Palo Alto College
San Antonio, Texas
SMALL TOWN HISTORY: Lytle, Texas
|Mary Ohlhausen & Christine Acord
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Texas is known for it's historical landmarks, but often
these landmarks are overlooked by the tourist because of location and of
interest. Only 23 miles south of San Antonio, off of the
Pan-American Expressway IH 35 lies one of these historical landmarks.
This landmark is known as Lytle, Texas.
The Town of Lytle is unique as it lies on the border of
three counties; Bexar County, Atascosa County, and Medina County.
Lytle is composed of three separate communities. The community of Lytle, the Benton City Community on the eastern border of town, and finally the historical community
of Coal Mine on the northwest tip of town. The most historic of the three, however, is the town
of Lytle itself.
Lytle dates back to the 1800's. According to the
book, "Patchwork Lytle Facts, Folks, and Fables" the town's namesake, Captain
J.T. Lytle came to Texas in 1860 from the state of Pennsylvania.
He was a soldier in the Confederate Army and wanted to find a place to
settle. Lytle was a well-known rancher and trail operator for
many years so he became a partner with T.M. McDaniel in the cattle business.
Lytle and McDaniel began their own cattle business called the Lytle-McDaniel
Ranch. This ranch is located between the towns of Somerset and Lytle.
In 1881, The International and Great Nothern
Railroad began to look for a location to build a shipping station for cattle
The railroads secured land about three miles North of
present day Lytle. A land owner B.G. Andrews, and the Railroads made
an agreement that Andrews would give land to the railroad for a station.
So the land was granted and the station of Andrews was constructed.
Then, the problems began. Upon completion of the Andrews station, Andrews
and the railroad had some trouble deciphering the property deed.
The railroad started to look for another location for their already constructed station.
In comes Captain Lytle. On the 24th of November
1882, 50 acres of land was bought by the railroad from Fitch S. Adams
and Lytle-McDonnell Ranch for $1. Then the railroad employees proceeded
to load up the Andrews Station on two flat-cars and moved it to the present
location of Lytle. At first, the depot was located on the North side
of the railroad tracks, then it was rebuilt on the South side of the tracks
at the corner of Main and Somerset Street. No one seems to remember
where the old depot stands today, but at last count the old depot had been
converted into an Antique store, which still stands on Main Street. This station was the first railroad station to be built
in Atascosa County and marked the beginning of the small town of Lytle.
The main industries of early Lytle settlers were farming
and ranching. Lytle became a major shipping point for cattle and the
old stock pen loading chute was a familiar Lytle landmark for years.
As far as agriculture goes, the main crops in Lytle were cotton and corn.
Cotton gins were located in Lytle and in Benton. This made it convenient
for the buyers who could come right to the cotton gin yards to buy their
cotton. Lytle is still in agriculture town. The railroads no longer make stops in the town though. Shipment
of cattle and produce is now done by truck to the railroad stations
and to different industries.
Back in the early 1900's, Lytle was still a young town
that was barely beginning to experience what it was like to be a community.
Everywhere there was work going on. From the Carroll cotton fields
to the grocery store, everyone was hard at work earning their five cents
Two vital components helped this community to grow.
The first component was the railroad. After the International and
Great Northern Railroad made their mark the Missouri Pacific Railroad took
The depot helped to give the people of
Lytle jobs. The first depot agent was Thomas Lindley. Others
that followed him were A.J. Gidley, Tony Peiper, and Frank Whithhead.
The post office also came to
town. On September 10, 1883, W.J. Garnand became the first appointed
postmaster of Lytle. Other postmasters have followed including S.D.
Thrower, Lela Thrower, Mr. and Mrs. L. B. Kay, and E.M. Bush. Since
Lytle originated, the post office has moved three times. In 1998
there was a new one built to accommodate the growing community of Lytle.
Beside the railroad office, there was also coal mining
that helped to give the folks employment. Most of the coal mines
were located West of Lytle and were operated by Carr Company, Berretti
Coal Company, and Belto Coal Company. These coal mines employed
up to 500 people. When petroleum became a major fuel source,
the mines were forced to shut down. Coal can still be found in the
mines, but they have been closed for years and their openings are just
deep pits in the ground overgrown by earth and grass.
