History of Bandera County, Texas


Spanish Texas

In the early part of the 1500's the Spaniards first approached Texas by sea, sailing from the east along the Gulf of Mexico. In 1519, after the conquest of Mexico by Hernan Cortes of Cuba, the Spanish governor of Jamaica ordered Alonso Alvarez de Pineda to search for wealth. Alvarez Pineda was given four ships and 270 men. He and his crew were the first Europeans to view the entire coast of Texas. Pineda constructed the first map from the Florida Keys to Veracruz, Mexico. Panfilo do Narvaez, one of Pineda's men, left Mexico and returned to Spain in the early 1520's. Narvaez was awarded a royal patent to establish a colony between the Florida pennisula (Florida was a term applied to the Gulf coast) and the province of Panuca, situated to the north of Veracruz, Mexico. Narvaez left Spain in June 1527 with 250 men and five ships. Only two of Narvaez's five ships landed near western Galveston Island in early November. A crew of four men were the first non-Indians to set foot on Texas Soil - Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, Andres Dorantes de Carranza, his African-born slave Estevanico, and Alonso Castillo. They lived among the hostile Texas Indians for almost seven years and survived the harsh environment of the Texas coast. Their accounts and the writing of Cabeza de Vaca recorded the names of the Indians of South Texas and where they were located. Vaca's descriptions of the Texas Indians supplied cultural information that greatly exceeded the information from all his successors combined. New Spain (Texas) to sponsor the land expedition of Fancisco Vazquez de Coronado to New Mexico and Texas. The Coronado expedition is linked to the expedition of Hernando De Soto. They were both in Texas in the early 1540's. Beginning in the early 1550's the Spanish development of mining began and they built missions and presidios. Frontier agencies were built and designed to educate and convert the Indians. The primary purpose of the missions, presidios, and agencies was to convert the Indians to the Catholic faith by they also served the Spanish by making Indians into tractable and tax-paying citizens. The Spanish Military Presidios were agencies of the state and provided security for the missions and the friars of the Franciscan order in the early days of Spanish Texas. In the eighty-two years of continuous Spanish presence in New Mexico, Texas along the Rio Grande from Presidio to El Paso bordered the paths from the mines, missions, and ranches of northern Mexico to the land of the Pueblos. However, the Texas interior remained mostly "tierra ingognita".

French Texas

In 1682, Rene Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle, explored the Mississippi River from Canada. La Salle established that the Mississippi emptied into the Gulf of Mexico between Spanish Florida and Panuca. Canada would lose the access to the sea and could be threatened from the south if Spain closed the gap and occupied the lower Mississippi valley. Another consideration was to place French colony on the lower part of the river which would be close to the rich mines of New Spain (Texas). In 1683, La Salle returned to France to present his colonization plans before the court of Versailles. After a few delays and other international considerations, he was given generous support to challenge the Spanish empire. The La Salle expedition sailed from France in 1684. His expedition had misperceptions and faulty maps that resulted in overshooting the Mississippi by about 400 miles and the expedition landing at Matagorda Bay in early 1685. La Salle and his men were stranded on the Texas coast and he had become the subject of a Spanish manhunt. La Salle's colony had failed, not because of the Spanish, but because of "bad luck". In 1687, La Salle's ruins was discovered on Carcitas Creek, he was a victim of assassination. When La Salle overshot the Mississippi River and landed on the Texas Coast, Spain was forced to focus on East Texas, where success was hard to come by. In 1803, Napoleon Bonaparte, the ruler of the French Empire, sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States. He wanted the money to fund his enterprises and wanted to be rid of the territory that he could not defend or develop. President Thomas Jefferson claimed that the Louisiana Purchase extended all the way to the Rio Grande which entitled the U.S. to take possession of Texas by the right of purchase. In 1819, the U.S. and Spain signed the "Adams-Onis Treaty". The U.S. gave up their right to Texas in exchange for Florida. The treaty came too late for Spain. Spain's hold on Mexico had been falling apart since 1810. The Spanish authorities carried out bloody purges directed at anyone who was suspected of being a rebel. Mexico finally defeated Spain and won their independence. 

