few weeks ago, in the articles here, we were looking at the history of Three Rivers through the eyes and voice of Charles Tips, founder of the city. We will pick up today where we left off at that writing.
The grand opening of the town site named Hamiltonburg was planned for the fourth of July, 1913.
Mr. Tips had dug a water well, close to the banks of the Frio River, west of town. The well was 10 feet across and had bricked walls lining the well.
A gasoline motor and pump were put in to pull the water from the well. Later a dam, a small pumping plant, a wooden tower and a water holding tank were erected.
Mr. Tips wanted to present a town that was beginning to look like a permanent town site, so he built 11,000 square feet of sidewalks before the grand opening. The sidewalks ran from the railroad to the public square and on into the business area of town.
Lots of land, for business and residential, were laid out along unpaved streets that were named for investors, as we noted a few weeks back.
The town site had had the mesquite trees grubbed out to make the building sites look better and give a better view of what was available to be bought.
The corded mesquite wood was stacked by the barbecue pits. Cattle, goats and hogs were killed and dressed on the third of July. A large fire was built, and iron bars were laid across the pits, covered with heavy wire, beginning on the evening of July 3 until noon on July 4, and the meat was cooked by expert barbecue cooks, who were farmers from the area.
The grand opening was advertised in the San Antonio newspapers. There was a special train sent out from San Antonio to carry the visitors for the day.
Other visitors came from the counties surrounding Live Oak County: east from Bee, west from McMullen and probably even Jim Wells to the south and Atascosa to the north, as well as Karnes, San Patricio and Nueces. There were 5,000 in attendance.
Horse races were held in the streets. Mr. Tips gave a speech while standing in the seat of his car. You may have seen the photograph of his speech. The J.M. Cunninghams, Ed McMurray and Mr. and Mrs. Woody Tullis were among the first to purchase a lot of land on which to build. It was quite a day.
It is interesting to note that at that time, there were no paved roads anywhere in Live Oak County. Mr. Tips participated in several meetings at Oakville with others, to discuss “good” roads.
George Hagn, owner of several cotton gins in Guadalupe County, promised to put in a gin in Three Rivers as soon as the rails were laid into the town site. He kept his word.
Hillyer-Deutsch Lumber Yard Company of San Antonio built a lumber yard in Three Rivers, in time to supply building materials for the first buildings in town.
Mr. Tips convinced Harry Whitworth to put in a grocery store on his lot between Graham Avenue and Dibrell Avenue. Mr. Whitworth became the postmaster.
A second grocery store soon opened by a Mr. Mitchell, in a two-story framed building owned by Woody Tullis, who later sold to H.T. Harber who became a long-time merchant.
In Mr. Tips’ words, “The greatest threat (in 1913) to the city which I had started to build was from Mr. George West, the largest land owner in Live Oak County. He lived in a brownstone mansion facing Travis Park in San Antonio, just across the street from the St. Anthony Hotel. He was one of the great cattle men of the state . . .
“He planned two towns on his ranch (15 miles wide) – George West, which he planned to make the county seat and Kittie (named for his wife), the site of which he laid out about two miles south of Hamiltonburg. He built a $12,000 hotel and spent $40,000 on the Kittie waterworks and sewer system. He was “going to make the grass green again in the streets of our new town.””
Of course, Mr. West had made plans with the railroad to come through his ranch, with stops at the towns of both Kittie and George West. He also had plans for the town of Ike (named for his brother Isaac) along the tracks between Kittie and George West.
Mr. Tips and Mr. West were often at odds over the next few years. The museum has copies of a letter sent to every voter in the county by Mr. George West, protesting the fact that the land surrounding his proposed town site of Kittie had been incorporated into the Three Rivers School District for tax purposes, etc.
He was adamant that the town of Kittie could not grow if it wasn’t allowed to have its own school.
Whether that was the case or other factors being the cause, Kittie was never much except a cattle loading stop for the train. The hotel was used for a time but was later moved to a ranch to serve as a home there.
Much of the above information is from the booklet, “Three Rivers Texas History and Program” that was printed in 1963 for the 50th birthday celebration of Three Rivers.
We will continue to look at it for some more information in upcoming news articles.
We look forward to having you visit at the Grace Armantrout Museum soon. Our hours are Monday through Friday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from noon until 4 p.m.
Thank you for your help in saving, preserving and sharing Live Oak County history.