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, 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 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.


The Yellow House Ranch, covering 312,175 acres in Lamb, Hockley, Bailey, and Cochran counties, was established in July 1901, when George Washington Littlefield purchased the southern, or Yellow Houses, division of the XIT Ranch for two dollars an acre.  In earlier times the Spanish called a nearby yellowish limestone bluff pitted with caves Las Casas Amarillas, the Yellow Houses.   From a distance, and especially when there was a mirage, the bluff appeared to be a city.   Though little oil was found beneath the ranch itself, one of the first wells in this oil region was drilled in 1912 at South Camp, about six miles northwest of Levelland.   In June 1912 Littlefield contracted with the Santa Fe Railroad to build a segment of its main line from Lubbock to Texico, New Mexico, across his land.   In August he organized the Littlefield Lands Company to sell the northeastern corner of 79,040 acres for farms and to establish the town of Littlefield in Lamb County.  By 1920 only 47,601 acres had been sold.  In April 1923, after Littlefield’s death, the remainder of the ranch was sold by White and the Littlefield estate to the Yellow House Land Company and was subdivided for sale as farms.

Built on land that was once part of the Yellow House Ranch, Pettit was named for John Pettit, who established a ranch in the area in 1922.  The community developed as other families settled in the vicinity. Joe Bryant started the town’s first store in 1926, and Jim Mason built a gin in 1929.  A Pettit post office was established in 1935 with Truett Mauldin as postmaster.  Pettit had an independent school district from 1928 to 1964, when it was consolidated with that of Levelland.  In 1946 the town’s population was about eighty to ninety, and it had three businesses and twenty homes.  The Pentecostal Church of God bought some school buildings in 1958 and established the Great Plains Boys Ranch.  In 1976 there was still a gin and a post office at Pettit. In 1980 and 1990 the town reported a population of twenty-six and a post office.

In addition to Pettit, the towns of Pep and Whitharral in Hockley County were established by the company on this acreage.  At that time the LFD brand was dropped, but later some 23,000 acres surrounding the old ranch headquarters was returned to cattle grazing.  Tragically, Littlefield’s old ranch house was lost in a fire on September 9, 1930.  After J. P. White’s death in 1934 his son, George Littlefield White, owned and operated the Yellow House and built a modern brick home at the headquarters near the site of the Yellow Lakes.  Here he bred high-grade Herefords and fed out several hundred sheep annually.  Pettit is on Farm Road 303 twelve miles north of Levelland in northwestern Hockley County.

REFERENCES: William R. Hunt, “PETTIT, TX (HOCKLEY COUNTY),” Handbook of Texas Online(http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hnp23), accessed June 16, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association; David B. Gracy II, “YELLOW HOUSE RANCH,” Handbook of Texas Online(http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/apy01), accessed June 16, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.


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.