Oct 08, 2007, 04:51 PM
The History of Karnes County in Texas
The History of Karnes County in Texas
Butler Family Cemetery
This cemetery was part of the original homestead of William Green and Adeline Burris Butler, who had migrated to Texas with their families before the Civil War. Eventually their ranching interests included land in five South Texas counties. Emmett, their 20-year-old son, killed in December 1884, was the first person buried in the graveyard. Among the 40 graves are members of Butler's family who were reinterred here from other sites. Some of their gravestones exhibited earlier dates than 1884. The cemetery, maintained through a trust fund, continues to serve the family. (1996)
2 1/2-story stone ruin built into the side of a hill; typical steeply pitched roof with long slope at the rear; fireplaces intact on interior and there is a smokeroom built into the house on first level; overlooks San Antonio River Valley.
One story cottage showing many of the features of the Polish Colonial style; S/E facade has 2 doors and a window revealing interior plan of 2 adjacent room, divided by chimney; built by Philip Dzuik in 1869.
El Fuerte de Cíbolo
Spanish fort established to protect Presidio la Bahía horses from Comanche raids; forces from this fort hampered the British along the Gulf of Mexico at the time of the American Revolution.
Near this site (about 2.5 mi. N on Cibolo Creek) stood the 18th-century Spanish fort of El Fuerte de Santa Cruz del Cibolo, usually called El Fuerte del Cibolo or El Cibolo. Built to protect the many Spanish ranches between San Antonio and La Bahia (now Goliad), the fort was occupied first from 1734 to 1737, and again from 1771 to 1782. The land between the San Antonio River and Cibolo Creek, called "El Rincon", was part of an area deeded by the King of Spain to missions and many private individuals. The site of El Fuerte del Cibolo was part of a private ranch called El Rancho de San Bartolo which belonged to Andres Hernandez. In 1772 the Spanish government formally authorized the establishment of fifteen presidios (forts) from California to Texas. El Fuerte del Cibolo, which had been reactivated in 1771, came under that authorization and remained an active fort until 1782. Twenty soldiers were stationed at El Fuerte del Cibolo on July 4, 1776. Some of them helped move cattle and horses from this area to the Gulf Coast, where Spanish forces under Gen. Bernardo de Galvez defeated the British during the American Revolution, thereby contributing to the winning of American independence. INCISE ON REVERSE: Erected by the Cestohowa-Pawelekville Chamber of Commerce in honor of the 500th Anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus on October 12, 1492
First Baptist Church of Karnes City
This congregation was founded as a missionary church by The Rev. J. D. Walker in 1894, the same year the new town of Karnes City became the county seat of Karnes County. It is thought that early worship services were held in the school building. The first church building in Karnes City was the First Baptist Church erected in 1899. Other denominations shared the church building until they built their own church houses. Early baptismal services, held once or twice yearly, were administered in the San Antonio River or in a stock tank on a nearby ranch. As the membership grew, programs were added including a Womens' Missionary Society, youth group, Sunday School, and Sunbeam Band. The church helped to establish mission churches in the area. A local radio program also served the area for many years. Several property and facility additions and improvements were completed through the years to accommodate the needs of the congregation, including a parsonage, auditorium, fellowship hall, and education building. The First Baptist Church continues to provide support, education and spiritual guidance for the area as it has for over 100 years.
First Presbyterian Church
Karnes City's first edifice built for Protestant worship. Housed congregation originating in 1894 as a mission under the care of Helena Presbyterians, and organized as a church with 14 members in 1895 by The Rev. H. R. Laird, evangelist of the Western Texas Presbytery. Church building was completed in June 1901. Congregation celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1970.
First stone residence built in Panna Maria; built in 1858 by John Gawlik, who came to Panna Maria with second wave in 1855; typical of Polish peasants houses in upper Silesia-steeply pitched roof, rear roof line reaches near ground; gallery across front; originally had outside stairway
One story with full basement and sleeping loft sandstone; Marcelena City townsite; above San Antonio River Valley; 6/6 light; square chamfered post, another one room board and batten house.
Harmony Baptist Church and Cemetery
According to oral tradition, the Harmony Baptist Church began in 1864. A church building was constructed by 1875, when Thomas Ragsdale donated land at this site to the church. The building was used also for school classes and Woodmen of the World Lodge meetings. The nearby cemetery is the burial site of some early settlers of Harmony and Karnes County. The oldest marked grave, that of Martha Rabb, dates to 1875. Although the Harmony Baptist Church disbanded in 1974, descendants of early members continue to meet here annually.
Founded in 1852 on San Antonio River by Thomas Ruckman, a graduate of Princeton, and Lewis Owings, later first governor of Arizona Territory. Town was named in honor of Owings' wife, Helen. Situated on branch of famed Chihuahua Trail (running from Indianola to San Antonio to Northern Mexico), Helena was to experience quick growth. Much traffic of wagon freight and gold bullion travelled trail. Four-horse stages daily passed through town. Helena was designated county seat when Karnes County was created and organized in 1854. First election of county officials was held on gallery of Ruckman-Owings Store. During Civil War, Karnes County mustered six companies, including Helena Guards, for service. Helena was a Confederate post office and issued its own stamps. Much Confederate cotton destined for Mexican ports passed through Helena. During its heyday, Helena had a courthouse, jail, newspaper, academy, drugstore, blacksmith shop, two hotels, and several saloons and general stores. Bypassed by the S.A. & A.P. Railroad in 1886, town died. County seat was moved to Karnes City in 1894 after hotly contested election.
Old Helena Courthouse
Soon after Karnes County was created and organized in 1854, a frame and clapboard courthouse was erected at this site in the center of Jefferson Square. This rock structure was built in 1873 to replace the first courthouse and adjacent county clerk's office, which had been destroyed by a storm and fire following the Civil War (1861-65). After county seat was moved to Karnes City in 1894, building was used as a school until 1945.
