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Texas Independence Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Cuero


THE TURKEY TROT

Cuero, Spanish for “leather”, was named for the Arroyo del Cuero nearby, a Spanish reference to the wild cattle that would often get stuck in the arroyo’s mud. In the early 1900s, Cuero turkey farmers would drive their stock to market on foot, creating the comical sight of hundreds of turkeys scuttling down Main Street and inspiring the Turkeyfest, an annual event that continues to be celebrated in Cuero today. Although located inland, its proximity to the Gulf Coast has subjected it to the battering of hurricanes on several occasions. However, many of its historic buildings survive and Cuero civic leaders and business folks are preserving and reviving their best. Cuero is a participating member in the Texas Main Street program, attracting visitors with a handsome collection of over fifty residences, churches and public buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors will find plenty of history, including Cuero’s service along the historic Chisholm Trail, in the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum and the Cuero Heritage Museum. As DeWitt County seat, Cuero features a fully restored courthouse, constructed in 1897 from red sandstone blocks and in the Richardsonian Romanesque style. Today, Cuero’s Main Street features shops and dining and hosts events like “Shop the Blocks” and the annual Christmas in Downtown.


Contact

  • Contact: Cuero Chamber of Commerce, Agriculture and Visitors Center
  • Phone: 361-275-2112
  • Visit Website

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The seat of DeWitt County, Cuero was founded in 1872. The following year, the Gulf, Western Texas and Pacific Railway laid tracks through town. But the area’s roots go back even farther in time. From the 1730s to the 1790s, El Camino Real de los Tejas included a route along the San Antonio River that turned east to cross the Guadalupe River near present-day Cuero.  The town’s name comes from the Spanish translation for the Indian word for rawhide.

As in the past, the 1896 Romanesque Revival Dewitt County Courthouse dominates Cuero’s town square, its belfry etching the sky. Designed by architect A.O. Watson, with architect Eugene T. Heiner supervising the construction, it was built of rusticated tan sandstone with red sandstone trim. Restoration completed in 2007 with assistance from the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program brought back Victorian-era details hidden or removed during a 1950’s modernization. A short walk from the courthouse is First United Methodist Church and a beautiful story. In 1998, floodwaters from the Guadalupe River destroyed Cuero’s historic African American Methodist church, Brothers Chapel, and the congregation began worshipping in the fellowship hall of First United Methodist. The two congregations merged, but the existing church building was deemed unstable. Architect David E. Lewis used artifacts from the African American and Anglo churches in a new building of Gothic Revival design, including stained glass windows and church bells that ring side-by-side in the tower.

Cuero’s creative reuse of historic buildings includes the 1928 former auto dealership, which became the county courthouse annex and the 1915 Federal Building and former U.S. Post Office that now houses the Cuero Heritage Museum and the Cuero Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture. Here you will find the “Cuero Talks Turkey,” exhibit highlighting decades of “Turkeyfest” celebrations that are held every October. The festival celebrates early 20th Century Cuero, when area poultry farmers drove thousands of turkeys through town en route to the processing plant and rail line. The DeWitt County Historical Museum in a restored, 1886 home includes period furniture and clothing, and a restored log cabin on the property.

DeWitt County is the designated Wildflower Capital of Texas, and every April visitors come for the Wildflower Festival and to view the riot of color that carpets the area. You can pick up a map for self-guided tours at the Cuero Chamber of Commerce.

The Sloane Collection, no. 13 - First Turkey Trot, Cuero, TX
Donor: Story Sloane, III
Silent | 1912
Film courtesy Texas Archive of the Moving Image

This film footage captures scenes of the first Turkey Trot held in Cuero, TX in November of 1912. Fourteen thousand turkeys are herded down Main Street, lured by corn, to be sold at the Cuero Market in preparation for Thanksgiving. Isaac Egg and Sons of Meyersville, TX supplied the turkeys for the event, and Texas Governor O.B. Colquitt can be seen in the footage with Cuero Mayor Henry A. Mugge leading the parade.