From the Nolan County line we continue eastwards for 15 miles to the county seat of Sweetwater, home to around two thirds of the county’s population, some 10,750 people.
The town traces its origin to 1877 when a store was opened to cater for buffalo hunters. A post office was established two years later with the community taking its name from the sweet-tasting waters of the local creek – it was Sweet Water until 1918 when the current spelling came into use.
The Texas and Pacific Railway arrived in the area in 1881 and Sweet Water, which at the time had no permanent buildings and consisted of just tents, became the seat of Nolan County.
Sweetwater had a tough initial decade, suffering a blizzard in 1885 which devastated livestock and a severe drought in 1886, meaning that growth was slow. The arrival of the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway in 1903 helped the town to grow as a cattle, cotton, and wool centre.
Since 1958 Sweetwater has held an annual Rattlesnake Roundup, said to be the biggest event of its kind in the world. It started as a way to keep the rattlesnake population under control and has developed into a festival which attracts upwards of 25,000 visitors annually. The event has, though, drawn criticism from animal rights groups. More details here.
In today’s song Sweetwater is one of many Texas locations calling Willie Nelson back to his home state.
“Sweetwater, Beaumont, Wichita Falls
Port Arthur, Brownsville
I hear you call
I got to go, I’ve got Texas in my soul”