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Donations ensured George West’s growth
by Tim Delaney
Aug 02, 2012 | 744 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Contributed photo
George W. West wanted to ensure that his community would grow and prosper, so he made donations to the railroad to attract rail through his ranch.
Contributed photo George W. West wanted to ensure that his community would grow and prosper, so he made donations to the railroad to attract rail through his ranch.
slideshow
Tim Delaney photo
Old legal documents from the early 20th century demonstrate how George W. West operated and made sure the community of George West and Live Oak County prospered. The documents will be on display at the Grace Armantrout Museum in George West.
Tim Delaney photo Old legal documents from the early 20th century demonstrate how George W. West operated and made sure the community of George West and Live Oak County prospered. The documents will be on display at the Grace Armantrout Museum in George West.
slideshow
GEORGE WEST – Like many famous Texans who came from Tennessee, George Washington West was a frontiersman who was community-minded.

Some know that West made donations to the railroad to ensure the growth of the city of George West, which he founded in 1913.

Now, thanks to a generous donation of legal papers documenting those contributions, a historical record of those donations will be added to the Grace Armantrout Museum in George West.

Ed Massey of Beeville donated the documents to George West Mayor Sylvia Steele, who also is the curator of the Grace Armantrout Museum.

Steele said she had tears welling up to see the documents because they were so important to the city’s history. And she graciously thanked Massey for his donation.

Massey was out of state and unavailable for comment.

“Everything we have here is because of George W. West,” Steele said.

“He was a very, very, very smart fellow to have everything documented,” she said. “Here we are many years later with things he accomplished.”

The documents include one from the Bankers Trust Co. of St. Louis dated June 1, 1912. The document records an agreement between West and J.E. Franklin, who obligates himself to build a railroad through West’s land. If the railroad would not be built, then West would receive a surety bond of $100,000 from the Bankers Trust Co. of St. Louis and Franklin.

The surety bond was signed by Franklin; C.S. Marsh, vice president of the Bankers Trust Co.; and the company’s secretary, Henry Carter, who attested the document.

Of course, the railroad was built, and the following year, the city of George West was founded. West’s donation of the land ensured that George West would be the Live Oak County seat because growth occurred where the rail was laid.

Another document delves further into the agreement between West and Franklin. It is dated earlier on May 14, 1912, and was filed in Bexar County.

“...Party of the first part (Franklin) has made contract with the San Antonio, Uvalde and Gulf Railroad to build a standard gauge railroad for said company from San Antonio, Texas, via Pleasanton and Campbellton to some point on the Gulf Coast of Texas, either in the County of San Patricio or in the County of Nueces, Texas...”

The agreement also details the path of the railroad through West’s land. The document was signed by Franklin and West.

Several other smaller documents were between West and various Live Oak County officials.

One of these smaller documents signed by H.G. Goodwin, county clerk of Live Oak County, and dated Oct. 22, 1920, acknowledges completion of the courthouse and jail. West paid $65,000 toward those structures, and another $10,000 once furniture and fixtures were installed.

The initial contract with Live Oak County for a courthouse and jail was dated April 26, 1917.

Another document dated Jan. 14, 1921, confirms that the furniture and fixtures were delivered to the county courthouse. The document was signed by the entire commissioners court: County Judge J.H. Miller, and commissioners J.L. Willborn, (F.?) Lewis, S.H. Beall and John Leasey.

And yet another Live Oak County document dated March 21, 1921, confirms receiving the $10,000 for the furniture and fixtures. The document was signed by County Judge Miller and County Treasurer W.A. Tullis.

Other documents show West making sure churches in George West had land free of charge if they built a church.

The churches included First Baptist Church, Methodist Episcopal Church, Catholic Church, and the German Lutheran Church.

All in all, West wanted to make sure that the community would grow and prosper. He obviously figured that if everything was in place – the railroad, the courthouse and jail, the churches, bridges, public land, parks and more, the community could not fail.

Steele said the documents will be on display at the museum during its business hours from 1-5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. The museum is closed Monday and Tuesday.

All of the documents stand as proof that West’s desired to ensure the growth of his community.
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