About Bee County

BEE COUNTY. Bee County (Q-14) is in the Rio Grande plain of south central Texas, fifty miles northwest of Corpus Christi and 146 miles southeast of Austin. It is bordered on the north by Karnes and Goliad counties, on the east by Refugio County, on the south by San Patricio County, and on the west by Live Oak County. Beeville is the county's largest town and seat of government. The center point of the county is 28°25' north latitude and 97°45' west longitude. Several important thoroughfares cross the county, including U.S. highways 59 and 181 and State highways 202 and 359. The county's transportation needs are also served by the Southern Pacific Railroad. An airport built in 1966 serves Beeville and the surrounding region.

Bee County covers 866 square miles that slope gently to the coast. The elevation ranges from 200 to 300 feet. Geologically northern Bee County is in the Rio Grande embayment; the Lissie and Beaumont formations extend into the southern part of the county to form a broad, flat, and fertile plain. Blanco, Medio, and Aransas creeks and their tributaries, which flow in a southeasterly direction, drain the county. The southwest corner of the county has cracking clayey soils or loamy surfaces with cracking clayey subsoils. The northern two-thirds of the county has dark, alkaline soils, with loamy surface layers and cracking clayey subsoils, while the remainder of the county has light-colored acidic soils, with loamy surface layers and cracking clayey subsoils. Between 41 percent and 50 percent of the land in the county is considered prime farmland.

Most of the area is in the South Texas Plains vegetation region, characterized by open grasslands and scattered shrubs and cacti. Buffalo, antelopes, deer, bears, panthers, and wolves once roamed the region; early records indicate that the area also supported wildcats, coyotes, and jackrabbits. Many small mammals are currently found in the county, including foxes, squirrels, opossums, mice, rats, gophers, skunks, moles, and bats.

The climate is subtropical and humid, with mild winters and warm summers. Temperatures range in January from an average low of 42° F to an average high of 65°, and in July from 73° to 96°. The average annual rainfall is thirty inches. There is no snowfall. The growing season averages 275 days per year, with the last freeze in late February and the first freeze in early December. Hurricanes are likely to occur during the late summer.

Bee County has been the site of human habitation for several thousand years. Artifacts recovered in the region suggest that the earliest human inhabitants arrived around 6,000 to 10,000 years ago and camped along the creek valleys. At the time of the first contact with Europeans, various Karankawa bands inhabited the eastern part of the future county, while Lipan Apaches and Borrados roamed the northwest and southwest sections. The Skidi Pawnees left arrowheads in Sulphur Creek near the site of present Pawnee.

The first Spanish grant in the area was made to Carlos Martínez in 1789 for his services in the king's army at La Bahía and his father's deed of killing an Apache chief at San Antonio de Béxar Presidio. The first permanent settlers, Jeremiah O'Tool, his sons Martin and Michael, and James O'Reilly, sailed from Ireland in 1826. Women and children arrived in 1829 and helped to established the community of Corrigan, named for Ellen O'Tool Corrigan's husband. In 1828 William and Patrick Quinn settled in the Power and Hewetson colony at Papalote Creek, and in 1834 settlers from Tipperary, Ireland, landed at Copano Bay and went to the headwaters of the Aransas River (near the site of present Beeville), in the McMullen-McGloin colony. Other early residents included Martín De León, who established a ranch east of the Aransas in 1805, and the Castillo, Santos, and Moya families, who received Mexican land grants in the area in the early 1830s.

Eleven Bee County landowners, including Timothy Hart, William Quinn, James O'Conner, and James and William St. John, were among the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence. During the Texas Revolution many of the settlers fled to New Orleans, but most returned, and in the 1840s and 1850s a small but steady stream of settlers moved to the area. Most took up ranching, which was ideally suited for the broad open expanses of grasslands.

Bee County was established shortly after the settlement of the Cart War, which originated ten miles east of the site of Beeville. The county, named for Barnard E. Bee, Sr., was formed from San Patricio, Goliad, Refugio, Live Oak, and Karnes counties on December 8, 1857, and officially organized on January 25, 1858, when the first officers were elected. Beeville, the first county seat, was on Medio Creek, near Medio Hill, where the first post office had been established in 1857. In 1860 Maryville became county seat; this community was later designated Beeville-on-the-Poesta to distinguish it from the former county seat.