These mines are how the sub-community of Coal Mine came
about. The community used to boast of its own "mine store" and other businesses associated with the mine companies, but the only standing memory of bygone times is the Coal Mine Church that lies at the entrance of that community. This
community is predominantly Hispanic now.
Another thing that added to the community of Lytle was
the Lytle State Bank. It was chartered on September 17, 1910 in a
small 20x30 abandoned grist mill. As the town grew, the bank was moved
by the City Hall. Now, the bank is in a new building off FM 2790
East, which is parallel to IH35.
There were also many small businesses that added to the
community of Lytle. Carr Mercantile is said to have been the first
store in town. Unfortunately, the building burned around 1913.
Then there were the grocery stores for folks to get their supplies.
One such grocery store was owned by Mrs. Gray. According to the elderly
folks in town she was a wonderful store keeper who kept up with the local news in town, and always had a smile to spread. Now only one store
stands. The Lytle community is proud to boast its own H.E.B that
opened its doors in March of 1998, much to the delight of Mrs. Lois Wanjura,
who is retired elementary school nurse, and long-time resident of Lytle.
Also there were the hotels. In 1895 the Lytle Hotel
was built to house the numerous guests that came through for the railroad.
Mrs. Lytle had the hotel built to help her support her five children.
It was later renamed the Rose Hotel when she married. It is now the home
of Gidley Family and still on Main Street.
There was also the Bush Hotel that opened in 1908.
There were also numerous other businesses that were opened
and later closed due to economic and social changes in the community.
Now the town has its own doctor and dental practices (for humans and animals),
a Dairy Queen, Best Western, its own fire department, school district, and
numerous churches that date back to the beginning of the town.
The one thing that Lytle residents are proud of, however,
is that their community is growing. From an old one room stone schoolhouse
that still stands to it's own 3A school district that is home to a brand
new high school building that is still in great shape even thought it was
constructed around 1934, then there is the elementary school. All
of these schools are linked together by one main road which also houses
the Public Library, the football field, and the ever present field of cows
directly across the street from the elementary and high school. Mr.
Ruble Farmer, a high school teacher at Lytle High for the last 32 years
smiled while talking to us about these accomplishment.
Though all of this helps make Lytle what it is today,
Lytle would be nothing without its people. The sense of family can
be found everywhere. The names of the first are found throughout
the town and in its many cemeteries.
Benton City Cemetery
The oldest cemetery is Benton City Cemetery which was
founded in 1870. This cemetery is home for numerous pioneers and
veterans of Indian Warfare, the Civil War, World War I and II, and the
other conflicts. In the cemeteries lay decedents of families such
as Lytle, Jones, Calk, McDonnell, and numerous others that helped to start
the town, During the 1800's there was a tuberculosis outbreak in
Lytle and surrounding communities that killed many people. The graves
that date back to the 1800's are numerous and barely readable, but they
show how hard life was at one time in this small town.
The folks now, though, look to the future and brighter
days. This quiet, growing town has the nicest folk around.
The high school kids hang out at local Mr. B's Pizza ( which has great
grilled hamburgers), the ladies at City Hall were full of information and
smiles, Mr. Farmer was nervous but helped his interviewers as much as he
could, and Mr. and Mrs. Wanjura talked to us on short notice and offered a
hug before we left their home. The sense of family and community
is still present in Lytle and hopefully the hustle and bustle of the twentieth
century will not spoil this historical town's charm.
Chamber of Commerce Pamphlet: Your Invitation to Lytle
Interview with Mr. Rumble Farmer, Teacher at Lytle High
resident of Lytle; 5 November, 1998
Interview with Miss Mary Ohlausen, student at Palo Alto
resident at Lytle; 7 November, 1998
Interview with Mr. and Mrs. Franklin Wanjura, retired,
residents of Lytle; 5 Novemner, 1998
Lytle Woman's Club; Patchwork Lytle Folks, Facts, and
Copyright 1976 by the Lytle Woman's Club, Lytle, Texas.
Published by Heninton Publishing Company, Wolfe City,
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