Carrizo Springs

Palo Alto College

San Antonio, Texas


Kari Vickers Fall 2000
History 1302 Hines



Dimmit County, which was established in 1858, was named after a former Pennsylvanian adventurer, Philip Dimmitt, who moved to Texas prior to the Texas Revolution. He was a captain during the war and continually fought for Texas independence. Dimmitt never received any credit for what he had so dearly fought for, so someone finally thought to recognize his service by naming a new county after him. However, nobody could remember how to spell his name correctly so they dropped a "t" and spelled it Dimmit.

The Texas legislature designated the county as a part of the Webb, Bexar, Uvalde, and Maverick Counties. Dimmit County remained unorganized until 1800 due to judicial purposes. In the mid-1800's the county consisted of grassland filled with brush and cactus. The Nueces River that appears and disappears along with a network of spring-fed streams and lakes sustained huge herds of cattle, sheep and horses that freely roamed the area. Along with the Nueces River, the Frio River is one of the largest tributaries. Some of the creeks, streams and rivers in Dimmit County are the San Pedro, San Ambrosia, Pena, Carrizo, and the Espantosa. Many are susceptible to going dry during drought.

Among the earliest American settlers were Captain Levi English and family, W.C. Dickens, James Roberts, William McLaughlin, Silas Hay, Duncan Lammons, J.P. McCarley, Constant Taylor, Constant Terry, ex-slave Bob Lemmons and the Bell brothers. Due to the Indian attacks, many of the outlying ranches were soon abandoned and settlers returned to Carrizo Springs, which was the seat of Dimmit County. This area had earned the reputation of being "no man's land." However, people were still drawn to Carrizo Springs because of cheap land and bountiful springs.

In Carrizo Springs the first houses built by the settlers were jacales, which were copied from Mexican pastores huts around that general area. The walls were straight posts, pickets of mesquite, or elm from the creeks that were set in the ground and lashed together with other smaller branches using rawhide and caliche mixed with gravel finished the inside of the walls.

Jacales or Mexican pastores hut.

The hardest time for the settlers of Dimmit County were in the years form 1865 to 1880. Continuous Indian attacks, Mexican bandits, and American outlaws are what caused such difficulties. Captain Levi English, otherwise known as the father of Carrizo Springs, was the leader of the settlers. He also led them in the first fight against the Indians, bandits, and the outlaws.

English and his wife, Matilde Burleson English, settled in Carrizo Springs near the present day courthouse. Neither English nor his wife could read or write and they used an "X" as their signature when it was required for legal documents. They were very generous and gave land to different organizations to establish the town. They gave land to establish the Baptist church, Mt. Hope Cemetery, and the first school of Carrizo Springs. Each project received a block of land in town on which to build. English also deeded to the county commissioners the public square. The only structure to be built on this block of land was the county courthouse and a drinking fountain, nothing else.
Old Courthouse
Remodeled Courthouse
 First Dimmit County Court House in Carrizo Springs.
Dimmit County Court House after under going extensive remodeling.

However, with the organization of Dimmit County the era of cheap land was coming to an end. During the late 1880's and 1890's the word spread that the population was very thin and people came to these parts ultimately to take part in developing Carrizo Springs. The economic base of Dimmit County was cattle and sheep ranching. With the introduction of wire and fencing, farming began to appear in small amounts. In 1888, a drought put an end to the sheep ranching business. Cattle ranching and farming were able to come back after the drought. Also pecan orchards began to arise in the place of sheep ranching. During the drought however, people had to resort to other sources of income, so they found a sponsor up North that would buy Javelina hides. So people began to trap Javelinas until the drought was over to make ends meet.

In the 1900's truck farming began. Farmers who owned five to 10 acres would farm a variety of grains, fibers and vegetables. They were able to bring in two different crops per year. After harvesting the crops, the farmers would haul their goods to San Antonio to sell. By 1910, farmers were able to ship their crops by rail. There were two main railroads serving the area, Asherton & Gulf and the S.A.U.& G. With the railroads came expansion, as new towns began to arise along their tracks: Asherton, Dentonio, Big Wells, Bermuda, Brundage, Catarina, Winter Haven, and Shady Acres. Colonization of this area began to attract numerous people.

