Atascosa County was legally organized by an act of the Sixth Legislature of the State of Texas on January 25th, 1856. As early as 1722 El Camino Real (The King's Highway) from the Rio Grande to San Antonio passed near present-day Pleasanton. The Spanish word Atascosa, denoting boggy ground that hindered travel, gave region its name. The County was created in 1856 from land formerly in Bexar County. Jose Antonio Navarro, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence whose 1831 claim was the first grant recorded in area, gave land in 1857 for the first county Seat, Navatasco, named in honor of Navarro. Because of Indian problems, it became necessary to move the county seat. In 1858, with a majority of 98 votes, a site was selected on John Bowen's place near the confluence of Bonita Creek and the Atascosa River. Bowen donated alternate lots to the new municipality and the City of Pleasanton was born.
Pleasanton's location was a near perfect one for the new city. Two old Spanish roads came together here along the banks of the Atascosa under the big live oak trees and it was a great place to stop overnight. The old Laredo Trail ran just east of present day Pleasanton and the newer Laredo Road ran very near to Pleasanton's Main Street. But a city without people is a sorry thing indeed, so soon settlers began to arrive. E.B. Thomas was the first to build a house in Pleasanton, and he also opened the first store. Drawn like magnets to Thomas' general store and emporium, other settlers began to arrive and snap up those vacant city lots. These included Tobias Kelley, Calvin Turner, Judge A.C. Fairman (an excellent name for a judge, by the way), J.H. Dossey, John W. Slayton, and V. Weldon. Weldon and Slayton were blacksmiths and lawyers and established the principle that, "In Pleasanton, lawyers work for a living." Slayton was elected District Attorney in 1858 and 1860. After the conclusion of the Civil War (which Texans like to think of as "the war against northern aggression"), Slayton was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas. A Methodist Church was established in Pleasanton in 1857 (before there even was a Pleasanton), and a Baptist Church was established in 1866. The Post Office opened in Pleasanton in 1858, which greatly improved mail delivery. Pleasanton School District Number 1 was established in 1860. The old Rock School was built (of rock) in 1975 on College Street (which doesn't yet have a college on it). The site now bears an Historical Marker.
In 1861, Pleasanton had a dozen families, two blacksmith shops, and three lawyers. To this day it is a great historical mystery who their clients were, but with one out of four male residents sitting there ready to litigate against the remaining three-forths, Pleasanton was a very law-abiding place to live. In a word, it was "pleasant."
Early Pleasanton did not escape Indian raids. This was decidedly unpleasant. In 1861, the Indians made a daring raid into Atascosa County (daring because of the great number of lawyers there prepared to take them to court). In Pleasanton, two people were killed (it isn't recorded whether either was a lawyer), one person captured, and two were wounded. Indian casualties are unknown. Despite this setback to the population, settlers continued to flock to Pleasanton, no doubt drawn by the ready availability of legal advice. By 1870, the population had soared to 206, although it was much greater than that if you count the settlers' cattle.
All around the city proper, ranches were springing up and cowboys were riding the range and doing cowboy things. Warnings of Indian attack were still being printed in local newspapers as late as 1873, but such attacks did not materialize. The times had again become "pleasant."
In the 1870s, the Western Stock Journal was published in Pleasanton. During the days of the great cattle drives from Texas to railheads north (Pleasanton sits on the Chisholm Trail), the Stock Raiser Association of Western Texas often had its annual meeting in Pleasanton. Pleasanton's association with the cowboy was firmly in place. By 1875, new buidings and new construction spread out from the city's center in every direction and spilled over into the oak forests west of the Atascosa River.
In an election held October 1st, 1910, the county seat was moved from Pleasanton to the new city (ahem!) of Jourdanton. The old courthouse in Pleasanton was used as a city hall until it was torn down in the 1950s. No one really seems to know why the county seat was moved. Possibly, it was because the county courthouse simply attracted too many lawyers to Pleasanton. Now that it has moved, the percentage of Pleasanton's population who practice law has decreased astonishingly, freeing up valuable housing for cowboys and other people with honest occupations.
The cattle business in Pleasanton never died. Vast ranches (and even some not-so-vast ranches) surrounded the small city and cattle were driven to the stockyards and railhead in San Antonio. Through the efforts of several local ranchers and businessmen, the San Antonio, Uvalde and Gulf Railroad was persuaded to come through Pleasanton in 1912. The railroad repair shops, the round house, and the tie-dipping vats were all located in Pleasanton next to the present road going to the golf course. All that remains of the S.A.U.& G.R.R., other than the tracks (now owned by the Union Pacific Railroad), is the old wooden Pleasanton Depot, now located at the Longhorn Museum grounds.
The City of North Pleasanton (located north of the City of Pleasanton) was founded with the coming of the railroad in 1912. In 1920, the population of North Pleasanton was 364. By the 1950s it had grown to over 1,000. North Pleasanton remained a separate city until 1961, when the two Pleasantons were joined into one.
The land in and around Pleasanton is fertile sand with an underlying layer of bluish-grey clay. Almost anything will grow here. Watermellons, peanuts, hay, and strawberries thrive. So do sandburrs and dandelions. An oil boom in the 1970s created new wealth, but the oil petered out.
The City of Pleasanton continues to thrive and grow, often serving as a bellweather City for social change in Texas. For example, in October 1957, Pleasanton School District became the first in the State of Texas to vote to integrate its schools. But that ain't all, folks! There is no rumcake served in school lunchrooms, no tobacco farmers inside Pleasanton's city limits, and Jack Keller has declared his Pleasanton home a "nuclear free zone." How "politically correct" can you get?
You can learn more about Pleasanton's history by reading Pleasanton's Historical Markers.
April 6th, 2005 by Jack Keller of Pleasanton, Texas.