Immaculate Conception Church
Oldest Polish parish in America. Offered its first Mass on Dec. 24, 1854 (altar under an oak tree). First building erected 1855. This church with 100-foot tower built 1877; remodeled 1937.
Seat of Karnes County; was founded in Christmas season, 1890, when a partnership headed by Otto Buchel bought 1,000 acres of land from J. L. Calvert for $5 an acre. The tract was near the geographic center of the county and adjoined the right-of-way of the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad. The young town was first named Karnes in honor of Henry W. Karnes (1812-1840), Texas Ranger hero. Although a small, mild-mannered man, Karnes was conspicuous for his cool courage in battle. Red-headed, he was once beseiged by a group of Comanche women who attempted to wash the "berry juice" out of his hair. When the first Karnes post office was established April 1, 1891, "City" was added to the name. The new town grew so fast that within three years citizens petitioned for an election to remove the county seat from Helena to Karnes City. The voters favored Karnes City two-to-one and the move was made January, 1894. Having grown steadily since 1891, Karnes City has had seven newspapers, four banks, and many businesses. During the railroad boom, when a train was the most exciting way to travel, six passenger trains per day came through town. The economy of the area has been based on ranching, farming, uranium, oil, and gas.
county seat moved from Helena, in 1894
Three story courthouse with attic and basement. Details include banding in rusticated limestone, tall full arch windows and entrance. Originally had Mansard-style roof which gave the building a Second Empire appearance
In 1854 Karnes County erected its first courthouse in the county seat of Helena, an important stage stop between San Antonio and Goliad. The original courthouse was destroyed in a storm about 1865 and a new stone courthouse was built in Helena in 1873. In the mid-1880s the citizens of Helena refused to grant right-of-way and cash concessions sought by the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad to route its proposed rail line through the town. As a result, the railroad bypassed Helena as it built a line through Karnes County in 1886-87. By 1893 the railroad town of Karnes City, established here in 1891, had surpassed Helena in population and political clout. Karnes City was chosen the new county seat on December 21, 1893. Karnes County officials let bids for a new courthouse and jail on January 4, 1894. They received bids from prominent Texas courthouse designers Alfred Giles and J. Riely Gordon, but awarded the contract to design and build a new county courthouse at this site to John Cormack. Cormack died before finishing the structure and his business associate J. A. Austin completed the job. The courthouse was dedicated on October 25, 1894, and completed on May 29, 1895. Its original turrets and clock tower were removed during 1920s remodeling.
The town of Kenedy occupies a site that once was part of a royal Spanish land grant to Don Carlos Martinez. American settlement in the area began after the Texas War for Independence (1836). Land for a townsite was purchased in 1886 by railroad promoter Mifflin Kenedy, for whom the community was named, and a post office was established the following year. Kenedy's early growth was attributed to its position as a major stop on the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad. Early buildings in Kenedy included a church, store, and cotton gin. By 1906, businesses in the town included newspaper offices, a bank, livery and feed stables, and one of the largest cotton compresses in the state. Incorporated in 1910, Kenedy gained a reputation for gunfighting that earned it the name "Six Shooter Junction." In 1915, hot mineral water was discovered near the depot, and the Hot Wells Hotel and Bath House was a thriving business for nearly 25 years. An alien detention camp was located on the outskirts of town during World War II. Although passenger train service no longer runs through Kenedy, this historic town remains an economic center for the surrounding agricultural area.
Kenedy Alien Detention Camp Cemetery
During World War II, the U.S. established three internment camps in Texas for alien civilians in the U.S. and Latin America, and one was located in Kenedy. The U.S. repatriated German, Japanese and Italian detainees in trade for American prisoners held overseas. The Kenedy camp opened on April 21, 1942, and over the next 30 months it housed more than 3,500 internees. Five who died while confined in the camp are buried here. The site became a branch P.O.W. camp for Fort Sam Houston from 1944 until 1946. In 1976, the El Cibolo Chapter of the D.A.R. marked the gravesites. Historic Texas Cemetery – 2005
FELIX MANKA HOUSE
Polish Colonial 1 1/2-story mid-19th century stone cottage; long narrow house with two adjacent rooms of equal proportions; chimneys at both ends of the house; the house forms the nucleus of a farm complex with board and batten outbuildings.
1 1/2-story stone building with steeply pitched roof, typical of the Polish Colonial style; large dormer added at later date; one of few Polish houses located in city limits.
ALFRED MOCCZYGEMBA HOUSE
Typical Polish Pioneer house with one main room at front and narrow kitchen at rear; in 1936 HABS photos house in fairly good condition, but has deteriorated tremendously.
JOHN MOCZYGEMBA HOUSE
One story limestone cottage with an inset front gallery and steeply pitched roof; wooden lintels above windows and doors; on south (main) facade the central double door uses the traditional 2 colors of blue; to the east is a stone ruin, part of the 19th century farm complex.
Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Cemetery
Jacob Lyssy (1837-1880) and John Pawlik, Jr. (1845-1912) of the Czestochowa parish each donated one acre of land to Bishop Anthony D. Pellicer of the Archdiocese of San Antonio to be used as a burial ground for the newly established Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church at Czestochowa (later spelled Cestohowa). The town also was known as St. Joe because of the St. Joseph Catholic School there. Early graves were often unmarked, or their markers were displaced. The earliest marked grave is that of Franciscus Gawlik, who died in August 1878. Spanish influenza attacked the lives of many Texans during the epidemic of 1918 to 1920. Several graves date from that period, including those of Frances Moczygemba Gawlik and three of her children, who died in the same week of March, 1920. Most grave markers were inscribed in Polish until the 1930s. Among the graves of interest are those of many persons who were instrumental in the formation of the Czestochowa parish. The Rev. Stanislaus Przyborowski (1872-1957) served the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church for 35 years and established several other Catholic churches in the area. The Rev. Edward Dworaczyk (1906-1965) was the author of many Polish history books. Of the more than 75 military veterans interred here by the year 2000, several served in the Confederate Army. Others served in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. At the dawn of the 21st century there were 864 graves in this cemetery. Various caretakers and volunteer labor continued to maintain the site, which remains a chronicle of Polish American settlement in Texas. (2000)
The second Polish colony in Karnes County, the village in this area grew out of a small settlement known as St. Joe and was formally established in 1873. At times the priest at Panna Maria would conduct services at St. Joseph School in what would become Czestochowa. The "Mother Colony" church at Panna Maria was destroyed by lightning in 1877; Czestochowa settlers decided to build their own church. This was the subject of much controversy among the Polish pioneers of Karnes County. Anton Jarzombek (1836-1922) and Frank Mutz (1814-1891) each donated land for the church. Area residents contributed their labor to build the eighty-five by forty foot church with Gervase Gabrysch (1830-1904) as contractor. Bishop Anthony D. Pellicer blessed the church on February 10, 1878. Father W. Pelczar was assigned as the first pastor that September. As a sign of their reconciliation, the parishioners from the newly rebuilt Panna Maria church presented the new parish a large painting of the Virgin Mary of Czestochowa, the Patroness of Poland. The two congregations often shared leadership in the ensuing years. The Cestohowa church (adopting the Americanized spelling of the community) thrived into the 20th century. In the 1930s the church underwent intensive additions and remodeling. Though the original walls remained, the roof was completely removed and the ceiling raised. The north and south wings were added and the steeple was increased in height. In 1998, the church celebrated its 125th anniversary. At that time, the parish consisted of 380 members. The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church continues in the traditions of its founders. (2000)
Ox-Cart Road (Section of Chihuahua Road)
After centuries of use by buffalo and Indians, this trail from San Antonio to the Texas coast gained importance when opened to colonial travel by the Alarcon Expedition in 1718. Spanish conquistadores and priests, the Gutierrez-Magee Expedition (which invaded Spanish Texas in 1812), Stephen F. Austin, Alamo heroes, Santa Anna's messenger ordering the death of prisoners at Goliad, Polish and German settlers of Texas-- all traveled on road. Rich trade in gold, silver, and leather with Mexico and the West was conducted along the road from San Antonio to Powderhorn. The U.S. 2nd Cavalry Forts, established to protect the Texas frontier, moved men and supplies over it. Materials were transported in two-wheeled ox-carts, prairie schooners, Wells-Fargo wagons drawn by sixteen mules, and by pack animals. In 1852 Helena was founded on road as a midway point between San Antonio and Goliad; Lewis S. Owings operated a daily stage line here, 1854. Major incidents of the Bizarre Cart War of 1857 between Texan and Mexican teamsters occurred near Helena. Herds of longhorns from South Texas crossed the road here enroute to market. After the railroad came through county in 1886, the Ox-Cart Road was abandoned.
First Store in Panna Maria
Built in 1855; used as a storeroom for landlord's share of Panna Maria crops. The landlord, John Twohig, a devout Catholic, set aside one room of store for the church and school. Owned and operated by the Snoga family since 1918. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, 1966 Incise in base: Marker furnished by Snoga families in memory of Frank and Annie Snoga
Oldest Permanent Polish Colony in America - Panna Maria, Texas
Settled by 100 Polish families who came to Texas to gain economic, political and religious freedom. Led by Father Leopold Moczygemba, O.F.M., Conv., they made a contract in 1854 with John Twohig, a San Antonio banker and merchant, for land at this site. The colonists, natives of Upper Silesia and Krakow, landed at Galveston after a hard voyage of nine weeks on a sailing ship. They hired Mexican carts to haul their farm implements, featherbeds, and the cross from their parish church in Poland. The 800 men, women, and children walked-- some in boots, others barefoot-- the 200 miles inland to their new home. Babies were born on the way, and some of the people died. All suffered from hunger and exposure. On Dec. 24, 1854, they reached this site. They named it Panna Maria (Virgin Mary), placing it under the patronage of the Immaculate Conception. Beneath a large oak they offered their first Midnight Mass of Thanksgiving and petition for strength and courage. They camped out until they could put up huts of mud, straw or wood, later building in stone. In spite of hardships, they founded a stable community, aided in settling other frontiers, pioneered in education, and gave Texas many patriotic, dedicated citizens.
Built 1875; second oldest store in Panna Maria; still has original rafters and floors. Lime for mortaring stones (visible on back and sides) was fired in home kilns. Store was bought by Victor Pilarczyk, 1913. First gas pump was installed 1919.
Simple one story, vernacular stone building built in 1875 as the second commercial building in Panna Maria; the rectangular building has pitched roof with gable end facing the street; southeast (main) facade has central door flanked by a window on each side.
Pannia Maria RECTORY
Small Greek Revival structure with central double door and 2 flanking windows on each side; the dormers and ell wind were probably added later; built as rectory for parish priest in 1870's.
