Water Valley is the third name by which the small community twenty-two miles northwest of San Angelo on present U.S. Highway 87 is known.
There was little activity in the valley of the North Concho River prior to the establishment of Fort Concho in the late 1860's. The only settlements were Indian camps and villages near the river which were used only a part of the year by wandering tribes. With the establishment of Fort Concho for the protection of settlers and travelers, men began to eye the fertile valleys of the Conchos and to make plans for future settlement. By the 1870's when buffalo hunting began to be a major enterprise, hunters drifted down into the North Concho area in search of herds that swept down off the plains during the winter months. Vestiges of an old buffalo camp may still be seen across the river from Water Valley. Following the depletion of the buffalo, came the early ranchers in search of free and cheap range and by the late 1870's ranches began to spring up in this area. There were occasional forays by the Indians and nervous settlers sometimes took refuge at Fort Concho, but most Indian depredations were confined to horse stealing and the theft of an occasional beef. By 1880 Indian raids were a thing of the past and a few Indians still lived in the vicinity and served as scouts, guides and interpreters for the soldiers. Supplies were hauled from San Antonio to Austin and the development of the area outside of the "Post" was slow.
With the building of the Texas and Pacific Railroad westward from Dallas to El Paso, new life came to this area. By the time the rails had reached Colorado City the valley of the North Concho began to assume a new importance as the main artery of travel from Colorado City, the new source of supply, to San Angela and Fort Concho. Settlers moved in and the area developed rapidly. David Williams, one of the earliest ranchers, saw the need for more community improvements and began to work toward securing a post office and a public road from San Angela to Colorado City. Protection was assured by the presence of soldiers at Fort Concho and by a company of Texas Rangers encamped at Ranger Springs, one-half mile south of present Water Valley.
By 1885 a post office had been designated for the area in the ranch home of David Williams, with him as postmaster and with the name of Yandell. Yandell was so called in honor of a Dr. Yandell of San Angela and later of El Paso, who was a friend of the Third Assistant Postmaster General who had the governmental responsibility of approving and designating new offices. The first post office was located some four miles up-river from the present post office. At the untimely death of Mr. Williams in 1886, a partner, J.W. Knapp, served as postmaster but soon relinquished his duties to Ben Mayes, who moved the office to his new store at the present site of Water Valley. In honor of his new bride, Xerifa. Mr. Mayes changed the name of the office to Xerifaville, but this brought a storm of protest. Many claimed that they could hardly pronounce the name, much less attempt to spell it.
Mr. Mayes was a cowboy at heart as well as by profession and soon tired of the "City" life. He sold his store and "Judge" J.O. Hanson became postmaster. Bowing to the wishes of the public and remembering the place of his birth, he renamed this small metropolis "Water Valley", in honor of his old home-town in Mississippi.
Mr. Hanson continued as postmaster until about 1895 when he was succeeded by the late W. S. Armstrong, immediate predecessor of George W. Neill who served as postmaster until 1980 when Peggy Barnett became the postmaster.
The Butterfield Overland Mail crossing near Carlsbad, the approximate location of old Camp Johnson on the North Concho, the old San Angela-Colorado City Mail and Stage Route, many old roads from the "settlements" to the salt lakes in Western Texas and Eastern New Mexico, and the Peace Monument on Mt. McLaughlin two miles south of Water Valley are places of historic interest in the area.
This Peace Monument is one of a very few in the Southwest. It was built by the late Stanley Turner and a few of his friends as a tribute to the young men of this area who served in World War I, in gratitude that all had returned safely. By coincidence, luck, or by the grace of Divine Providence, all those men who served in World Wars I and II returned safely home and this monument is a mark of gratitude for this. Built of native stone, topped by a cross of pre-cast concrete, all of the materials for this structure were hauled up the steep slopes by one burro. After climbing the mountain to view the monument in his honor, one of the returning honorees sagely observed that the monument should be re-dedicated to this burro as he had had the hardest task.
Water Valley began and has continued to be for more than 100 years the supply point for neighborhood ranches and yet has had other enterprises. At the height of cotton farming, Water Valley had an early-day water-powered cotton gin. Nor were early residents entirely preoccupied with work, for the first country club in the county was on a site on the river near the town.
Peopled by those who came to build homes and to establish ranches and businesses, Water Valley's growth has been slow but stable.