Texas Small Town History Project
Palo Alto College
Brian Adams, Ronnie Mattes
December 7, 2006
The town of Dewees is located about five miles west of Poth, at the junction of farm road 541 and farm road 1344 in south western Wilson County. This was a town founded out of pure determination. Thomas Dewees, one of the main founders of the town along with his brother John Dewees, was a very determined man. In the early stages of the town's development, Thomas Dewees showed his determination by trailing a group of Mexican thieves all the way to Brownsville after they had stolen a herd of cattle off of his land. "Dewees got into a buggy alone and trailed the thieves all the way to the Rio Grande River." The cattle business, which lead to the founding of the town, took a lot of determination. Without it, the town wouldn't exist today.(The History Of Wilson County (Louise Stadler) pages 58-60) (The New Handbook of Texas 2nd Edition (Texas State Historical Association) page 615)
Origins: The town of Dewees originated from the two Dewees brothers who moved to Wilson County Texas in the late 1800's. They started a huge ranching enterprise which spread over three counties Wilson, Atascosa, and Karnes. The home base of this operation was later to become known as Dewees. In the early 1900's a post office operated for a few years. By 1911 the post office was closed. In the 1930's a store gin, and school were still there. Today all that remains is the store a cemetery and a few houses. (The History Of Wilson County (Louise Sadler) pages 58-60)
Founders: In 1862, John O. Dewees joined Company B, 32nd of theTexas Calvary. That same year his brother Thomas enlisted in the 32nd regiment of the Confederate Army. John O. Dewees remained fighting throughout the Civil War, but his brother was discharged early when he received a head wound in one of the battles. After being discharged Thomas began to accumulate land and cattle in Oakville Texas. In the January of 1868 Thomas Dewees married Emily Katherine Tom. Together they gave birth to a son named John Edward. Thomas remarried in 1872 to Kate Ham after the death of his first wife. At the end of the Civil war, the Dewees brothers formed a partnership. As a partnership the brothers began to buy large portions of land and cattle. The land covered three different counties, Karnes, Wilson and Atascosa and spread over 90,000 acres. Together the brothers bought and raised thousands of long horned cattle, which they sent all around the United States. The brothers even drove cattle over the famous Chisolm Trail to Kansas. In one year the brothers sent over 20,000 head of cattle to different portions of the U.S. The Dewees ranch was one of the largest ranch operations of its time and was also home of the longest three plank fence ever built that stretched 211 miles.(The History Of Wilson County (Louise Stadler) pages 58-60)
Economy: The economy in Dewees is almost nonexistent. Most people who still live in the area commute to work and are weekend farmers who own a few cattle. Most of the big ranches have been divided up and sold off into much smaller tracts of land. There is no real source of income in the area with the exception of private oil rigs and cattle operations. For most people in the area the idea of making a living on farming and ranching is just a dream of the past, since most of this is done by large corporations these days.(Texas Almanac 2006-2007 Edition (Dallas Morning News) page 332)
Stories: Stories about Dewees are few and far between. They are mostly what you read in history books since all of the original descendants of the Dewees family are deceased. Unfortunately the stories of there lives are lost in time. The founders of the town and their family are buried deep in the Old Masonic Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas. A great source for some of these stories is (The History Of Wilson County (Louise Stadler) pages 58-60).
Landmarks: Dewees, Texas is a town with few landmarks. When you are driving down F.M. 541 if you blink your eyes you will miss it all together. The only landmarks left these days are the old town cemetery, and the Schneider's store. The cemetery is well kept and the store is just a run down building; but a good place where you can grab a burger and a beer on a lonely day when traveling down this old farm to market road. You will also see numerous amounts of cattle as well as many different old oil pump jacks.
Events: There are few events these days in this sleepy old town. However; the events that occur consist of an occasional raffle for a sick community member to raise money to help with medical expenses. The occasional bachelor party held at the small tin pavilion behind the store, and the yearly turkey shoot.
Theme: The town of Dewees doesn't really have much of a theme. It is just a small farming and ranching community with a few people trying to hang on to the past as they remember it, or as their parents and grandparents remember it. However; if you had to put a theme on the town it would be farming and ranching to help make ends meet.
Community Ties: The one thing you can say about this town is the people stick together. What is left of this small community is just like one big family. If anyone is sick the community puts on some sort of benefit raffle or dinner to help raise money. This is what small town life is all about, taking care of your own. Dewees is no exception to this factor.
Prospects: Unfortunately the prospects for this town look very bleak. It is on the way to extinction, just like the Dodo bird. I guess it is just survival of the fittest and the major cause of this is that the railroad never went through this area it is seven miles away. Another major contributing factor is that big corporations have crushed the small farmer and rancher into almost nonexistence. So, the prospects that do exist are all private.The town of Dewees has come a long way since the early 1900s. Founded by the Dewees Brothers as a large cattle operation and later passed on to John Edward Dewees, the son of Thomas Dewees. At the peek of its operation the town became a thriving community that supported a commissary, a post office, a school and houses for its employees. Today there's not much left of the town that was, but instead, a tiny little store and a cemetery remain. The town is still based around ranching and agriculture, but due to the economy it is only a sideline job instead of a full time job like the one the town was founded for. The Town of Dewees isn't much to look at, but the folks are friendly and your always welcome at the Schnieder's store.
Links: Dewees, Texas Remschel House