A Texas Town Disappears

Cheapside Ghost Town | Gonzales Co. (formerly Dewitt Co.), Texas | P.O. founded c. 1882

Once a thriving community and commercial center for cotton, only a church and the crumbling remnants of the former settlement remain here in this ghost town in south-central Texas. The first European credited with settling here is George Lord, who immigrated to Canada from England in the 1830s when he was 18. He worked for several months on Mississippi steamers and on December 27, 1836, he joined a company of 75 volunteers under Captain Lyons for service in Texas.

Illustration of the Mier Expedition executions.

While fighting for the Republic of Texas Army in Mexico, George Lord was captured by Mexican troops during the Mier Expedition. The captured soldiers were marched to Mexico City, where 1 in 10 of them was executed. Lord was spared his life, and later, went to California during the Gold Rush of the late 1840s. After striking it rich there, he returned to Texas and purchased some 8,000 acres of rolling prairie, including the land that would become Cheapside.

Portrait of George Lord. Survivor of the Mier Expedition and first European settler in Cheapside, Texas.

Over the following decade, a wave of other families migrated here, including the Preston Family from Georgia and Thomas Baker, from Natchez, Mississippi, who built a log cabin here in 1857. As more people moved to the area, the town took form and in 1880, Thomas Carter, a shopkeeper, drew up town lots that were drawn to be 90 feet wide. 

Community Development

On June 5, 1882, a post office was established here and Dr. E.R. Henry, a local physician from Cheapside, Virginia, named the settlement. The residents of Cheapside lived and breathed by Texas’ agricultural economy, based heavily on cotton, livestock, poultry, and grain and in 1889, E.F. Elder built the first cotton gin and gristmill here.

1907 Postal Map of Gonzales County, TX showing Cheapside in the southern part of the county near the Dewitt County line. From the Texas General Land Office, state map #2090.

As the population of the town rose to 150 in 1904, the commercial district grew to include three grocery stores, a drug store, a blacksmith shop, a barber shop, a broom factory, and at least two saloons, along with a resident deputy sheriff to keep order. Cheapside also had Masonic and Woodsmen of the World meeting halls. There were several doctors and a daily stagecoach, and the town fielded a baseball team that played weekends, with rodeo events between games.

This is one of the only old homes still standing in Cheapside, Texas, believed to have been built about 1902.

Before electricity, locals would salt and smoke their meats to preserve them. Mechanical power first came to local stores in 1925 when an AC Delco plant was installed (a 32-volt gas-powered system). In 1939, rural electrification came to the community to power homes as well.

Churches and Schools At Cheapside

Cheapside Community Church, built in 1897 was moved to its present location in 1949. It has been shared by multiple denominations for years with the Baptists and Presbyterians alternating Sundays.

In 1874, The Cumberland Presbyterian Church was organized nearby at Bellevue and later moved to Cheapside. The Cheapside Baptist Church was organized in 1893.

From 1890 to 1913, A.T. Young ran a private school on Fulcher Creek. Once Fulcher’s private school closed, the community applied for a school for white children called the Cheapside School. During its heyday, grades 1-9 were offered, and between 120-135 students attended, instructed by 3 teachers.

Photo of the students of Cheapside School in 1924. Photographer: Flournoy. One former student shared that he rode a borrowed horse to school, and along the way, he would run traplines to catch foxes and raccoons to sell to buyers who came around weekly.

Agricultural Shifts Hit Cheapside

From the turn of the century, Cheapside experienced steady growth in population until an unexpected insect, a beetle called the boll weevil, showed up. Resistant to conventional insecticides, these beetles feed on the tender growth of young cotton plants. The boll weevil migrated across the Rio Grande and by 1903, it covered all of eastern Texas. In 1904 an estimated 700,000 bales were lost to the boll weevil, at a cost of $42 million. 

YOU CAN ALSO READ:   Old Florida Church Buries its Founder
An overgrown two-story home at Cheapside, Texas, also thought to have served as a boarding house for travelers.

