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School History


Like many other towns with their origins in early settlements, the name of Knippa is not the only one the town has ever been known by. The town located on Hwy. 90 between Sabinal and Uvalde in southeastern Uvalde County was originally known as Chatfield. The man the town was named for, George Knippa, moved his family to the railroad siding of the Chatfield community in the 1880's. Knippa had been a frequent visitor to the semi-arid Frio River area of Uvalde County in the 1870's and early 1880's during a period of abundant rainfall. He brought his family to the area soon after the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway extended its line from San Antonio to Uvalde, according to "The New Handbook of Texas," published in 1996. Uvalde was already a thriving county seat and Sabinal was beginning to attract new settlers, but according to Carolyn Reagan's account of Knippa's history in A Proud Heritage, the area between the two towns was uninhabited. Unfortunately for Knippa and the settlers he brought with him, the period of abundant rainfall which attracted them ended with the drought of the early 1890's. Many of the settlers left. "Completely at the mercy of the weather, these earliest settlers did not have water wells for their livestock, and when the few existing watering holes on the Frio and Blanco Rivers dried up, then their stock had to be turned loose to roam..." wrote Reagan. Around 1900 the rains began to come more regularly and a new wave of settlers, many Germans, arrived. On Feb. 16, 1898, the Uvalde County Commissioners Court established School District No. 12 at Knippa and authorized a school building. "In 1900 fourteen students attended the one-teacher school. A two-room school was built in 1907," according to the handbook. The handbook states that a post office was opened in 1898, but it apparently subsequently was closed, because according to Reagan's account for A Proud Heritage, the post office was the cause for the changing of the town's name. "In 1906, Mr. Albert J. Kessler laid out the streets for the town, and provided names for them all. Then, upon the application for a post office, it was discovered that there was already a Chatfield in West Texas, so judge Kessler changed that name of the town to Knippa, in honor of his father-in-law, first settler to the area," wrote Reagan. While agriculture was in the beginning and continues to be one of the main businesses in the town, mining has also been and is an ongoing endeavor. "A mine for traprock, and igneous rock used in road construction, was opened west of Knippa around 1905 and attracted Mexican laborers to the area. The traprock quarried at Knippa was used to ballast the Southern Pacific Railroad. Because the quarry was originally opened up as a gold mine, it was said that all of the railroad ballast contained a small amount of gold," said the handbook. Most of the original settlers in the community were, in addition to being German, also Lutherans. In 1910, Knippa donated land for the construction of a Lutheran Church, where services were conducted in German. "At the beginning of World War I, however, the the Uvalde Council of Defense prohibited the use of German. The community responded by taking the council to court, and the prohibition was eventually recinded by the United States Supreme Court," according to the handbook. The population of the community grew during the early 1900s, being 50 in 1914 and booming to 400 in 1929. By the end of World War II and for the four succeeding decades, however, the population decreased, reaching 360 by 1990.