In antebellum Texas the Bee County economy was based almost exclusively on cattle ranching. By 1860 cattle in the county numbered 33,376. Some families grew small crops of corn and other grains, but farming remained on the subsistence level until well after the Civil War. Because of the emphasis on ranching, on the eve of the war only seventy-nine slaves lived in the county, out of a total population of 910, most of whom were evidently cowherds and drovers. During the war cattle were driven to the Mississippi and to Mexico. The cowmen organized home guards at Papalote and Beeville under captains William P. Miller and Allen Carter Jones,qqv and some Bee County men served with Confederate forces elsewhere. Although the local economy experienced a marked downturn as a result of the conflict, Bee County as a whole was spared the worst effects of the war. By the early 1870s its fortunes began to recover.

The most important economic event in the early postwar period was the great cattle boom. Many postwar cattle drives to the north followed the Chisholm Trail until about 1877, when that route was replaced by the Dodge or Western Trail. During the 1870s and early 1880s many Bee County ranchers drove their cattle to the Rockport-Fulton area, where a large number of hide and tallow plants had sprung up. In 1880 the census counted 25,030 cattle in the county, and in 1890 the total was more than 32,000. During the decade of the 1870s sheep ranching also enjoyed a brief heyday. Between 1870 and 1880 the number of sheep in the county grew from 1,860 to 61,130, and a for a time it appeared that sheep might supplant cattle as the county's most important export. But during the 1880s the sheep declined sharply; by 1910 fewer than 1,000 sheep were kept on Bee County ranches.

The 1880s saw the beginnings of large-scale agriculture, with corn and oats as the principal crops. In 1870 the county had only twenty-five farms; by 1890 it had 264; and by 1900 the farms numbered 628. In 1895 a state Agricultural Experimental Station was opened near Beeville, which assisted local farmers in selecting appropriate crops and introducing modern farming methods. Corn, flax, peanuts, fruits, vegetables, and onions became the principal products.

The railroads contributed to the rise of the farming economy. The San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway was completed from San Antonio to Pettus and Beeville in 1886. The following year the railroad extended south to Skidmore and Papalote. In 1888 the Gulf, Western Texas and Pacific Railway was built from Victoria to Beeville. The railroads not only opened up new markets outside the county, but also brought large numbers of new settlers. Between 1870 and 1890 the population of the county nearly quadrupled, from 1,082 to 3,720. Over the course of the next twenty years it almost quadrupled again, reaching 12,090 in 1910. Many of the new settlers were recent immigrants, drawn to the area by its mild climate and abundant land. By 1910 nearly a quarter of the county's population was foreign born, with new residents from Mexico (1,381) and Germany (188) forming the largest contingents. The growth in population encouraged dramatic growth in agriculture. Between 1900 and 1920 the number of farms in Bee County increased from 628 to 1,497, and agricultural receipts grew nearly fivefold. Cotton, which had been introduced during the 1890s, became a leading crop, and by 1930 the county was producing some 15,000 bales annually.

Despite the impressive growth of farming, livestock raising continued to play a central role in the county's economy. The number of ranches and cattle continued to increase steadily after the turn of the century. Commercial-scale poultry raising was introduced during the early 1900s. By 1930 county farms raised 73,236 chickens, and turkeys and geese were also being raised in significant numbers (see POULTRY PRODUCTION). Horse ranching also played an important role in the economy during the first three decades of the century. In 1920 there were more than 5,000 horses on Bee County's ranches, and buyers came from all over South Texas to attend horse auctions in Beeville.

The growing population and expanded farming activity combined to drive up land prices, and during the early 1920s large-scale tenant farming was introduced. By 1930 more than half (1,182) of the county's 1,731 farms were operated by tenants, who came from all strata of society, though, in contrast to tenants in some other areas of the state, the majority were white. Most were recent arrivals unable to buy land. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, many fell victim to falling prices for agricultural products and to the reluctance of banks to extend credit. By 1940 fewer than half (629) of the tenants who had farmed a decade before were still on the land.

