Background on the Surrounding Area Edit
Prior to the 1840s, the land that would become Bandera County was populated by native tribes, primarily the Comanche, the Kiowa, and the Apache. In 1846, Houston-area shingle maker Joshua Brown led a group of 10 pioneers to become the first settlers in Texas Hill Country, founding a town (Kerrville) northwest of San Antonio; that same year, Prussian immigrants formed the town of Fredericksburg.
In 1853, John James and Charles DeMontel surveyed a site for a town just south of Bandera Pass (probably named for Spanish commander Manuel Bandera, who owned property in San Antonio) along the Medina River. In 1855, sixteen Polish families arrived in the town to work in the town’s sawmill. As it happens, the word "bandera" means the same thing in Polish as it does in Spanish, and the settlers adopted the name for the new town. In 1856, the Texas Legislature carved Bandera County and Kerr County out of San Antonio’s Bexar county.
That same year, the US Army established Camp Verde on the road between San Antonio and El Paso, 13 miles north of Bandera. Camp Verde was the headquarters of the US Camel Corps, an experimental unit testing whether camels could be used in place of horses in the American southwest. In 1861, Confederate troops captured the camels of Camp Verde. A Texas Ranger company was assigned to the camp the following year; among other tasks, the camels carried salt from San Antonio to Brownsville. Union Troops reoccupied Camp Verde in 1865; the camp was abandoned in 1869.
Around this time, Bandera had begun to prosper as the beginning of the Great Western Cattle Trail, the start of the drive for Texas cattle from south Texas through Kansas and into Nebraska. The cattle trail led to a boom in Bandera's population. In the 1870 census just before the cattle trail was founded, the population was 649; by the time of the last major cattle drive around 1900, the population had grown almost tenfold, to 5,332. Bandera is still known as the "cowboy capital of the world."
The Hudspeth Ranch Edit
Leonidas and Kate HudspethEdit
Against this background, the story moves to Pickens County, Alabama, where Leonidas Hudspeth was born in 1833.
In 1838, Leonidas' mother died and the extended family relocated to Mississippi, where Leonidas lived with his grandfather. He reunited with his father (a doctor) in Arkansas in 1854, and decided to study medicine.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, he joined the Confederacy and became a surgeon under general Benjamin McCulloch. He apparently left the army before his unit surrendered in 1865, as his son, Hal Street Hudspeth was born in Hallettsville, Texas in 1864. Following the war, he moved to Houston (where he owned the city hospital), then to San Antonio and Chihuahua. He remained in Mexico practicing medicine for about eight months, before finally settling in Bandera in 1876 where he had a number of relatives.
At about this time, Texas was attempting to fund the building of new railroads. They offered grants of public land to any company that would build track in the state: 16 sections of land for every mile of track. In 1877, the Corpus Christi, San Diego, and Rio Grande Narrow Gauge Railroad Company built a 40-mile stretch of railroad from Corpus Christi to Rancho Banquette, TX, and was awarded 640 acres of public land. The railroad chose land southeast of Bandera, which had been surveyed by town founder DeMontel.
In 1881 the railroad was sold to the famous rail magnate William Palmer and rebranded as the Texas-Mexican Railway. They built the first rail bridge across the Rio Grande, at Nuevo Laredo, in 1883. Apparently, this allowed commerce to flow into northern Mexico directly via the port at Corpus Christi, which drew traffic away from the deep-water port at Los Brazos de Santiago and devastated the economies of Brownsville and the Lower Valley. The railroad was later part of a conglomerate that built the Brownsville & Matamoros International Bridge.The company turned around and sold the Bandera land to Leonidas' wife, Kate, four days after it was granted, on Christmas Eve 1877. The Hudspeths bought the land for $80. Leonidas offered his medical services to the local community, riding out from his ranch southeast of Bandera. It was a dangerous profession, as raids by native Americans were still common. His cousin James recounted an incident with a Tuscalaro who had been captured by Comanches in the book Texas Indian Fighters, published in 1900.
Leonidas' health began to fail in 1879, only three years after moving to Bandera. He went to San Antonio to consult with other local doctors about his case. According to a tribute in Frontier Times Magazine in 1935:
After examination the decision was reached that his heart was seriously affected and that he was liable to die at any moment with heart disease. From that time he was never well, though he lingered on and continued to practice medicine until the 15th day of November last, when he took his bed. His sufferings from that time on were indescribable, but he bore them bravely. During his last illness he was at one time under treatment of Dr. Woolan of Austin. He was visited by several distinguished physicians, and at last went to San Antonio and put himself under Drs. Hadra and Herff: but the skill of man could not reach his case, and on the 4th of June, 1884, at 2 o’clock in the morning, he died in San Antonio, Texas, aged 51 years, 1 month and 6 days, and was brought home and buried in the Bandera cemetery on the 5th day of June, A. D. 1884.
At that point, the Hudspeth ranch passed to Leonidas' son, Hal Street Hudspeth.