Mexican Texas

Mexico took control of Texas in 1821. Their plan was to encourage Anglo-America settlers to farm and develop the land by giving them land grants. American settlers were attracted to Texas because the land was cheap. Four cents for undeveloped land compared to $1.25 in the United States. By 1830, the population of Americans in Texas was about 25,000 people. The Mexican government was having doubts about the American immigration. They were concerned because most of the colonists who were settling in Mexico were coming from Kentucky and Tennessee, places of frontier folk who had conquered the American frontier. The Mexican government forbid further American immigration. They increased their military force and created trade along the Texas coast. On April 6, 1830, these laws were codified. The Mexican military was not large enough to enforce these new laws. The Americans has made great sacrifices to move to Texas and became angry when the Spanish military attempted to collect tariffs and customs when they were not providing good services and protection from the Indians. Each attempt by the Mexican government to enforce these laws resulted in conflicts with the American settlers, each conflict was bigger than the last one. The most famous battle in Texas was the "Battle of the Alamo" at San Antonio de Bexar, March 6, 1836. Attempts by the Mexican authorities and military to enforce civil obedience eventurally led to the "Texas Revolution of 1836".

Independent Texas

General Sam Houston led the battle against General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and the Mexican Army at San Jacinto in Texas. The Mexican Army was defeated. General Santa Anna was captured and surrendered and ordered his troops to retreat south of the Rio Grande. On May 14, 1836, the public and private treaties of Velasco were signed by Presidents David G. Burnet and General Santa Anna. They confirmed the Mexican retreat and declared the end of the war. The Texas and Mexican governments did not accept the treaties, but the Texas revolution had caused a sensation among the people in the United States. The comparison of the classic "David vs. Goliath" battle for independence was printed in newspapers as the "Alamo and Goliath', and the amazing victory at San Jacinto. Stephen F. Austin, a respected political leader in Texas, and other leaders were amazed and grateful for the enthusiastic response Texas was receiving. They expected President Andrew Jackson and the U.S. Senate to take quick action to recognize and annex Texas. They were shocked when neither Jackson nor the Senate moved to take quick action. The U.S. Government expressed doubts about the annexation of Texas. President Andrew Jackson was in favor of annexation but congressional leaders were expressing doubts. The northern Democrats were questioning the addition of a enormous new slave territory and how it would effect the balance of power between the two sections of the country. President Jackson, a slaveholder himself, first duty was to protect the preservation of the Union. In Texas, most of the people had little knowledge of government affairs and national issues. The majority of Texans considered themselves to be Americans and to then annexation was a formality. In September of 1836, independent Texas held their first election and the people cast an overwhelming yes vote on the question of annexation to the United States and Sam Houston was elected the first president by a landslide.

Presidents of the "Republic of Texas".
David G. Burnet

3/16/1836 to 10/22/1836

Sam Houston -

10/22/1836 to 12/10/1838
(First President after Annexation)
Mirabeau B. Lamar -
12/22/1838 to 12/13/1841
Sam Houston -

12/13/1841 to 12/9/1844
Kenneth Anderson -

12/9/1844 to 21/9/1846

Before Lamar became President of Texas, he went on a buffalo hunt with a few Texas friends near the Colorado River. During the buffalo hunt he found an area near the river that he thought was a perfect site for a capital city. By June of 1939, after his inauguration, construction had started on the new city, known today as Austin, Texas, the Capital city of Texas. During the Presidency of Lamar, the Texas government collected about one million dollars in taxes and spent almost five million. Lamar's ambitious spending to finance his schemes depended on loans from England and France that never came through. Lamar left office with the reputation of a "Big Spending President", however one good aspect of his achievements overlooked during his presidency was the establishment of education. Under Lamar's leadership, Texas set aside public lands that could be used as endowments for an educational system. Today, the Capital city of Austin, houses one of the biggest universities in the USA, "The University of Texas". In 2010 their are many branches of the University of Texas in cities throughout Texas. President Lamar is known as the "Father of Texas Education".

