Devine, TX, was known as Nicksville in its beginnings

About two miles west of Devine runs Francisco Creek – now renamed San Francisco Perez Creek. Apparently, around 1877, this area was the site of a trading post and stage coach stop known as Francisco but occasionally referred to as Nicksville. John L. Nicks was the name of the first known settler there, and he was the first postmaster, storekeeper, and JP. Two years later, Robert Sweeten opened a grocery store. Then, in 1881, the International and Great Northern Railroad established a depot some 2.5 miles east of Francisco. Seeing a move as a good business opportunity, Nicks relocated his store and post office to that location. The railroad subsequently renamed the new town station after Judge Thomas Jefferson Devine, who was a prominent jurist in the Civil War era and worked for the railroad as an attorney at the time. Devine’s first historical marker honors Judge Devine (d. March 16, 1890), who eventually settled in San Antonio, never having lived in the town that bears his name.
Entering on a personal tour provided by the honorable Mayor Bill Herring and his wife, Gay Ann, one learns that the original downtown of Devine was on a hill east of the railroad track, a community referred to as Old Town Devine. The street that runs alongside and east of the railroad – today named Transportation – was State Highway 2 at that time, and it ran from the Oklahoma/Texas border all the way south to the Texas/Mexico border. Once quite a business district, today, few structures remain. One that does remain and is a lovely house is Devine’s first funeral home – run in its beginnings by Raymond Redus – located at 500 Hayden St. It is the current residence of the Darrell and Fay Murdoch. This building eventually became Calvary Baptist Church.
Featured in the Newcomer’s & Community Guide, a publication of The Devine News, is an article entitled “Historic Downtown Devine”, written by the late Henry B. Briscoe. In it, one can find a complete listing with details about the original businesses, buildings, and history of Devine. Touching on a few of structures that remain, let’s begin with the newspaper building.
The Devine News was established in 1897 by W.L. DuBose, who is said to have traded two horses and a buggy to start the business. In the beginning, its name was Devine Wide Awake, and it featured such local news as “who went to town or whose cow got sick.” According to Henry Briscoe, it housed the old “courthouse”, as it was the office of the local Justice of the Peace. The Devine News operated out of the other end of the building. Today, the paper occupies the entire facility. It still remains in the Dubose family – owned and operated by fourth generation Kathleen (KK) Dubose Calame, and her daughter (fifth generation), editor Kayleen Holder – and it has the distinction of being the oldest business in Devine that is still in operation.
What also was once located behind the newspaper building but no longer remains is the old jail. While giving his private tour, Bill Herring explained that at one time, the city used two jail cells that were once occupied by the state’s “death row” prisoners. Today, these cells, deemed unsafe by the federal government, are used to store contraband.
Behind the news office is Stroud’s Blacksmith Shop, established in 1903 by Joe Stroud, Sr., who had learned his trade from both his father and uncle. “This shop became known throughout the Southwest for Stroud’s branding irons and for Stroud’s reputation as an expert farrier.” The shop still stands today and is said to be the oldest blacksmith shop in Texas. Up the street from The Devine News building is a little, unoccupied building that was the office of Devine’s esteemed Dr. Woods, for many years the only medical doctor in the Devine area.
Another historical building constructed in 1912 was a general merchandise store established in 1890 by a San Antonio business man, Walter B. Adams. Adams’ mercantile establishment included banking, stock, and farming interests. The original store was located at 205 Transportation in the building that became the old locker plant before moving to the corner of Hwy 173 and Hwy 132. This store remained a centerpiece of local commerce until closing in the 30s during the Depression. It later reopened as Loggins and Lilly; then, in the 70’s, the building housed a Winn’s store. Today, this building is occupied by Security Bank.
The above-mentioned old locker building became Medina Valley Locker Plant and was operated for many years by John Jasik. This historic property is currently for sale. According to the posting, “many of the fixtures, doors, windows, and flooring appear to be the original.”
Adams also organized Adams’ National Bank in 1904, the first bank in Devine. The remnants of this once auspicious building, now a private residence, is on the corner of Hayden and Transportation. The Adams National Bank closed in the 30s, and in 1937, Bill Bain’s grandfather opened MVSB in that building. (MVSB then moved in 1949 to 209 S. Teel and again in 1979 to 200 Texas Hwy 132 N.)Beside that building are the remains of what was the original site of Brown Chevrolet. And, according to the exploits shared by Bill Herring, the space between these two edifices was property owned by Brown Chevrolet but loaned out where teens congregated for dances. It was called The Shaft, because of the shaft that ran to a basement. Due to inherent dangers, the community had the dance hall closed after several years of enjoyment, but it must have been a place of much frivolity!
Adams also owned and operated the Adams Company Corn Sheller in the building that became the SWT Farm and Ranch Supply (Co-Op), located across the street from the Security Bank building. It was used in the 1800s by farmers to weigh and process their corn. Today, the property is for sale. West of the Co-Op, across the tracks and directly across from Security Bank sits the old Ice Plant, a small, inauspicious building that once provided that much-needed commodity.
Today’s popular Tortilla Factory is in a building built in 1930 and situated smack in the middle of the hustle and bustle of activity in downtown Devine. It was one of the first service stations in the area. Across from it was the depot, remnants of which were eventually moved to today’s Depot Shopping Center at the corner of Park and Teel, or Hwy 132.
In 1906, a lumber dealer and contractor by the name of George T. Briscoe, Sr., built a red brick Opera House that sat across from the railroad depot ata 206 Commercial. It eventually was owned by George’s nephew, Judge Joe E. Briscoe. This Opera House became a place for much excitement, hosting traveling troupes of stage players. In 1975, the Opera House, which remains vacant, was placed in the National Registry of Historical Places. George T. Briscoe also built the Victorian-style house that sat at the corner of Hwy 173 and Washington Ave. until recently when it was sold, dismantled, and moved.

