History of Dimmit County

Dimmit County, which was established in 1858, was named after a former Pennsylvanian adventurer, Philip Dimmitt, who moved to Texas prior to the Texas Revolution. He was a captain during the war and continually fought for Texas independence. Dimmitt never received any credit for what he had so dearly fought for, so someone finally thought to recognize his service by naming a new county after him. However, nobody could remember how to spell his name correctly so they dropped a “t” and spelled it Dimmit.

The Texas legislature designated the county as a part of the Webb, Bexar, Uvalde, and Maverick Counties. In the mid-1800’s the county consisted of grassland filled with brush and cactus. The Nueces River that appears and disappears along with a network of spring-fed streams and lakes sustained huge herds of cattle, sheep and horses that freely roamed the area. Along with the Nueces River, the Frio River is one of the largest tributaries. Some of the creeks, streams and rivers in Dimmit County are the San Pedro, San Ambrosia, Pena, Carrizo, and the Espantosa. Many are susceptible to going dry during drought.

Among the earliest American settlers were Captain Levi English and family, W.C. Dickens, James Roberts, William McLaughlin, Silas Hay, Duncan Lammons, J.P. McCarley, Constant Taylor, Constant Terry, ex-slave Bob Lemmons and the Bell brothers. Due to the Indian attacks, many of the outlying ranches were soon abandoned and settlers returned to Carrizo Springs, which was the seat of Dimmit County. This area had earned the reputation of being “no man’s land.” However, people were still drawn to Carrizo Springs because of cheap land and bountiful springs.

In Carrizo Springs the first houses built by the settlers were jacales, which were copied from Mexican pastores huts around that general area. The walls were straight posts, pickets of mesquite, or elm from the creeks that were set in the ground and lashed together with other smaller branches using rawhide and caliche mixed with gravel finished the inside of the walls.

However, with the organization of Dimmit County the era of cheap land was coming to an end. During the late 1880’s and 1890’s the word spread that the population was very thin and people came to these parts ultimately to take part in developing Carrizo Springs. The economic base of Dimmit County was cattle and sheep ranching. With the introduction of wire and fencing, farming began to appear in small amounts. In 1888, a drought put an end to the sheep ranching business. Cattle ranching and farming were able to come back after the drought. Also pecan orchards began to arise in the place of sheep ranching. During the drought however, people had to resort to other sources of income, so they found a sponsor up North that would buy Javelina hides. So people began to trap Javelinas until the drought was over to make ends meet.

In the 1900’s truck farming began. Farmers who owned five to 10 acres would farm a variety of grains, fibers and vegetables. They were able to bring in two different crops per year. After harvesting the crops, the farmers would haul their goods to San Antonio to sell. By 1910, farmers were able to ship their crops by rail. There were two main railroads serving the area, Asherton & Gulf and the S.A.U.& G. With the railroads came expansion, as new towns began to arise along their tracks: Asherton, Dentonio, Big Wells, Bermuda, Brundage, Catarina, Winter Haven, and Shady Acres. Colonization of this area began to attract numerous people.

Although it is an area with few inhabitants, Carrizo Springs and the surrounding area have several historic landmarks. El Camino Real, or the Old San Antonio Road, is the only highway in Texas to be created by an act of the Legislature. El Camino Real as it pertains to Texas went from the Rio Grande (Guerrero Coah) through Texas to Natchitoches, Louisiana, winding across the southern part of Dimmit County. The original First Baptist Church of Carrizo Springs was built in the heart of the community, and still stands today adjacent to a more modern parish. Although it is unused, it still represents a significant historical value to the community.