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TILDEN, TEXAS
Formerly Colfax, Dog Town & Rio Frio

McMullen County, South Texas
State Hwy 16 and 72
68 miles S of San Antonio
23 miles W of Three Rivers
Population: Est. 500 (2010)

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McMullen County Courthouse, Tilden, Texas
McMullen County courthouse in 1939 Tilden
Photo courtesy TXDoT

History in a Pecan Shell

The town was named to honor Samuel J. Tilden, the runner-up in the 1876 Presidential election.

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 with Colfax 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).
Historical Marker ( in front of McMullen County Courthouse, Tilden):

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.
1966

Tilden, Texas Landmarks:

McMullen County Courthouse >
McMullen County Jail (Dog Town Jail) >


Photographer's Note:
"The first time I went to Tilden, I literally stood in the middle of Highway 16 for ten to fifteen minutes to take pictures of the courthouse and not one car came by. Can't do that anymore. The Eagle Ford Shale has turned Tilden into a boom town." - Terry Jeanson, December 05, 2014

TX - McMullen County courthouse
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, June 2009
McMullen County Courthouse >
Old jail in Tilden, Texas
TE photo, 2001
McMullen County Jail >
Old Rock Store, Tilden, Texas
The Old Rock Store
TE photo. More Texas Stores
Historical Marker (On Route 16 facing McMullen County Courthouse)

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, owner.
Recorded Texas Historic Lankmark, 1966.
Court House Cafe, Tilden, Texas
The Court House Cafe.
TE photo
Tilden TX  Bridge
TE photo.
More Texas Bridges
Tilden TX Sandwich Shop
TE photos, April 2001
McMullen County TX 1874 Map
1874 McMullen County Map showing Colfax
Texas General Land Office
McMullen County TX 1882 Map
1882 McMullen County Map showing name changed to Tilden
Texas General Land Office
Tilden, Texas
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