From the Handbook of Texas Online:

Yoakum is on the Lavaca-DeWitt county line. It was built on a league of land granted to John May by the government of Coahuila and Texas in 1835 and was used as a gathering ground for cattle to be driven up the Chisholm Trail. Yoakum did not grow until the construction of the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway in 1887. At this time a townsite was laid out and named after Benjamin F. Yoakum, vice president and general manager of the line. J. P. Jamieson built a store in 1887, and a post office opened that year. Railroad shops were located in Yoakum in 1888, and hundreds of people from surrounding towns found employment at its large roundhouse. The town was incorporated on May 13, 1889, with L. W. Thomas as mayor. By 1896 Yoakum had a cotton mill, three cotton gins, a compress, several churches, a bank, an ice factory, specialty and general stores, two weekly newspapers and one daily, a school system with 700 pupils, and a population of 3,000. By 1914 the number of residents had reached 7,500. In 1919 Carl Welhausen took over a small tanning company, the first of several in the city. The firm, known as Tex-Tan, a manufacturer of saddles, bridles, harnesses, belts, billfolds, and novelties, later became part of the Tandy Corporation. By 1940 other local industries included a creamery and a mattress factory. The first commercial tomatoes in the Yoakum area were grown in 1926. By the 1940s fifteen packing sheds in Yoakum shipped tomatoes north, and the town was sometimes called the tomato capital of south central Texas. In 1970 Yoakum had 170 businesses, including a leather-goods shop, a meat-packing plant, a food-processing plant, a metal workshop, a cannery, a newspaper, and two banks. Yoakum community services in 1989 included a nursing home, a hospital, a library, a municipal park, and a municipal airport. The Bluebonnet Youth Ranch, a home for neglected children, was founded by Charles Kvinta in 1968. The former home of J. K. Elkins and Mr. and Mrs. William Browning became the Yoakum Heritage Museum in 1982. The town had twenty-one churches of ten denominations. Among them is St. Joseph's Catholic Church, which celebrated its centennial in 1969. The First Baptist and First Methodist churches were built in 1889. Yoakum is a division point for the railway and also the site of a Texas highway department office. Since 1960 the town has sponsored an annual wildflower trail in the spring, which includes a guided tour and wildflower art exhibits. The May Tom-Tom Festival, which first publicized the tomato business, began in 1928, was suspended for five years in World War II, and resumed in 1946. The annual event now celebrates the local leather industry and is called the Leather Tom-Tom Festival. A local Youth Rodeo is held each July. The population of Yoakum, listed as 4,733 in 1940, grew steadily throughout the next four decades. In 1984 it reached 6,148, with 3,283 in Lavaca County and 2,325 in DeWitt County. In 1990 the population was 5,611.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Paul C. Boethel, The History of Lavaca County (San Antonio: Naylor, 1936; rev. ed., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1959). Yoakum Sesquicentennial Book Committee, Yoakum Community (Dallas: Curtis, 1988).
Mary M. Orozco-Vallejo
Place cursor on postcard of Yoakum's Grand Avenue to see another view.

1893 Yoakum Businesses and City Officials

Yoakum Weekly Herald
Dec 17, 1908


The Herald is in receipt of a miniature directory sent to us by some one in Columbus, Texas. We can’t just say who was the donor and the only thing we know is that it came in an envelope with the Colorado Citizen return on it, which shows I.G. STAFFORD, publisher. The directory was gotten up by WILLIAMS & CO. and printed by the old Yoakum Graphic with W.A. MAIR, editor and proprietor and was issued in 1893.

We reproducing the business portion of the directory to show the people of Yoakum and surrounding country what vast changes have taken place in a little more than a decade. On the inside cover page appears an ad for the Yoakum opera house with B.P. STEPHENSON proprietor and manager. Mr. STEPHENSON was a cotton buyer and dealer in general merchandise. The next page gave a brief description of Yoakum with a small population though only six years old, and her location with the flattering prospects of her fast becoming a city.

