Kimble Co. History Tells of Pioneer Struggles - By Coke R. Stevenson, Jr.
[From J. Marvin Hunter's Frontier Times Magazine, September, 1930]
THE TERRITORY embraced in Kimble County, was formerly a part of Bexar County. Several volumes of the county records were transcribed from the Bexar County Records, and in these early volumes of county records will be found some interesting bits of information in regard to the early land grants and pioneer families of this county. After a new county was created out of that part of Bexar County which lay West of Gillespie County, it was named for George Kimble, one of the heroes of the Alamo. The new county was then attached to Gillespie County for judicial purposes. This was a common fate of many newly created counties. As soon as a new county had enough population to carry on a county government it was separated, however, from the parent county and allowed to begin its own government. This occurred in Kimble County in 1876. It was organized in that year and set up its county government. Sutton County was then attached to Kimble County for judicial purposes and continued to be so attached until it had enough people to set up its government in 1889. The first county officers elected in Kimble County were Wm. Potter, County Judge, Dr. E. K. Kountz, County Clerk, Frank Latta, Sheriff, N. Q. Patterson, Treasurer, W. F. Gilleland, Assessor, and M . J. Denman, Surveyor. The commissioners were J. R. Steffy for Junction City, Felix Burton, Bear Creek, Henry Pearl, Saline, and Noah Knox, Devil's River.
On December 24th, 1876, the Indians made their last serious raid on the newly organized county. The principal settlement in the county at this time seems to have been around the mouth of Johnson Fork. Dan Baker had a store and it was the only store in the county. Bill Estes hauled his goods for him from San Antonio. John A. Miller, Jerry Roberts, J. A. Browning and others lived in that settlement. Dr. E. K. Kountz lived at that time on South Llano about where the J. C. Konntz residence stands today. He was the father of Isaac Kountz, and when the Indians made their raid on this occasion, they killed Isaac Kountz and a son of Dr. Spears, who lived on North Llano about two miles above where the Courthouse in Junction now stands.
When the news reached the Johnson Fork settlement that the Indians had killed these boys, four men from that settlement, to-wit: John A. Miller, Jerry Roberts, Dan Baker and Bill Estes immediately started for the scene of the trouble. When they reached the mesquite flat where Junction now stands, they met Dr. Kountz, N. Q . Patterson and Patterson 's nephew. These repaired to the Spears house, where the Spears boy had been killed. They then started up Bear Creek to notify the Rangers, who were camped there. On the way they met Billie Waits, Billie Gilleland and a man named Lemons. Lemons said the rangers had already been notified, and that the Indians had turned back east, and that Lieutenant Moore and six men from the Rangers had started in pursuit. Those named made ten men in the citizens party who joined in pursuit of the Indians, but after an exciting chase, which lasted for several days, the Indians escaped.
No further raids were made by the Indians until six months later and this was not as serious as the one mentioned. The county gradually began to develop. At first the county seat was known as Kimbleville, which was located about one and one-half miles north-east from Junction, and in what is now known as the old Will Taylor pasture. District Court was held at this place one or two sessions, for the most part under liveoak trees, and the county seat was then moved to the new town of Junction City, which is now Junction. In 1872 William McLane purchased the tract of land upon which Junction now stands. There is no official record of the exact date upon which he laid out the town, but it was composed of 160 acres of land, and the earliest deeds to lots were in 1878. All of the even numbered lots in the town were given by McLane to Kimble County, and in 1883 he sold all of the odd numbered lots to a firm composed of W. A. Williamson, Jr. H. H. Allen and G. W. Ragsdill.
The court house in Junction burned April 22, 1584, and all or the county records were totally destroyed. This accounts for a lack of detail as to the early history of the town. Tradition, however, furnishes certain information that official records do not. The first dwelling houses in Junction were built by N. Q. Patterson and Frank Latta, both of whom, as we have seen, were members of the first official family. Dr. Kountz, the father of Isaac Kountz who was killed by the Indians, and the first County Clerk of the county, also owned the first drugstore in the town. It was located near the present site of the Hodges Hotel. The first school house was located North of the present jail house. Frank Latta, first sheriff of the county, was also the first school master. The second school master was Cleo, E . Stuart, from Austin. Later Mr Stuart became County Judge.
One of the first buildings in any new town in those days was a saloon, and Junction was no exception. The old "OO" Saloon was located on the west side of the square, where Frank L. Wilson's office now stands characterized the Junction City of those days. Eleven men are known to have been killed, either in its saloons or in the streets nearby.
