If Beeville residents want to discover what could happen if its city leaders don’t ensure its water supply, we suggest reading editor Tim Delaney’s account (in Wednesday’s Progress) of the little town in McMullen County that dried up and blew away.
He wrote: “A good example of a town that died because of drought is Wentz, once located at the end of Farm-to-Market Road 99, south of state Highway 72, in McMullen County.
“Today, hardly a trace of Wentz can be found, but once, back in the early 20th century, the town had grown to a population of 200 people.”
According to the Texas Handbook Online, “by 1914, Wentz had a post office and, by 1916, a hotel, two schools, two grocery stores, a meat market, a cotton gin, a lumberyard, 200 people and a weekly newspaper.”
The Handbook continues: “Wentz was crippled by a drought that lasted from November 1916 to March 1918. Repeated attempts to drill water wells met with failure. By the early 1920s, most of the residents had left; in 1921, the post office was closed. The schools closed in 1948, and, by 1952, only a few families lived in the general vicinity. A 1967 map shows nothing standing on the original townsite.”
Delaney concluded, “Wentz serves as a reminder how valuable water is to people. Without it, towns die.”
Certainly our area has been blessed with some beneficial rains in the last week and a half. Fields are green, and stock tanks are overflowing. In fact, county officials have rescinded the burn ban in Bee County, effective Friday.
Yet, we’re always just days, months or years away from the next drought in this arid section of South Texas.
It is encouraging that city leaders were meeting with officials at the State Capitol in Austin about this important topic and are considering a bond issue to fund expensive projects to guarantee an ample supply of water for the Beeville area’s future.
However, we cannot emphasize enough where we believe this issue needs to rate on Beeville’s priority list. If not, we will remember when this city once had so much promise... Wentz upon a time. – Chip Latcham