by Barbara J. Wood
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LABATT

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Peanut farmers

Wilson County Texas Peanut farmers from the Labatt community harvesting peanuts in the late 1940s. Can you identify any of these hard- working men?
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COURTESY / Wilson County News
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LABATT WILSON COUNTY TEXAS

..... A rural community, located 6 miles northwest of Floresville between Lodi and Calaveras, the majority of Labatt's founding families were farmers and ranchers of Czech, German, and Mexican 
descent.
 
The area is blessed with sandy loam suited for cotton, watermelons, and peanuts. The first rail carload of watermelons in Wilson County was loaded at Elasco Switch on the Harry Roemer property.
 
The community was named after Galveston attorney Henry J. Labatt, a promoter of the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad (SAAP) which reached Labatt in 1885, bringing a lively heartbeat to the community. The SAAP built flag stations, the Elasco Switch and the Wagsand Switch, each about 1 1/2 miles long, to sand pits in the area. Mission Wood & Coal Company shipped wood from Labatt to San Antonio for heating.
 
The center of Labatt was located where Old Goliad Road, which paralleled the railroad, and Labatt Road crossed near the river.The railroad built a 3/4-mile-long siding in Labatt where trains could pass each other. During World War II, troop trains would stop for layovers on this siding. 
 
There was a Western Union substation where Labatt Road crossed the railroad (building still there). There was a small store and in-ground scale next to the siding where farmers weighed their products for shipping. On the Harry 
Roemer farm on Jackson Gulch at the Elasco Switch, the SAAP had a water tower, where trains took on water, pumped from the river.
 
The Labatt School was organized in 1915. The first trustees were William Roemer, Amado Rodriguez Sr., Charlie T. Roemer, and Barney McCloskey. Miss Lucy May was the first teacher. Labatt School was originally located on the southwest side of the railroad and Old Goliad Road. It was later moved to the southeast side of Labatt Road between the railroad and the river. The school closed in 1950, becoming part of Floresville I.S.D.
 
The Labatt Road bridge, built in 1917 across the San Antonio River, graced the community for 89 years. The bridge from horse and buggy days was moved to Floreville Hike and Bike Trail for a new lease on life. Three major floods completely covered the bridge, washing out two west-ends spans in 1946. It survived both the 1998 and 2002 floods. The original iron bridge was replaced 
with a new concrete one. When the bridge was built, it became a link that tied two communities together. It allowed the families of the closed Medina School on the west side of the river to join the families of the Labatt School, making for a larger community of neighbors.
 
In its heyday, Labatt's residents enjoyed membership in several active clubs. A Butcher Club during World War II supplied fresh meat to its participating members. A Home Demonstration Club originated in 1934 is still active today. The Labatt 4-H Club is still making a big difference in the lives of young people. Labatt had a Community Club that made important decisions for the community while providing fun and fellowship.
 
There were several cemeteries in the community filled with loved ones leaving a strong legacy in Labatt.The physical structure of Labatt has changed - school, railroad, and other things of the past are now gone. Numerous descendants of the original families still reside in the 
community. They have been joined by newcomers that have moved to the area - Bentwood, Shannon Ridge, Abrego Lake, and other subdivisions - people that are unaware of the history of this fine community.

WRITTEN BY BENNY ROEMER for the Wilson County Sesquicentennial 1860-2010.