By the 1920s, cotton crops were completely decimated just as The Great Depression took hold and the Cheapside Cotton gin was closed by 1940. This devastated local cotton farmers who had borrowed money from the bank against the cotton held in storage. When the price dropped to 2 cents per pound, most of them wouldn’t recover financially, while some reportedly went the way of bootlegging moonshine to pay their bills. Most of the farmland reverted to open pasture but by the 1930s, all the fields were shot because cotton had depleted the soil. According to Gonzales County historian, Genevieve Vollentine said: “The land was just worn out. We once had virgin soil, but there was no soil conservation and it just killed the farming.”

A Community Changed Forever

During the 1930s, the economy was in collapse as another World War was on the horizon. Drastic shifts were taking hold worldwide from which Cheapside would not recover. Families sent their sons off to war and many didn’t return. For the servicemen who did make it back, it was difficult to return to rural America after having seen the world.

Leroy Baker & Lucy Baker. Leroy Baker was born in Cheapside, TX in 1898, and in 1917, he enlisted along with 3 of his brothers to fight overseas in WWI. Leroy and 2 other Baker boys returned home, but his oldest brother, Sidney Walter Baker wasn’t as fortunate. After the war, Leroy left his rural hometown for better opportunities like many men of his generation.

The war effort created work in the cities, television promoted consumerism, and cars fueled the growth of suburbs and midsize regional centers like Gonzales and Cuero, where services and jobs consolidated. Places like Cheapside were casualties of an upwardly mobile society. “Pretty soon everybody was gone. By the end of World War II, the houses were abandoned.”

Decreases in enrollment reduced the school to a one-teacher school in 1941. By 1949, there were only eight students remaining, and the school at Cheapside was consolidated with Cuero School District. The 1950s brought droughts that dried up the cow pastures.

Today, the view looking up Cheapside’s Main Street is much different than it would have been 100 years ago.

By 1960, only one commercial business remained in Cheapside-a small grocery store operated by Joe Watson, who had purchased it from Earl L. Freeman in 1958.  A fourth-class postal service occupied part of the store and helped it to survive. Joe Watson and his wife Luella, the postmistress, operated the store and post office for 30 years.

Memories of Old Cheapside

Garlan Weber spent a good amount of his childhood in Cheapside and shared some of his memories of the town, “my uncle had a one-stop-shop in the town; it was a butcher shop, a meat market, a gas station, and a post office. Every morning, men of the town would gather at the store and chat. For a while, there were a lot of customers that came in from Houston to buy meat from the meat market in Cheapside,” Weber, said. “Grass-fed beef was popular then, as it is now. And people would drive in from Houston for that beef.”

The E.F. Freeman Butcher Shop (later the Watson Store) at Cheapside, TX. It also served as a post office, gas station, and meeting place for residents. The store and post office closed in 1989 and the store was demolished in the 1990s.

Weber’s Uncle Earl and Aunt Eula Freeman lived across the street from the store. The backyard of the home had sand, Weber said, and his Aunt Eula would sweep the sand every day. She also had several rose bushes and a large tree in her backyard where Weber would spend hours playing.

YOU CAN ALSO READ:   Historic Mississippi Crossroads Town

Former resident, Marge Kacir, grew up in Cheapside and has pleasant memories of growing up in a rural town. She remembered the two maids, Hattie and Mary Woods, of one of the homes in the town, and how the maids would call the town store whenever they needed an item for cooking, and the item would be ready for pickup that day. “That was the way the town was – everyone looked out for each other,” Kacir said.

The former schoolhouse is now used as a community center.

1970s-Today

From 1972 to the late 1980s, only 31 permanent residents claimed Cheapside as their home. By February 1989, the Freeman-Watson store closed, and the post office with it. In 1990 the interdenominational Cheapside Community Church still held services every Sunday. The old schoolhouse was converted into Cheapside Community Center and has been the site of frequent showers, suppers, and post-funeral gatherings.

This old brick building was a general store and pharmacy in the center of Cheapside, Texas.

The People of Cheapside

Today, there are only 4 residents who live on ranches surrounding the town. But at one point, 150 people called this place home, so I spent some time researching as many of them as I could find to share a glimpse of what this town once was.

The Goehring Family at their homestead in Cheapside, TX about 1895. The label on the photo reads: “Fahnert, Hugo, Louie, Charles Augusts Goehring, Fritz, Harmon, Vollie, Helena, Adeline (Michuelis) Goehring holding Macellius (age 3 mos)”

The Lord Family

Portrait of George Lord and his sons.

