NATALIA, Texas – Justin Horne has long been searching for the meaning behind area town names. This time, he has discovered that several towns across South Texas that were misspelled. One of those towns is Natalia. In this case, it was one vowel that changed everything.
“The post office dropped the "e" and added an "a,” said Ruby Vera, a local historian and former mayor of Natalia.
Natalia was supposed to be called Natalie. The mistake was never fixed and the rest, as they say, is history.
Natalie Pearson, the town’s namesake, was the daughter of famed engineer Dr. Frederick Stark Pearson, designer and financial backer of Medina Dam. At completion in 1913, the lofty project was the fourth largest dam in the United States. Its canals transported water south to fertile farmlands.
"Natalia is here. It’s at the end of all of those canals,” explained Vera.
But in a twist, Natalie, who moved to England, may have never known the town existed.
“Unfortunately, she never got to come to our community,” said Vera. “She didn’t know about it.” Ties to the Pearson family can be found throughout the small town. Large palm trees, found in the middle of Natalia, were brought in by Dr. Pearson himself. Sadly, his story would end in tragedy.
In 1915, Dr. Pearson and his wife were aboard the famed Lusitania when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat. It was an event that would make headlines worldwide and propel the United States into World War I.
Despite the loss of its founder, Natalia would grow and thrive. A high-end, well-known hotel was built in 1913 to draw people to the community. It was successful and the population increased, while farming flourished through the 1950s.
"If you buy vegetables or any kind of produce from H-E-B, a lot of it comes from here,” said Vera.
Bypassed by I-35, Natalia is older now, but its story, which includes a misplaced vowel, is far from over.