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YOAKUM, TEXAS. Yoakum is on the Lavaca-DeWitt county line. It was built on a league of land granted to John May by the government of Coahuila and Texas in 1835 and was used as a gathering ground for cattle to be driven up the Chisholm Trail. Yoakum did not grow until the construction of the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway in 1887. At this time a townsite was laid out and named after Benjamin F. Yoakum, vice president and general manager of the line. J. P. Jamieson built a store in 1887, and a post office opened that year. Railroad shops were located in Yoakum in 1888, and hundreds of people from surrounding towns found employment at its large roundhouse. The town was incorporated on May 13, 1889, with L. W. Thomas as mayor. By 1896 Yoakum had a cotton mill, three cotton gins, a compress, several churches, a bank, an ice factory, specialty and general stores, two weekly newspapers and one daily, a school system with 700 pupils, and a population of 3,000. By 1914 the number of residents had reached 7,500. In 1919 Carl Welhausen took over a small tanning company, the first of several in the city. The firm, known as Tex-Tan, a manufacturer of saddles, bridles, harnesses, belts, billfolds, and novelties, later became part of the Tandy Corporation. By 1940 other local industries included a creamery and a mattress factory. The first commercial tomatoes in the Yoakum area were grown in 1926. By the 1940s fifteen packing sheds in Yoakum shipped tomatoes north, and the town was sometimes called the tomato capital of south central Texas. In 1970 Yoakum had 170 businesses, including a leather-goods shop, a meat-packing plant, a food-processing plant, a metal workshop, a cannery, a newspaper, and two banks. Yoakum community services in 1989 included a nursing home, a hospital, a library, a municipal park, and a municipal airport. The Bluebonnet Youth Ranch, a home for neglected children, was founded by Charles Kvinta in 1968. The former home of J. K. Elkins and Mr. and Mrs. William Browning became the Yoakum Heritage Museum in 1982. The town had twenty-one churches of ten denominations. Among them is St. Joseph's Catholic Church, which celebrated its centennial in 1969. The First Baptist and First Methodist churches were built in 1889. Yoakum is a division point for the railway and also the site of a Texas highway department office. Since 1960 the town has sponsored an annual wildflower trail in the spring, which includes a guided tour and wildflower art exhibits. The May Tom-Tom Festival, which first publicized the tomato business, began in 1928, was suspended for five years in World War II, and resumed in 1946. The annual event now celebrates the local leather industry and is called the Leather Tom-Tom Festival. A local Youth Rodeo is held each July. The population of Yoakum, listed as 4,733 in 1940, grew steadily throughout the next four decades. In 1984 it reached 6,148, with 3,283 in Lavaca County and 2,325 in DeWitt County. In 1990 the population was 5,611. In 2000 the population was 5,731.
BIBLIOGRAPHY:Paul C. Boethel, The History of Lavaca County (San Antonio: Naylor, 1936; rev. ed., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1959). Yoakum Sesquicentennial Book Committee, Yoakum Community (Dallas: Curtis, 1988).
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Mary M. Orozco-Vallejo, "Yoakum, TX," accessed April 29, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hfy01.
Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.