A week or so ago, on a clear, gentle spring day we took our dog, Rita, and our cat, Louie, on a drive to Lytle, Texas, about twenty five miles south of San Antonio. Lytle sits in the midst of a blanket of fertile farmland which was intensely green this April day. It has a large, welcoming city park where kids come to play and families have picnics and birthday parties and such. (Click on thumbnails to see bigger version and check out the Lytle photo album where there is also a map showing its location relative to San Antonio). This Saturday there were several picnics and a big birthday party for a little tiny girl going on. After showing off Rita and Louie in the park we walked down the old main street of Lytle which straddles the railroad tracks. Now Interstate 35, the main road to la Frontera passes along the east side of town. Of course more contemporary commercial
development has sprouted there. This development includes an H.E.B.(our local and only significant chain of supermarkets -- a south Texas institution, really) whose arrival made a lot of people in Lytle quite happy.
When we were walking down the old main street, we came upon a couple putting gorgeous, huge fake flowers in a giant outdoor basket. They'd bought the basket as an Easter decoration and thought it was just too spectacular to put away and use once a year so they were replacing the Easter decorations with spring ones. The husband was very anxious that I know the idea wasn't entirely theirs: a friend around the corner had also decided to have year-round decorations.
Husband and wife were very happy to have moved to Lytle where they could afford a small, pretty house and both could be close to work. They told us about the Lytle Music Festival Saturday, May 21 from 2-10 PM. We are planning to go. Here is the poster announcing the program.
Lytle was started (founded sounds too purposeful) by John T. Lytle, a Confederate soldier who'd come out West to be a rancher and trail driver in the 1860's. I think under his influence, Lytle built a railway station on the International-Great Northern tracks which boosted the town considerably. By 1883, Lytle had a general store, a bar, a casketmaker and facilities for shipping. By 1884 50 people called Lytle home and it had a Union church (I'm not sure what a Union church is). By 1892, the population had grown to 100 and there were four general stores, two livestock breeders and a Methodist church. Although the population of the town sounds small, little towns like Lytle were centers for farmers and ranchers in the area.
In additon, coal had been found in the region. The three mines, The Carr Company, the Berreti Company and the Belto Company hired 500 workers. I don't know how long the mines have been abandoned, but now they are apparently just large overgrown pits. It would be worth finding them on another trip.
By 1904, the population was 212 and the Lytle school had 62 students and two teachers. Today it is a private home. The town was incorporated in 1912 when there were 600 inhabitants, a weekly newspaper, five general stores, telephone services, two lumberyards and the Lytle State Bank. A hotel had been built in 1895 called the Bush Hotel, later changed to the Rose Hotel.
Oil was discovered in the region, but it seems not to have made a significant impact on the town's economy.
By 1930, hard times were evident in Lytle. An irrigation company had failed to complete a facility and the town lost its incorporated status. The town still did not have water or disposal facilities. Under the leadership of Dr. W.H. Joyce, the president of the Chamber of Commerce the town acquired these basic services and in 1951, it was reincorporated.
The history of the Lytle Church of Christ fills in the picture a bit more. A Church of Christ congregation that was established at the head of Luros Creek outside of Lytle in the 1840's. There is little information until 1948 when it seems the CoC in Natalia in Atascosa County had grown large enough that it was decided there should be a Lytle congregation. This new congregation appears to have gotten its start at a tent revival led by "a brother Profitt from Oklahoma" on Main Street. It seems to have been so successful that the Lytle School Board gave the congregation permission to meet in the high school band hall which originally served as a stockade and base jail for Hondo Air Force base which today no longer exists. It now and for some time has had its own church building. We didn't get a picture of it, but we did of the Baptist Church which now is largely Hispanic. See photo album.
Today with a population of roughly 2500 and growing slowly, the face of Lytle has undergone dramatic changes. It's now 61.2% Hispanic, 36.5 Anglo, 21.6% "other" and 1.6% American Indian. This obviously adds up to more than 100%. I don't know why. The median age is 34.4, and there are slightly more women than men. It is more comfortable than some South Texas towns, probably because it's not too far from San Antonio and it is right on the Interstate. The average income is $34,857; the average house value is $64,000. Of the households, 96 have an income of under $10,000 a year, 269 under $25,000, and 463 have an income of less than 40,000. There are 52 households with an income over $100,000 and two with an income over $200,000. The Anglo population is quite a mix with people reporting family origins in Denmark, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Portugal, Armenia, Belgium, Sweden, Russa, Poland and France in addition to Scottish, Scotch Irish, French and English.
Information for this comes from from
The Small Towns Research Project at Palo Alto Community College, http://www.city-data.com/city/Lytle-Texas.html
Lytle Church of Christ
and our trip to Lytle.