In 1929 oil and gas were discovered at Pettus, and revenues and jobs from the oilfields helped to offset some of the affects of the depression. But the economy did not begin to recover until World War II, when several military installations were opened in and around Beeville. Despite the downturn in the county's economy, the population continued to grow steadily. In 1940 it was 16,481, up nearly 1,000 since 1930, and in 1950 it reached 18,110.

In 1954 the first United States Navy all-jet base opened at Naval Auxiliary Air Station (now Chase Naval Air Stationqv) in Beeville; the base continues to contribute a significant part of the county's payroll. Several small industries–most of them relating to agribusiness–have opened in Beeville and Pettus in the late twentieth century, but the mainstay of the economy remained farming and ranching. In 1982, 93 percent of the land in the county was in farms and ranches, 17 percent of the farmland was under cultivation, and 5 percent was irrigated. Bee County ranked 139th among the 254 Texas counties in agricultural receipts, with 63 percent coming from livestock and livestock products, primarily from cattle. Principal crops included grain sorghums, corn, and wheat. Cotton culture, which declined sharply during the depression, had made a comeback and become a leading cash crop.

Oil and gas extraction form the other mainstay of the local economy. In the early 1990s oil production averaged some 800,000 barrels annually; between 1930 and 1991 crude production was 99,091,271 barrels. A number of petroleum industries and oilfield-service firms are located in Pettus.

The total number of businesses in the county in the early 1980s was 491. In 1980, 8 percent of laborers were self-employed, 21 percent were employed in professional or related services, 4 percent in manufacturing, 20 percent in wholesale and retail trade, and 19 percent in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and mining; 13 percent worked in other counties, and 1,507 retired workers lived in Bee County. Nonfarm earnings in 1981 totaled $206,200,000.

The first schools in the county were opened in 1858. Two of the earliest were located in Papalote and Beeville. In the early 1990s Bee County had four school districts with eight elementary, two middle, and four high schools. The average daily attendance in 1981–82 was 4,884, with expenditures per pupil of $2,299. Forty-two percent of the 307 high school graduates planned to attend college. In 1983, 39 percent of the school graduates were white, 59 percent Hispanic, 2 percent black, and 0.7 percent Asian. Bee County College (est. 1965), a vocational and academic two-year college under local and state control, is located in Beeville. In 1992 the enrollment was 2,250.

Politically, Bee County has been staunchly Democratic; although Republican presidential candidates won majorities in most late-twentieth-century elections, Democratic officials continued to maintain a virtual monopoly on countywide offices. In the mid-1980s Bee County had forty-five organized churches, with a estimated combined membership of 15,748. The largest denominations were Catholic, Southern Baptist, and United Methodist. The county population was 23,775 in 1960, 22,737 in 1970, 26,030 in 1980, and 25,135 in 1990. In the 1970s and 1980s came a marked influx of new Hispanic residents. In the early 1990s the county ranked forty-ninth among all United States counties in the percentage of persons of Hispanic origin, and persons of Hispanic descent (46 percent) form the largest ancestry group, followed by English (16 percent) and German (16 percent). In 1990 only 2.7 percent of the population was African American; Asians (.09 percent) and American Indians (0.4 percent) were the other leading minority groups. Rural Bee County grew in population by 24 percent between 1970 and 1980. The age groups with the largest increases were those between twenty-five and twenty-nine and from birth to five years. The jobless rate in the early 1990s was around 6.5 percent. Hunting leases and camping draw numbers of tourists to the area. Among the leading attractions are the Beeville Art Gallery and Museum, the annual Western Week held in October, the Diez y Seis de Septiembre (one of the fiestas patriasqv) and nearby Choke Canyon State Park and Lake Corpus Christi.qqv

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Grace Bauer, Bee County Centennial, 1858–1958 (Bee County Centennial, 1958). Grace Bauer (Lillian Grace Schoppe), The History of Bee County, Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1939). Camp Ezell, Historical Story of Bee County, Texas (Beeville: Beeville Publishing, 1973). Mrs. I. C. Madray, A History of Bee County (Beeville, Texas: Bee-Picayune, 1939). Robert J. Marshall, An Administrative Survey and Proposed Plan of Reorganization for the Public Schools of Bee County, Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1939). Joseph Gustav Rountree, History of Bee County, Texas (Beeville?, Texas, 1960).