Old Riedel Dam and Early Industries
250 yards west lie the remains of a pioneer dam built in 1869 by Carl Edward Riedel to supply the power for his sawmill, gristmill and cotton gin. That year another German immigrant, Max Krueger, helped install Riedel's gin-- first steam cotton gin in Karnes County. Shortly before, Krueger had built the barracks to house 50 U.S. Cavalrymen near Helena. Within 2 years a town grew up near Riedel's industries and was named Riddleville in his honor. On June 9, 1871, the U.S. postal records were moved from Ecleto post office (3 miles up the creek, where Kelly's Stage Stand stood) to the post office here. Between 1870 and 1886 Riddleville was one of the 5 principal towns in Karnes County. It was located at the crossing of the Helena-Gonzales Road and the Yorktown-Sutherland Springs Road. In 1876 its population was about 75. In 1905 the name of the town was changed to Gillett. With lumber from his mill, Riedel had built a hotel, which was destroyed by fire about 1905; but he immediately built a second hotel. Many homes and business houses in this area were constructed of Riedel's lumber, which can still be found today in existing Karnes County buildings. (1969)
Home of John Ruckman
Ruckman (Nov. 9, 1835 - Jan. 8, 1913), born in Northumberland County, Pa., came to Texas in 1856 to join his older brother Thomas, co-founder of Helena. Landing at Indianola on his 21st birthday, he came here to spend lifetime as farmer, rancher, postmaster, merchant, pioneer banker, leader in Presbyterian church. In Civil War, 1862-65, he was a lieutenant in Confederate Army. Married Lizzie Dickson, 1867. Children were John, Robert, Mary, Thomas, Follmer, Hester, Hugh and Margaret. In 1878 he built this house of Florida cypress. He is buried in Helena Cemetery.
Built in 1878, the John Ruckman house is a detached 2 1/2 story dwelling exemplifying a provincial interpretation of the Greek Revival style. With the public entrance oriented to the north, the house is massed in a 2 1/2 story ell shape connected to a single story kitchen unit extending south. The building is constructed of wood framing with clapboard siding of Florida cypress. Both the main structure (2 1/2 stories) and the single story extension are covered with separate wooden-shingled gable roofs, the main structure by intersecting gables and the extension by one. The roof of the main block is pierced by three small chimneys, the extension by one chimney and remnants of a bell tower. The facade of the "front" or north side of the house is bilaterally symmetrical, featuring a central entrance flanked by shuttered six-over-six double hung windows. This main
entrance is accentuated by a two story projecting portico, supported by octagonal columns flanked by square columns, and topped with a pediment featuring heavy cornice detail. The second floor portico is enclosed in a balustrade composed of single turned balusters. The doorway on both levels consists of a single panel door encased with transom and side light windows, and flanked by pilasters supporting a heavy cornice. The remaining facades depart from the established symmetry in the placement of door and window openings, which relate to internal organization and function of spaces. The west facade features a side entrance accentuated by a single story projecting portico, smaller in scale though simpler in detail to the north portico. The east facade presents perhaps the most complex arrangement of architectural elements. Viewed as a whole, the elevation presents an asymmetrical composition, but for descriptive purposes, it will be broken down into three components which include the projecting east end of the north wing of the main block, the recessed "inside" of the south wing of the main block, and the "front" ( main entrance ) of the single story kitchen extension. The gable on both the east and west sides of the main unit is pierced with two shuttered windows. The pediment on both sides is emphasized with heavy molding which conceals the gutter system. The recessed portion of the facade consists of a two-story colonnaded portico, running the full length of the main block, supported by square columns, with the first floor of the portico continuing on to connect the kitchen extension. The second floor of the portico, accessible only from the interior, is enclosed with a balustrade similar to the one enclosing the north portico. The facade of the kitchen extension is in itself symmetrical, featuring two shuttered windows flanked by single door entrances. The south elevation, represented in both the facade of the kitchen wing and the main block, departs radically from symmetry with roof lines, doors, windows, and portico cut-outs juxtaposed in an asymmetrical composition. The main entrance opens onto a central hallway with stairs leading to the second floor. The rear of this hall opens directly onto the east portico, and intersecting the hall near this doorway is the side or west entrance hall. This north wing of the ell shape presents an arrangement typical of Greek Revival plans, consisting of a central hallway with identical room divisions on either side of it. The first floor rooms are identified as public usage ( parlor, sitting room, bed/sitting room, entry hall ) while the second floor rooms are identified as private usage ( bedrooms ). Rooms in the southern wing of the main block are accessible from the exterior with doors opening onto the east portico. The second floor portico can be reached by way of the central hall, and the rooms opening onto it are identified as bedrooms. The first floor of the southern wing of the main block ( one room ) along with the entire single story extension is designated for usage in food preparation and service. Accessible from the east portico is the dining room which is connected by way of a pantry to the kitchen and storage room ( single story extension ), also opening onto the portico.
The central stairway continues up to the top floor which is designated as attic and storage space. Secondary stairways within the structure include a stairway connecting the dining room to the bedroom above it, and another one connecting the kitchen storeroom to the cellar (of unknown size ) below it.
The interior spaces feature high ceilings and unadorned walls of horizontal planking, pierced with many windows and accentuated with architectural trim in contrasting hues and values. Many of the rooms have cornice molding around the ceiling. The floors throughout are hardwood and the central stairway is trimmed with decorative dowels and banisters. A decorative mantle appears in both the parlor and the dining room. Painted on the ceiling of the dining room is a star medallion from which a chandelier was hung. The original pale and neutral hues of the interior walls remain today, and research indicates that the exterior was painted a creamy white with trim and shutters in a contrasting green.
Outbuildings on the property include two brick-lined wells and a wash house located south of the main structure. A carriage house is located to the southeast. A bathroom was added onto the north wing of the main block at an undetermined date. An unpaved contemporary road provides access to the house.
The structure has experienced a substantial amount of deterioration on the porch areas which are suffering a structural breakdown as a result of rotten framing. Many decorative elements are missing and several columns are losing their position. Deterioration of the roof and missing windows has exposed the interior to weather. The southeast corner of the building is infested with termites and the sill is separated at the point where the east wall joins the east portico of the main block.
Restoration plans include returning the structure to its original physical condition, reconstructing missing elements including the open-sided, hipped roof bell tower
Built in 1878 by a settler from Pennsylvania, the John Ruckman house is an outstanding example of 19th century Texas Greek Revival architecture. The Greek Revival theme is carried out in the floorplan, designed around a central hallway, and reinforced by the structural and decorative elements including symmetrical front facade, pedimented porticoes, supporting columns, transom and sidelights, and heavy exterior molding. It is the only home that survives from Helena's heyday as county seat of Karnes County.