The Murdock house was Devine’s first funeral home and later Calvary Baptist Church.

Adams Lumber Co. sat at 200 E. Hondo (Hwy 173). Adams Lumber Yard had a drive-through lane for horses and wagons, and there was a rail spur that ran alongside the building for offloading of supplies. When this business failed in the 30s, the Driscoll family bought the Adams lumber building and used it for a warehouse for their family lumber business, Driscoll Lumber Company, which was located at the above-mentioned location of the Depot Shopping Center.
Aubrey Driscoll operated his lumber business for some 50 years. Once interviewed about those early days, he recalled the saw mills at work and the loading and unloading of lumber into wagons hauled by teams of horses. In 1986, the Driscoll family donated the old Adams Lumber Co. building to the city, and today it is the location of the Driscoll Public Library – named in the family’s honor – and the Devine Community Center. On the railroad side of the Driscoll Public Library, The Adams Company name is still evident.
Sherry’s Flower Shop occupies one end of the building which was constructed around 1900 and was the location of Howard Drug Store, owned by David Howard. The business remained there until the 1940s when it moved to another site. At the opposite end of Sherry’s Flower Shop was located the Cozy Corner Café. It once was the “social place in town during the day where everyone would meet and talk.” Another social place in Bill Herring’s era was the Majestic Theater, located adjacent to the Zgrafixs building where today only the concrete foundation remains. Bill recalls, “I could attend the movies as long as I made the junior high honor roll.”
Across the street from the Cozy Corner Café, where Party Rentals operates, was My Lady’s Shop. Gay Ann Herring recalls it was the place not only to purchase dresses but where one could order bridal selections by catalogue. In fact, it is precisely where she ordered her dishes – some fifty years ago – as she and Bill will be celebrating their 50th anniversary on June 1st! At the end of that block is a building that remains in operation and whose original character is preserved is Darlene Crain Insurance, 200 Commercial. That building was built to become the First State Bank, but it was never opened as such.
Other old houses built in the very early years of Devine include the Caleb M. Thompson Home – owned by Julie Campsey – which sits across from the Catholic Church at 108 S. Windy Knoll. Built in 1890, it is one of Devine’s oldest residences inside the city limits. Then there’s the lovely house at 302 Benton, built in 1906. Again, according to Henry Briscoe’s writings, “The original owner was the Jameson family, who owned land where the Devine Intermediate School is located.” The house was sold in the 1940s to the C.P. DuBose family and is now owned by George and Martha Bain Wall, who have renovated it into its charming original character. Another beautiful old house is the Watson Home, located on Webb St.
Devine’s first public school was established in the late 1800s, the original corner stone – which oddly is located inside the building as a result of renovations – reads 1905. As every Devine resident knows, its location is the current VFW Hall, and Bill states that the words “Devine Public School” can be found beneath that VFW sign. The original school building had a turret that was removed, reportedly due to poor construction, but the first floor and basement remained as part of the original structure. As a result of that renovation, the original cornerstone wound up inside the building, behind the auditorium. The newer cornerstone states, 1929.
The building housed all grades, with the first grade located at the far west end and the graduating grade of eleven at the east end. While giving his personal tour, Bill, a Devine 1965 graduate, pointed out the principal’s office, situated at the original entrance of the school, “A place I knew very well,” he quipped. He and Gay Ann recalled which teacher occupied which classroom: Leo Bohl in this room; Mrs. Caddenhead in that one…. Bill shares that he lived in Devine practically from birth, the family having moved to Natalia in 1953 and back to Devine in 1958 when their house burned down. Gay Ann Heathcock Herring – also a 1965 DHS graduate who had moved to Devine from Poteet in 1956 – says that she recalls the first time she met Bill, pointing to the exact spot. I asked her when the two started dating, and she said, “He pestered me to death until I said ‘Yes, I would go out with him!’” (I added that I doubted the pestering ever stopped!)
The VFW Hall that is now a place for various functions – but importantly a weekly bingo night – is the Devine school’s original auditorium, built in 1923. Before subsequent schools were built and the VFW’s eventually owning this edifice, that auditorium became the high school gym. Amazingly, the original 1923 beautiful wood floors remain.
Other school facts Bill Herring shared was that the building recently vacated as the Central Office was at various times Devine ISD’s superintendent’s office, the cafeteria, and, according to one source, the original HomeEc building. Behind it sits a red building that was the football boys’ dressing room and the band hall. Behind that building, where housing now exists, was the Warhorse Stadium. Bill pointed out a grove of trees that sits alongside Burnt Boot Creek where boys hung out. (No doubt!)
The first church in the area was the Primitive Baptist church, located on the south side of Bowman. The First United Methodist Church is the first noted parish in Devine, established in 1883. The oldSt. Joseph’s Catholic Church, which is awaiting repairs, was erected in 1922, but the church’s cemetery has graves that date back to 1899. Another of the oldest cemeteries is the Devine Evergreen, whose first graves are those of a couple killed by Indians in January of 1872.
The First Baptist Church began at today’s Hurley’s Funeral Home. It was built in 1912, and its brick structure had a basement that served as Sunday School classrooms. Adjacent to the church building, which is where the funeral home’s residence sits, was the tabernacle. Bill referenced attending church there, sitting on the banks of the creek, listening to summer revivals in the open-air tabernacle.
As a mayor who has lived in his hometown most of his life and knows its history first-hand, Bill references its motto: City of Devine, Texas: “The name says it all.”