MATHIS, TEXAS. Mathis is on State Highway 359 near Interstate Highway 37 in western San Patricio County. It was planned by Thomas H. Mathis when the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway crossed the county in 1887. He chose the spot for the town on a slight hill and gave 300 acres for the townsite. He also gave land for the school and offered a lot to any church that would construct a building. Mathis and his brother, J. M. Mathis, helped start the Coleman, Mathis, Fulton Cattle Company and received 37,000 acres in the Mathis area in 1879, when the company was dissolved and the Coleman-Fulton Pasture Company organized. When the railroad left Skidmore and headed for the Rio Grande valley, T. H. Mathis owned 60,000 acres in the area. In order to keep cattle out of the new townsite, he built a fence enclosing the area. As late as 1906 there were still two double gates at the north and south approaches to Mathis. Many of the early settlers and business owners in Mathis came from Lagarto, which was a thriving trading post until the railroad bypassed the town. A post office was established in Mathis in 1890 with S. B. Carnes as postmaster. The first school was held in a private home in 1893; it was supervised by Mrs. S. G. Miller and taught by a Mr. Shannon. In 1895 Common School District No. 3 was organized and a one-room school built. The school system grew as the rural one-room schools in the area closed and residents sent their children to Mathis.
The San Antonio, Uvalde and Gulf Pacific Railroad reached Mathis in 1913, and a chamber of commerce was organized the same year. Mathis grew as a trading center for a large ranching area reaching into Nueces, Jim Wells, Live Oak, and Bee counties. Ranching and cotton and corn farming were the basis of the city's economy until the early 1930s, when vegetable production began on a large scale. Onions, cabbage, carrots, and spinach were grown as winter crops, and packing sheds were built on both railroads. F. H. Vahlsing, a vegetable broker headquartered in St. Louis, entered the market and in the early 1950s purchased 7,000 acres of land two miles north of Mathis. He drilled deep wells, installed an irrigation system, and built a vegetable shed and two gins. Vegetables had ceased to be a major crop in the area by the mid-1960s, when sorghum, cotton, and corn constituted the backbone of the farming community. Discovery of a limited amount of oil in the area in 1940 helped diversify the economy. The town was incorporated in 1939, with William Allison Guynes as the first mayor. Guynes, a physician, was also instrumental in establishing the first hospital in Mathis in the late 1930s.
Aldermanic government was introduced in 1966. The construction of Lake Mathis (now Lake Corpus Christi) on the Nueces River four miles from Mathis opened a new area of development in the early 1930s. In 1959 the Wesley Seale Dam raised the level of the lake to ninety-four feet above sea level and brought more lakeside development to enrich the town's economy. In 1988 Mathis had a population of 5,910. Probably twice that number lived around the lake. Ranching and farming form the basis for the economy, but tourism around the lake is important. In 1990 the population was 5,423. The population dropped to 5,034 by 2000.
Keith Guthrie, History of San Patricio County (Austin: Nortex, 1986). Houston Post, December 4, 1963. Mathis News, June 28, 1957.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Keith Guthrie, "Mathis, TX," accessed February 21, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hfm03.
Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on September 23, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.