George Lord (1816-1895) was a soldier and rancher, born in Essex County, England, on April 21, 1816. His father, a brick mason, died in an accident while repairing a hot oven. His mother remarried but died later in London. In June 1834 George Lord moved to Canada, and two years later he was in New Orleans, where he worked for several months on Mississippi steamers. On December 27, 1836, he joined a company of 75 volunteers under Captain Lyons for service in Texas. After the war, he went to California during the Gold Rush and made a small fortune for himself before returning to Texas. George Lord received 1,280 acres of land from Texas for military service in the Republic of Texas and expanded his land-owning with additional acreage that he purchased with his mining profits. He raised longhorn cattle under the “diamond-and-a-half” brand on the ranch he established a ranch at Cheapside in DeWitt County. Lord died on February 23, 1895, and was buried in the Bellevue Cemetery at Cheapside.

The George Lord homestead, near Boggy Creek in Dewitt County, Texas.

The Preston Family

Sarah Ann Elder Preston (1832-1889) Wife of Leonidas Archibald (L.A.) Preston. Sarah and her husband L.A. Preston came from Walton County, Georgia shortly after they married in 1848. They raised a large family in Cheapside, Texas.

Photo of Leonidas Archibald Preston (1828-1913) at his farm in Cheapside, TX. Preston and his wife, Sarah Ann, who married in Georgia, were some of the earliest settlers to Cheapside. Photo courtesy of Janine Rodriguez, a descendant of Leonidas and Sarah Ann.

The Schroeder Family

Portrait of Johanna Charlotte Dorathea “Doretta” Bode and her husband, Heinrich “Nicolaus” Schroeder.

Johanna Charlotte Dorathea Bode was born on 26 October 26, 1834, in the Lueneberg Province of Hannover, Germany. Doretta, as she was called, married Heinrich “Nicolaus” Schroeder prior 1867. Heinrich Nicolaus, who was called by his middle name, was born on June 6, 1834, in the Wendewisch Province of Hannover, Germany. Doretta and Nicolaus had 5 children together in Hanover Germany before they immigrated- arriving at the Port of Galveston in 1879. By 1891, they were settled at Cheapside, Texas but Nicolaus died there a few months later. Doretta passed away in 1902 but their children continued on here, opening the Schroeder Store that operated for years. Their daughter, Minna, met and married her husband at Cheapside.

YOU CAN ALSO READ:   Forgotten Alabama Church Now Home to a Colony of Bats
Photograph of Minna Schroeder and Otto Fredrick Turk on their wedding day, December 4, 1896.

Minna Schroeder was born on January 29, 1877, in Hannover, Lower Saxony, Germany to Doretta and Nicolaus Schroeder. Soon after, she came with her parents and siblings to Texas, and eventually, they settled at Cheapside. Otto Fredrick Turk was born on April 5, 1872, in Germany. On December 4, 1896, Minna married Otto Fredrick Turk in Gonzales County, Texas. The young couple only had one child during their marriage when Minna died on April 7, 1906, in Cheapside, Texas. She was only 29.


The Terry Family

Portrait of Bailey Payton Terry Sr. and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Placker Terry.

Bailey Payton Terry, Sr. was born in DeKalb County, Tennessee in 1850, but moved with his family to Cheapside by 1860. After the Civil War, Bailey had to help support the family in the management of the farm and alongside his father, improved 500 acres on the old homestead. He eventually owned one of the most successful sheep farms in the area.

Mary Elizabeth Placker was born on March 12, 1852, in Arkansas. On February 10th, 1875, Mary and Bailey married in Dewitt County, Texas. They had at least 8 children that they raised together in Cheapside and also ran the first post office at Cheapside from their home.

In spite of his busy career, Mr. Terry was also involved in politics and was a regular attendant at both county and state conventions. For 30 years, the elections for his precinct were held in his old shop.


The Frisbie Family

Heye Frisbie, photo c. 1903

A sad story from the early 1900s emerged as I researched this community. Around 1903, a flu epidemic swept through Cheapside and claimed the lives of many residents- some of whom were children. I came across this photo of Heye Frisbie, taken in 1903 as he poses with a sample tombstone. Four of his brothers and a sister died-Alphonse, Major, Wilson, and Virginia in 1903 and another sister in 1904. This picture was made at the time when the family was looking for grave markers to memorialize them.