And the winners are:

posted Dec 16, 2018, 6:44 PM by Bee County Historical Society   [ updated Dec 16, 2018, 6:47 PM ]

The 2018 Christmas Tree Forest is over.....

A huge THANK YOU to everyone who visited and chose to vote on the beautiful and unique Christmas trees that were on display at this Historic McClanahan House Museum. You have made your voices heard and have selected the winners for this year’s 2018 Christmas Tree Forest event. All these trees were gorgeous, it was hard for folks to vote, either on line or in person, but you did and you helped with the upkeep of the Historic McClanahan House Museum. The event raised $417.00 for the museum, this was fantastic. We also collected numerous canned goods for the local Beeville Vineyard Food Bank, they will be very grateful. The canned goods collection helps many underprivileged folks in this county who otherwise would be struggling to find food for their family, a big heartfelt thank you to all!! Blessings to you all for your participation and for coming by and seeing the awesome Christmas trees and “big” THANK YOU to the folks, schools and organizations who took the time to set up their trees and decorate them so beautifully. Hope you will continue to participate next year too!! Christmas blessings to everyone. 

ps: We had a "tie" for 2nd place in the Children's Division, congratulations to all!!!

And the winners are:

1st Place
The Computer Center
2nd Place
Junior Service Leauge
 3rd Pace
Bigfoot Finds Christmas
 1st Place
Joseph H Cowen Engineering & Robotics at SMACS
2nd Place
Cub Scout Pack

2nd Place
St Philip's Episcopal Church School

  3rd Place
First Baptist Church School

2018 Christmas Tree Forest On Line Voting Link

posted Dec 3, 2018, 6:42 PM by Bee County Historical Society   [ updated Dec 3, 2018, 7:01 PM ]

Photos of the trees do not do them justice, to experience the beautiful effect you need to see them in person!!

If you'd like to vote, here is a secure PayPal Link ensure you include the name or number of the tree you are voting on under the "Add special instructions" section of the PayPal Link. Minimum donation on line is $5.00.

 #01 Allart Gallery   

 #02 Bigfoot Finds Christmas 

 #03 Native American Council of Beeville

#04 Bee Keepers

  #05 Joe H. Cowen Robotics & Engineering - SMACS
#06 Cub Scouts Pack 451

#07 The Computer Center of

 #08 St. Philip's School

 #09 St. Philip's School
  #10 Paws for Pets

 #11 Junior Service League
  #12 Bee County Historical Commission 
#13 CBC Spanish Club & SHLE

#14 CBC Spirit Club

#15 American Legion Auxilary Unit 274

 #16 Purple & Gold Star Mothers

#17 Plaid Tidings

#18 First Baptist Church School

 #19 Charlie Brown Christmas

#20 Bohemian Fabricworks & Collectibles

#21 Christmas Treasures Mermaid

  #22 Dobby is Free


2018 Christmas Tree Forest is open!!

posted Dec 3, 2018, 6:27 PM by Bee County Historical Society   [ updated Dec 3, 2018, 6:58 PM ]

The 2018 Christmas Tree Forest is in full swing!! There 22 beautiful trees on display at the Historic McClanahan House Museum. We have had some unique and very original designs, gotta say that these photos do not do them justice, you really have to experience them in person to get the full effect. But since many can't visit, this is your chance to look at them and be involved. A secure PayPal link has been provided if you'd like to vote on-line, a minimum donation of $5.00 is requested for online voting due to fees that are charged by PayPall. All proceeds help to offset costs of running the Historic McClanahan House Museum. Thank you all for being part of this annual event!!! ps: If you vote online, please note the tree you are voting for click on (Add special instructions to the seller), we need to know which one you really like!!!! These are the times we are open:

PayPal Link:


Halloween 2018

posted Oct 10, 2018, 11:26 AM by Bee County Historical Society   [ updated Oct 10, 2018, 11:27 AM ]

Bring the kids for candy and glow bracelets and necklaces while supplies last!!!