As early as the 1840's, the site of Helena, then known as Alamita, was an important stop on the supply line from Indianola to San Antonio. In 1852, Thomas Ruckman and Lewis Owings opened a store and hired Charles Russell to lay out a townsite named Helena, which became the county seat of newly formed Karnes County. Located on the Ox Cart Road (part of the Chihuahua Trail) between San Antonio and Goliad, Helena soon grew to be a bustling town of six hundred which supported many businesses including two hotels, a boot shop, harness shop, livery stable, two newspapers, a school, and a large number of saloons. During these juvenile years, Helena acquired the reputation of being a lawless place, with outlaws from other states taking refuge there. At the same time however, settlers were busy cultivating the fertile land of the San Antonio River valley, raising cotton, corn, cane, and garden vegetables. Thomas Ruckman built a sawmill, gristmill, and cotton gin which were much in demand as Helena grew and prospered.
John Ruckman joined his brother, Thomas, in Karnes County in 1857. From 1862 to 1865 John served the Confederacy as a Lieutenant, then returned to Helena where he served as the first postmaster, a banker, a merchant, as well as a prominent planter. In 1867 he married Eliza Dickson whose family came to Karnes County from Arkansas. Eliza, who was of Scottish lineage, was a direct descendant of American Revolution General Joseph Dickson. In keeping with their personal affluennce as well as the prosperity of Helena, John and Eliza constructed their elegant and accommodating home in 1878. For many years, the Ruckman home functioned as the center of social activities for Helena. Today the home is considered to be "a very fine representation of 19th century Texas residential architecture" by the architectural history community, significant in form, construction, detailing, and finishing.
In 1884, the completion of the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway marked the decline of the economy of Helena. The railway bypassed the bustling little town for Karnes City, which became a boom town overnight, rendering Helena a "ghost town." In 1893, after a majority of Helena's businesses had migrated to Karnes City, a vote was passed to move the county seat from Helena to Karnes City. The citizens of Helena were so opposed to this transfer that the county records had to be transported at night, under secrecy and guard.
Following Ruckman's death on January 8, 1913, ownership of the house eventually passed to his four unmarried children, two of whom lived in the house until 1967, when they deeded it to the Old Helena Foundation, since merged with the Karnes County Historical Society. Currently, the Society plans to restore the home back to its original appearance including period furnishings, and then operate it as a hospitality center for area tourists and area residents, offering historical information, crafts and craft lessons, and special events. While the house stands as the last of Helena's frontier homes, it is not the last remaining structure from Helena's heyday. In close proximity to the structure is the courthouse, a two story stone structure built in 1873, the post office, the CarverMayfield commercial building, and the Masonic building.
Ruckman came to Helena in 1857 from Pennsyvania to join his brother Thomas, who found Helena; John, served the Confederacy as a lieutenant, served as the first postmaster, banker, store merchant, and area rancher and farmer.
(November 8, 1826 - December 2, 1914) Founding father of Karnes County, Ruckman was born in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. He graduated in 1848 from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) and taught in South Carolina for a year. But the lure of Texas-- then a frontier state where land was cheap and opportunity boundless-- brought him on Christmas morning, 1850, to San Antonio. In 1851 he started a trading post in the little Mexican settlement of Alamita, located on the Old Ox-Cart Road between San Antonio and Goliad. Other businessmen followed his example, and soon Ruckman was able to build a gristmill near the San Antonio River, enlarge his store, and erect a stately home. Soon after, Ruckman took as partner Dr. L. S. Owings, and together they foresaw a metropolis arising at this important and inviting roadstop. Their store once stood near the site of this marker. In 1852, they laid out a new town, which they named "Helena", in honor of Owings' wife. When Karnes County organized in 1854, Helena was chosen county seat. Ruckman was postmaster here, 1854 to 1857, and he continued nearly 40 years as leading merchant and banker. In 1872, he helped found the Helena Academy. He is buried in the Masonic Cemetery of Helena.
Early Texas town. Near site where Old Ox-Cart Road from San Antonio to Indianola crossed the Ojo de Agua (Spanish name meaning "eye of water" or spring) Creek. Here pioneer travelers found essentials of water, wood, and grass. Numerous Indian artifacts found nearby indicate that Karankawas, Tonkawas, Apaches, and Comanches camped or hunted in vicinity. First Anglo-American settlement here, in early 1850s, was named Sulphur Springs; in the late 1850s and 1860s the place was called Mineral Spring. In 1886 a group of Cuero merchants known as H. Runge and Company bought a large tract of land on which they platted the townsite of Runge. The San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad, called the "SAP", extended its line from Kenedy toward Houston and built a depot, a switch, and stockpens at Runge. The first post office was established here September 20, 1887. By 1890 Runge had grown to be the largest town in Karnes County. The public schools were organized in 1891 and Runge citizens engaged in many typical pioneer social and civic activities, including weekly band concerts held in the town square. The economy of the region has been sustained by farming, ranching, dairying, and petroleum production.
SKILES HOUSE (RUINS)
Remains of one story stone building; random ashlar built by Skiles, English Pioneer, on Hi Bluff over San Antonio River Valley, quarry on site; stone kitchen detached to S/E; large proportions-12' doorways, 18' walls.
ST. JOSHEPH'S SCHOOL
2-story stuccod limestone building with hipped roof; built in 1868 as first Polish school in U.S.; basically, rectangular with 2 gabled end pavilions on N/W and gallery between; S/E facade has central double door with hanking windows on first and 5 corresponding windows on second floor; chimneys at each end.
