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BEEVILLE, BEE COUNTY, TEXAS
The earliest records of permanent white settlers in this part of the country tell of the arrival of a boat from Ireland in 1834 bearing 16 to 18 families. The boat trip took 3 months and the landing on the Texas Coast was made at Copano Bay.
Among these families were the two Hefferman (originally Heffernan) families and Mrs. Anne Burke, who lost her husband on board ship to cholera. James Hefferman and his family located on 4605 acres on the east side of the Poesta Creek, which became the site of the city of Beeville later. His brother John, and his family settled at San Patricio.
Bee County was organized in 1858, carved out of Goliad, Refugio and San Patricio counties. The original county seat was located on the Medio creek seven miles from the present location of Beeville, and the township was called BEEVILLE ON THE MEDIO. In 1859 the county seat was moved to 150 acres on the Poesta Creek donated by Mrs. Anne Burke O'Carroll and the name was changed to MARYSVILLE in honor of Mary Hefferman, a surviving heir of the families massacred in 1836. The name was changed to BEEVILLE in 1860 because under the Act of the Texas Legislature, when the county of Bee was organized, it was specified that the county seat would be called BEEVILLE.
Bee County was named by the Legislature for Bernard E. Bee, Sr. , who was born in 1787 in Charleston, SC. He came to Texas in 1836 and served the Republic of Texas as President Houston's Secretary of War and President Lamar's Secretary of State. Col . Bee's son, Hamilton P. Bee presided as speaker of the House of Representatives and requested that the county be named in honor of his father.
Beeville's first merchant, George W. McClanahan, was born in Virginia in 1824 and was to contribute greatly to the development of Beeville. He came to Beeville in 1859 or 1860 from Goliad, where he was principal of Paine Female Institute, and established a mercantile business. He was storekeeper, farmer, gardener, deputy clerk, lodgekeeper, postmaster, and school teacher during his lifetime in Beeville. The McClanahan store building was purchased by the Historical Society in 1962 and is situated on East Corpus Christi Street between the old county jail and the count-% library.
Captain A.C. Jones, who played a leading role in the development of Beeville, was sheriff of Goliad County before corning to Beeville. in the middle of 1885, Capt. Jones, representing a number of Bee County businessmen and ranchers, petitioned Uriah Lott, a builder of railroads, to route the railroad through Bee County. Frank 0. Skidmore, donated to the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad right-of-way across his land and the streets and every other block of land for the townsite of Skidmore. Through the gifts and influence of Capt. Jones and the sizable donation of Mr. Skidmore, Uriah Lott headed his railroad through Bee County. On June 14, 1886, the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad reached Beeville, touching three of the five principal cities and affording indirect communication with the great marts of commerce. In 1888, Capt. Jones went to New York to confer with Mr. Huntington, head of the Gulf, Western Texas, and Pacific Railway to make a plea for the extension of the road from Victoria to Beeville. He was successful and on July 26, 1889, the first engine of the Gulf, Western Texas and Pacific Railway reached Beeville, affording it a direct outlet to the east and making the county easily accessible to large numbers of immigrants pouring into the state.
Captain Jones was to be known as the "Father of Beeville" for his efforts on behalf of the railroad and because of the many civic projects he sponsored. He was one of the founders of the First National Bank, president of the Beeville Oil Mill, first mayor of Beeville, and donated the land for the school building.
The first oil well in Bee County was brought in east of Pettus in 1929. This oil discovery opened new opportunities and economic success for Bee County with the oil and gas activity attracting new residents and oil company headquarters in Beeville and Pettus.
On June 1, 1943, Chase Field was commissioned as an Naval Air Auxiliary Station to train naval aviators during World War II. The base was named for Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Brown Chase, who went down in the Pacific on a training flight in 1925. After the war, Chase Field was closed until 1953, when it was reopened during the Korean War to help with the overcrowding at NAS Corpus Christi. In July 1968, Chase Field was elevated in status to a full naval air station. With the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the number of armed forces was greatly reduced and on July 1, 1991, Chase Field was put on the list for closure. VT-26 was decommissioned May 22, 1992, with VT-24 and VT-25 decommissioned on September 18, 1992. Finally, on February 1, 1993, Chase Field was officially disestablished, bringing an end to fifty years of service in naval training.
Recent years have brought many changes to Beeville and Bee County. The Southern Pacific Railroad discontinued service to our area in 1993-4 and the tracks were all taken up. October 1992, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice opened the McConnell Unit south of Beeville, followed by the Chase Field Criminal Justice Center in 1993 located at the former NAS Chase Field. But, despite the many changes through the years, Bee County has continued to flourish just as its early settlers determined it should.
Created Thursday, October 19, 2000
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