George Washington West was born on March 10, 1851 in Shannonville, Tennessee. His father, Washington West, owned and operated an iron foundry at West Point on the Tennessee River. His mother was Mary Willauer, the daughter of a Pennsylvania Quaker family. In 1854, Washington West moved his family to Lavaca County, Texas. The West home became an important stagecoach stop, and the community around it became known as Sweet Home.
Following the Civil War, George West joined the cattle drives north and in 1867 went on his first drive to Kansas. In 1870 he contracted with the U.S. government to deliver 14,000 head of Texas longhorns to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in Montana. Although he was the youngest man with the herd, he had full charge. The cattle were gathered in South Texas and driven north into Indian Territory. When the Platte River was reached, George West became the first man to cross this river with a herd. From this point on. he broke his own trail and when he reached the reservation he had established the longest cattle trail on the continent.
During the 1870's, George West made many drives to Kansas, Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas. He became well known to the Indian tribes who watched each spring for his herds of longhorns being brought to the Reservations as the buffalo gradually disappeared.
In 1880, George West and his wife, Kittie Searcy West, moved to Live Oak County and purchased 140,000 acres of land and 26,000 head of cattle for a cattle ranch. This ranch included the present town of George West, extending to the Nueces River on the north and east, and to McMullen County on the west. In 1882. George West handled over 80.000 head of cattle. Then came the most disastrous drought ever experienced in Live Oak County. The Nueces River went dry for the first and only time. George West lost 25,000 head of cattle and had to sell off half his ranch. The year 1897 brought another drought followed by a freeze that killed cattle by the hundreds. But in spite of reverses, George West's ranch prospered and his screw plate brand became known in stock yards all over the West.
After the turn of the century, George West put his efforts into colonization. His first enterprise was a railroad through the vast ranchlands between San Antonio and Corpus Christi. He gave to the San Antonio, Uvalde, and Gulf Railroad $100,000 in cash and the free right of way through his entire ranch. In 1912, the long sought railroad became a reality.