ST. MARY'S OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
2-story Gothic Revival basilica plan church with 100 foot entrance tower; replaced earlier
1855 church; built in 1877, enlarged in 1937; first Polish American parish in United States.
Saint Matthew's Episcopal Church
Episcopal worship services were held in Kenedy as early as 1899, though the congregation of St. Matthew's was not organized as a mission until 1913, by the Rev. Alfred R. S. Garden. Designed by Frank Corby, this was the only Episcopal church in the county when completed in 1916. The Gothic Revival style structure, in a Latin cross plan, features tall, narrow, pointed-arch windows, fabricated buttresses, and a side entry bay narthex. A crenelated tower was rebuilt with a gabled roof following damage in a 1942 hurricane. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark -1986
JOHN TWOHIG'S STORE
Simple one story rectangular stone structure built in 1855 by John Twohig, the man who sold Polish the land for their settlement; building used as storehouse for corn (payment for land); 1918 brick facade added by new owners, Snogas; window on east converted to door in 1918.
Polish Colonial residence built ca. 1858; 1862 the shed roof was changed and extended to incorporate a rear kitchen; the 1 1/2-story stone structure has a central door flanked by 2 windows and sheltered by an inset porch; 1903 a brick ell was added at the rear.
WHETSTONE RANCH HOUSE
Unusual raised stone building with symmetrical facade and a central hall plan; stone stairs lead to the raised gallery across the central 3-bays of the main floors.
Oct 08, 2007, 06:06 PM
Re: The History of Karnes County in Texas
Interesting reads. I travel that area a lot, knew there was a lot of history in that area. Would be great if you could get some permission to hunt some of those areas. I see alot of houses that look like they've been there for decades, would make for an interesting hunt.
Oct 08, 2007, 07:24 PM
Re: The History of Karnes County in Texas
I have permission to hunt most of this county.
Oct 09, 2007, 08:50 AM
Re: The History of Karnes County in Texas
Oct 11, 2007, 06:13 PM
Re: The History of Karnes County in Texas
UPDATE: more history
John Wesley Hardin's Widow, Callie Lewis Hardin
The story of the life of legendary Texas gunman John Wesley Hardin has been thoroughly researched by those proficient in searching out details and has been reported to the reader in many books. As well, an autobiography, The Life Of John Wesley Hardin, As Written by Himself, was left behind by the bad man and adds more information. Probably only a newly-discovered, unique store of records will add much to the known saga. However, a brief chronology of Hardin's short life will set the stage for the narrative which follows.1
John Wesley Hardin
May 26, 1853 - John Wesley Hardin born in Bonham, Texas, to James Gibson and Mary Elizabeth Dixon Hardin.
October 1868 - Hardin shot first man.
November 1868 - By this date had killed four men.
February 29,1872 - Married Jane Bowen.
February 6, 1873 - First child. Mary Elizabeth "Mollie'' Hardin born.
July 1874 - Fled to Florida where he used the alias John H. Swain.
October 1874 - Bought and operated a saloon in Jacksonville, Florida.
August 3, 1875 - Son, John Wesley Hardin, Jr., born in Jacksonville. Florida.
October 1875 - Moved to Pollard, Alabama.
July 1877 - Last child. Jane "Jennie" Hardin born.
August 23, 1877 - Captured at Pensacola, Florida.
September 28, 1878 - Sentenced to 25 years in Huntsville Prison, Texas. Studied law while in prison.
November 6, 1892 - Wife, Jane Bowen Hardin, died.
February 17,1894 - Released from prison.
March 16, 1894 - Granted a full pardon.
July 21,1894 - Admitted to practice of law in Gonzales County.
October 6, 1894 - Moved to Junction, Texas, and opened a law office.
January 9, 1895 - Married 15½-year-old Caroline "Callie" Lewis.
January 14, 1895 - Callie Hardin returned home to live with her parents.
August 19, 1895 - John Wesley Hardin shot and killed in El Paso by John Selman.
From outward appearances, Hardin's first marriage to Jane Bowen seemed a happy, although short, romance, resulting in three children. However, from letters written by Jane Hardin and a few remarks attributed to her, that wedding bliss may not have been so bona fide.2 Jane complained that John was hardly ever home and that his frequent absences were sometime very long. Although John did send money from his gambling winnings, his wife and children were often in dire financial need. When John fled Jacksonville, Florida, to a new hiding place in Alabama, Jane accused him of abandoning her and the children.3 Even after Jane died and after John received a full pardon, the children hardly knew their father and balked at living with him, preferring to continue living with other relatives.4 So this first marriage may not have been so blessed with happiness as was sometimes reported. Wedding contentment may have been for only short periods, now and then when John was at home. But this marriage ended in the death of Jane in November 1891.5
John Wesley Hardin's second marriage was to Caroline "Callie" Lewis at London, Texas, on January 9, 1895.6 This lasted only five days until Callie asked to be returned to her parents’ home. Only seven months later in El Paso, John was shot and killed.
Callie Lewis' father, Leonard L. Lewis, was born in London, England, but migrated to the United Stales and settled in Chicago during the 1850s. When the Civil War began, he volunteered for duty and served as a captain and company commander in the Southern Illinois Regiment in the Clay County Company. After the war he moved to Texas, was in Burnet County, then in Kimble County. He purchased 320 acres of land on the Kimble-Mason County line and established a new town. He soon married a widow, Mary Elizabeth "Bettie'' Boyce Anderson. He named the new town Bettie Lewis after his wife, but the post office rejected the name. It was changed to London after Leonard's birthplace. His intention was to make London the county seat of a new county, Schreiner County, but he was unable to raise funds for the necessary surveying and legal work. So, London continued as a town in the northeast corner of Kimble County. Lewis erected a hotel which he operated while also serving as postmaster and actively selling lots in his new town.7 The town began to grow as a ranching center.