J.D. MONTGOMERY, attorney-at-law and Joe LEVY, justice of the peace. These gentlemen were also in the real estate and insurance business.

“Large trees from little acorns grow” are the headlines in the ad of FINK & RADER, lumber dealers. Grand Avenue Pharmacy, J.M. CLARK proprietor and he was also in the stationary business. Mrs. K. MCCOWAN millinery and dressmaking. Palace Barber Shop, D.F. STREETER, proprietor.

City Directory: Mayor, J.D. MONGOMERY; attorney, J.M. GREEN; secretary, M.G. RANNEY; treasurer, A.W. TURNER; assessor and collector, J.G. DYAS, C.F. SCHAEFFER, H. TRIBBLE, H.J. PRAUSE, Joe LEVY and J.S. SCHRIMSCHER.

Lavaca County Officers: County Judge, P.H. GREEN; county attorney, J.P. ELLIS; county clerk, John BUCHANAN; Sheriff, John F. HOUCHINS; treasurer, A.B. DEVALL; assessor, R.D. ZUMWALT, collector, B.F. CULPEPPER; surveyor, H.H. RUSSELL. Commissioners: No 1, 5, and 8, H.M. MEYER; No 2 and 6, A. GLECKLER; NO 3 and 7 , J.D. A. MEYER; No 4, J.M. WALDROP.
A.W. FREYER in the mercantile business. J.H. PHILLIPS dealer in staple and fancy groceries. White House Saloon, HACKETT & BARR proprietors.

DeWitt County Officers: Judge Ed KOENIG; attorney, S.C. LACKEY; clerk, J.P. BAKER; collector, W.H. GRAHAM; treasurer, H.E. DAHLMAN; assessor, Wm. GRAFTON; surveyor, G.H. SCHLEICHER; sheriff, Thos. M. STELL; Commissioners: Precinct No 1, J.P. WRIGHT; No 2, W.J. SIMPSON; No 3, B.R. BURROW; No 4 , John JUNKER.

The postmaster for Yoakum was E. MULLEN; H.C BRANDT & SON , dealer in gents furnishings; WEATHERLY BROS., grocery dealers.

The following are the pastors of the different churches: Baptist, Rev. M.C. WILLIAMS: Presbyterian, Rev. T.A. LEACH; Episcopal, Rev. HUDWON; Methodist, Rev. J.P. RODGERS, Sabbath School, T.M. DODD, Supt.

Yoakum Improvement Co., J.G. BLANKS, proprietor and also dealer in real estate; FISHER & ARLITT, merchant tailors; J. MCFARLAND, dealer in stationary and holiday goods; BISMARK SALOON, A. STOERMER, proprietor; Wm. LEHMS, first class meat market; Henry W. NAGEL, hardware dealer; L. LEVYTANSKY, dealer in jewelry and optical goods; HORSE SHOE SALOON, WHITTINGTON & HOUCHINS, proprietors; the oldest paper published in Yoakum, the Yoakum Graphic, W.A. MAIR, proprietor; M.E. GEBERT, dealer in general merchandise; LONE STAR SALOON, C.M. KEEPERS & CO., proprietors; Yoakum Weekly Times, the official organ of the city, W.L. JOHNSTON, proprietor; Grand Avenue Drug Store, R.J. FIELDER, proprietor; Red Light Saloon, T.G. GRADY, proprietor; Bank Saloon, John GLAZIER, proprietor; Private Boarding House, Mrs. TERRY & JETTON, proprietor.

In the headlines of the lumber company of A. GILMER he gave the citizens of Yoakum good advice by saying build your home in Yoakum.

The High School faculty was as follows: G.D. SCOTT, superintendent; J. CHERRY, first assistant; Miss Pearl DARBY, fifth grade; Miss Venice MCDADE, fourth grade; Miss Bertie SEARCY, third grade; Miss Leigh TOLLESON, second grade; Miss Clemmie BOOONE, first grade; Mrs. P.B. THOMASON, West End School; J.D. MONTGOMERY, chairman of school board and Joe LEVY, secretary.

