The Full Story
The Future Lands of Kendall County – Unsettled in the Early Years (1521 - 1846)
Spain’s presence in Texas was well-documented, as they established many presidios, villas and missions across its broad lands. And while there were a few short-lived Spanish installations sprinkled around the Hill Country, the beautiful hills and valleys of Kendall County never held any permanent or even any fleeting settlements during the Texas’ Spanish-colonial era (1521 - 1821). Furthermore, no Spanish land grants were ever recorded on our lands. After the flag changed to Mexico’s in 1821, only a singular Mexican land grant was registered in 1835. With the advent of the Republic of Texas in 1836, the surveyors finally began coming
out here, albeit slowly: 67 Republic of Texas land grants (1836 to 1845) were recorded on future Kendall County lands. Yet even though the land was
surveyed, there is no documentation that any of these original owners ever lived on their grants. The rough terrain of the Hill Country was itself a deterrent to settlement, but that paled to the primary reason: the ever-present danger of the indigenous Indians.
The entire Hill Country remained an unpopulated wilderness, when the Adelsverein, a German Society, planned and advertised the opportunity for Germans to immigrate to Texas. Thousands of German immigrants came over on Verein-sponsored boats (barques), between 1844 & 1847. The Fischer-Miller Grant, a large block of land that the Verein had intended to settle, had never been examined by them. Positioned between the Llano and Colorado Rivers, it was so remote that the Republic of Texas warned the Verein that they could not protect the immigrants from the Native-Americans. With no place to put the German immigrants waiting at the coast, the land acquisitions for the communities of New Braunfels (1845) and Fredericksburg (1846) were last minute negotiations made out of desperation. While recognized as anchors for the Texas Hill Country, they were originally only considered as way-stations to the larger tract. However, the occupation of the Fischer-Miller Grant would become an incomplete dream, and what was promised to the Verein-sponsored immigrants with regard to support and land to homestead, was never completely fulfilled - the Verein ceased to operate in 1847.
The First Settlers on Our Lands - (1847 -1861)
The sixty-nine mile void (as the crow flies) between the instant and isolated cities of New Braunfels and Fredericksburg represented a lot of opportunity for land ownership in the Hill Country. While the Verein folded in 1847 due to lack of funds, German immigration continued into Texas. Our future county sat squarely in the middle of this wide, unpopulated void and our blank land canvas slowly filled as German and American pioneers obtained new land grants or purchased those already surveyed. Our first pioneer, Nickolas Zink, started in 1847 with a 1280 acre land grant in soon-to-be-named Sisterdale. Others nestled in along the streams, creeks and rivers; settlement along the Cibolo, Curry Creek, Cypress Creek and the Guadalupe started in the late 1840’s and early 1850’s. In 1850 the estimated population of our future Kendall County lands was 50. Boerne was laid out in 1852 and Comfort in 1854. At this time, the jurisdiction of those who occupied our newly plotted hamlets and filled in the random pockets of homesteaders fell into one of two pre-existing counties: Comal (est.1846) and Bexar (est.1836): each respectively held an estimated 313,000 and 110,000 of future Kendall County acres. Curry Creek, Sisterdale & Boerne were in Comal County (county seat - New Braunfels) and Comfort lay in Bexar County (county seat – San Antonio). The Bexar and Comal Counties’ boundaries were large, and as such, the travel to county seats was lengthy.
In 1855, Gustav Theisen, who had partnered with surveyor John James to lay out the city of Boerne back in 1852, drafted five copies of a petition to the Texas Legislature in Austin asking that a new county be laid out with its county seat in Boerne. Each of the five documents carried a unique address: Leon Springs, Guadalupe & Sabine, Comfort, Boerne, and Sisterdale.
When the Texas legislature did create new counties, they did not even remotely look like what our petitioners had imagined. Comfort became part of Kerr County when it was established in 1856 (county
seat in Kerrville), then Boerne & Sisterdale became part of Blanco County (county seat in Blanco) when newly-formed in 1858. The disappointment of not having their own county, coupled with the overlaying of Blanco County lines onto their small hamlets was viewed as a step backward and was the genesis of another Texas legislature petition in 1859. While still asking for a county of their own, our future founding fathers’ dislike for the linkage to Blanco County was so upsetting that they back-peddled from their 1855 petition, admitting that they are willing to embrace prior county arrangements: It would be of greater convenience and more desirable for the inhabitants of Boerne and its vicinity to be annexed to Comal County or still better to Bexar County; the County seat San Antonio being only 25 to 35 miles and having a direct good road and a regular intercourse with the two places San Antonio and New – Braunfels.
Also embedded within their 800-word document, their clearly undisguised disdain for the new county arrangement: We the undersigned residents of the headwaters of the Cibolo Creek, Balcones Creek, Sister Creeks, Wasp Creek, Sabinal Creek, Joshua Creek, Salinas Creek, Post Oak Hill Creek and settlers on the Guadalupe River have been thrown from one County to the other within the last 5 years. We belonged originally to Bexar and were well satisfied with this arrangement. We have since been annexed to Comal, Kerr and Blanco County and each time lost by the change. Our connection to Blanco however is so unnatural, inconvenient, and intolerable that we believe our situation cannot be made worse than it is now and any change would be agreeable. A prominent signature on the 1859 petition was George Wilkins Kendall, for whom our county was ultimately named (see Kendall of Kendall). With his connection to the press, he continually promoted the virtues of our region and would soon take up residency with his family at his Post Oak Springs ranch.