Bexar County, Texas

In 1691, an European expedition led by Domingo Teran de Los Rios and Fray Damian Massanet explored Bexar County. It is believed they reached the San Antonio River where the San Juan Capistrano Mission was later founded. Massanet name the area "San Antonio de Padua", after Saint Anthony. In 1709, a group of Spanish explorers led by fathers Antonio de San Buenaventuray Olivares, Isidro Felix de Espinos, and a military officer, Pedro de Aguirre arrived at San Antonio de Padua. In 1716, Espinosa returned to San Antonio de Padua with a expedition led by Domingo Ramon, In May 1718, Martin de Alarcon led the expedition that founded San Antonio de Valero Mission and San Antonio de Bexar Presidio. San Antonio de Bexar was the center of the Spanish defense in western Texas. By the end of 1718, the Jamrame, Pamaya, and Payaya native American tribes had joined the missions. In 1731 three more missions were constructed along the San Antonio River - Nuestra Senora de la Purisma Concepcion de Acuna, San Francisco de la Espada, and San Juan Capistrano. During the 1920's the Spanish population in Bexar County was approximately 200. By the mid-1730's the population was about 900 including 300 Spanish and 600 Indian catholic converts. In 1738 and 1739, and epidemic spread through the missions killing about three fourths of the Indian population. By 1740, the population of the missions began to recover and they continued to educate and convert native American Indians. The Missions became self-supporting communities and were surrounded by farmlands with crops of beans, cotton, fax, grain, sugarcane, and vegetables. Herds of cattle, goats, and sheep were maintained by each Mission. The missions were occasionally attached by the Apache and Comanche Indians. In 1749, a peace treaty was signed with the  Apaches, but the Apaches did not honor the treaty and continued their attacks on the missions. For many years San Antonio de Bexar continued to be agricultural community of mostly small family plots. Bexar continued to serve as the capital of the Texas province and the main shipping point for supplies to Nacogdoches. In 1835, the city of San Antonio was occupied by Texas forces who were at battle with General Santa Anna at the "Alamo". After Santa Anna had defeated the Texas forces and claimed San Antonio. Small battles continued for some time with both sides claiming San Antonio. Bexar County was officially established on December 20, 1860 and San Antonio was declared the county seat. Since 1860, 128 counties have been formed from Bexar County. The once vast area of Indian territory, rugged county with rolling hills and farmlands, was cut down to 1,248 square miles. Bandera County was one of the counties that was carved from Bexar County. Bexar County was the center for antislavery sentiment. The Main source of revenue for Bexar County was trade between San Antonio, Mexico and New Orleans. German, Polish, and Anglo immigrants opened mercantile stores in the city of San Antonio, but there was not much industry. Bexar County had only 28 manufacturing companies with 135 employees in 1860. In 1858 and 1878, the city of San Antonio is an important military center housing several military bases and posts. The Medical industry in San Antonio is one of the leading economic industries employing thousands of people and one of the top cities leading the state and nation in medical research and health care.