Newspaper article transcribed and contributed by Carla Hillman Ratcliff

Historical Markers

North Intersection of US 77 A and US 77-A business


Located on DeWitt-Lavaca county line on land granted by Mexico in 1835 to settler John May. Cattle gathering area for Chisholm Trail. With coming of San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad in 1887, became transportation center. Named for rail official B. F. Yoakum; incorporated in 1889. Industries: beef, leather, canning plant.

North Intersection of US 77-A and US 77-A business

The Trail Drivers of Southwest Texas

In Memory of The Trail Drivers of Southwest Texas who passed this way 1867-1887.

810 Front Street

Municipal Power Plant [DeWitt County]

After attempts by Yoakum officials to purchase existing electric power facilities failed, the city voted in 1930, at a commission meeting attended by about 300 local residents, to build its own municipal power plant. This building was designed by the firm of Montgomery and Ward engineers of Wichita Falls and built by F. O. Crawford of Yoakum in 1932 on land purchased from the Spencer-Sauer Lumber Company. The building housed Yoakum's sole electric power plant until 1938 and continued in use as an auxiliary electric plant until the early 1960s. From 1964 to 1989 the building served as a municipal machine shop. In 1988 city officials offered the "Friends of the Library," a local organization organized in 1978 to promote the city library, an opportunity to utilize the building. The organization made use of state funds and generous donations by local citizens to convert the building into a public library. The project has earned recognition as a fine example of restoration and adaptive use of a historic building. The building is an excellent example of an industrial facility. It features a 3-bay primary facade, large metal sash windows, a 5-part parapet with incised name block, and gable roof with protruding clerestory windows. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1993

505 Elenora

Park Place School Building

Built in 1912 as a public school, this structure was one of two schools of its design erected in Yoakum. In 1938 this building was enlarged with funds from the Works Progress Administration. During World War II, the building housed a leather school and was used as a housing facility. It remained in educational use until 1957, and later housed a retail business. The building exhibits mission revival style features. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1996

State Highway 111
Between St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery
and Oak Grove Cemetery

Ruins of Brushy Creek Church

On 50-acre site donated 1868 for church and school purposes by John H. and Stephen Dunn, in large Irish and Czech Catholic area near the post road trading station of Bovine. It was 1876-1912 Church of St. Joseph's Parish, founded in 1860s by Father John Anthony Forest (1838-1911), third bishop (1895-1911), Diocese of San Antonio. Parishioners built church 1869-76 of stone from Muldoon, East Texas milled pine, and hand-hewn logs. Blacksmiths made nails and hinges on the site. Floor was of hard-packed, mortared clay. On August 26, 1912, last Mass was said here; church burned in 1932. (1973)

200 block of Dunn Street

First Baptist Church of Yoakum

Yoakum was founded in 1887 when the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad built a line through this area. The town grew rapidly and on April 7, 1889, one month before the town was incorporated, the First Baptist Church was organized. Led by the Rev. H. M. Rowland from nearby Flatonia, the congregation began with seven charter members: J. H. and N. M. Clare; Edgar and Lydia Barnes; Thomas Johnson; Lou Thomas; and B. F. Griffin, who served as first church clerk. Rowland continued to serve the new congregation for a year. The church's first place of worship was a one-room frame building at the corner of West Hochheim and Lott streets. It was replaced in 1893 by a larger frame structure at East Gonzales and Dunn streets. By 1912 it was too small for the growing congregation, and a new three-story brick sanctuary featuring six large stained glass windows was built on the same site. With the addition of facilities to serve Sunday School and other needs, it served the congregation until a new structure was erected in 1974. Throughout its history this congregation has been involved in local and foreign missionary activities. It continues to be a vital part of the community. 1989