During this time the northeast corner of the county was beginning to have inhabitants. In 1882 Ed and Tom Stevenson opened a store where London now stands and named the town London. R. M. Stevenson joined them in the mercentile business about 1884. About this time Jasper Lewis opened a blacksmith shop in the vicinity, and in June, 1885, Ed Stevenson married the daughter of Jasper Lewis. Among the other settlers around London at that time besides those mentioned, were Len Lewis, E . W. Brewer, J. D. Maurice, Fred Wahrmunud, L. M . Walton and the Boyce Brothers. In 1887 London had two stores, a post office, blacksmith shop, school house, cotton gin and six or seven homes.
Junction at first had a community church on what is now known as the Bissett lot and east of the present Church of Christ. Rev. J. S. Durst the first pastor of this new church. The First Methodist Church was established about 1885, and was located on the lot just south of where the present Baptist church now stands.
Among the earliest business men in Junction was S. S. Jobes. He owned a business that consisted of groceries, feed, a wagon yard, camp house, and a blacksmith shop. He occupied a site on the east side of the courthouse square. It is reported that he traded two pounds of tobacco for the ground upon which he erected his buildings and waggon yard. His son, Jack Jobes, was the first boy born in Junction. He was born in 1877. Alma Smith was the first girl born in Junction. The first marriage license was issued to Sam Smith and Miss Alice Graham.
Among the eariest settlers in Kimble County was Captain Creed Taylor, who fought in the Mexican Revolution. He lived on James River, and the walls of the rock house which he erected are still standing, and the stone over the door bears the dale 1872. This was a very pretentious house for this early period.
Two pioneers celebrated their golden wedding anniversaries in 1928. These were Mr. and Mrs. N. C. Patterson. Mrs. Patterson is a daughter of Dr. E. K. Kountz, and she and Mr. Patterson were married in Junction in 1878. The year 1878 also witnessed the passing of our oldest settlers, Mr. B. C. Dragoo, who was 94 years of age at time of his death, and Mr. S. H. McCaleb, who was for many years one of our most prominent citizens. Mrs. E. K. Kountz was the first postmistress, and her son-in-law, N. C. Patterson, after serving four years as a mail carrier between Junction and Ft . MeKavett, became postmaster and served in that capacity for eleven years.
The first newspaper in Junetion City was the West Texas. It was started in 1882 in the back of the Junction City Post Office. The paper was published by J. F. Lewis.
The second newspaper was called "The Junction City Clipper," which was succeeded by "The Kimble County Citizen," which in turn gave way to the present high-class newspaper known as "The Junction Eagle," J. M . Bourland was one of the editors of The Junction City Clipper." H. L. Winslett and C. M. Nichols were the principal editors of the "Kimble County Citizen," during its long period of existence.
The Junction Eagle has had a number of editors since its organization. J. Marvin Hunter established the first newspaper in London. It was called the Kimble County Crony . This paper was later moved to Junction and was edited by Riddick and Roberts.
J. D. Motley established an independent newspaper in Junction called the Junction Light, and ran it for several years until it was consolidated in 1919 with the Kimble County Citizen to make the Junction Eagle, and Mr. Motley became the first editor of the Junction Eagle.
One of the oldest businesses in the county was the mercantile firm of H. H. Allen & Co. This was established in 1878, and this firm built the two story rock building now occupied by Wahl Bros. & Schraub. It was at that time the finest building in Junction and remained so for many years. Two of the members of this firm were W. A . Williamson and H. H. Allen, who were especially prominent in the early history of Junction. Judge Williamson was one of the ablest lawyers in west Texas, was a member of the Legislature from this district, and he and his partners, as above mentioned, were the purchasers and developers of the town site.
In 1882 the firm of H. Schmelter & Co. began business on the corner where McInnis Drug Store now stands, and about that time E. Holekamp opened a store where Schreiner-Hodges Company have their splendid rock building.
One of the significant factors in the business life of the town in that period was the formation of the Kimble County Alliance, which was a cooperative store owned by a number of the leading ranchmen of the county. It followed Schmelter & Co. and did business on the same corner for a number of years. This was perhaps, the earliest cooperative move in the county among the ranchmen for what they considered to be of common benefit.
G. K. Gordon & Co. succeeded H. H. Allen & Co. and did a flourishing business in the rock store building.
In 1898, Alex J. Hamer established a store in what then was a mesquite flat and considerably west of the business portion of the town. Twenty years later he built the rock building in which Gann Grocery Company is now domiciled.
