a Pecan Shell
The town was named
to honor Samuel J. Tilden, the runner-up in the 1876 Presidential
In 1858, there were two communities in the area. Thirty people who
had congregated near the mouth of Leoncita Creek on the Frio River
looked around for something to name their town after. They came up
with Rio Frio.
In 1862 when Rio Frio was the home post for the 29th Brigade of the
Confederate Militia, the town’s first store was built.
Rio Frio was once called Dog Town for a mass execution of the
towns canine population by drunken cowboys. Dog Town had 190 people
by 1870 and the town got its own post office the following year. The
name of the town was changed to Colfax (not to be confused
in Van Zandt County) in 1871. In 1877 it was chosen as the county
seat when McMullen
County was organized, and the name was change to Tilden.
(See 1874 and 1882 McCullen County
maps below showing the name changes.)
In 1878 a Union church was shared by Baptists and Methodists and in
1879 a ferry across the Frio was established near town to service
the stagecoaches traveling the San Antonio-Laredo road. In 1884 the
settlement got their own weekly newspaper, the Tilden Ledger.
In 1896 Tilden's population was 450 and it increased to just over
500 by 1900. In the thities it dropped by half and then rebounded
back to 500 with the discovery of oil In 1949 it had 380 people and
now it’s back to an estimated 500.
Today, the generous courthouse square of Tilden would allow the playing
of softball games or the landings of small planes (in theory).
Marker ( in front of McMullen
County Courthouse, Tilden):
Settled 1858 as
Rio Frio. Later called "Dog Town" because ranchers used
many dogs to round up cattle. 1871 townsite was laid out as Colfax.
Made county seat 1877. Renamed for S.J. Tilden, who won popular
vote for U.S. President, 1876. Ranching and petroleum center. Noted
for fine rural high school, annual rodeo, historic sites.
Marker (On Route 16 facing McMullen
Old Rock Store
Built about 1865
by Pat Cavanaugh, Irish stonemason, assisted by Dick Barker. Site
of gun battles in Dog Town (now Tilden), "wide open" during lawless
era of the 1860's and 1870's. Preserved since 1929 by Clifton Wheeler,
Recorded Texas Historic Lankmark, 1966.
|The Court House
| 1882 McMullen
County map showing name changed to Tilden
Texas General Land Office
in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing Texas,
asks that anyone wishing to share their local history and vintage/historic
photos, please contact