Kleberg County (Kingsville)
Architect: Atlee B. Ayers
Year Built: 1914
The Kleberg County courthouse is located in Kingsville, Texas. It was designed by Atlee Ayers of San Antonio, who also designed the courthouses in Refugio County, Jim Wells County, and Cameron County. Ayers also oversaw reconstruction of the 1887 Val Verde County courthouse. The annex was built in 1966.
In 1853 Richard King purchased the Santa Gertrudis grant in Kleberg County from the heirs of the original Spanish grantees and started the King Ranch. The history of Kleberg County during the next fifty years is almost indistinguishable from that of the King Ranch.
In 1903, however, the St. Louis, Brownsville, and Mexico Railway was built through South Texas to Brownsville, and Henrietta King, owner of the King Ranch, opened for sale a large tract of her land. A surveyor employed by the ranch laid out the town of Kingsville in a pasture three miles east of the ranch headquarters.
Even before the railroad reached the townsite, numerous lots were sold. By 1912 the population of the town was approximately 4,000. In 1908 Ricardo, located on the railroad six miles south of Kingsville, was started as a trading center for farmers living nearby. Nine miles farther down the tracks, Theodore F. Koch, who had purchased around 20,000 acres from Mrs. King in 1907, established Riviera. On Baffin Bay, a few miles to the east, Koch soon organized Riviera Beach as a vacation resort.
Vattman, several miles to the northeast of Riviera, was settled in 1908 by German American families sponsored by the Catholic Colonization Society. With the construction of the railroads, the basis of the economy began to shift from ranching to farming and dairying. The farmers grew cotton and vegetables of all kinds. Most of them also acquired Jersey cows, and the sale of milk to a creamery in Kingsville became an important source of income for farm families.
Kingsville grew much more rapidly than the other towns, largely because the railroad placed its general offices and shops there. The railroad employees made up a third of the population of the town and were the main source of income. As the population in the area increased, the citizens of Kingsville and the other communities began agitating to break away from Nueces County.
In 1913 the Texas legislature responded to this pressure and organized Kleberg County, named for Robert Justus Kleberg, whose son, also named Robert Justus Kleberg, was manager of the King Ranch. The law setting up the county named five residents to take care of organizing it, including hiring a surveyor and arranging for the first election. Anton Felix H. von Blücher was employed to do the surveying, and within a short time he delineated the boundaries of the county and drew the lines of the precincts. An election was scheduled for June 27, 1913. Precinct and county officers were chosen, and Kingsville was designated the county seat.