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SOMERSET, TX

SOMERSET, TEXAS. Somerset is off State Highway 1604 fifteen miles southwest of San Antonio in Bexar County. It was named for a settlement that had been begun in 1848 three miles farther south, in what is now Atascosa County, by a group of Baptist families from Somerset, Kentucky. The present site was named Somerset when the First Townsite Company was formed on the Artesian Belt Railroad right-of-way on May 25, 1909, by A. M. Pyron, Carl Kurz, and Jonas A. Kerr. Many of the residents of Old Somerset and nearby Bexar eventually moved to the new townsite. In 1913, while drilling for artesian water, Kurz discovered oil. A boom followed. The Somerset oilfield extended from Somerset to below Pleasanton and was the largest known shallow field in the world at that time. Two oil refineries in the field and a pipeline into San Antonio handled the high-gravity crude. The town grew rapidly from fifty residents in 1925 to 700 in 1928; it was served by a state bank, a ten-room hotel, and several machine and blacksmith shops. A post office opened there in 1920. A nearby lignite coal mine also added to the booming economy of the area. During the 1920s farmers turned from cotton to dryland fruit and vegetable farming. In 1931 the Somerset Fruit Growers Exchange building was dedicated, and between truck farming, oil, and coal, the town prospered until the mid-1930s, when diminishing oil returns and the Great Depression caused a decline. In 1931 the town reported twenty businesses; by 1958 there were only eight. In 1920 the Somerset Independent School District was formed from at least five other school districts: Wildman, Senior, Bexar, Old Rock (Old Somerset area), and Oak Island. As of 1990 the district included some eighty-four square miles and was located in two counties, Bexar and Atascosa. The population of Somerset increased gradually during the late 1960s and 1970s, topping 1,000 in 1978. Somerset was incorporated in 1973 and has a mayor-council form of city government. In 1990 Somerset reported 1,144 residents, many of whom worked in farming, ranching, and oilfield drilling and maintenance; in addition, a great number worked in San Antonio or surrounding areas. At that time the community had a chamber of commerce, a national bank, some eighteen rated businesses, and several civic clubs and organizations. In 2000 the population reached 1,550.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Ellis A. Davis and Edwin H. Grobe, comps., The New Encyclopedia of Texas (2 vols., Dallas: Texas Development Bureau, 1925?). Nellie M. Kenney, The History of Somerset and the Old Bell at Bexar (1986). F. A. Schmidt, Rails to the Artesian Belt (MS, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin, 1977). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

W. E. Stone, Jr.

Citation

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

W. E. Stone, Jr., "SOMERSET, TX," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hjs18), accessed August 01, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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