by John Lumpkin, Texas Highways Magazine
The new designation comes as the town near San Antonio celebrates its 79th annual Peanut Festival
This spring, State Rep. Ryan Guillen introduced House Concurrent Resolution 83, which would designate Floresville the Peanut Capital of Texas. Perhaps no one appreciated the designation as much as the Pfeil brothers—Jason, Justin, and Jerrett—third-generation farmers who are considered the last full-time peanut growers in Wilson County. They’re maintaining a family tradition that started in the 1930s when their grandfather harvested his first legume.
“We have got to be honored that the gentleman [Rep. Ryan] did what he did, and we give thanks to him,” Jason says. “We also have got to be thankful for farmers who are no longer with us who raised all the peanuts through hard work.”
Guillen’s resolution breezed through the Texas House and Senate in April and May and was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 9, fours month before the 79th annual Floresville Peanut Festival, which attracts 10,000 or more visitors to the town 35 miles southeast of San Antonio every year.
Along with noting that “Floresville’s strong historical and commercial association with the peanut has been a source of great pride for generations of area residents,” the resolution recounts Wilson County’s more-than-a-century history with the crop. The first Peanut Festival took place in 1938 and was initially called the “Peanut Pow Wow” to celebrate that year’s harvest. The resolution spotlights the “[p]ioneering growers [who] realized that peanuts were well-suited to the sandy soil of the region.” One of those growers was entrepreneur Joe T. Sheehy, who imported peanut seeds in the early 1900s and became known locally as the “Peanut King.” His daughter Elizabeth was the first queen of the Peanut Festival pageant, and she was accompanied by the first king, a local farmer’s son named John. B. Connally Jr. Yes, the same John B. Connally who would become Texas’ 38th governor.
According to the Wilson County Historical Society, the county had more than 150 peanut farmers in the 1930s, including the Pfeil brothers’ grandfather Randolph, whose plot was 30 acres. “That was one heck of a field in those days,” says the brothers’ father, David, now semi-retired. “It all had to be done manually.” With mechanization, the Pfeils planted as many as 500 acres of peanuts in the 1950s….
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