Bettie Lewis, nee Boyce, was the sister of the famous bad man, Rube Boyce.8 He was well known in the region as a rustler and robber and was known to have killed as least three men. The El Paso stage followed the Northern San Antonio to El Paso National Road through Fredericksburg, Mason, Menard, and on to El Paso. The route crossed the San Saba River at Peg Leg Crossing, a few miles north of' London. Rube Boyce was adept, as well as habitual, at stopping and robbing the stage in a gap just west of Peg Leg Crossing. A stage driver on that run suggested that a scheduled stop be established in the gap to allow for Boyce's robberies so that the driver could keep the stage on schedule.9 As mentioned, stage robbing was not his only vice.
A short distance south of London was the Kimble County ranching headquarters of the famous rustler, Creed Taylor, who had used the area for years as a gathering place for rustled herds. Finally he moved his main cattle interests there from Karnes County. A descendent of Taylor termed him, "the father of mavericking in Texas." His rustling activities were carried on over a wide area of Central Texas for years. Two of Creed's sons and his son-in-law had shot down and killed a U. S. Army officer, Major John Thompson, in Mason during the late 1860s.10 Violence usually followed Taylor wherever he happened to be.
Several other such pillars of the community lived in the general area of London. In fact. the region had seen many Texas bad men, especially during and before the Mason County or Hoo Doo War of the 1870s. John Ringo, Scott Cooley, George Gladden, Charlie Johnson, Caleb Hall, and on and on were, at times, area residents. During the Civil War, a group of deserters and draft dodgers used the area as a camp for rustling, stealing, and other activities necessary for them to live alone in the Indian-controlled region. In 1878 a company of Texas Rangers was stationed in Kimble County to stop illegal activities of the "mob" working there.11
On October 6, 1894. John Wesley Hardin arrived at Junction, Kimble County, and opened a law office. A brother was teaching school in Junction.12 About that same time, John rode to Mason to talk with J. Warren Hunter, publisher of the Mason Herald, about publishing the manuscript of his life that he had written while in prison.13 He stopped over at Lewis' hotel in London and there met Leonard and Bettie Lewis’ daughter, Callie. The generally accepted story is that Callie, only 15½ years old, became instantly infatuated with Hardin. Another version says that Hardin won Callie in a card game with Lewis. That story receives little credit, but it is part of the legend and needs mentioning.14
Callie wrote to John, dated October 30, 1894, apologizing for being so forward, but invited John to a New Years celebration, making it plain that she would be glad to see him. But a letter from John dated January 1,1895, explained that he had been unable to be there for New Years because of injuries caused by a runaway. He added that she knew his proposition and asked for her answer. This was evidently after asking her to marry him.
Invitation for a Visit
The answer from Callie informed him that she did not wish to respond to such a proposition by mail and wanted him to visit as soon as he could. He must have rushed to London as they were married there on January 9, 1895.15
The plan was for the entire wedding party to go to Junction for a few days, then on to Kerrville for a final celebration before John and Callie settled down to married life. They would live in Kerrville. However, Callie became disillusioned and demanded her return to London. She was taken there by John on January 19, only five days after the wedding. John went on to Kerrville to open a law office.
Although there are several stories about Callie''s reasons for leaving, only one seems to be plausible. While the wedding was consummated on the wedding night, further activity along those lines did not happen. Leon Metz probably tells this best and puts the correct perspective on John and Callie's wedding: "Callie was fifteen and one-half and acted every bit of it; John Wesley Hardin was forty-one and feeling every day of it. Hardin had lost nearly sixteen years of his youth in the state prison. He must have thought his adolescence was simply dormant until recalled; he did not realize until now that it was gone forever. Furthermore, the headstrong, tempestuous nature of Callie, which had originally charmed and fascinated Hardin, was starting to irritate him."16
Then to add to Hardin's inabilities, as the couple was preparing to leave for Kerrville, John's brother, Jeff Hardin, visited and made joking remarks about Callie marrying such an old man. That was too much for Callie and caused her to demand that she be returned to London and the home of her parents.17
A number of letters passed back and forth between Callie's parents and John. While some of John's letters seem to be lost to time, most are available for review along with those written by Mr. and Mrs. Lewis. The first letter, from Leonard Lewis, dated January 16, 1895, professed friendship with Hardin and further mentioned that Callie was ever thinking of John, plus that he thought she would be fine and ready to resume wedded life soon. He added that he desired for her to live with Hardin.
The next letter was from Bettie Lewis, dated March 4. She wrote that Callie was not happy, had gone out only once since returning to London, to a dance. Bettie thought John and Callie would soon be living happily together. Another letter came from Leonard, dated March 13. He wrote that Callie was as she was when Hardin left her. He went on to add: "She is full of hell—we keep her at home, but the devil is in her. What and how she will come out is more that I can tell."
Leonard wrote a final letter on March 23 stating that there was no change in Callie and that he did not think she would he satisfied with Hardin, and that they should just let the matter sleep.18 During this time John was living in Kerrville.
Not so long after, John went to El Paso. By March 30 he was there on law business.Soon after he was living with Helen M'Rose. On August 19, 1895, Hardin was killed by John Selman.19 Callie Lewis Hardin remained with her parents. Evidently she made no claim for any of John's effects and those eventually passed to his children. Included was the manuscript of his life and a number of letters, including those from the Lewis family.
