Unique Texas town names: The story behind Dimmit County’s name

DIMMIT COUNTY, Tex. – Justin Horne is back on the road again to find the meaning behind area names. This time, there is a theme: misspelled names.

For one local county, it was a matter of dotting its “I’s” but not crossing all of its “t’s”.

One step into Dimmit County and you can tell the rugged landscape is the stuff of Texas legend. So, not surprisingly, the county is named for a Texas freedom fighter.

"Dimmit County was named after Philip Dimmitt who was a participant in the Texas Revolution,” explained Burt Bell, a Dimmit County historian.

How did Natalia get its name?

As far as we can tell, there are no pictures of Philip Dimmitt. We can tell you, though, that he played a rather large role in the Texas Revolution, as a scout at the Alamo and in the Battle of San Jacinto. He would later die by suicide after being captured in Mexico. So, when a new county was formed in the late 1880s, those who lived there wanted to honor him.

"His last name was Dimmitt D-i-m-m-i-t-t, and back in the old days, not everybody could read or write or spell,” Bell said. “It wound up being Dimmit, D-i-m-m-i-t. They dropped the second ‘t.’” While the spelling may not be perfect, Dimmit County was perfectly situated to be part of the wild west, sitting in what was once a lawless strip of Texas, near the Mexico border.

“It was kind of a no-man’s land between the Nueces and the Rio Grande river,” Bell said. “It was called the Nueces Strip.”

In 1911, Dimmit County Deputy Candelario Ortiz was famously killed after attempting to stop a gun-smuggling venture into Mexico. The entire event was documented and recreated in a silent film, which was shot by the sheriff of Dimmit County himself. Most of the actors in the film were actual participants in the ordeal.

These days, Dimmit County is much quieter. It hangs its hat on the oil business, while still managing to keep a bit of that wild west flare, even with a missing “t."

"I’ve seen some really colorful characters come through here,” Bell said.

Meantime, there is a town in the Texas Panhandle that is also called Dimmitt and is named for Philip Dimmitt. In this case, the spelling is correct.

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