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WEST, GEORGE WASHINGTON

WEST, GEORGE WASHINGTON (1851–1926). George West, cattleman and trail driver, eldest of three sons of Washington and Mary B. (Willauer) West, was born at Shannonville, Tennessee, on March 10, 1851. In 1854 Washington West moved his family to Lavaca County, Texas, and their home became an important stagecoach stop, which developed into the community of Sweet Home. George was one of the first to drive longhorn cattle to the Kansas railheads in 1867–68, and he continued driving until the trails closed. In 1870 he contracted with the government to deliver 14,000 longhorns to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in Montana. Although he was the youngest man with the herd, he was the trail boss, and this drive, from Lavaca County, Texas, to the destination, just 100 miles south of the Canadian border, probably qualifies as the longest trail drive on record. George had two brothers, Ike and Sol, who were also trail drivers in the period 1870–90. George West married Katherine "Kittie" Elizabeth Searcy, a descendant of the early American colonist John Searcy on June 18, 1874. They had no children. During the 1870s West made many drives to Kansas, Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas. In 1880 he and his wife moved to Live Oak County and purchased a 140,000-acre ranch and 26,000 cattle. This ranch included the site of the present town of George West, which he founded in 1913, and extended from the Nueces River on the north and east to McMullen County on the west. He had 80,000 cattle in 1882, when he lost so many in the drought that he had to sell off half of his ranch. J. Frank Dobie, another Live Oak County son, records that cowboys employed by West were instructed to chop off the left horn of every dead steer and bring it to a pile at the ranch headquarters. After the height of the pile exceeded that of the gatepost and was estimated at between 3,000 and 20,000 dead animals, they quit. About the turn of the century West sold 60,000 acres to Charles Simmons, of St. Louis, Missouri, who subdivided it, held a lottery for lots, and established the town of Simmons, Texas, in 1907. About 1910 West also turned his efforts toward colonization and town development by donating $100,000 and a free right-of-way through his ranch to the San Antonio, Uvalde and Gulf Railroad (called the "Sausage Line"), and the railroad became a reality in 1912. He also established the town named in his honor in the succeeding years and built a $75,000 courthouse in order to remove the county seat from Oakville, a $50,000 school, highways, bridges, public utilities, and a hotel across from the railroad depot. He moved to a permanent residence in San Antonio in 1904 and attended the Baptist Church there. He died in San Antonio on February 16, 1926.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

J. Marvin Hunter, Trail Drivers of Texas (2 vols., San Antonio: Jackson Printing, 1920, 1923; 4th ed., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985). August Santleben, A Texas Pioneer (New York and Washington: Neale, 1910). Ervin L. Sparkman, The People's History of Live Oak County (Mesquite, Texas, 1981). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin, George West.

Kurt House

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Kurt House, "WEST, GEORGE WASHINGTON," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwe62), accessed July 29, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.