2018 Christmas Tree Forest Event!!!

posted Sep 29, 2018, 2:45 PM by Bee County Historical Society

That time of year again!!! The 2018 Christmas Tree Forest at the Historic McClanahan House Museum is just around the corner!! Send in your application early!!!  We have 10-12 trees available for use, a $5.00 donation is suggested for use (just bring your own decorations), or you can bring your own tree and decor (no food ornaments please). Available tree sizes are 3', 4', 5', 6' & 7'. Make your reservations now!!!!! Space and trees are limited!! We can't wait to see the gorgeous trees again this year!!!  PS: Santa will be visiting on 12/09/2018 from 2pm to 4pm!! Come by for a visit!!

Cemetery History in the making

posted Jul 23, 2018, 6:09 PM by Bee County Historical Society   [ updated Jul 23, 2018, 6:59 PM ]

Such a beautifully filmed interview and story, thank you Michael Gibson and Preston West for your hard work and dedication to a story. ♥  KIII Channel 3 News out of Corpus Christi!!!

Bee County Historical Society board member, Sylvia Garcia-Smith and Bee County Historical Commission Director Kay Chestnutt Mix shared their information with KIII Channel 3 News out of Corpus Christi on Findagrave.com so people will be aware of how important it is to document their deceased family information into this awesome website for future generations to see.

Findagrave.com was developed by Ancestry.com and Familysearch.org in the hopes of linking genealogical info for folks searching for long lost family and linking family members with each other. History in the making!!!

Historic Lott-Canada School in Beeville

posted Jun 30, 2018, 10:31 AM by Bee County Historical Society   [ updated Jun 30, 2018, 10:33 AM ]

April 11, 2018 - interview with JoAnna O'Reily and Martha Stovall - hosted by Shirley M. Wyatt about Beeville's African American history and the Lott - Canada School. The original school for Black Americans was founded in 1876 in the Stephen Canada store seven miles above Beeville. In 1886, when the Methodist Church was moved to make room for the railroad depot, lumber from what is known as the “old Methodist Church” was given to build the second school for the Black American children. Mose Lott and Allen Canada were the carpenters who built the school at 107 Burke Street. The school operated at this location until it burned around 1929. Built in 1931, this third school was named “Lott-Canada” in honor of the builders of the former school. The Lott-Canada School was partially funded by the Rosenwald Foundation and the building was named for the CEO of Sears at the time. In the fall of 1955, students were transferred to BISD, where integration was peacefully concluded. In 1960, the school was closed; however, it continued to serve the community as the Special Education Building for the school district until it was leased to Coastal Bend Community College in 2008. Today is it used by the college for Customized and Continuing Education, Adult Basic Education/GED, and English as a Second Language classes. Of the 450 Rosenwald schools built in Texas, Lott-Canada is one of only forty known to be standing. Members of the Lott-Canada Alumni Association have created an exhibit in the school that details the building’s history and contains artifacts from the old school days donated by former students. In 2008 the school was awarded a Texas Historical Marker and is on the National Register.

Poesta Rising * Beeville's Ghosts, Memories and Spirit Houses

posted May 12, 2018, 8:19 AM by Bee County Historical Society

Ben Livingston, Austin Artist, will using some of the artifacts that are housed at the Historic McClanahan House Museum, Lott-Canada and Jackson School artifacts. Hoping folks come and see the Neon Art that he has created and will be showing at the #BeevilleArtMuseum from

May 12, 2018 to July 21, 2018. Poesta Rising - Beeville's Ghosts, Memories and Spirit Houses.

May 12, 2018 will be the Opening Reception. Come by and be part of history!!! #shareyourhistory

2018 Bee County Living History follow up

posted Apr 14, 2018, 2:53 PM by Bee County Historical Society

A little late, but a big THANK YOU for everyone who braved the rain and attended the 2018 Bee County Living History celebration. Hoping next year will be much better!!!