1026 East Gonzales

First Methodist Church of Yoakum

The Rev. Thomas S. Armstrong, sent by the East Texas Conference of the Methodist Church to establish a church in Yoakum, led a small group of Methodists in organizing this congregation on October 28, 1889. The charter members included Mrs. M. M. Riggs, Mr. and Mrs. Jim Hulse, Mrs. Martha Goode, Mrs. S. L. Edwards, Mr. and Mrs. D. F. Sistrunk, Mrs. Sarah Weatherly, and Mr. T. M. Dodd, who served as the congregation's first steward. Early worship services were held in a variety of locations, including the Knights of Pythias Hall, an empty saloon building on Front Street, and buildings shared with the local Presbyterian and Baptist churches. The Methodist congregation built its first house of worship in 1893 on the corner of Rose Street and Price Avenue. It was replaced with a brick structure in 1917, and the congregation moved to a new church building at this site in 1973. Throughout its history the First United Methodist Church of Yoakum has been active in service to the community. The Women's Missionary Society (now known as United Methodist Women) was founded in 1893 and has continued its outreach activities for more than a century. 1995

322 East Gonzales Street

First Presbyterian Church of Yoakum

This congregation was organized on December 31, 1893, with the help of Presbyterian Evangelist Dr. A. H. P. McCurdy and 22 charter members, including Thompson Presley, Mrs. M. H. Boyd, Mr. and Mrs. A. H. Harnden, Rosa Lee Scott, Susan Beason, Mrs. C. B. Crow, Mr. and Mrs. Newton Johnson, Gussie Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. W. C. Kaiser, Earnest Johnson, and Esther Starkey. In 1895 the congregation purchased land at this site and in 1898 they erected a 40 x 25 foot wood frame sanctuary. A Ladies Aid Society, later known as Presbyterian Women, organized in 1897, and a Sunday School opened in 1899. The congregation was served by Presbyterian evangelists until 1908 when the Rev. Edwin W. Ford became the first full-time pastor. Membership grew rapidly during the early 1900s and in 1917 the congregation reached its highest recorded enrollment of 212. In 1926 the original church building was shifted to another direction, brick-veneered, and modified into a two-story plant, with a sanctuary upstairs and a fellowship hall in the basement area. For many years Sunday School classes were held in a small wooden structure behind the church building. First Presbyterian Church continues to serve the community with various activities and programs.

US 77A and SH 111

Holy Cross Lutheran Church [DeWitt County]

Lutheran missionaries began serving settlers in the Yoakum area about 1888. The Rev. Cornelius Ziesmer and about ten families organized Holy Cross Lutheran Church on January 27, 1891. Early worship services were held in homes, the city hall, the old community opera house, and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. The first Lutheran sanctuary, completed in October 1893 at the corner of Hochheim and Schwab Streets, was destroyed by a tornado the following month. The members worked together to build a new structure on the same site, and it was completed in January 1894. The Rev. W. C. Wolfsdorf became the congregation's first resident pastor that same year. Serving a predominantly German membership, the church grew quickly. Its activities have included worship, civic, and missionary endeavors. The congregation purchased property at this site in 1948, and a new sanctuary was built in 1951-52 to serve the growing membership. An important part of local history for generations, Holy Cross Lutheran Church continues to be an integral part of the Yoakum community, still counting among its members descendants of its founding families.

507 Coke Street

Orth-Fitch House

Will Orth, a railroad conductor and the owner of a local flour mill, built this home in 1910. Soon other prominent Yoakum families began erecting homes on Coke Street, which became known as "Silk Stocking Row." Designed by local architect W. A. Fink, Orth's home features characteristics of the Queen Anne and colonial revival styles. Farmer and merchant T. J. Fitch bought the home in 1917, and it remained in his family until 1973. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1983

See Lavaca County Historical Markers page for other historical markers in the Yoakum area.

Related Links

City of Yoakum

Yoakum Local Attractions

Yoakum's Soda Pop War
Lone Star Diary at TexasEscapes.com

The Handbook of Texas Online

Richard Stewart Colley

DeWitt County

Hubert Renfro Knickerbocker

Inez Beverly Prosser

Lonnie E. Smith

Hart Stillwell

Nina Eloise Whittington Vance

Benjamin Franklin Yoakum

Henry Clay Youngkin

Leather Industry