By 1860, our future citizens are estimated to have reached 600. Spring elections in Kerr County that same year yielded an interesting turn of events: the County Seat of Kerr changes from Kerrville to Comfort. With nearby Comfort holding County Seat status and no positive action to their prior Texas petitions, our future-county denizens in Boerne and Sisterdale launch another petition in January, 1861. This attempt takes a completely different tack as we learn from this excerpt: … the County Seat of Kerr County, now at the town of Comfort, is not more than seventeen miles from this, our town and settlement. A good road, also, - the main stage road from San Antonio to Fredericksburg - passes in a direct route from this place to the said County Seat of Kerr County. If the lines of said two counties can be so changed, and the territory including the Town of Boerne and settlement be added to and included in the County of Kerr, then… no reasonable objection from any quarter can be made to the changes we ask and propose….
Little did they know that slightly less than a year later the Texas Senate and House of Representatives would vote to give them what they asked for back in 1855…a county of their own!
Kendall County - At Last (1862)
Twin acts by the Texas Legislature are tied to the creation of Kendall County (approved on January 10, 1862): An act to Create the County of Kendall & An act to change the boundary lines of Blanco and
Kerr Counties. The first Act directed that Adam Vogt be and is hereby appointed a Commissioner to organize Said New County of Kendall and it is hereby made his duty to do the Same by ordering
an election for County Officers. Although further surveys would refine the exact acreage, the descriptive outlines of Kendall County in the second act carved 313,000 acres out of Blanco County and 110,000 acres out of Kerr County.
On March 8, 1862, Honorable Joseph Graham, Chief Justice, and the County Commissioners Adam Vogt, Christoph Rhodius, James C. Nowlin and Charles Bonnet met in Boerne and held a special session for the organization of the County of Kendall. These officials took the two acts seriously, directing the County Surveyor to run the lines between Blanco Co. and Kendall Co., and between Kerr Co. and Kendall Co. and the County Clerk to give notice at the several precincts that the County Court will meet on the twenty ninth (March 29th) for the purpose of determining the places to be submitted to the people from which they are to select the County seat.
When these same five assembled for another special session on March 29, 1862, It was further ordered, that the election to decide upon the question of the County Seat between Sisterdale and Boerne, being the places nominated, and for the purpose of electing two Justices of the Peace and one Constable for each Precinct of the county shall take place on the last Saturday (the 26th) of the month of April. After defining 5 precinct boundaries, they appointed Presiding Officers (of elections) and named the places for holding the elections for each: #1 - Mr. Erastus Reed, #2 - Judge William Early Jones @ the upper school house on Curry’s Creek, #3 - Dr. Ernst Kapp @ the school house in Sisterdale, #4 - Theodore Wiedenfeld @ the town of Comfort and #5 -
Herman Toepperwein @ Doebeler’s house.
At their first regular term meeting of the Kendall County Commissioner’s Court on May 8, 1862, Judge Graham, and Commissioners Vogt & Bonnet discussed survey details: County Surveyor Leopold Schultz submitted the following report of the survey… was accepted and approved. The election votes were
counted and Boerne bested Sisterdale for the County Seat. Since John James & Gustav Theisen had made a commitment to provide municipal land when Boerne was laid out and plotted ten years earlier, the commissioners resolved: that the County Clerk be directed to give official information to John James and Gustavus Theisen in San Antonio that at an election held on the 26th of April according to law, Boerne was elected as the County seat by a majority of 67 votes above Sisterdale, and that he requested them to make and deliver the titles for the 14 lots each, which they proffered to give in this contingency.
They re-adjourned for two more sessions in 1862. The first was a special session on August 21st and then a regular session on November 17th. Only three elected officials attended both – Judge Graham and Commissioner Vogt were joined by Commissioner Michael Linder. The missing commissioners were Christoph Rhodius and E. Q. Kriegner. In the August meeting, bonds for the County Assessor & Collector, H. G. Froebel, and County Treasurer, William Kuhfuss, were approved. In the year-ending November session, a list of deeds was read and registered. In response to a petition from citizens in Precinct II to form a patrol, the court approved and appointed Neil Robinson (Capt.) and W. E. Jones, James C. Nowlin, James Patton, W. G. Sansom, and Edward Q. Kriegner as privates of said patrol. The Kendall County Commissioners learned that a couple of their initiatives were unresolved when two letters, both in response to May court directives, were read by the county clerk. The first was from Blanco County advising that the Kendall County survey & field notes with regard to Blanco County would not be received since our surveyor received no notice to meet the surveyor of Kendall County to assist in running the line. The second letter was a lengthy reply to their request of donated town lots from Theisen and James with this bottom-line: cannot give you a satisfactory answer…Mr. Theisen in Europe. In regard to the Blanco survey letter they fired off a reply, and in the matter of the donation of town lots they decided to wait for the titles. A final motion was made for levying and collecting taxes for the next fiscal year, a County Tax of twelve and a half cents on each hundred dollars value of taxable property, real and personal, in the County, and the county clerk was ordered to communicate with the missing commissioners, asking them to provide written consent if they so approved.
Despite pending & inconclusive business affairs, Kendall County was up and running.
Compiled by Bryden E. Moon Jr. - Kendall county Historical Commission
Original Kendall County Commissioners notes
Original Petition Documents
Original Legislative Documents
Kendall of the Picayune - Fayette Copeland*
The Lands of Texas - Volume III Kendall County - Delray Fischer
From the Texas State Library and Archives and
Patrick Heath Public Library – Dietert Archives
*With all his accomplishments, George Wilkins Kendall was certainly worthy of his own book, Kendall of the Picayune, which Fayette Copeland wrote nearly 70 years ago. First published in 1943; it is still the standard on Kendall and served as the major source of background material for Kendall of Kendall.