Letter to the Editor of the Beeville Bee Picayune:

We worked hard to put on a great event, and “rain” happened. The stage was late, the rain prevented the sound set up outside, the All Aboard Texas Train could not come out, the bounce house could not be put up, but, all in all, I think everyone there had a good time. Thank you to the folks who braved the rain and made the event happen. I personally wished it could have been better, but “nature” has ideas of her own, especially in South Texas. I was sorry for the outside vendors and booths, thank you so much for putting up as long as you did. We had to call it outside about 1pm for some and a little later for others. Inside the Event Center, our sound manager, Manny Segovia, was able to set up a speaker and mike for our MC, Garrett Parker, but we had to cancel the band, due to the weather. Thank you, JARRAT Junction Band for trying. The A. C. Jones Choir performed an awesome rendition of the National Anthem, the Veterans were fabulous, the A. C. Jones Mariachi and Jazz Band came by in the afternoon and performed after our fabulous speakers, Kevin Mackey on Live Oak county history and Ken Stavinoha, from Eagle Lake, Texas spoke about Rail Road History in Texas, both were great! Thank you, gentlemen! The Zumba Dance Group was awesome, they danced in the rain. It was great, thank you ladies and gentlemen. JC Equine demonstrated blacksmithing, Marybeth Boatman demonstrated yarn spinning, Marty Borphy, brought his homemade guitars, these along with the Rail Road Productions Inc who brought their Rail Road “speeders”, and the Beeville locals “Muscle Car” display. The Fire Department came by too!!! There were so many other booths inside, informational and vendors, hard to name them all. Thank you all for being at this event and putting up with the rain. Next year will be better. Thank you to the sponsors who helped to make it happen: HEB Helping Here, Blake Fulenwider Dodge Ram Dodge Chrysler Jeep, Rice Plumbing, Bonilla & Chapa Law Firm, Malinda Cowen, Aztec Chevrolet, Alaniz and Perez Garage. And thank you to the hard-working Bee County Historical Society members who helped put the event on and for the folks behind the scenes. If it weren’t for you, it would not have happened. I especially want to thank our A. C. Jones High School volunteers, they worked very hard to help us make the event as good as we could have due to the weather: Diana Paul, Hailey Edwards, Marlena Sandoval and Lora Guerra, you ladies ROCKED! You did a fabulous job keeping up with me!! Folks, remember to keep sharing your history so it won’t be forgotten. Our history helps to shape the future. Keep history alive. And thank you so much, Armando Musquez, for helping me take some of the photos when I couldn’t be there. 

Sylvia Garcia-Smith, BCHS

2018 Living History Celebration!!! March 3, 2018

posted Feb 25, 2018, 5:03 AM by Bee County Historical Society

The Bee County Historical Society is getting ready for our 2018 Living History Celebration March 3, 2018. There will be historical speakers and exhibits, vendors, live entertainment, All Aboard Texas train for children’s rides at $4.00 a head, a bouncy house for .50 cents for 10 minutes of bouncing joy. We will have the Museum of the Coastal Bend demonstrating Atlatl spear throwing, at least two railroad car “speeders” will be on the grounds, showing what was used to inspect rails along the train tracks, Native American dancing and Native American Children’s candy dance. Local car enthusiast will show their cars, so come by and see some chrome. There will be an opening ceremony with the Veteran’s Honor Guard raising the flag, the National Anthem by the A.C. Jones Choir along with live entertainment by the Choir afterwards, Zumba Dance Group, the Beeville Dance Group, A C Jones Jazz Band, the Ballet Folklorico Fiesta Bee County and the JARRAT Junction Band.
The event is free admission, come by and learn about Bee County and surrounding area history, learn what made Bee County possible.

All made possible by our Sponsors, a big THANK YOU to them:
HEB Helping Here
Blake Fulenwider Ram Dodge Chrysler Jeep of Beeville
Rice Plumbing of Beeville
Bonilla & Chapa Law Firm of Beeville
Aztec Chevrolet of Beeville
Malida Cowen of Beeville
Alaniz & Perez Garage of Beeville


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