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LOMETA, TX

LOMETA, TEXAS. Lometa is on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway at the junction of U.S. Highway 183 and Ranch Road 581, 16½ miles northwest of Lampasas in western Lampasas County. A saltworks known as the Swenson Salines was located eight miles from Lometa, near the mouth of Salt Creek on the Colorado River. During the Civil War much of the salt mined for the Confederate Army came from this saltworks, which was abandoned after several postwar attempts at private operation. Lometa was founded in 1885, when the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway began building west from Lampasas to San Angelo. A depot named Montvale, the first stop west of Lampasas, was established 2½ miles from Senterfitt, and a railroad agent named Cox took up residence. Eventually the entire town of Senterfitt, buildings and all, was moved to the new location. The first store was opened by J. T. Brown and a man named Woffard. Frank Longfield, executor of the estate of Alfred J. North, deeded the right-of-way to the railroad; 200 acres of this land became the townsite, and the town was laid out on May 17, 1886. Hoping to prevent the new town from becoming as wild as Senterfitt, a group of prominent citizens, including A. L. Horne, John W. Stephens, and W. B. Floyd, made a vow never to allow an open saloon. When the post office was established in 1886 with Frank McKean as postmaster, the residents discovered that there was already a Montvale in Texas, so the town was renamed Lometa (evidently from Spanish lomita, "little hillock"). The first hotels were opened by Mary Rahl, who moved her establishment from Senterfitt, and Mrs. J. C. Jackson, whose Jackson House catered to railway officials and passengers. Although drought retarded economic growth for the first three years, the town eventually began to make steady progress and soon became a shipping and trading center for farmers. A school built in 1889 was chartered as the Lometa Education Association College the following year and operated until 1909, when a public school was established and a new red brick building was built. A Methodist chapel was erected in 1890; it was followed by a Baptist church in 1901 and a Catholic church in 1920.

By 1890 the town had a population of 150, a cotton gin and gristmill, and telegraph service. The first newspaper, the Lometa Enterprise, began publication on May 18, 1894, under Jeff Funderburk. Another weekly paper, The Success, was in publication by 1896. The Lometa Reporter was started around 1900 and continued until 1960. The first bank was opened in 1906; by 1914 there were two. In 1910 a branch of the Santa Fe was built from Lometa to Eden, with construction headquarters in Lometa. The four years of railroad construction initiated an era of prosperity for Lometa. The population more than doubled, real estate prices soared, and business boomed. The Scholton Railway, a small branch established to haul cedar from the Colorado River to Lometa, operated from 1913 to 1920. The main industries have centered around agriculture and stock farming, and the town has served as a shipping point for cotton, wool, grains, pecans, mohair, cattle, and cedar posts. W. W. Tippen, one of the first wool buyers in Lometa, represented the Jeremiah Williams Company of Boston. W. M. Wittenburg, a licensed sheepmaster from Germany, brought his flock of Delaine sheep to the area in 1879. The Wittenburg wool clip is known throughout the American market and still brings premium prices. In 1909 F. C. Whitmire established the first electric light plant and generating station in Lometa. It folded in 1916 but was reopened by W. D. McLean around 1918 and operated until 1925. In the mid-1920s Texas Power and Light built a plant in the area, and in 1938 the Lower Colorado River Authority established electric service. A public waterworks was operated by a Mr. Hail from around 1910 until April 1915. The waterworks was run by a number of private individuals until it was taken over by the town, which had incorporated by 1920. In 1914 the first telephone system was organized. Santa Fe Lake, now Lometa Reservoir, constructed by the Santa Fe Railway in the following decade, became a popular swimming and fishing spot.

In 1919 the Wittenburg well was drilled near Lometa, but the presence of water prevented commercial oil production. The failure of the Tiger Lily well, drilled ten miles west of Lometa in 1938, ended the town's hopes for an oil boom. In 1945 Lometa had a gin, five churches, fourteen retail stores, an auction barn, and the Citizens State Bank. The population remained around 1,000 to 1,500 from 1925 to 1929. It dropped to an estimated 865 in 1931 and remained at between 850 and 950 into the early 1960s, when it began again to decline slowly. By 1982 it reached 666, where it remained through the mid-1980s. The ethnic composition is approximately 80 percent white and 20 percent Hispanic. In 1986 there were sixteen businesses, including wool shipping, cattle auctions, feed stores, metal firms, and an airstrip. Annual festivals include stock shows, a rodeo, and the Diamondback Jubilee. In 1990 the population was 625. The population grew to 782 by 2000.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Ed Ellsworth Bartholomew, 800 Texas Ghost Towns (Fort Davis, Texas: Frontier, 1971). John Clements, Flying the Colors: Texas, a Comprehensive Look at Texas Today, County by County (Dallas: Clements Research, 1984). Jonnie Ross Elzner, Relighting Lamplights of Lampasas County, Texas (Lampasas: Hill Country, 1974). Ralph Kenneth Loy, An Economic Survey of Lampasas County (Austin: University of Texas Bureau of Business Research, 1949). Kathleen E. and Clifton R. St. Clair, eds., Little Towns of Texas (Jacksonville, Texas: Jayroe Graphic Arts, 1982).

Alice J. Rhoades

Citation

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

Alice J. Rhoades, "LOMETA, TX," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hll55), accessed July 10, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.