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The Historical Story
of Bee County Texas By Camp Ezell
Bee County was created by an act of the Texas Legislature on December 8, 1857, when General Hamilton P. Bee, a ‘planter of Goliad,” was Speaker of the House of Representatives. He asked that the new county be named in memory of his father, Colonel Barnard Elliot]- Bee, who served as President Sam Houston’s Secretary of War and as President Mirabeau B. Lamar’s Secretary of State during the days of the Republic of Texas. The request was granted.
(Two of Colonel Barnard E. Bees sons—Hamilton P. and Barnard E. Jr.— served as generals in the Confederate Army in the War Between the States, and General Barnard E. Bee is credited with the honor of giving General T. J. Jackson the title of “Stonewall Jackson” when he declared, “There is General Jackson standing like a stone wall” in the first Battle of Manassas.)
This writer is indebted to Miss Adele Rountree for giving permission to use a map of the new Bee County which her father, the late J. G. Rountree II, employed in his History of Bee County, Texas, published in 1960, which shows the territory from which Bee County was created.
Included in the new county were portions of Karnes, Goliad, Refugio, and San Patricio Counties, and a part of Live Oak County, which was created one year previously from San Patricio County land.
The language of the document that created Bee County follows:
“An act to create the County of Bee and attached to the 14th Judicial District. In honor of the late Hon. Barnard E. Bee.
The Bee County Commissioners Court minutes of 858 reveal that: Bee County was organized on January 25, 1858. The court proceeded to select suitable sites for the county seat. The court examined proposed locations submitted by Patrick Burke on Poesta Creek, the James Wilson acreage on Aransas Creek, and the J. G. Campbell offer, but rejected all three on April 15. Then they considered the Edward Seeligson donation of ISO acres of land seven miles east of present-day Beeville on Medio Creek (halfway between present-day Houston Highway and Refugio Highway). The court favored this location and ordered an election to be held on April 26, 1858, to let the voters decide the issue. On May 6 the court counted the votes and found that 221 electors favored the location, and this being a majority of all votes cast, the court ordered the county surveyor to survey the land and establish the county seat there. The town was called Beeville (on the Medio).
A sale of lots was advertised in the Nueces Valley, Goliad Express, and Victoria Advocate, to be held June 5. Also bids were asked from contractors to build a Courthouse there.
S. B. Merriinan was awarded the contract to build a Courthouse at a cost of $165. This was done on June 4, 1858. But about six weeks later when it was found that the work had not been started, the court gave the contract to John L. Phelps. The structure was received by the court on November 13, 1858. The County Treasurer was ordered to pay Mr. Phelps “out of the first money that comes into the treasury that is not already appropriated.”
It was built on the east side of the Medio about two hundred feet from the bank. The property now belongs to Mr. and Mrs. W. K. Pagel. For many years parts of the foundation could be seen, but Hurricane Beulah washed away the last piece of timber that was used in the structure. The furniture consisted of one table and two benches.
The Courthouse was built of pickets, with a dirt floor and clapboard roof. Father-to-son history relates that when the time came to hold court, each man put his blanket in a roll on the back of his saddle, a change of clothes in the saddle pockets and food in a morral hanging from the horn of the saddle. He stayed until court was adjourned.
The officers were: W. B. Thompson, Chief Justice (County Judge); Henderson Williams, County Clerk; J. A. Martin, Sheriff; James Drewry, Assessor (Mr. Drewry served nine months, then J. B. Madray was elected to the office); S. B. Merriman, District Clerk; and John Phelps, Louis Campbell, Henry Clare, and David Craven, County Commissioners. R. H. Allsup was Deputy Sheriff. The first court was held under a tree near the creek on February 10, 1858, before the Courthouse was built.
J. S. Phelps was appointed special agent to have the county line of Bee County surveyed, marked and established according to law.
The court donated a lot to each of the following churches and schools:
However, the location of the county seat (on the Medio) proved unsatisfactory, and there was a movement among the people, as well as the officers of the County Court, to seek a more central location. Consequently, the court ordered an election to be held on February 26, 859, for the removal of the county seat, and a majority of the votes were registered in favor of the measure.
The court accepted the offer of a donation of one hundred fifty acres of land “situated in said County of Bee on the Poesta Creek, a branch of the Aransas River, and in what formerly constituted a portion of the McGloin Colony, being a part of the league of land granted to said Ann Burke as a colonist in said county.” The deed to the property was signed by Patrick O’Carroll, Annie Burke O’Carroll, and the latter’s son, Patrick Burke, on March 28, 1860.
On July 25, 1859, the County Court ordered “that the new county seat be called MARYVILLE in honor of Mary Hefferman, a surviving heir of the family murdered at that place by Indians in 1836.”
On May 19, 1859, the County Court ordered “that the court dispose of the old county seat (Beeville on the Medio) and that the archives of the county be moved to Maryville on or before February 13, 1860.” Also the court ordered that a warranty deed be executed giving back to Seeligson the one hundred fifty acres he donated to the county for the county seat on the Medio.
Apparently, attention was called to the court that under the terms of the Act of the Texas Legislature creating the County of Bee, it was specified that the county seat “when located, shall be called Beeville,” and the County Court at a meeting held on March 10, 1860, ordered “that the order passed by us naming and calling the Burke and O’Carroll donation on the Poesta for a county seat MARYVILLE, be and the same is hereby rescinded or changed and that the name of said plat be changed and that the same is hereby called BEEVILLE, the county seat of Bee County.”
