in the community included Swiss, German, Mexican, and Czech immigrants and descendants of plantation slaves.

Early crops included potatoes, cotton, corn, rice, and sugar cane, and commercial enterprises included cattle, molasses, and sugar.  At different times the community had a cotton oil mill, a sugar cane factory, gristmills, cotton gins, a milk-processing plant and dairy, an ice plant, and numerous other industries.  Oil and sulfur production in the outlying areas contribute to the town’s economy.   The population of Wharton was about 200 in the early 1880s.  The New York, Texas and Mexican Railway was the first railroad to arrive at Wharton in 1881, followed by the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe in 1899.  These two railroads brought a new influx of settlers, increasing the population to 1,689 in 1900 and 2,346 in 1920. In 1888 the first opera house opened.

The city was incorporated in 1902, when most of the structures were of wood construction.   A major fire that year destroyed a number of buildings, convincing businessmen and the city government to use brick construction with fire walls for all buildings within the city limits and to construct a water system with fire hydrants.  On February 21, 1903, the Deaton Grocery Co. (photo above) was organized.   A free library was established in 1902 by the New Century Club and adopted by the city in 1904.  In 1935 the majority of this library’s inventory was given to the Wharton Public School.  The first public park was dedicated in 1913, and the Wharton Chamber of Commerce organized in 1919.  The city experienced its greatest growth during the 1930s, increasing from 2,261 in 1930 to 4,386 in 1940. Wharton Little Theatre was organized in 1932, and Wharton County Junior College was established in 1946.  The town’s population reached 5,734 in 1960 and 7,881 in 1970

REFERENCE:  Ray Spitzenberger, “WHARTON, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hfw01), accessed December 10, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Teague

Teague Hotel

Teague is at the junction of U.S. Highway 84, State Highway 179, and Farm roads 80 and 145, nine miles southwest of Fairfield in western Freestone County. The area was first settled around the time of the Civil War. During the latter half of the nineteenth century a small community known as Brewer, grew up at the site.  When the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railway was built through the county in 1906, it located its machine and car shops at the site.  The town, renamed Teague after Betty Teague, niece of railroad magnate Benjamin Franklin Yoakum, was incorporated in 1906.

Benjamin Franklin Yoakum, railroad executive, was born near Tehuacana, Texas, in Limestone County on August 20, 1859, the son of Narcissa (Teague) and Franklin L. Yoakum. At age twenty he became a rodman and chain bearer in a railroad surveying gang, laying the International-Great Northern Railroad into Palestine, Texas.  He later became a land boomer and immigration agent for the Jay Gould Lines. He drilled artesian wells and brought European immigrants from New York to farm the land of the Trans-Mississippi and Rio Grande valley.  In 1886 he became traffic manager of the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway.  In 1887 the town of Yoakum, Texas, was named for him. In 1889 he was promoted to general manager of the railways, and in 1890 he became receiver.  For three years he was general manager and third vice president of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe.  In 1897 he became general manager of the Frisco (St. Louis and San Francisco Railway Company).  Under him the lines grew from 1,200 to 6,000 miles.  In 1905 the Frisco and Rock Island lines were joined, and Yoakum was the chairman of the executive committee.  This line was known as the Yoakum Line and at the time was the largest railroad system under a single control.  His career was one of the most colorful of the many men in railroad history.  He knew each branch of work: engineering, traffic, operating, and finance.  In his later years he became very interested in the farm problem.  He was an advocate of an agricultural cooperative society, growing and marketing farm products to reduce the spread between farm and consumer.  It is said that his genius made Hidalgo and Cameron counties into agricultural communities. In 1907 Yoakum moved to New York, where he had a farm in Farmingdale, Long Island.  He became president and later chairman of the board of the Empire Board and Mortgage Company.

The community served as a shipping center for area cotton farmers and grew rapidly. By 1914 it had Baptist, Catholic, Disciples of Christ, Methodist, Episcopal, Methodist Episcopal, and Presbyterian churches, as well as public schools, waterworks, an electric light plant, an ice plant, three banks, two cotton gins, a cottonseed oil mill, a cotton compress, the Teague Daily News, two weekly newspapers, and a population of 3,300. Teague continued to prosper during the 1920s.

The onset of the Great Depression and plummeting cotton prices, however, began a slow decline that continued until the 1980s. The number of businesses dropped from 140 in 1931 to 100 in 1936. After World War II many other stores and businesses closed, and by the early 1980s only forty-six rated businesses remained. The town also witnessed a decline in population during the same period; it reached a low of some 2,800 in 1975. After the mid-1980s, however, the population grew steadily, and in 1990 Teague had 3,268 residents. The population was 4,557 in 2000. The area has large coal, lignite, sand, and clay deposits. In recent years natural gas production has become an important industry.

REFERENCE:  Christopher Long, “TEAGUE, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hgt04), accessed July 28, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association;  Mary M. Orozco-Vallejo, “YOAKUM, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN,” Handbook of Texas Online(http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fyo01), accessed July 30, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.