Around 1890, Hal constructed a small Sunday House, which was then a popular style in the Texas Hill Country. Sunday houses were often built by ranchers who were too far away from the nearest town to commute in for church on Sunday. They were built in town as a place for the ranchers to stay on weekends, returning to the ranch during the week. Often, they had second stories accessible via an external staircase (usually a loft space for the children)
Hal Hudspeth's Sunday House was unlikely to have been used for its traditional commuter purpose, as the home was only about three miles southeast of Bandera. Nonetheless, the settlers of the hill country would have been familiar with the construction of this type of house. Hudsepth's home was a relatively small place (about 950 square feet) that originally had a second story. At some point, the second floor was removed; the photo at left shows Hudspeths' house after removal of the upper level.
Hal worked the land as a rancher until 1907, when he sold the property to a recent immigrant, Magnus Johnston.
The Johnston Homestead EditMagnus Johnston was born in Scotland in 1857. As a small boy, he moved with his parents and twin brother, Charles, to Minnesota. As a teenager, he and Charles ran away from home and went to sea, shipping on early clipper vessels. While in a foreign port, he and his brother were shangheid and forced to serve on their kidnapper's vessel for two years. When they successfully made their escape, Magnus and Charles became separated and did not see each other again for forty years (Charles managed to track down Magnus in Bandera and visited him twice before dying in 1932).
Magnus married Catherine Riley in Galveston in 1888, then moved to Bandera in 1901. The pair had five children: a son (Eugene) and four daughters (Ruth, Fannie, Margaret, and Lorene). While at sea, Magnus had become an expert mechanic and shipbuilder, and he worked as a carpenter and mechanic in the town. Among other buildings, he constructed Bandera High School, a bank, and a restaurant on Main Street.In 1907, Magnus purchased 138.7 acres of the Hudspeth ranch, including the Sunday House, from Hal Hudspeth for $800. The land purchased by Magnus is marked below in red. The yellow line represents the modern property line for 2628 Bottle Springs Road. The blue line is the Alkek Ranch, formed in Magnus' time and still intact today.
Several features have been added to the original Sunday House over the years. At some point prior to 1979, the house was expanded from its original configuration, adding a back wing (including the modern kitchen, family room, library, and two bedrooms); the front wing was transformed in to a hallway, formal dining room, and living room. It seems reasonable to assume that Magnus (a builder with a large family) build the rear addition. A third wing including a master bedroom was also added to the rear of the house at some unknown time, as was a guest house and pool. A barn was also added some time before 1975, when it appeared on a map of the property (we believe this is the building currently being used for a garage and workshop). A large elevated wooden water storage tank is located behind the guesthouse.
When Magnus passed away in 1950, his son Gene bought out his siblings' share of the property for $10. Gene ranched on the land until his death in 1963, at which time the land passed to his wife Louise. Louse transferred 85 acres, including the house, to their daughter Katherine Louise in 1968.
Sales and Subdivisions Edit
In 1971, Katherine and her cousin, Gary Johnston, went to court and the property was divided between them. Katherine kept 48.56 acres, including the main house, and Gary was awarded 36 acres on the southern side of the property. Gary is now a real estate agent in Bandera. He still owns about 28 acres on the land of the old Johnston ranch (a 16 acre plot, a 2 acre plot, and a 10.5 acre plot).
The remainder of the ranch land is divided between 6 families. Robert Moore owns the second-largest plot, at 30 acres.
As for the main portion of the land with the house, it was transferred as follows:
- 1971: Katherine Johnston sells 48.56 acres to the Becks for $10
- 1975: The Becks sell 48.56 acres to the Macons for $54,000
- 1979: The Macons sell 48.56 acres to the Reeds for $110,000. Irma Macon (77 years old) now lives in Boerne (830-981-4864)
- 1982: The Kinseys sell 10.6 acres of neighboring land to the Reeds for $14,000
- 1992: The Reeds sell 59.2 acres to the Bartleys for $375,000
- 2002: The Bartleys sell 19 acres back to the Reeds.
- 2014: The Reeds subdivide their 19 acres, selling a 2.5 acre plot
- 2016: The Reeds sell another 2.5 acre plot
- 2017: The Bartleys sell 40 acres to the Fagans for $752,000
Irma Macon submitted the house at 2628 Bottle Springs Rd to the Texas Historical Sites Atlas in 1979.
The Bartleys were one of the more interesting recent residents of the house. William Bartley met Willie "Dee" Bartley while he was in the Air Force's training program in San Antonio. Dee followed Bill when he deployed to Tripoli, Libya, From 1959-1962, she served as the assistant to the Director of the Office of Naval Intelligence. In 1967, she began working on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, serving as the personal appointment secretary for Senators Alan Bible and Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson. From 1982 to 1988, the family lived in Geneva, Switzerland where Dee was the personal secretary to three Ambassadors at the United States Mission. During this time she planned and coordinated events during visits by the nuclear arms negotiating committee for the START I treaty, as well as Presidential and Vice-Presidential visits to the Mission.
Upon returning to the United States, Dee worked on the professional staff of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Senate Majority Leader. She and Bill bought the Johnston house and moved to Bandera in 1993. Apparently she and Bill managed the land as a ranch, raising llama, sheep and guineas. Dee passed away in 2014, after which Bill put the house on the market.
Bill, aged 86, signed up for Match.com and was recently engaged to a woman in Austin. He'll be moving to the city with his fiance.