During the first six months following the removal of the county seat to Maryville (later changed to Beeville), the County Court met in G. W. McClanahan’s one-room building while a new Courthouse was being erected on Lot 2, Block 43, on Washington Street, south of the present Commercial National Bank, where the buildings housing Southwest Land Title Co. and McCarty, Millikin & Green, Accountants, now stand. J. H. Toomy was the contractor and the cost of the structure was $705.50. The County Court gave Beeville Masonic Lodge the right to build a second story on the one-story Courthouse immediately after the lodge was granted a dispensation by the Grand Lodge to start work. The Masons held their first meeting in the new temple on the night of December 15, 1860. H. W. Wilson was Worshipful Master of the lodge.
On November 19, 1860, the County Court ordered that final settlement be made with J. H. Toomy. Previously the court had authorized Ewing Wilson, Chief Justice, to receive subscriptions, or donations, for the building of the Courthouse, the court to issue script to the amount of the donations to each subscriber, to be paid dollar for dollar when money was available.
The court ordered that the two small rooms in the Courthouse be set apart for clerks’ offices, the north room for the county clerk and the south room for the district clerk, “and the clerks are authorized to take possession.’”(November term 1860 minutes.) John R. Shook was granted permission to teach in the Courthouse after his bond was approved. C. B. Hill was paid $24 for building a chimney for heating purposes.
The spring term of District Court (180) was held in the home of B. R. David, for which he was given a deed to Lot 3, Block 20, valued at $10. On July 16, 1860, the County Court ordered that a warranty deed be made to the Masonic Lodge to the second story of the Courthouse “and the free and unobstructed use of the way thereto as soon as the Courthouse is completed.” The court met in G. W. McClanahan’s store for six months. Rent paid was $48.
W. S. Fuller was allowed six dollars for three days services rendered the county in going to Old Beeville (on the Medio) in person with wagon.
At a special term of County Court on August 4, 1860, a report of J. M. Dunlap about “a school taught on the Upper Aransas in this county” was approved and paid pro rata according to law.
At a special term held the following September 3, Henderson Williams’ report on his school (the location was not designated in the minutes of the court) was approved and filed.
With Bee County created and organized, and the officers of County and District Courts located in their respective office suites in the new Courthouse, the county seat—Beeville (on the Poesta)—began to attract new citizens and some business firms.
George W. McClanahan became the town’s first merchant. He came to Beeville in 1859 or 1860. He was born in Craig County, Virginia, in 1824. He graduated from Emory and Henry College in 1853. The same year he went to Goliad to become principal of Paine Female Institute.
Mrs. Madray in her History of Bee County gathered much information about this remarkable pioneer who helped lay the ground work for the village that was to become one of South Texas’ outstanding small cities. She was privileged to read letters that Mr. McClanahan wrote to relatives in Virginia, and credit is hereby given Mrs. Madray for the following thumbnail biography of Beeville’s first merchant:
In 1858 he resigned his position with the Goliad college because of bad health, and he and his wife traveled through the county, camping out in order to regain his good health. Coming to Beeville the following year, he established a mercantile business on two blocks of land in the vicinity of present Klipstein Park. He planted corn and vegetables on the several acres of land adjoining the store.
When the county seat was moved from the Medio to Maryville (later changed to Beeville) Mr. McClanahan purchased some lots around the Public Square, paying as high as $11 for one in a horse trade. He sold it back to the man from whom he bought it, for $16 cash. He was a storekeeper, farmer and gardener, deputy clerk in the county clerk’s office, and occasionally when a traveler wanted lodging for a night, Mr. McClanahan accommodated him. And he owned a few head of cattle.
He loved his native state, but was loyal to his adopted State of Texas. In a letter written to his brother in February 1865 Mr. McClanahan invited his brother to come to Texas and eat a fat wild turkey and breathe the air that had caused the remark, “We have no boys in Texas; all are men.
When the post office was moved from the Medio to Beeville, it was set up in the McClanahan store. Henderson Williams was postmaster for a short time, but later, Thomas Martin was appointed.
In 1866, the McClanahan family moved to Corpus Christi, but after The death of his wife the following year during a yellow fever epidemic, Mr. McClanahan and his four children, Mary, William, George, and James, returned to Beeville. The merchant opened another store which he operated until his death in 1874.
Thomas Martin resigned as postmaster in 1872 and recommended Mr. McClanahan for the position. The appointment was received in January 1873. The mail came twice a week if the roads were favorable. In addition to the foregoing obligations, Mr. McClanahan taught short sessions of school when he first came to Beeville to accommodate the few children who were living here.
Following his death, his children returned to Virginia to make their home with an uncle. William, the eldest son, was the first Anglo child born in Beeville. His birth was in January 1861. (B. P. Stephenson was the second Anglo child born in the village—June 14,1861. Many years later he served Beeville as mayor.)
Viggo Kohler was the contractor who erected the McClanahan store that stood on the east side of the Public Square. After Mr. McClanahan’s death, L F. Roberts, father of Mrs. F. W. Baylor who still resides in Beeville, purchased the store and operated it for many years. In 962, when the building was about to be razed, the Historical Society purchased the beautiful old structure from Toscoe Knight for $600 and the Commissioners Court moved it to county property on East Corpus Christi Street, between the County Jail and the Bee County Public Library, and turned it over to the Historical Society. This was done at the persuasion of Miss Ida Campbell, president of the society at that time, and several other members. The building is the “home” of the society, and meetings are held there periodically.
The Historical Story
of Bee County Texas By Camp Ezell
Updated Thursday, December 21, 2006 21:02
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