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Ruben E. Ochoa

BATESVILLE, TEXAS (Zavala County). Batesville is on the Leona River at the intersection of U.S. Highway 57 and Farm Road 117, fifteen miles east of La Pryor in northeast Zavala County. The first settlers in the area were ranchers Mont Woodward in the mid-1860s and the Bates family around 1869. By 1870 the Bates brothers, Elijah, Felix, and Finis, had developed a large ranch in the area; it spawned the development of a small community known as Bates Ranch.

Elijah Anderson Bates chartered the Comanche Irrigation Company in 1876 in partnership with his two brothers to develop the region's first irrigation project on two sections of land granted to them by the state of Texas. To comply with provisions of the state-subsidized project Bates proceeded to dam the Leona River and channel its water through a canal system to over 500 acres of farmland. The Bates brothers sold the irrigated area in two-acre plots. The farm complex matured as a community and was thereafter known as Bates Ditch. With the organization of Zavala County in 1884, Bates Ditch became the county seat, and its name changed to Batesville. The Zavala county courthouse was built in Batesville in 1884 from bricks made of Leona River soil on land donated by Elijah Bates. It was the county's first rock structure and became the social center for the surrounding area. The same year a post office was established in the community. Throughout the 1880s residents of Batesville joined with those of Loma Vista for camp meetings at the Leona River; these early summer religious meetings were the social event of the year.

By 1892 Batesville had an estimated 500 inhabitants, three churches, a gristmill, and three general stores. In 1897 the community had two schools, three teachers, and a student body of sixty-one; by 1908 Batesville's three schools had an enrollment of 130 and four teachers. In 1914 the community had Baptist, Christian, and Methodist Episcopal (South) churches, telephone connections, and a weekly newspaper, the Herald. The Holmes Hotel, built on the southwest side of the courthouse plaza, burned down in 1915. Although Crystal City became the Zavala county seat in 1927, Batesville remained a trading center for the northeastern part of the county. Aggressive water-well drilling into the Leona gravel by a Mr. O'Keefe and the subsequent clearing of over 500 acres for irrigation south of the city ushered in large-scale farming. By 1933 Batesville had an estimated population of 200 and four businesses. In the late 1930s the population was two-thirds Anglo and one-third Hispanic. Immediately after World War II the community installed electricity and developed an even larger irrigation system. In 1947 it had six businesses and an estimated population of 200. Neglect in maintaining the dam and canal system throughout the 1950s and a period of extreme drought until late in the decade led to the expiration of the Comanche Irrigation District Charter in 1959. In 1963 Batesville had 250 inhabitants and thirty businesses. Over the next decade, though, it lost over one-third of its population and nearly half its businesses. Local tradition indicates that political and racial tensions in Crystal City in the 1960s helped fuel a modest population increase in Batesville (see CRYSTAL CITY REVOLTS). By 1988 Batesville had an estimated population of 200 and twelve businesses, three churches, and a school; numerous cafes and service stations were located on the frontage road for U.S. Highway 57 on the north edge of town. The community continued to revolve around its circular town plaza and its adjacent post office in 1990, when the population was 1,313. In 2000 the populaton fell to 1,298.

Early History of Batesville, Organization of Zavala County, and Biographical Sketch of Elijah Anderson Bates (MS, Texas State Archives, Austin). Zavala County Historical Commission, Now and Then in Zavala County (Crystal City, Texas, 1985). Zavala County Sentinel, Centennial edition, July 25, 1958.

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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, Ruben E. Ochoa, "BATESVILLE, TX (ZAVALA COUNTY)," accessed July 06, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hlb12.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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