Although it is an area with few inhabitants, Carrizo Springs and the surrounding area have several historic landmarks. El Camino Real, or the King's Highway, is the only highway in Texas to be created by an act of the Legislature. This highway extends from Mexico City to Washington, D.C. winding across the southern part of Dimmit County. The original First Baptist Church of Carrizo Springs was built in the heart of the community, and still stands today adjacent to a more modern parish. Although it is unused, it still represents a significant historical value to the community.
A church in Carrizo Springs.

Other landmarks include Indian Battle, which was the home of Henry Coleman, and Asher House located in Asherton. Since the late 1800's and the early 1900's Carrizo Springs has changed dramatically. There are now numerous churches to serve the growing population in the county. The Dimmit County weekly newspaper, The Javelin, has evolved since it was established in the 1880's. Carrizo Springs has five school campuses. There are also two banks in the town, First National and Camino Real. Farming and ranching play a smaller role in the economic structure of Carrizo Springs than they did in the early years. Many of the communities that were established because of the growth and development of Carrizo Springs are now mere settlements, some barely more than ghost towns. A good example is Brundage, which once supported a railway station, hotel, mercantile, café, and later a gas station now has only a handful of crude homes.

In conclusion, Dimmit County was established by the churches and schools that the first settlers built. Later, banks and stores were established near watering holes. That is how Carrizo Springs was established, and because of its development, other towns were founded. Today farming and ranching are not the main contributors to the economy, but are still significant. It is hard to believe that Carrizo Springs was not established that long ago, just over a hundred years, and although the economic structure is not exactly the same the source is the same, the land. Cattle ranching, although still in practice, has been expanded into, and in many cases taken over by, wildlife ranching. Located in prime hunting country, many ranchers have either added wildlife management to their ranching practices, or in some cases replaced raising cattle with raising deer. As well, the value of land in the area has increased as a direct result of the boom in the hunting industry.

I would like to thank Verner Lee Bell and Lucille Myers for the time they spent with me giving me details about Carrizo Springs that helped me gather information to write this historical account of the town and the area around it. I would also like to thank the staff of the Carrizo Springs Public Library for the time they spent helping me research the town's economy and historical markers.

Appendix, Interview, Verner Lee Bell
v Dimmit County was established in 1858 from Bexar County.
v Levi English - professional Texas Ranger known as the “Father of Carrizo Springs.”
v Indian attacks resulted in the congregation of settlers into what is now Carrizo Springs.
v Population in 1870 was 109, and in 1880 around 900.
v Economy consisted of farming, cattle ranching, and sheep ranching.
v Ranchers were constantly battling with bandits from Mexico over the theft of cattle and horses.
v Dimmit County is the only county in Texas to have a treaty with Mexico to stop the theft of livestock.
v In 1888, a drought caused losses in grass and cattle, and a reduction in spring production.
v To make ends meet during the drought, Javelinas were trapped to sell their hides up North.
v When the drought broke, the cattle business came back, but the sheep industry was lost.
v In 1900, truck farming began. Farmers owned 5-10 acres; they would harvest their crops and take them to market in the bed of their trucks.
v 1920’s, 1930’s - the Worker Progress Association gave jobs to many men.
v 1940’s - farming onions became the counties economic staple.
v 1950’s - cattle ranching and farming came back.
v 1970’s - pecan trees replaced much of the area’s vegetable farming
v 1990’s - only two or three commercial farms still survive and grassland for cattle is scarce. Ranchers had to feed grain to their herds.

Williams, Crystal S. 1960. A History of Dimmit County.

Bell, Verner Lee. 1980. Memories of Peter Tumilson Bell.

Citizens State Bank. 1974. … December 4, 1924 to December 4, 1974 … Our First Fifty Years of Dedicated Services.

Carrizo Springs

McComb, David G. 1989. Texas A Modern History.
Montejano, David. 1987. Anglos and Mexicans In the Making of Texas, 1836- 1986.
Personal interview. Verner Lee Bell. October 15, 2000.
Personal interview. Lucille Myers. October 15, 2000.
Tidwell, Laura Knowlton. 1984. Dimmit County Mesquite Roots.


Return to Small Town Research Projects Index