J. A. Heyman came to town in the nineties and eventually succeeded to a large portion of the drug store in the year 1905.
John M. Hankins, who has, perhaps the most prominent corner in the town, started his drug business in 1907. The first business on his corner was an old raw-hide lumber meat market. This was followed by the Harrison & Martin saloon and then by the Hankins Drug Co., and upstairs was the Hankins-Riley Dance hall and picture show. The first picture show was opened in the year 1911 in the old rock store building by Coke R. Stevenson and W. P. Riley.
In 1904, Dr. J. W. Burt, who for many years was one of Junction's leading doctors, erected the two story stone building which is now known as the Masonic Hall.
In 1906 the first bank was organized in Kimble County. This was the First State Bank of Junction. It began business on June 7, 1906, and in the fall of that year erected the stone building on the corner, which was demolished last year to make room for the present elegant bank building of the Junction State Bank. The Kimble County State Bank began business September 1, 1906. It was quartered in the lower story of the Masonic Building.
On August 17, 1908, these two banks consolidated to form the Junction State Bank. In May 1916, the First National Bank was organized and continued a successful business until Oct. 1st, 1927, when it was also consolidated with the Junction State Bank.
The Junction Hardware Co. one of Kimble County 's largest and most successful businesses, was organized in 1911, and the present store building occupied by this company was erected in 1913.
Philip Joseph came to town in 1906 and was at first a peddler, and later opened a small dry goods store in town and now has one of the most modern dry goods stores to he found in any town of this size.
Mr. Holekamp's store was succeeded by the Charles Schreiner Company, and this in turn became the Schreiner Hodges Co., on January 1, 1907. It has continued to grow until it has become the trading center for a large portion of Kimble County.
Junction had its first telephone system in 1905, and Mr. T. B. Phillips moved from his ranch to town and became a telephone man. He built up the system until it extended to practically every residence and to most of the ranches of the county. He then sold the system, but has continued to own and acquire town property until today he is the largest property owner in our city.
The first electric lights came in 1917, and was shortly afterwards acquired by the Llano River Irrigation & Milling Co., one of Junction's oldest Corporations. It was managed by Mr. C. W. Atchison, who for seventeen years was Junction's postmaster. This company also had the first water works system in the town and operated it for many years until 1928, when the City purchased the whole system and largely extended and modernized it.
Junction became incorporated as a city in September, 1927, and Mr. E. Holekamp was elected first mayor of Junction. The first sewer system in the town was provided by the city government in 1929.
Other towns have been established in the county from time to time. Roosevelt beginning in the year 1900.
It has prospered and grown considerably. The first merchant in that town was W. B. Waggoner, but the present buildings were mostly erected by John T. Wilson about 1916.
Noxville was first established on Devil's River, near the pioneer ranch home of J. H. Parker. It was later moved to James River near the early home of Creed Taylor.
Telegraph, on South Llano, was established about 1895, and was the center of some of early famous ranches, such as the R. P. Dupuy Ranch on Klak, the O. B. Fleming Ranch, the T. C. Taylor Ranch, the Peter Paterson Ranch, the W. W. Allen Ranch, and the S. H. Guthrie Ranch. Others in this vicinity who came early and have stayed a long time were Mack Huffman, Jinks Coleman, Felix Watson, J. S. Fleming, S. A. Griffith, J. W. Bartley, Theo Hunger and Andrew Paterson.
Segovia, Cleo and Yates are all of later origin, but they represent sturdy and well-developed communities of thrifty and contented people.
Near Cleo is the present ranch home of O. D. Nance. This was originally named "Brambletye" and the cut stone building was erected in the year 1898. William Hall was a member of the House of Lords in England before he came to this country. His plans provided for Brambletye to be an old world castle, surrounded by stone walls 12 feet high and four towers at the corners, each 14 feet square and 72 feet high. Only one of these was started and built about 15 feet high when Mr. Hall died and his plans were never completed.
For a little over half a century Junction has nestled in the valley of the beautiful Llano River, surrounded by the rugged mountains that make it a picturesque little town. It now has many conveniences, such as electric lights, water, sewerage, street lights, and other things that are beneficial. It has modern business houses that are not surpassable by any other small town. The new court house bieing an added beauty. Junction has highways to all the county seats adjacent to it, which gives access to all the counties around. Its parks, tourist camps and golf course are to be mentioned as assets.