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SARITA, TX

SARITA, TEXAS. Sarita, the county seat of Kenedy County, is an incorporated town off U.S. Highway 77 twenty miles south of Kingsville in extreme northwestern Kenedy County. The land for the townsite was part of the Kenedy Ranch owned by John G. Kenedy, who named the new community after his daughter Sarita. The town was established in 1904 and served as a ranching center for the Kenedy Ranch and Kenedy Pasture Company. Sarita was a stop on the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway that was chartered in 1903. The townsite was moved a mile east in February 1905, when a stretch of the railroad was relaid, but Sarita was not actually surveyed and platted until 1907. Land companies out of St. Louis, Kansas City, and Chicago promoted Sarita to northerners and ran homeseeker trains taking prospective buyers to South Texas. Upon arrival, visitors toured the area in jolt wagons while a seller made his sales pitch; buyers purchased lots from the Kenedy Town and Improvement Company. Early settlers included the Turcottes, Braunes, Pfaus, Johnsons, and McLeroys. There has been a post office in Sarita since 1904. By 1907 there was a lumberyard, a cotton gin, a one-room school, a nursery, and a railroad depot. Since Sarita was a section point for the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway, there was a section house and water tank for the trains. Two artesian wells provided water to Sarita before another water tank was built, and the town had two stores: the Pfau store and the company store (and post office). A phone line ran from the company store to Rancho La Parra, the Kenedy Ranch headquarters, six miles east. Sarita was centered on a farming and ranching economy, supported by a population of Anglos and Hispanics. Many settlers worked for the Kenedy Ranch, while others purchased or leased pasture from the Kenedy Pasture Company to raise cotton.

Sarita, originally in Cameron County, became the county seat of Willacy County when that county was formed in 1911. The Pfau store was purchased by John G. Kenedy and later served as the first courthouse until it burned down sometime before 1921. The town population was about 300 before 1916, when a severe hurricane hit. Subsequently many homesteaders moved away, and much of the land reverted to the Kenedy Pasture Company. In 1921 Sarita became the seat of government for the new Kenedy County. In 1936 the community population was 200, and in 1940 the Nueces Electric Cooperative supplied it with electric power. By the 1940s U.S. Highway 77 went through Sarita to Brownsville, though for a time before land right-of-ways were granted, the highway ended at Sarita with a barbed-wireqv fence barrier. The population of Sarita remained at 200 in 1950, and during the 1980s the population remained at a steady 185. The town still served as an oil and ranching center. After the death of Sarita Kenedy East in 1961, Rancho La Parra was given to the Oblate Fathers of the Catholic Church and served as a prayer house. In the late 1980s Sarita included ranch offices, a commissary and post office, a Catholic church, a school, a courthouse, and several homes and ranch buildings. Its population was still reported as 185 at that time. In 2000 the population was 250. In 2003 the Kenedy Ranch Museum of South Texas opened in the newly-restored building of the Kenedy Pasture Company. The museum highlights the legacy of the Kenedy family regarding ranching and the founding of Sarita through art and artifacts.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

James Lewellyn Allhands, Gringo Builders (Joplin, Missouri, Dallas, Texas, 1931). Kenedy Ranch Museum of South Texas (www.kenedyranchmuseum.org), accessed May 15, 2007. Frank Cushman Pierce, Texas' Last Frontier: A Brief History of the Lower Rio Grande Valley (Menasha, Wisconsin: Banta, 1917; rpt., Brownsville: Rio Grande Valley Historical Society, 1962). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Laurie E. Jasinski

Citation

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

Laurie E. Jasinski, "SARITA, TX," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hls22), accessed August 20, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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