in a Pecan Shell|
The oldest community in Caldwell County, the town
was named by Sam Houston for his (future) wife Margaret Lea Houston. Edmund Bellinger,
a veteran of San
Jacinto became the community’s first settler, in 1839. After a grist mill,
sawmill and cotton gin were built on the San Marcos River, the town gathered residents.
The town got its first store in 1849.
During the Civil War, men from
Prairie Lea served with Hood's Texas Brigade and took part in the ill-fated Sibley
Campaign in New Mexico. Residents raised money to send for the abandoned and destitute
troops. A tax was imposed to raise funds for local families who had lost their
breadwinners in the war.
Reconstruction brought so much violence that
many residents chose to move to Mexico. By the 1870s things had returned to pre-war
tranquility, but in the later part of that decade a disastrous fire destroyed
the town’s business district.
In the mid 1880s Prairie Lea had a population
of 100, growing to 350 by 1914. The town had an economic boost during the 20s
from the Luling oilfield, but that increase
in population was short lived. Prairie Lea sat undisturbed for decades and the
population remained at 100 as late as 1990.
cell phone casulty|
TE photo, March 2008