If you have never heard of this little tiny town in the Texas hill country, you wouldn’t be the first. Welcome to Welfare, Texas.
There is really quite an interesting story behind how this little spot on the map came to be and what is has now become. It all started back in 1848 deep in the woods of Joshua Creek. The Beseler family bought some property through a land grant. The Beseler’s opened up a General Store and before long, the small town of Welfare was born.
No one is quite sure just how Welfare first got its name. Most of the original community was German, and it is said that a train master working the railroad line rode through the area and didn’t know how to pronounce the name "Wohlfahrt," a prominent German family that lived and owned property nearby. Instead of calling out "Wohlfart" when the train stopped in town, he yelled out "Welfare." It soon caught on and businesses using the name "Welfare" began popping up in 1887, and the Post Office was added this same year.
Carl Phillip Beseler helped Welfare to become the railroad shipping point along the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway track. The railroad brought new hope and much larger prospects to the area, and this tiny town began to flourish. By 1892 this small community was home to 275 residents. It was a lovely community.
In 1930, bad luck struck Welfare with severe weather conditions, complicated by a devastating insect infestation that ruined crops. The population began to decline as residents sought out an easier life elsewhere, and eventually there was nothing left.
When U.S. Highway 87 was constructed, the new route bypassed Welfare and finally the railroad was abandoned in 1970. It has become a virtual ghost town from the dust bowl. The blistering Texas sun, along with torrential rains season after season, made the smell of rotten wooden buildings nearly unbearable. No one ventured through anymore; it was a forgotten city.
Today, it’s different story, all because of a very special couple. They came along to give this tired run down old place a much-needed transformation. It was a huge undertaking that came with many challenges, hard work, determination, guts, and an enormous amount of dedication.
Gabriele Meissner McCormick and David Lawhorn had always lived in the big city, working in the corporate world until one day they found their true calling: their love of the Texas hill country and a bit of good luck brought them to Welfare, Texas.
Early in 1992, they purchased the entire town. Included in the sale was the historic Beseler homestead, general store, post office, various barns, and 150 of the original 160 acres surveyed back in 1854.
Gabriele decided to follow her heart and her love of cooking, and poured her energy into opening The Welfare Café. By the end of November, the day after Thanksgiving, the café was open for business. We’re told she makes the best strawberry shortcake this side of The Mason/Dixon line.
A year later, Gabriel wanting to honor her German heritage, and opened a Biergarten. This restaurant is in the old converted Post Office and General Store and display artifacts from an era long forgotten. Today, Welfare, Texas is living new life, but the past struggles will never be forgotten. The revitalized town continues to pay homage to what it once was.
The next big project was to construct a beautiful wedding venue with a rustic country farm setting. The Goat Barn was rebuilt using all of the reclaimed wood from the original barn in addition to reclaimed materials David Lawhorn found from various other unwanted buildings in town. The first wedding and reception was held in April of 2005 and business has been going strong ever since.
While Welfare could have easily slipped into the past, reclaimed by nature until the buildings wore away and nothing was left, two very special people salvaged this place and brought new life to this tiny town. Gabriel and David’s love for Texas and protecting its history, combined with big dreams and dedication, has allowed Welfare, Texas to slowly make its way back onto the map. It’s rare to find a place like this, one that have could so easily remained empty for all eternity, reborn and given a second chance. It’s a place you’ll want to be and see. Y’all come on down!