In 1887, when the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad was laying tracks across San Patricio County, Thomas H. Mathis received naming rights when he donated for a townsite and school. Mathis and his brother J. M. Mathis, held in the vicinity. The brothers had dropped out of the Coleman, Mathis, Fulton Cattle Company in 1879. Thomas Mathis owned an additional around Mathis and built a fence enclosing the town. As late as 1906, Mathis was enclosed and arriving and departing trains had to be let in and out.
Mathis' success was partially fueled by residents of Lagarto moving to be near the railroad. The Mathis post office opened in 1890 and the towns first school was held in a private residence in 1893. Two years later, a one-room school was built and in 1913 a second railroad (The San Antonio, Uvalde and Gulf Pacific) arrived.
Cotton and corn crops were raised and ranching was an important part of the economy. During the 1930s, winter vegetable crops were grown and both railroads maintained shipping sheds. Mathis incorporated in 1939.
In the early 1950s, of land two miles (3 km) north of town were developed for vegetable crops - complete with irrigation and deep water wells. Cotton, corn and sorghum replaced vegetables in the 1960s.
In the 1930s, the Nueces River was dammed and Lake Mathis (since renamed Lake Corpus Christi) was formed. Construction of the Wesley Seale Dam in the late 1950s raised the level of the lake to where it became desirable for weekend homes. In 1988, Mathis had a population of 5,910 which has since decreased to 5,034.