George West, the county seat of Live Oak County, is at the intersection of U.S. highways 281 and 59, sixty-three miles northwest of Corpus Christi, in the approximate geographic center of the county. It was named for George Washington West, who began ranching in Live Oak in the early 1880s. He purchased 1.5 leagues of land in June 1884 for $20,000, accumulated 116,000 acres of land in Live Oak County, and 40,000 acres in McMullen County by 1889. In 1912 he donated his name, a townsite, $100,000, and thirteen miles of railroad right-of-way through his ranch in order to establish a town on a railroad. The San Antonio, Uvalde, and Gulf Railroad laid the tracks in 1913.
George West was recorded in the county clerk’s office of Live Oak County on September 22, 1914. In 1856, when Live Oak County was established the county seat was Oakville. George West became the county seat in 1919. The town’s first public school was opened in 1912 and enlarged in 1921. The first church service was held in an office building in 1914; in 1979 Baptist, Methodist, and Episcopal congregations were thriving in the town.
Originally the primary economic activity in the George West area was ranching and agriculture. Since the 1920s oil and gas have assumed an equal economic role. In the 1950s uranium was discovered. In the 1960s and 1970s the population topped 2,000. The drop in the price of uranium in early 1980 lowered production of that commodity and led to a brief decrease in the population.
However, despite the decline of uranium mining and plunging oil and gas prices, which contributed to an economic slump in George West in the 1980s, the population rose to 2,629 in 1982 and held steady at that figure for the decade. The school district suffered from a decrease in tax revenue as businesses declined from ninety in 1982 to sixty-six in 1990. The population in 1990 was 2,586, and in 2000 it was 2,524.
Tourism increased with the development of such recreational facilities as Choke Canyon State Park, fifteen miles north of George West. Lake Corpus Christi State Recreation Area, twenty miles south of George West, is also a popular place for water sports. The Nueces River provides fishing and boating opportunities, and George West is a popular headquarters for hunters of deer, turkey, dove, and quail. A new regional recreational park adjacent to Veterans Memorial Airport provides playing fields and picnic areas as well as boat ramps on the Nueces River.
Two other parks in George West provide additional playground facilities. The county fair, held annually in March, is primarily a showcase for projects of the school children of the county but also provides an opportunity for adults to exhibit livestock and crafts. Other points of interest include the Grace Armantrout Museum, which houses artifacts of local historical interest, and the Live Oak County Library. The Progress, a weekly newspaper, serves Live Oak and McMullen counties. (source)
The Live Oak County Fair is an annual event held in George West that showcases projects from the local 4H club. The county fair also hosts livestock shows and auctions. Happening annually in March, the Live Oak County Fair is an event for the whole family — with carnival rides, games, and concessions available. This event is held at the Live Oak County Fair Grounds & Coliseum located at 3499 US-281, George West, TX 78022.
Today Katzfey Ranches is owned and operated by Mark Katzfey and is still a working ranch. The ranches raise cattle, irrigate for hay and feed, and now offer dove and turkey hunts along with lodging and an event venue managed by Dee Cathey.
Katzfey Ranches is a second-generation operation that originated in 1966 in part by a partnership of three brothers, Martin, Leonard, and Wilfred Katzfey. They formed a business known as Katzfey Brothers. They operated a feed mill, Coastal Bermuda dehydrating plant, grain elevator, bulldozing and land clearing operation, irrigated hay and forage for feed and they raised hogs and cattle.
The main headquarters known as “The Dehydrator” is located on County Road 440 about a mile North West of George West. The name originated from a large dehydrating plant that was there in the late 70s where the family dehydrated Coastal Bermuda mixed with steam and molasses and made them into pellets for cattle feed. It is now the location of the lodging and the venue, aka “The Barn at Katzfey Ranches”.
It was originally a work barn on the ranch transformed into a beautiful rustic venue built, decorated, and furnished with items indigenous to Live Oak County. The “Dehydrator” is fully ingrained in Live Oak County history and the Katzfey family heritage. Mark and Dee enjoy extending the small-town hospitality of Live Oak County using their historic facility. It is a great venue for fundraisers, parties, reunions, and weddings. Nothing compares to the God-given view that the ranch offers.
Grace Armantrout, a resident of Live Oak County for 70 years, lived the life of a true collector, gathering heirlooms, antiques, and objects of personal interest together with historical artifacts that recall life in George West and Live Oak County. Born in 1902, Armantrout spent all of her adult life in and around George West and when she died, in 1990, she left her entire collection and estate in trust to the community.
The Grace Armantrout Museum and its grounds exhibit the collection, including vintage furniture, antique firearms, a washstand that belonged to the town’s namesake George Washington West, china and glassware, seashells from around the world, a collection of antique smoking pipes and eyeglasses, books, photographs, and paintings. Armantrout made a point of collecting Live Oak County artifacts whenever the opportunity arose, helping to preserve the heritage of this South Texas community. The museum opened in 1995 and features one of the last items Armantrout collected — a train caboose!
If you’re looking for “the best place to eat in George West,” then, according to their many shining reviews, George West Steakhouse is the place to be. Located at 302 Houston St, George West, TX 78022, the Steakhouse is family-owned and operated, and offers up stellar service and legendary mesquite-grilled steaks.
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