Bandera County, Texas

Bandera County is located on the Edwards Plateau and contains 792 square miles of land and 6 square miles of water. The Sabinal River flows through the western part of the county and the Medina River flows through the eastern part of the county. Growing in the county and along its' many streams are cedar, post oak, Spanish oak, live oak, pecan, maples, and cypress trees. Deer and turkey can be found throughout the county. The Lipan Apaches first occupied the area in the 1700's, known then as part of San Antonio de Bexar county. The Apached lived in peace until the Spanish settlers arrived and intruded on their hunting grounds. The settlers were claiming areas of the Apache territory that been Indian hunting grounds for Buffalo and Deer. The Lipan Apache did not like the intrusion and started raiding and burnig the settlers homes and towns. The Spanish Armies attempt to contain the Apache attacks failed. The arrival of the Comanche tribes brought more war and destruction to Bandera County. The Comanche had many tribes throughout Texas and were fierce warriors. They were enemies of the Apache, but entered into a treaty with the Apache against the Spanish. The treaty did not last and the Comanche resumed their attacks on the Spanish and the Apache camps. The Spanish were afraid they would loose New Spain and signed a treaty with the Comanche to fight the Apache. The Spanish did not keep the treaty and the Comanche continured their raids on Spanish settlements. Many historians believed that the Comanche aggression and strong force drove the Lipan Apache from their Territory of many years and down into the southern part of New Spain (Texas). The Comanche were a strong force that had to be contained. The Spanish forces were thinly placed throughout New Spain against skilled and swift Comanche warriors with expert bowman-ship. After Spain was defeated by Mexican forces the Mexican government was faced with the same problems that New Spain had, Indian raids and settlers who were unhappy with the lack of protection from the Comanche attacks and high taxes and customs. In 1836 Texas won their independence from Mexico and President Sam Houston appointed Captain John Coffee Hays to form a group of Texas Rangers to confront and end the Comanche aggression.
(Read more information on the Native American Page. "Historic Battle at Bandera pass")

Bandera County Settlers


Policarpio Rodriguez

A Mexican settler, Policarpio Rodriguez, was one the early settlers in Bandera County. Policarpio was born in Zaragoza, Coahuila, Mexico (About 30 miles west of present-day Eagle Pass in Texas) on January 26, 1829, he was one of ten sons. He came to Texas in 1841 with his father, Jose Antonio Rodiguez, and the family settled in San Antonio. In 1852, Policarpio married Nicolasa Arocha and he was a scout for the United States Army and an Indian fighter. In 1858 he came to Bandera County and found some land located near Privilege Creek. Policarpio purchased the land, over 300 acres, from John  James (A Surveyor who helped established and develop the City of Bandera) for fifty cents an acre. In the following years, Policarpio, earned the nickname of "Polly". In 1871, Policarpio served as a Justice of Peace in Bandera County. Policarpio converted from Catholic to Methodist and was given a "Local Preachers License" in 1877. In 1882 he built a church on his land that could seat 125 people and was the first to preach in this church. In 1894, Policarpio donated some land for a public school which later was consolidated into the Bandera County School District. The area of land that Policarpio had purchased became known as "Polly Texas", a thriving and developed community where many of his children, their families and relatives lived, and attended church and school. Policarpio's wife and mother had died and when he was 74 years old, he married Anastacia Salinas on September 27, 1903. Policarpio died in Poteet, Atascosa County, Texas on March 25, 1914. In the year of 2011, the Polly Chapel and school are still standing and are being restored and repaired. The cemetery is being maintained.


During the late 1800's the population of Bandera County was 2,158 and by 1890 the number of residents had increased to 3,795. The majority of new settlers came from the south, especially German immigrants. Large scale farming was introduced in Bandera County in the 1880's and for a time cotton was grown for commercial purposes. County land owners found that it was more profitable to raise sheep and by 1910 there were 73,853 goats in the county. In 1930 the county reported 128,950 goats, 89,595 sheep and only 7,668 cattle. In the same year 470,311 pounds of mohair were shipped. The main industry was farming, hunting, and agriculture. The population of the county grew in the late 1930's and 1940 reaching 4,234. In 2008 the population of Bandera County was 29,303.

