BEGINNING OF SWEETWATER
When the town of
Sweetwater, on April 12, 1881, was declared by the Commissioner’s
Court the permanent county seat of Nolan County, there was not a
building on the site constructed of wood, rock or brick. There were
a few tents and N. I. Dulaney had opened a store in a tent in
the vicinity of where the Western Windmill was located to the south
of the former T&P Depot. The town locally was known as
“Sweetwater”, but until 1918, the post office was “Sweet Water”. In
that year, the post office was made to conform to local usage by the
Post Office Department.
SWEETWATER MAKES A START AS A TOWN
The Franco Texas Land Company owned Section 47, on which Sweetwater
was located at the time that site was selected by the people as the
permanent county seat. During the time that this company owned that
land, it never surveyed any of it into town lots nor otherwise made
any effort to build a town on it. That company continued to own the
land in question, as shown by the records, until March 18th, 1882.
On that date, for a consideration of one thousand and sixty dollars
($1,060.00), recited paid it, conveyed to the Texas and Pacific
Railway Company 480 acres out of the tract, being all the tract in
question except a strip on the west and south side of it, and
thereafter, on about August 1st, 1882, the Texas and Pacific Railway
Company filed the plot or map of the new town of Sweetwater for
record. The T&P Railway Company had conveyed to the land company
about one-third of the lots in the town on July 25, 1882.
By February 12th, 1881, the rails had reached the east line of Nolan
County and on March 13, 1881, the track was accepted from the
contractors by the railroad company up to Sweetwater.
The first train for any
kind of service reached Sweetwater on April 20th, 1881.
The first town lot to be
sold was deeded May 30, 1881, in favor of J. S. Johnson, an
early sheriff of the county. This first lot was number 18, in Block
20 – 50 x 140 feet, on which the Levy Building is now
located. The consideration was $100.00 and there were a few lots
ever thereafter sold by the railway company for more than that
The railway donated to
Nolan County two blocks for a courthouse and jail on August 22,
The third lot sold in
Sweetwater was to R. West Starr, and was Lot Number 17, in
Block 20, adjoining the first lot sold to Johnson. This sale
was dated June 1st, 1881. Jeff Dulaney, who was
here at the time as a boy still in his teens, is authority for the
statement that the first house built of lumber in Sweetwater was
built on this lot by Starr for a saloon. The railway company
deed is dated June 1st, 1881, and on July 18, 1881,
Starr sold a half interest in this lot to Michael Quinn
for $50.00, that being one-half of what he had just paid for it. On
September 1st, 1881, Starr and Quinn sold
this lot to N. I. Dulaney for $575.00, and thus indicated
that this first house built in Sweetwater was probably erected
between July 18, 1881 and the first of September, 1881.
The growth and
development of Sweetwater as a town, for several years after its
establishment, was slow and painful.
When the permanent
county seat was located at Sweetwater, the little shack erected at Manning’s store for courthouse purposes was jacked up on a
couple of wagons and hauled into town. It was located just south of
the west end of the site of the former Aycock Building and
there used for general county purposes for more than a year.
Posey, in the late summer of 1881, had erected a two-story
business house on the corner where Bowen’s Drug Store was
located. The first term of District Court held in town was held
upstairs in that building while the Grand Jury used a room in the
residence of F. G. Thurmond (then county attorney), just
across the alley to the west. The County Surveyor was permitted to
erect a small building on the courthouse square for his office.
On June 13th,
1881, the Commissioners’ Court let the contract for the construction
of a jail, 30 x 34 feet in size, to be built of rock for a price of
$8,755.00, to be paid in coupon bonds of the county. The contract
was let to Martin Burns and Johnson of Colorado City.
one hundred indictments returned by the Grand Juries of the county
were for charges as follows: murder 17; assault to murder 17; gaming
and carrying pistol, betting at monte, keeping gaming tables, etc.
45; theft of court papers 1; theft of hogs 1; theft of cattle 4;
perjury 2; embezzlement 1; bigamy 2; unlawful practice of medicine
2; assault and battery 1; official drunkenness 1; willfully killing
cattle 1; unlawfully dealing in public lands 1; charging unlawful
fees of office 1; four habeas corpus cases on murder charges.
The beginning of 1883
found about 350 to 400 people in Sweetwater. This number had been
increased by 25 to 40 by young men coming to town from cow ranches
to enjoy social life for a season.
“The few hundred people
had come from all parts of the country. Most (of them were) from
the southern states, and in some sense, were an unorganized mass.
As a leader came to the surface, those of his faith and order would
gravitate to him and a nucleus was formed. Society gradually
developed and the different church organizations followed.”
Sweetwater, at one time,
was one of the largest wool markets in the west. T. W. Scollard
of Dallas had an office with Fritz and Son and bought a large
part of the wool as far south as San Angelo and more than a hundred
Midget, from near Ballinger, R. K. Wiley, from the
Colorado River, and a great many nearer, John Scharbower and
Bradford, E. H. Naper, Jim Fields and Johnson, and
T. W. Stoneroad were owners of some of the noted flocks. T.
W. Stoneroad had an especially well-bred flock of about five
thousand head of French Marino sheep which he had recently driven
across the country from Las Vegas, New Mexico. They were the talk of
the country. The flocked owned by John R. Lewis, as well as
that owned by Wiggins and Foster, deserves special
mention. While Fritz and Son handled a great deal of
the wool, J. Taylor Bradley built and operated a large
warehouse for storage and did a fine business for several seasons.
Some of the
stockmen of early days who resided in Sweetwater or made Sweetwater
their business headquarters were as follows:
J. M. Bunton and brother
G. H. Bunton
A. J. Long and brother
F. M. Long
R. M. Clanton
T. E. Douthit
John R. Lewis
G. R. West
Col. A. W. Hilliard
All of whom were among the first
ranchmen to locate ranches in this vicinity. G. H. and W.
E. Connell came to Sweetwater in August, 1882, and Jim Newman,
his brother-in-law, came in the early part of 1883. Judge H. C. Hord came to the county in 1879 and was interested in a ranch on
the head of Sweetwater Creek. J. C. Criner was probably the
first man to locate a ranch in Nolan County, his location being on
Bitter Creek in the vicinity of the John Bardwell place.
MISCELLANEOUS PHOTO's AROUND
Click on the
"thumbnail" to view a larger Picture
1928 - Levy Bros. Store
Sweetwater - 1950's
Cotton Compress & Co-op
Road to Sweetwater
St. Stephens Episcopal
Going into Roscoe,
1911 Wright B.