La Salle Co

BRIEF HISTORY OF COTULLA

Map of Cotulla

First Map of the town of Cotulla

In 1881, Joseph Cotulla gave a townsite of 120 acres and called the newly created town, Cotulla. On Tuesday, January 10, 1882, an auction sale of lots of the town of Cotulla was held at Twohig Station at 12:00 o'clock noon.

An excursion train was to leave San Antonio at 6:30 o'clock a.m. on the day of the sale and would arrive at Twohig Station at 11:00 o'clock a.m., returning to San Antonio about 5:00 o'clock p.m. the same day. Fare for the round trip was $4.30. There would be a free barbecue and lunch on the grounds.

The auction brochure describes Cotulla as being situated on a high rolling prairie, three quarters of a mile from the Nueces River. The soil was described as red sandy loan. There were wells of good water in the surrounding country at the depth of 25 to 35 feet, and it was believed there would be no trouble in securing an abundance of water. The Nueces River, as well as three lakes, which never dried up, were situated within one mile of the townsite. The railroad had been extended to Cotulla and on to Twohig Station and soon would be completed all the way to Laredo. Plans were underway to make Cotulla the shipping point of a large area. New roads were being opened to Tilden, Fort Ewell, Carrizo Springs and Cotulla.

What was the early 1881 town of Cotulla really like and what did it have to offer the settler? There were no real streets, just cow trails with heavy brush on each side, barely wide enough for one wagon to pass through. There were about twenty families living in Cotulla and most of their houses consisted of only one or two room wooden shacks or lean-tos. Even by 1899 there were no screened houses in Cotulla, however a few did have wooden shutters. There were no telephones, electricity, or running water and very few comforts. Ice could be shipped by express, but it was very expensive and used only for the sick or very special occasions. Vegetables were brought from "Old Caleb" who drove by the houses in a small wobbling one-horse wagon. He would call out..."Want any vegetables today?" To this would often come the reply, "What vegetables have you, Caleb?" He would reply; "Frijoles, an' dried apples and sahdines!" People bought river water by the barrel from Mexican men who drove water wagons throughout the town. A few homes did have cisterns, where rain water was caught from dirty roofs. There were a few windmills, but the water pumped could be used only for stock.

The first industry in Cotulla was a "brick kiln" which furnished bricks for all the early brick buildings of the town. The kilns wee located on Mustang Creek.

The La Salle Hotel was the first building of any size on Front Street and was built in 1883. Prior to that, the buildings were small frame ones or wooden shacks. The first large brick building on Front Street was built in 1884 by John A. Kerr, who operated a mercantile store. The building, still standing, is on the corner of Center and Front Streets.

There were five mercantile businesses in the early 1880's: J.M. Barlow and Company, R.M. McLeod, R. Richardson, John A. Kerr, J.P. Davis and J.K. Berretta. Confectionary stores were operated by T.D. Morgan and J.J. Egan. J.J. Burk operated the hotel and livery stable. W.N. Hall was the jeweler, D. Sampson was a contractor and G. Thompson was a builder.

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Cotulla - Front Street, Block 4 Circa 1886

The Cotulla Lumber Company added a bit of stability to the little village. It was owned by Pfeuffer and Sloan until 1891, when they sold the business to T.R. Keck. Since that time. T.R. Keck and Sons has been operated continuously by members of the Keck family.

The first boarding house of Cotulla was operated by Anne Boutwell. Dr. Malone was the first doctor to come to Cotulla. The first postmaster of Cotulla was a Mr. Mullin. The depot was built in 1882.

One of the first drugstores in Cotulla was operated by Dr. J.M. Williams. His nephew, L.W. Gaddis, came to Cotulla in 1899 to assist him. In 1904, Gaddis purchased the business and it became know as Gaddis Pharmacy. Gaddis Pharmacy was operated continuously by members of the Gaddis family, until the business was sold a number of years ago.

For all the thirsty cowboys and other dwellers there were two "drinking emporiums", popularly called "saloons", owned by Ratteree and Mosser, and M. O'Meara, Hickey and Buggy.

Cotulla's drayman was a Mr. Carr. His little son, Jimmy, was killed in a dray accident, and was supposedly the first person buried in the Cotulla Cemetery.

In the early days of Cotulla, there was no bank of any sort, so people took their money to M.J. Barlow, as he did have a small safe or they hid it at home. L.A. Kerr later had a large safe. He and T.R. Keck built a small vault and started keeping money for the residents of the town. Eventually Kerr and Keck opened the national bank of Cotulla. Kerr did not stay with the venture long and Keck became the sole owner of the bank, which was named. Stockmens National Bank. The bank was continuously operatead by members of the Keck family, until a few years ago when they sold the controlling interest.

The first Protestant church organized in Cotulla was the Methodist, followed by the Baptist and Presbyterian. The records of the Catholic Church in Cotulla were destroyed by a fire in 1910, but even in the very early days services were conducted at times by priests coming into the area. However, there were no resident priests at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church until 1933.

As soon as the settlers began to arrive in Cotulla, a school was established. In 1883, there was a large group attending school. The pioneers and settlers of Cotulla, as a rule had limited education or none at all. However, they wanted a good education for their children and realized the importance of schools. Today's air-conditioned schools are a far cry from "out houses" and wood heat of the early day schools.

In 1904 the telephone arrived in Cotulla, but few homes had telephones, as they were mainly installed in the business section of town.

January, 1914, the franchise for Central Power and Light Company was granted. This was one of the greatest boons to the town of Cotulla. Houses and streets could be lighted, as well as refrigeration and ice. For the housewife it meant doing away with the "sad iron", to be replaced with an electric iron.

The city water well was drilled in 1915 and a deep pure strata of artesian water was found, and Cotulla soon became known as the "best watered" small town in Texas.

In December of 1909, an election was held to incorporate the city of Cotulla, and in January, 1910, it was incorporated. The first city election was held in 1910 to elect a mayor and alderman.

MAYORS OF COTULLA, 1910 - 1963

C.F. Binkley 1910-1912
R.A. Gouger 1912-1914
L.W. Gaddis 1914-1918
T.R. Keck 1918-1926
J.W. Lacey 1926-1928
H.H. Wildenthal 1928-1946
Ray M. Keck 1946-1954
M.L. Gaddis 1954-1963

ALDERMEN, 1910 - 1963

C.F. Binkley   J.W. Coker  
T.R. Keck   M.V. Davis
J.W. Sutton   Walter M. Manly
C.W. Wheeler   J.W. Lacey
C.E. Manly   Curt Herring
T.B. Poole   C.G. Hoff
C. Herring   W.E. Fergurson
C.E. Neal   Paul Cotulla
John Guinn   Roy E. Dossey
L. Cooper   W.B. Barbour
M.L. Gaddis   C.M. Brown
R.F. Knaggs

In the settlement of all towns it takes the "trail-blazer" and without the "trail-blazer" early day settlements, such as Cotulla would have never been established. We are greatly indebted to these little bands of pioneers that first came to Cotulla, settled and tamed the wilderness. We shall never know all the hardships they endured in the early years of Cotulla.

La Salle County Historical Commission


Text Copyright 1999 by La Salle County Historical Commission

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