This is the third in my series of articles on George Washington West. As I pointed out last week, “Live Oak County can certainly make a claim to the man, George Washington West, but so could a few other counties and towns in Texas.” In this article, let us look at why and what other Texas counties have valid claims to the same George Washington West.
Lavaca County could certainly claim our George W. West as it was where he, as a young boy, settled with his parents (see my previous article). It is also where he started in the cattle business. And it is where he made his home when he first married and lived for many years in the future, even after he bought his Sunset Ranch in Live Oak County. Contrary to what had been written elsewhere, George W. West did not buy his LOC ranch in 1880 and move here with his wife that year. He bought the ranch in 1882, and neither he nor his wife moved to LOC at that time, continuing to reside in Lavaca County. He would for a long time be mentioned in the newspapers of the day as being from Lavaca County, even after he had left Lavaca County.
As all historical writers, we write what we know or think we know at the time of our writing, but it is then subject to new or better information in the future. At the current time, subject to finding something older, my first record for George W. West is a Texas Supreme Court record, where he is appealing a conviction for what amounts to “cattle rustling.” He was charged with, and convicted for, “altering the brand on certain cattle, the same not being his own property, without the consent of the owner, and with intent to defraud.” In the appeal George is identified as being from Lavaca County, and the appeal is in the book for the 1869-1870. Before you convict him of rustling, be aware the conviction was overturned, on appeal, and you might say it was on a technicality, since it was appealed on the basis the jury was improperly instructed, but in reading the record, I would say that it was clear he was not attempting to rustle cattle. It is stated that George had “altered the brand openly and publicly, claiming the animal was his own property, and the brand which he altered had been wrongly put upon it.” The dispute was over who actually owned the cattle, and the supposed owner did not testify at the trial. It was not proven that George West was not the owner of the cattle. Rustlers, unless very bold, would not brand cattle in front of other people. If the man who originally had his brand on the cow, the one being altered, had actually owned the animal, he would have testified to that in court, nor to the absence of his consent, but he didn’t testify at all.
There are a great deal of newspaper articles over time still giving Lavaca County to be his home, of which Hallettsville is the county seat. Currently my oldest newspaper article is a Lavaca Co. News piece appearing in The Galveston Daily News, April 11, 1876, where J.M. Bennet & G.W. West had two herds “inspected and their brands and marks recorded in Lavaca County for the spring drive.”
George West was in the Court of Appeals as reported by the March 14, 1890, Fort Worth Daily Gazette, in the case of “The Galveston and San Antonio Railway Stock Association vs George W. West: Lavaca County,” noting the appeal was “Affirmed.” So as late as 1890, his county of residence was reported at Lavaca County. It seems that 1888 may be the year of change for George West, as articles in April report on George West of Sweet Home (Lavaca Co.) and simply as George West of Lavaca, but in June of 1888, the Hallettsville Herald, as reported in the June 19, 1888 Fort Worth Daily Gazette, said: “Through a friend we learn of a large sale of beef cattle made last week by Mr. George W. West, formerly of this county.”
Two counties that were early on associated with George West, not because he lived there, but because he had large land and cattle interests there. They were Jackson and Victoria counties. In April 1880 the Jackson County Clarion, as reported in the Galveston Daily News for April 18, 1880, that they were “really one of the stock counties of Texas” commenting on the herds that would leave there for Kansas, and crediting, among others with those herds, “G.W. West and Bro.” The Austin Weekly Democratic Statesman, of April 19, 1880, also reported “G.W. West and Bro., drove 8,000 head of cattle” from Jackson Co. As far as Victoria Co. goes, the Cuero Bulletin reported, “A large herd of cattle belonging to Mr. George West, passed near our city on Tuesday on its long tramp across the plains to Kansas. The cattle were from Victoria County.” This gleaned and reprinted in the Galveston Daily News of March 29, 1882. The Victoria Advocate, Nov. 25, 1882, would say, “Mr. Geo. West, a leading stockman of this section left for Cuero by last evening’s train.” He was a major land and cattle holder in both those counties, but never resided with his family in either.
McMullen County, would be another that can lay claim to George, in that his large 1882 purchase from D. R. Fant left him with a lot of acreage in that county, as well as that in LOC. In Jan. 26, 1884, in reporting on the meeting of the Stockmen’s Association of South and Southwestern Texas, in the San Antonio Light, noted that George W. West was representing McMullen County.
An interesting claim might be made by Bee County, as the Brenham Daily Banner for April 25, 1893, read, “Mr. Geo. West, of Bee County, is engaged in shipping 10,000 head of fat cattle to Armour, and Swift & Co., Chicago.” While George did not reside in Bee County, nor owned substantial land in Bee County, at least that I know of this time, he did take the train from San Antonio, where he resided at the Menger Hotel, and then in a mansion he bought, to Beeville, to visit his ranch in LOC. He would go from there by buckboard or horse to the ranch. Later on he would be able to take a train all the way to his ranch. Bee County would not have much of a claim on our George.
The most interesting claim to our George West could be made by Colorado County, albeit it would be very poor claim. The Galveston Daily News stated that, “Mr. G.W. West, the largest land and stock owner in the county, reports that he will lose no cattle this winter.” It is in the section titled, “Cattle in Colorado County,” but the dateline reads, “Oakville, Colorado Co., Tex., Dec. 13.” The article clearly is talking about LOC not Colorado Co.
It is said that the great cattlemen of South Texas, of that era, all stayed at the Menger Hotel. Certainly George West stayed there a lot. In fact, there may have been some years he spent more time there than he did at home, and that is the reason that an article from Dallas Herald for June 12, 1884, reported on his purchase of the Cameron County school lands, and listed him as “Mr. G.W. West, of San Antonio.” It would still be a few years before he would have a mansion in San Antonio for his home.
The Victoria Advocate would title George West the “Oakville Cattle King,” as reported in the Nov. 19, 1896, edition of the Hallettsville Herald. I have run long so save this and the previous two articles, and I will continue, the good Lord willing, sharing George Washington West, of Texas history.