Talk of Wilson County TX Historic Towns

by Barbara J. Wood
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Floresville Electric Light & Power System

The Floresville Electric Light & Power System is a municipally owned electric utility providing service in Wilson, Karnes and part of Bexar counties.  The Cities of Stockdale, Poth and Floresville each own a portion of the system that was formed in January 1, 1943.

Floresville Comes from Darkness to Light
Floresville's long felt desire to get electricity began to make progress in February, 1915 by B. J. Carrico, a consulting engineer and contractor of Fort Worth.  He was the man of means and movement to put in an electric system that would be a credit to Floresville.

In April, 1915 electricity was no longer a dream.  Floresville's long talked of light plant was at last to become a reality.  W. T. Pitman, of Fort Worth, one of the promoters began actual operations, accompanied by John Barner, an expert electrician of Marietta, Oklahoma.

A carload of poles was soon unloaded.  The front end of the Ballard building next to John W. Wood's store was rented for an office and electric supply store.   Work on the plant's home began.  It was erected at the City Waterworks Plant and was a 30×50 structure and made of brick and hollow tile.

The Floresville Light and Power Company would be the name of the new concern.  The plant's proposed size would take care of a town twice the size of Floresville at that time.  It was the intention of the promoters to supply the surrounding towns and rural communities power if this endeavor proved to be a success.

Lighting the City of Floresville
June 19, 1915 at 7:30 p.m. was the date to remember.  That was the date Mayor S.V. Houston consented to press the button turning the lights on in the City of Floresville.  He expressed a desire to have at least three of the prettiest girls of Floresville to act as his attendants, so that he may be properly cared for, should he touch the wrong wire.  So the citizens selected the young ladies by secret ballot votes.

Throwing the switch and turning on Floresville's first lights took place at the power house by Mayor Houston assisted by the three prettiest young ladies, Nora Houston, Robbie Smith and Clara Culpepper, who were the winners of the contest. A large crowd attended the celebration. A full explanation of the workings of the plant was given before the lights were turned on.  It indeed was a memorable event for the City of Floresville.  After the lights were on, the crowd of excited people marched to the Opera House for a delightful and appropriate program.  This evening, June 19, 1915 went down in the history of Floresville for this date the old town took a step forward.  R. L. Eschenburg, Sr., prominent businessman and alderman, then gave a brief talk and told of the many improvements that would be underway.  It definitely had a ring of a booster to the community.

Taking over the City Waterworks Plant
In July, 1915 the Floresville Light and Power Company took over the City Waterworks Plant and the city water was pumped from the power house.

Homes and businesses were soon wired and street lights were being installed.  The promoters were very pleased with the support being accorded and the residents were equally as well pleased with the new service.

In November, 1925, Flem Spruce, Mgr. of the New Lone Star State Power Company, the new public utility plant that took over the Floresville Light and Power Company informed the public that new high power lines would be installed.  These lines were the lines between Floresville & Poth and Floresville & Stockdale.  In addition to these lines, Mr. Spruce stated that the company would install a new diesel engine of not less than 200 HP to take care of all the needs of Floresville, Stockdale and Poth.

In 1928, San Antonio Public Service Company purchased the assets of the power company with Flem Spruce still the manager.  Then in 1942, Floresville Electric Light and Power System was formed by the Cities of Floresville, Stockdale and Poth by purchasing the assets of the San Antonio Public Service Company.

Lighting by the Numbers
FELPS 1942 audit show 489 customers in Floresville, 135 customers in Poth and 178 customers in Stockdale, a total of 802 customers.  FELPS 1950 audit show 811 customers in Floresville, 237 customers in Poth, 347 customers in Stockdale and 1,462 customers in the rural area of the three cities, a total of 2,857 customers.  Then in February, 2009 there were 13,647 FELPS customers.  As of December 2018 FELPS had 15,908 customers.  This indicates the lights are shining to a larger number of residents.

The managers of FELPS after Flem Spruce in 1951 was Robert  F. Spruce until his sudden death in 1967, Fred R. Wauters until 1996, David K. McMillan until 2013, Kyle Dicke until 2015, Dwain Duke until mid-2018, and Winston G. Low beginning in 2019.

When World War II ended, Floresville Electric Light and Power System began to provide electricity to the rural folks in Wilson County. Floresville Electric Light and Power System had the franchise to sell electric appliances. The Floresville Ice Company manufactured the block ice in the rear part of the present FELPS office. FELPS and the Floresville Ice Company books were kept separately.

Customers that wanted an electric refrigerator signed up at the electric company and ice house in Floresville. People had been buying ice by the block, wrapping it up heavily to bring home and put in their ice box.  Every chip of that ice was treasured during the hot south Texas summers.  Sometimes extra ice was bought just to make a freezer of homemade ice cream.  It was a happy time for the families when it came their time to pick up their new General Electric refrigerator.  The refrigerators were very good as they stayed in use for many years. FELPS sold a variety of electric appliances and also had a small appliance repair shop in the FELPS office. Employee Juan J. Martinez was the repair man.  There were many small appliances like irons and toasters that came in to be repaired.  FELPS turned over the General Electric Franchise to Hoelscher's Furniture and Appliances in the early 1970's and discontinued selling ice for the Floresville Ice Company until in the 1970's.

Floresville, the county seat of Wilson County, is a picturesque city with much charm. As one walks the streets in the downtown area, it is like taking a step back into the past.  Many buildings give that appearance. One of these buildings is the Floresville Electric Light & Power System located on the corner of Fourth and C Streets, the street behind the Courthouse Square.  Exterior of this 1929 building is a modified Spanish-Revival structure designed by Atlee B. and Robert M. Ayres, Architects.  Atlee B. Ayres (1873-1969) was a noted San Antonio, Texas, resident and architect involved with more than 500 architectural projects, mostly in and around the Alamo City. White stucco walls, a red tile roof and the tile inserts combine to give FELPS its delightful effect. June 19, 1915 is a date to remember.  That was the date Floresville Comes from Darkness to Lights by having electricity.

Viola Henke, started to work part-time at FELPS in 1954 when she was a freshman in High School and until she retired in 2006. Viola is still a trustee of the Pension Trust in 2020.

(Information courtesy of Viola Henke)