The Power Family

Pictured here are Benjamin Power with his first wife Henrietta Lee Bruton and their daughters Ethel and Maud.

Benjamin was born in Cheapside in 1859, a third-generation Texan. Henrietta was born in Boone, Missouri in 1864 and in the 1870s, relocated to Texas with her family, and in 1881, she married Benjamin Power. Henrietta died following the birth of their fifth daughter, Nettie, on July 26, 1888. Their first two girls had died as infants. Pictured with their parents are Ethel and Malinda Maud. Ben remarried in 1890 and had nine more children. He died of pneumonia at his home in 1917. In addition to raising his surviving three daughters, she bore him nine more children and continued.



Do You Enjoy These Stories?

Help Support This Project So I Can Bring You More!


19 thoughts on “A Texas Town Disappears”

  1. Nostalgic story. I grew up in rural Tennessee and can relate to much of this story. My home place is gone, as well as both my grandparents’ homes, and the two general stores. But my memories aren’t gone!

  2. So very interesting and also a bit sad. Life was hard on those early settlers in Texas especially the women. None of us these days should gripe about anything – we all have it very easy in most every way. Earlier settlers were, I think,more focused on living each
    day and were definitelyi hardier! German stock is always ambitious and eager to make it!

    1. In the 1950 thru early 1970 era we hunted in the around Cheapside, Pilgrim and Weesstche I was wondering if you had any information on those areas?

  3. As a Presbyterian minister I supplied the church at Cheapside in the early 1970s. Love reading about the community history!

  4. Wonderful history of a town no longer existing but I wonder if there are any of the families still living today.

  5. So interesting, just like the Community I grew up in. Sandy Texas 10 miles N.W of Johnson City. All that is left is the old community store old Spring Creek School and of course the Sandy Cemetery.
    At one time had a blacksmith shop, Church, Cotton gin. Store and several small one room schools, in the 1940’s to the end of 1960’s two large Turkey Hatchery.

  6. I’m from Mexico and I don’t know how I got over here Reading this history, to me is very interesting. Thank you for sharing this history with the public. I show it to one of my coworkers and he started Reading also.

  7. I remember Cheapside very well. My youngest son was born in Cuero Community Hospital.

    My husband was Ranch Foreman for J. Carter Thomas. His wife’s maiden name was Ann Friar. Not certain how they settled in Cuero, but he had ranches close to Yoakam. and other areas. He raised very gentle Gray Brahman cattle and developed his own breed, Milk Masters. He had one of his places situated along the Guadalupe. It was plentiful in pecans of all varieties. Dew Berries were found and chili petines grew along the fence line as well. Herds of deer were numbered almost daily of 40 to 60 head. It was amazing. They used to hunt raccoons on that place as well.

    Thank you for the memories.

  8. Kristina Kullin Gardner

    My Dad had a ranch off county road 192, his old homestead. After his mother passed he was raised by his aunt Docia Cooke. Daddy attended school there in Cheapside side before it closed as well. As child we would go to the ranch and always made visits to the Watson store. It was like stepping back in time. I still own the land there and every now and then take that trip through the old Cheapside town. Not much there any more. Kind of sad.

  9. I really enjoyed this story. So much hard times though. I use to wonder why people did not smile much in these old photographs; you can see the pain and suffering on their faces.
    I use to drive trucks all over the Cheapside area in the oilfield a few years ago. If only they knew how much wealth they were sitting on all those years. Oil continues to flow from there daily. Back when the oil boom of around 2013 (EAGLE FORD SHALE) there was drilling going on everywhere. The area lit up with oil derricks from WESTHOFF to TX-183 between GONZALES AND CUERO. There isn’t so much drilling going on these days but the trucks continue to haul and oil and waste water from there.
    I remeber that old church as well.
    Thanks for the history lesson.

  10. So interesting! Thank you for taking the time and energy to bring us this story. I just learned that my husband’s gg grandfather had 3 siblings die of diphtheria over the course of 3 months; one each month.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top