A man in a blue vest sits at a desk beneath a purple banner reading "Lions Club"
Hector Torres has been a member of the Lions Club for over 20 years. The group supports local nonprofits and runs local youth baseball and softball leagues. Photo by Melanie Grizzel

Kaufman was among the earliest American settlements in the North Texas region known as the Three Forks, named for the convergence of the Trinity River’s West, Elm, and East forks. Mississippian William King arrived in 1840—a year before settlers showed up in the Dallas area—and built a stockade called King’s Fort for protection from Comanche and other tribes that had long inhabited the fertile prairielands. Over the last century, Kaufman has become known as the original home of Tex-Mex chain El Chico, which has locations in six states and the United Arab Emirates. It’s also the home of Kaufman County Veterans Memorial Park, which includes a four-fifths size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Hector Torres immigrated to Kaufman from Mexico when he was 17. He has thrived in the community as an entrepreneur and volunteer, including previously serving two terms on the Kaufman City Council. Torres, whose wife, Monica, is a third-generation Kaufmanite, describes his hometown as “one big family.”

Finding Home

“My parents came from Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, to visit my older brother, who already lived in Kaufman, and decided to establish our home here. I arrived in Kaufman in June 1978, when I was 17. Even now, on Thursdays we go to my mother’s and have dinner with her. She cooks mostly traditional dishes, such as enchiladas with rice and beans, mole, Mexican beef stew, Mexican chicken stew, and tamales.”

 

Self-Taught

“Years ago, I taught myself how to read and write in English after I purchased a Spanish-English dictionary at the local Ben Franklin store. Also, I read the Dallas Times Herald newspaper aloud. There were many words I didn’t know, but learning pronunciation gave me the confidence to speak to others.”

Maps and More

“My business, Kaufman County Title & Abstract, closes real estate transactions. Buyers and sellers come to our office to sign their paperwork, and we also perform title searches to determine who owns a property. This office has Kaufman County maps dating back to 1888.”

 

El Chico

“Kaufman is the home of the El Chico restaurant chain, although back then in the 1920s and ’30s it was called Cuellar’s Cafe. The Cuellar family lived at the Star Brand Ranch. I met some of the family at an event the Kaufman Chamber of Commerce hosted in the late ’80s. I have always admired their efforts to better themselves and teach their families the results of hard work.”

 

Prairie Provisions

“We have many good Mexican restaurants, but La Pradera is my favorite. My favorite dish is the Ruby’s Special, which you can get with either beef or chicken fajita meat. It’s served in a chunky salsa with rice and beans. Every time I recommend it to someone, they always comment on how much they liked it.”

 

Historic Poor Farm

“Kaufman County received a historical marker in 1997 for the ‘poor farm’ in Kaufman. Back in 1883, the poor farm was created to care for the indigent. It’s no longer operational, but Pam Corder with the Kaufman County Historical Commission oversees self-guided group tours. This site has a lot of history.”

 

Houston Street

“Whenever an out-of-town visitor comes to Kaufman, I like to take them down our historic Houston Street. During Halloween, most homeowners open their doors and have candy, food, and music. The city closes the street to traffic to allow people to walk.”

 

Home Sweet Home

“It wasn’t what brought me to Kaufman as much as what made me stay here. There are many reasons, but some of the biggest ones would have to be my family, the opportunities given to me that helped me succeed, and the way our local leaders and everyone work together for the betterment of our community. It seems like one big family where everyone helps each other with one common goal—to make Kaufman a great place to live.”

Town Trivia:

Population:
7,379

Number of Stoplights:
10

Year founded:
1840

Nearest City:
Dallas, 35 miles northwest

Marquee Event:
Memorial Day Service, May 29 at the Kaufman County Veterans Memorial Park

Map it:

Kaufman County Veterans Memorial Park, 3800 S. Houston St.

From the February 2023 issue

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