Freer is at the intersection of U.S. Highway 59 and State highways 16, 44, and 339, twenty-four miles northwest of San Diego and twenty-three miles northwest of Benavides in northwestern Duval County. It is the second largest town in the county. The area was originally called Las Hermanitas ("the Sisters"), for two hills south of the present townsite, and then became known as Government Wells, for a water well dug by United States Cavalry troops in 1876 on the property of A. J. Wiederkehr, north of the site of present Freer. When Norman G. Collins, who moved to Duval County in 1867 and later became the county's leading sheep rancher, bought 35,000 acres, the future townsite became part of his Rancho Americano. The German immigrant William Hubberd became one of the first settlers at Government Wells when he arrived to manage Collins's ranch; Hubberd bought his own land in 1876. Among the first settlers in the area may have been the brothers Paul and Joe White, who around 1900 settled in the valley of Rosita Creek, near the site of future Freer, to dig water wells for the local ranchers. Others followed them, including Harry and Arthur Lundell in 1905 and August H. Kramer in 1908. Jot Gunter also owned several thousand acres in the Government Wells area; in April 1904 the San Diego rancher Doss Seago had made a homestead application on the section of land that included the future townsite; in July 1905 he sold it to Encarnacion Rodriguez, who sold it in 1907 to Roxana Gunter. Five years later she sold twenty sections of land, including the site of future Freer, to a Houston real-estate promoter named C. W. Hahl.
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