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Karnes County, Texas USA

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Karnes County, Texas and her history

Please feel free to add profiles of anyone who was born, lived or died in Karnes County, Texas.

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Karnes County was formed on February 4, 1854 from parts of Bexar, DeWitt, Goliad, Gonzales, and San Patricio Counties.

The county seat is Karnes City. However, Helena (the former "toughest town on earth") was the county seat from 1854 to 1894.

Adjacent counties: Wilson County, Gonzales County, DeWitt County, Goliad County, Bee County, Live Oak County, Atascosa County

Notables of Karnes County:

  • Andrés Hernández
  • Luis Antonio Menchaca
  • Henry Wax Karnes - Texas Revolution soldier and Karnes County is his namesake.
  • Thomas Ruckman, a founder of Helena
  • Dr. Lewis S. Owings, a founder of Helena
  • Father Leopold Moczygemba - established the first permanent Polish settlement in Texas.
  • Sergeant Miguel Ramirez, KIA WWII
  • Choate Family - established Choate Ranch.

The first land grants issued in the area of present day Karnes County were on April 12, 1758, to Andrés Hernández and Luis Antonio Menchaca.

1770 - The Spanish established a fort called Fuerte de Santa Cruz del Cíbolo on Cibolo Creek near the site of present Czestochowa to protect the ranches in the area from raids by Indigenous Native American tribes.

By the mid-1780s only six ranches and eighty-five Spanish settlers remained.

1840 to 1940

1840s, the first Anglo-American settlers began arriving. The first Anglo-American settlement in the county was made in 1852 at the site of an earlier Mexican settlement called Alamita.

The former San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway passed through in its connection linking San Antonio with Corpus Christi.

Speaking of railroads - here is how Helena became a near-ghost town according to local legend...

In 1884 the son of William G. Butler, a wealthy rancher, was killed, and legend tells that Butler vowed "to kill the town that killed my son." Apparently he contacted Benjamin F. Yoakum and gave right-of-way to the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway, thereby offering railroad officials an alternative route after Helena citizens flatly refused to raise money for a railroad through the town. Bypassed by the railroad in 1886, the town withered away.

The "toughest town on earth" comes from another legend: Helena was the birthplace of the "Helena Duel," in which the left hands of two opponents are tied together and each fighter is given a knife with a three-inch blade. They fight to the death.

In addition, Karnes County, like many counties, was ruled by swift justice via six shooters and shotguns.

Several companies of militia were organized in the county, including the Helena Guards and Escondido Rifles. Polish settlers joined a unit known as the Panna Maria Grays

Cities, Town(s), CDP, Unincorporated (aka "Rural" or just plain ol' "Country")

  • Falls City
  • Karnes City (county seat)
  • Kenedy
  • Runge
  • Cestohowa (Czestochowa) (sister Polish settlement of Panna Maria)
  • Choate
  • Ecleto
  • Gillett
  • Helena
  • Hobson
  • Panna Maria, the First permanent Polish (Silesian) settlement in Texas.

Ghost Towns (Former communities)

  • Helena
  • Wintergreen

Karnes County Genealogy