History of Mathis

Mathis, Texas is located on farm road 359 along Interstate Highway 37 in western San Patricio County. History abounds in the area, with once beaten battlegrounds now lush with farmland, brush and grass for cattle grazing. The Nueces River once divided Texas from Mexico. It was a much disputed boundary, and it wasn't until the United States / Mexican war that the issue was settled, making the Rio Grande the official boundary. One of the more famous battles between the two countries was fought at old San Patricio, founded by the Irish and located 10 miles south of Mathis. The area was once inhabited by Karankawa and Lipan Apache Indians and was the site of several unsuccessful settlement attempts in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Thomas MathisMathis is named after Thomas H. Mathis who got naming rights after donating 300 acres for a town site and built a fence enclosing the town. As late as 1906, arriving and departing trains had to be let in and out. Mathis was incorporated in 1939.

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. By the 1960s, the agricultural crops had changed to sorghum, corn and cotton.

In the 1930s the Nueces River was dammed and Lake Mathis (since renamed Lake Corpus Christi) was formed. Construction of the Wesley Seale Dam in the late 50s raised the level of the lake to where it became desirable for weekend homes.

The area is a winter home for hundreds of Winter Texans from all parts of the state and country as well as Canada. Corpus Christi state park, comprising of 350 acres, nestles in a cove protected from the prevailing south-easterly winds by high limestone cliffs. The lake's 200 miles of shoreline provides areas for numerous camps and parks containing campsites, boat ramps, fishing piers, and RV and mobile home areas.

To view more information about the history of Mathis visit the online handbook of Texas.