POTEET, TEXAS. Poteet is on Farm Road 476 and State Highway 16, twenty miles south of San Antonio in north central Atascosa County. It was named for its first postmaster, Francis Marion Poteet, who operated the post office out of his blacksmith shop beginning in 1886. The town had a cotton gin, a gristmill, and a wagonmaker in 1892. In 1896 Mr. and Mrs. Henry T. Mumme settled in the area, on land that had been part of the original Joaquín de la Garza land grant, and opened a general store. Mumme succeeded Poteet as postmaster and in 1904 found artesian wells in the area; this ready source of water made the location more attractive to farmers. Apparently his discovery was prompted by a drought in 1902 that ruined that year's cotton crop. The Poteet community did not really begin to grow until 1910, when the Artesian Belt Railroad passed nearby on land donated by the Mummes. In 1910 the Mummes also donated land for the new townsite, three miles southwest of the original post office, and built a new store there.
In 1918, Mumme fortuitously met Gustav Aigner, an experienced strawberry farmer, at the San Antonio Produce Market. Two years later Aigner relocated his family to Poteet, where he successfully grew Missionary Strawberries, which rapidly became one of the town's major crops and its claim to fame. The town became known as the "Strawberry Capital," where tourists could view a water tower resembling a strawberry, as well as the six-foot-tall and 1,600 pound "World's Largest Strawberry." A three-day strawberry festival began in Poteet in 1948, in which Harold A. Aigner served as the festival king. The strawberry festival is still held annually. Also in 1911 Mumme established the Poteet Coal and Sand Company Mine, but water seeped into the shaft in 1912, making the mining process prohibitively expensive. The town continued to be a center of commerce for area farmers, whose major source of income was the irrigation farming of peanuts, onions, and watermelons, in addition to the famous strawberries.
In 1914 Poteet had a population of 500, a Baptist and a Methodist church, several stores, two banks, two blacksmith shops, a hotel, the Poteet Light and Water Company, and a weekly newspaper (the Poteet Register). At that time the community also had processing facilities for lumber, grain, and cotton. Local school enrollment was 276. By 1926 the population had increased to 800; it topped 1,000 by the 1930s, when Poteet for a time had forty rated businesses. The Poteet Independent School System had 638 students and fourteen teachers in 1934. During the 1940s oil was discovered near Poteet, and its population rose to 2,315. In the 1950s the number of residents increased slowly, and insufficient water again became a problem. Decreasing water levels in the Carrizo strata have continued to trouble Poteet, but the number of residents stabilized at around 3,000 beginning in the 1970s, then reached a high of 3,519 in 1988. Poteet is an incorporated city with a mayor-alderman form of government. In 1990 its population was 3,206. In addition to its fame as the "Strawberry City," Poteet achieved nationwide recognition in the 1950s when Milton Caniff, author of the "Steve Canyon" comic strip, named one of his characters after the town. The population was 3,305 in 2000.
Atascosa County History (Pleasanton, Texas: Atascosa History Committee, 1984). Margaret G. Clover, The Place Names of Atascosa County (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1952). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Leslie Vandivier, “Poteet Strawberries: How Sweet They Are!” Texas Highways (April 1989): 42.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Linda Peterson, "POTEET, TX," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hgp11), accessed February 10, 2016. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on October 27, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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