West is on Interstate Highway 35 eighty miles south of Dallas in northeastern McLennan County. It traces its beginnings to a settlement at Bould (or Bold) Springs begun by Carey Boulds prior to 1852. In 1852 a post office was established at Boulds's cabin. In 1856 the family of Walter Wyatt Bennett moved into the cabin and became the first permanent residents of the community. In 1860 the United States census recorded a population of 311 in the town. The present townsite was established in 1881 and the name was changed to West, in honor of Thomas M. West, prominent businessman, landowner, and postmaster of the new post office established in 1882. The town was on a quarter section of land belonging to West, who opened a general store in 1883, the West Hotel in 1889, and West Bank in 1893. Construction of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad through West in 1881 was responsible for the early growth. The town was incorporated in June 1892. The West Crescent was published from 1889 into the 1890s. The West News began publication in 1891, and the West Times, first edited by William Baldridge in 1888, was taken over in 1891 by Fred B. and Abe L. Whipkey. The town's first educational institution was a private school called Allen's Academy, after founder William O. Allen. By 1900 West had a fire department, a weekly newspaper, a bank, a cotton mill, several cotton gins, a hotel, a school system, several churches, and a population estimated by some as high as 2,000. The town had become a station on the Texas Electric Traction Railway. By 1900 the railroad and available university lands began to bring large numbers of Czechs and Germans to the established Anglo-American community. Cotton and small grain production, along with cattle ranching, were the area's chief occupations. In 1920 the town had a textile mill, a mop and broom factory, and a sausage and chili plant. The West Independent School District was established in 1923. In 1989 West was known for its restaurants and bakeries that specialized in Czech and German foods. Nemecek Brothers Meat Market, established in 1896, is known throughout the state for its Czech hams and sausages. The Westfest occurs annually on Labor Day weekend and attracts around 50,000 people. This festival celebrates with music, dance, and food the rich heritage that the Czechs brought to Texas. In 1989 West had ninety businesses, a hospital, a combined library and museum, and a weekly newspaper. The population increased from 2,515 in 1990 to 2,851 in 2014. On April 17, 2013, ammonium nitrate exploded at the West Fertilizer Company storage and distribution facility. The disaster killed fifteen, injured 160, and damaged more than 150 buildings. On May 11, 2016, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives determined the explosion was an act of arson.
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Henry Milton Apperson, History of West, Texas, 1836–1920: Conflict of Conservative Cultures (Waco: Texian Press, 1969). Dayton Kelley, ed., The Handbook of Waco and McLennan County, Texas (Waco: Texian, 1972).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Kathryn Devers Doherty and Shirley Kubala,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 26, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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