by Barbara J. Wood
Dewees is a small farming community ...... located in the southwestern area of Wilson County. It is centered around the ranch headquarters of the former J. E. Dewees Ranch. J. E. Dewees was the first child of Thomas Dewees and was one of the partners of the Dewees Ranch. The original ranch encompassed approximately 100,000 acres and was well known during the longhorn trail driving days for the large number of cattle it trailed to the northern markets.
In the late 1800's as the railroads developed over Texas, and fencing closed the open range, and the price of longhorn beef diminished, ranching became unprofitable. To develop a source of income, the Dewees brothers started selling large tracts of the ranch to real estate investors. The developers then began to divide the property into farms and encouraged farmers from other regions of Texas to invest in these tracts as the cost per acre was much less than where they were living. The individuals who purchased these tracts of undeveloped land were mostly of German and Czech heritage. Not being encumbered by the old southern traditions of only planting cotton, they introduced the raising of grains, vegetables, fruit trees, poultry and livestock for meat production and dairy products. One of their early successful crops was onions which led to the more diversified farming approach Wilson County was wishing to develop at that time.
A post office was established in Dewees in 1906 with semi-weekly mail service between Dewees and Floresville. There was not a separate building for the post office but as was the practice at that time in small communities, the post office was located many times in the home of the postmaster. In 1911, postal service to Dewees was discontinued and the local region was served by the Floresville Post Office. During its period of operation, the Dewees Post Office had four different postmasters who served a population of approximately 400 people.
Central to the community was a rural general store. The store still exists today at its original site at the intersection of the Farmto- Market Roads Nos. 541 and 1344. The enterprise replaced the Dewees Ranch Commissary, which the Deweeses had provided for themselves, their ranch hands and families. The store was purchased in 1933 from a Mr. Ware by R. L. Eschenburg, Sr. and the Schneider brothers, Alfred and Eddie. These gentlemen also owned an adjacent cotton gin. The store and gin then was called Schneider's Store and Gin, a name which the store still retains today. The gin no longer Post Office - Dewees exists except for the remains of the old cotton scales.exists except for the remains of the old cotton scales.
The store is a large one room structure offering general merchandise such as groceries, refreshments, ice cream, sandwiches, etc. In addition, it provides gas, oil and minor accessories for automobiles. Perhaps the most important contribution of the store to the community is that it served as a common point for neighbors, friends, and visitors to gather, meet, enjoy refreshments, discuss the local and national news and learn the latest area gossip. A central area has always been provided inside the store for people to sit and talk and if partners are available, to play cards or dominoes.
The cotton gin next to the store operated for a number of years until the 1950's, while cotton was providing a valuable cash crop for the area farmers. In later years it was dismantled and sold for salvage and scrap. During cotton ginning days the nearness of the adjacent store provided a convenient place for the folks waiting to have their cotton ginned to relax and talk with neighbors. The store management would bring the kids into the store for candy and ice cream. The children would also sit at the tables inside the store to color and draw pictures or rest. Meanwhile, their folks would wait outside in line with their wagons until their turn to move into the gin house to have their cotton processed.
At one time, across the road from the gin, there was an automotive repair business operated by a Mr. Pundt. He provided local repair service for cars and farm equipment during the days of the Model T Fords. Cars were not unknown in the area as J. E. Dewees had the fourth car registered in Wilson County. General repair and maintenance for these earlier vehicles was a welcome service. In later years the business changed owners and became a welding repair facility.
A short distance from the store toward Poth is a cemetery providing burial sites for local families and residents. The cemetery is named Dewees because of its location on the original ranch site. It is not however, a Dewees family cemetery. During the earlier ranching days, the Dewees families resided in San Antonio and did not live on the ranch because of safety reasons and lack of conveniences.
On the northwest side of the intersection of FM Roads 541 and 1344 was the site of the Dewees School. The school only provided education for the elementary grades. For high school education, the students would usually attend school in Floresville. The original school was destroyed by fire and temporary quarters for classes were provided in the gin scale house, the store and local residences. Education of the children was always a very important necessity for the area families. The school was rebuilt and also provided a meeting place for local gatherings and church services.
Written by Historian Gene Maeckel for the Wilson County Sesquicentennial 1860-2010.
DEWEES WILSON COUNTY TEXAS ..... COURTESY/ Texas School History & The Portal to Texas History