In a few years Callie remarried. She was married to a Mason County doctor, Perry Allen Baze, in 1898. Dr. Baze was born at Camp San Saba, McCulloch County, on July 17, 1877.20 He and Callie moved to Fredonia in Mason County, but after a few years moved several miles west to near Camp Air.21They had a son, Seth Lewis Baze, born at Fredonia on April 20, 1899. Seth died in 1956, leaving behind a son, Billy, a grandson to Callie.22
When Callie married and moved to Mason County, she joined the Mason First Christian Church, noted as a member in January 1900. Then she was active in the Ladies Aid Society in 1904 through 1906. The church was reorganized in 1909 and Caroline "Callie" Baze was listed as a charter member.23
This wedding to Dr. Baze might also not have been one of happiness and bliss. In 1915 Callie sued tor divorce, giving adultery as the reason. The doctor acknowledged the breach of his wedding vows and the two went their separate ways.24 Dr. Baze continued as a country doctor for many years. He died in December 1959, and was buried in Gooch Cemetery, Mason.25
After the divorce Callie went to San Antonio but was not there long. She accepted a position in Mexico City as a greeter/desk clerk, usually noted as "hostess"' in an American-owned hotel. She was evidently proficient in her job as she remained there until the depression. No doubt she had learned the hotel business while helping to operate her parents’ hotel in London. When she left Mexico City, she was briefly in San Antonio, but sometime prior to World War II she moved to Mason, living in a small house on Avenue A. Her home in Mason was small, but well built, a Basse block house in a good neighborhood. She was described as a tall, slim lady, very sophisticated and often formal. However, the neighborhood kids were invited each summer afternoon to her house for root beer floats.26
Basse blocks, named after the man who made them first, were unique to a small area of the Texas Hill Country. Similar to cement blocks, Basse blocks used granite grit instead of sand and the blocks were sealed or glazed. Columns were cast in the same and were used as porch posts or decorations. The result was a marble house. Many of these homes remain today, especially in Mason and Mason County.
In Mason, Callie attended the Presbyterian Church.27 She lived a quiet life, seldom entertaining except for her son or grandson or three nephews, grandsons of her brother. Her soft spot seemed to be the children in the neighborhood. Although she was approached many times by writers asking about her marriage to John Wesley Hardin, she continually refused to grant an interview. Neighbors or others who knew her remarked that she never mentioned Hardin or answered questions about him.28
A fairly lengthy obituary was printed for Callie when she died September 30, 1963.
MRS CAROLYN BAZE SAN ANTONIO BURIAL
Funeral Services for Mrs. Carolyn Baze, age 83 years, were held Tuesday morning at 10:00 at the Mason Funeral Home with the Rev. J. A. Owen officiating. Graveside services followed at 2:00 P. M. at Mission Burial Park in San Antonio where interment was made. Mrs. Baze died Monday afternoon at 3:00 o'clock in the Mason Memorial Hospital where she had been a patient for three weeks.
Born July 29, 1880, in Burnet County, she was the daughter of Mr and Mrs Lin. Lewis. Mrs. Baze had lived in Mexico Cily where she was a hotel hostess, and in San Antonio, before returning to Mason to make her home. She was a member of the Presbyterian Church.
Survivors are one grandson, Billy Baze of Mason, one brother, Damon Lewis of Houston, and three grandchildren of Mason.
Pallbearers were Luke Moss of Llano, Roy Doell, Ben Grote, Pete Schmidt, Willard Larimore and Harold Zesch.29
Her marriage to John Wesley Hardin was not mentioned, nor the marriage to Dr. Baze, the publisher seemingly knowing Callie's desire to close the chapter on her two marriages.
1. This chronology is a composite of several references: Jesse Earle Bowden and William S. Cummings' Texas Desperado in Florida: The Capture of Outlaw John Wesley Hardin in Pensacola, 1877. Pensacola, Florida, 2002; John Wesley Hardin's The Life of John Wesley Hardin As Written By Himself, new edition. Norman, Oklahoma. 1961; Leon Metz: John Wesley Hardin: Dark Angel of Texas, Mangan Books, El Paso, Texas 1996; Lewis Nordyke's John Wesley Hardin: Texas Gunman, New York, 1957; Chuck and Marjorie Parsons' Bowen and Hardin, College Station, Texas, 1991; The Sonnichsen Papers, University of Texas at El Paso.
2. John Wesley Hardin Letters Collection, Texas State University. San Marcos.
3. Metz, John Wesley Hardin: Dark Angel of Texas, 162-64. Hereafter cited as Metz.
4. Ibid., 210.
5. See note 1 supra.
6. O. C. Fisher. It Occurred in Kimble County. Houston. TX 1937. Vertical Files, Heritage Room, Mason County - M. Beven Eckert Library, Mason, Texas, hereafter cited as Vertical Files.
8. Personal conversations by Frederica Wyatt, Junction, Texas, with the author, 2000-2004.
9. San Antonio to Et Paso Stage Line Records, Texas State Archives, Austin, Texas.
10. Mason County Historical Commission: The Hoo Doo War: Portraits of a Lawless Time. Mason, Texas 2003.
13. Vertical Files.
14. Ibid.; Metz, 216.
15. Hardin Letters Collection.
16. Metz, 215.
17. Ibid., 216; Vertical Files.
18. Hardin Letters Collection.
19. See note 1 supra.
20. Vertical Files.
21. Julius DeVos. Notebook: Research on Families, Baze of Mason County.
22. Vertical Files.
24. Divorce Decrees, Mason County, Texas, 1915.
25. Vertical Files.
26. Ibid.; and personal conversations and statements by Marjorie Robbins, Raymond Parker, Ruth Parker, et al, to Jerry Ponder, 1993-2004.
27. Vertical files.
28. Statements by Robbins and Parkers.
29. The Mason County News, Mason, Texas, 3 October 1963.
Oct 11, 2007, 06:38 PM
Re: The History of Karnes County in Texas
Link to: CCC/POW camp information
here in Kenedy, Tx.
Oct 13, 2007, 07:08 PM
Re: The History of Karnes County in Texas
location of stores, Livery Stables, Saloons, Gins, Masonic Lodge,
Homes, Stores ect.
Oct 14, 2007, 06:15 PM
Re: The History of Karnes County in Texas
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