Preserve America Community:
George West, Texas
George West (population 2,526), the county seat of Live Oak County, was named for George Washington West, who established a ranch in what is now the county in the early 1900s. In 1912 he donated his name, a town site, $100,000, and 13 miles of right-of-way through his ranch in order to entice a railroad to come and help establish a town. The town was first recorded in the county clerk's office in 1914 and became the county seat just five years later, when West offered $75,000 to build a new courthouse if the seat was moved to his town.
The community's first public school was opened in 1912, and the first church service was held in an office building in 1914. Originally the area was devoted to ranching and agriculture, but since the 1920s, oil and gas have assumed an equal role in the local economy. Tourism increased with the development of recreational facilities like Choke Canyon State Park and Lake Corpus Christi State Recreation Area. Hunting is a regular local pastime, and George West is a popular headquarters for hunters of deer, turkey, dove, and quail.
The City of George West, the Chamber of Commerce, and George West Storyfest Association, a nonprofit organization, have collaborated to preserve the heritage of storytelling in the tradition of the cowboy around the campfire. Over the last 20 years, Storyfest has grown into a three-day event that includes storytelling by local and professional storytellers, music, crafts, dancing, and fundraising for local civic organizations. Each November the event draws about 7,000 people to the city, which has prompted the Texas Legislature to designate George West as the "Storytelling Capitol of Texas." In the past two years, the Storyfest Association's focus has shifted to providing a permanent venue for storytelling, music, and drama in the community by renovating an abandoned movie theater on the Courthouse Square.
The Grace Armantrout Museum was donated by Miss Grace Armantrout, a spinster who bought land from which oil and gas were later mined. She developed a house museum in her 12-room home, and left everything in trust to provide a county museum. The museum was opened in 1995, and is supported by the community and the County of Live Oak. It boasts artifacts of the city's founder and others, research collections of county history, local short stories, news articles and biographies, and the venue hosts community activities.
For more information:
The City of George West Chamber of Commerce: http://www.georgewest.org/
George West Storyfest: http://www.georgeweststoryfest.org/
Grace Armantrout Museum: http://www.museumsusa.org/museums/info/1167631
Updated October 25, 2010