East Bernard is on the west side of the San Bernard River at the intersection of State Highway 60 and U.S. Highway 90A, fifteen miles north of Wharton in northeast Wharton County. The community was originally on the east side of the river, where Jethro Spivi built the first residence around 1850; hence the name East Bernard. Settlement was slow until 1859 and the arrival of the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway. A bridge was built, and the depot, Bernard Station, though originally located on the east bank of the river, was moved by 1869 to the west side, to the site of East Bernard's future Main Street. The rest of the town grew up around the railway. The first post office was established in 1866, but the community was probably not officially named East Bernard until 1874. After the Civil War the community began to grow rapidly, as new settlers arrived with British surnames. Although Joseph Habermacher operated a store and saddle shop in Bernard Station some time before 1867, the main influx of German and Slavic immigrants came after the 1880s. In the mid-1890s the farming community had a population of 150, and businesses included a steam gin, a gristmill, a telegraph office, and two general stores. The first church in East Bernard was established in 1893, when German Methodist settlers dismantled their church in Content, three miles south of Weimar, and moved it by rail to East Bernard, where it was rebuilt in 1909. Catholic and Baptist congregations started holding services in private homes around 1900; their sanctuaries were completed between 1905 and 1907. The present Catholic church, built in 1925, has stained glass windows from Czechoslovakia, mosaics from Munich, a statue of St. Anthony from Italy, and statuary carved in the German Tyrol. An Assembly of God congregation began Pentecostal services in a private home in 1970 and moved into a new building by 1978. The first school building was erected around 1888 one mile north of the depot; by 1912 a brick high school had been built in town. Around 1916 East Bernard became an independent school district, and by 1956 nearby schools in Nottawa, Muldoon, Bernard Prairie, and Lissie were consolidated with the East Bernard school. A Texas historical marker now marks the site of the original school. East Bernard has had several newspapers, the first of which, the East Bernard Tribune, began in the 1920s. In the late 1980s the town was served by a weekly paper with the same name. Riverside Hall, built in 1927 on the east bank of the river, became a popular dance pavilion, where Paul Whiteman was once featured. In the early years of the settlement pioneer merchants H. P. Stockton and John G. Leveridge had operated a banking business in the back of Leveridge's General Store; by 1907 they had organized the Union State Bank. R. B. Boettcher purchased the controlling stock in 1911. In 1960 J. R. Peace, owner of a large furniture company, helped organize a chamber of commerce, which, since East Bernard was unincorporated, performed much of the duties of a city government. The community later incorporated in 2000. In the 1980s East Bernard's economy, though centered on agriculture, also included a gas pipeline company, a major kite-manufacturer, and several research corporations. In 1988 the population of 1,500 was served by sixty-three businesses. In 1990 the population was 1,544, and in 2000 it had grown to 1,729. In 2016 the population was estimated at 2,309.
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Kathleen E. and Clifton R. St. Clair, eds., Little Towns of Texas (Jacksonville, Texas: Jayroe Graphic Arts, 1982). Annie Lee Williams, A History of Wharton County (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1964).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Ray Spitzenberger, “East Bernard, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 20, 2020, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/east-bernard-tx.
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.