Medina Dam & Reservoir

In 1894 a man named Alex Y. Walton came to an area in the Medina basin to hunt and discovered a box canyon. After exploring and inspecting the canyon he noted that on the both sides of the river in the canyon nature had formed a natural basin in rock with huge bluffs that extended for several miles up the river. Up stream from the river there were many farms with fields that needed water during the long periods of drought in Texas. After more inspection of the valley and the box canyon, Walton realized that the canyon could hold and contain the run off from rivers, streams, and flood waters. A mass amount of water that could benefit the local farmers. Walton decided he would take up studying engineering in order to approach the idea and scientific studies, and surveys. Tim Tschirhart a friend of Walton's and a assistant on the survey work, remembered the great flood of 1900 when he was only seven years old. In 1900 flood waters reached 40 feet and 1901 flood waters reached 36 feet. Around 1907 another expedition explored the box canyon: Thomas B. Palfrey, Charles Cresson, Clint H. Kearny, Alex Walton, Terrell Bartlett, and Willis Ranny, Cling Kearny contacted his employer in London, Dr. F. S. Pearson (A U.S. Citizen) and told him about the proposed project in the Median Box Canyon basin. Dr. Pearson came to Texas and was impressed with the Medina area and the opinions and reports of the promoters. On May 1, 1910, Dr. Fred Pearson contacted his wealthy friends in London and asked if they would be interested in the Medina project. His friends were interested and helped raise money for the project. The Medina Irrigation Company was established after the money was guaranteed. The sum of $6,000,000 was raised from selling bonds in the San Antonio Land and Irrigation Company. The Medina County records located in Hondo, Texas, state that the Medina Irrigation Company paid in cash and cash values the sum of $149,200.00 for land to be used for irrigation purposes. Deeds in the Hondo County Clerks office indicate the average payment was $15.00 and acre in the reservoir area and $8.00 and acre in the canal area. The land to be irrigated was estimated to be about 150,000 acres. Two years or more was spent with surveys, inspections, and exploring the Medina River. The holding capacity of the proposed resevoir was to be approximately 19,385,000,000 cubic feet, and flooding about 12.000 acres. In the spring of 1911, the Medina Irrigation Company contracted the Sunset Route of Southern Pacific Lines to transport men, materials, and machinery to the job site to assist in the construction of the Medina Project. Clinton Hall Kearny was the chief engineer employed by Dr. Pearson. Railroad tracks, telephone lines, and buildings, lodging, food and medical care. The Medina Dam Reservoir was completed in 1913. At the time of completion of the Median Reservoir, it was the largest of its kind in North America. The 100th Continental Anniversary was celebrated in 2012. 

Edward Merritt Ross

One of the early Bandera County Judges elected was Edward Merritt Ross, born in New York City on April 28, 1816 and died on March 22, 1906 in Bandera, Texas. Edward Ross served as county judge several times. From 1843 to 1848, Edward served under Colonel Kearney in the 9th Regiment of the United States Dragoons. He earned the rank of Sergeant and served during the US-Mexican War of 1845. Sergeant Ross was discharged and later re-enlisted and for many years was stationed at the Army Camp located in Camp Verde, Texas, a few miles north of Bandera Pass. Edward M. Ross signed the "Texas Ordinance of Secession" on February 2. 1861, a document that officially separated Texas from the United States. In 1956 the Chief Justice was O.B. Miles. E, Oborski was sworn in as County Judge on October 13, 1866. The first sheriff of Bandera County was Andrew Hoffman/Alexander Hoffmann (?) who was sworn into office in 1856. The oldest Bandera County record lists Andrew Hoffman as Sheriff on March 21, 1856. Tombstone of Alexander Hoffmann, born in Bohemia, killed by Indians and buried in Uvalde County, March 23, 1860. (See tombstone photo courtesy of Doug King in the marker gallery)

Bandera County Structures


Bandera County Courthouse 1868

The first limestone court house constructed about 1868. 

Bandera County Courthouse, 1890

The second and current limestone Courthouse was erected in 1890. The Courthouse design has a striking similarity to the Courthouse built in Boone County, Kentucky in 1889, designed by the McDonald Brothers. B.F. Trester who was also a contractor for the McDonald Brothers, is credited with the design of the Bandera County Courthouse.