INTRODUCTION TO BOERNE, TEXAS - By John Ronan Broderick
DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS!
Thirty-two miles northwest of San Antonio, in the Texas Hill Country, lies Boerne, Texas, a city where German colonists from Bettina, Texas, first settled in 1849, when the budding town was named Tusculum. No trace of Bettina remains today. According to tradition, the new settlement of Tusculum had taken its name from a hilly region in Italy where ancient Roman nobility traveled in the summers to escape the heat of Rome. It was also home to Cicero, the famous Roman statesman, lawyer, philosopher, political theorist, orator, and prose stylist.
Modern-day Tusculum was relocated a few miles southeast of its original site and platted in 1852 by John James, a Bexar County surveyor, and his partner in the endeavor, Gustav Theissen. The site was 11.61 square miles in area. They renamed the town Boerne (pronounced Burn-ee) in honor of the German-Jewish writer and political philosopher, Karl Ludwig Borne, whose writings later influenced Karl Marx. One of Borne’s most famous sayings was, “Every hour devoted to hatred is an eternity taken away from love.” How his name came to be misspelled in the naming of the Texas town remains a mystery.
It is little wonder that a town founded on the humanistic principles espoused by Cicero and Borne should become a natural attraction to German immigrants in the late 1840s. For they were trying to escape the numerous revolutions engulfing the continent of Europe, and Germany in particular, in 1848. Ever worsening economic conditions, religious persecution, and political oppression were the primary reasons they pursued a different destiny in America, the Land of the Free.
When one thinks of Texas towns and cities settled by 19th century German immigrants, among those that automatically spring to mind unbidden are New Braunfels, Fredericksburg, Brenham, and Schulenburg. With a population of 84,612, New Braunfels is by far the behemoth of these German communities. At the turn of the 21st century, however, tiny Boerne, with a population of 6,178, began growing by leaps and bounds to rise to a 2018 estimated population of 17,106, nearly tripling its size in only 18 years.
On April 20th, 1842, preparatory to this settlement of German communities in Texas, a group of German noblemen had organized a group known as the Adelsverein (Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas). Its purpose was to encourage mass emigration, both as a means of providing new opportunities to economically hard- pressed commoners and of establishing foreign markets for German industry. Thousands of these German and Prussian immigrants settled in Texas, hundreds of them in the Texas Hill Country, e.g., Llano and Comal counties.
Boerne originated as an offshoot of the Texas Hill Country Freethinkers Latin Settlements. They were known as “Forty-eighters” because of their flight from the 1848 revolutions in Germany. According to Wikipedia, the Forty-eighters were “intellectual liberal abolitionists who enjoyed conversing in Latin and who believed in utopian ideals that guaranteed basic human rights to all. They reveled in passionate conversations about science, philosophy, literature, and music.” The early history of Boerne does not align itself with any other Texas city. Even today the German influence of freethinkers remains alive and well in a somewhat modified form in this unique Texas town.
Among the cultural, societal, and educational changes the Germans brought with them to America were: the concept of the entire weekend as days off from work, as opposed to the standard six-day work week typically observed by Americans; the tradition of the Christmas tree; the introduction of hot dogs and hamburgers as food alternatives; and the introduction of kindergarten to the school system (notice the retention of the German spelling for this term). The German philosophers of this era whose ideas the immigrants brought with them were, among others: Schelling, Hegel, Kant, Marx, and Schopenhauer. Never doubt that there were many intellectuals among the German dirt farmers who settled in Boerne and the rest of the Texas Hill Country.
EARLY REAL ESTATE AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
The raw land in Boerne platted by James and Theissen in 1852 was purchased, divided into individual lots, and put up for sale before there were any settlers. Initially, growth in Boerne was slow, but it became known as a retreat with restorative health properties, surrounded by a beautiful landscape. It also lay within close proximity to a trade route known as the Camino Veijo Trail, which had been previously established by Native Americans. Easy access to this trail improved Boerne’s exposure and status among the German immigrants. Once they bought land they constructed simple mud huts, and by 1858 there were ten wooden cabins in the little town, giving it more permanence. In 1859, Ye Kendall Inn (still extant), was constructed, providing lodgings for travelers and bringing a Southern Colonial style of architecture to the Texas Hill Country. By 1862 Boerne had become the county seat of Kendall County, and the first Kendall County Courthouse (also still extant) was built in 1870, utilizing simple German vernacular construction. That same year Boerne’s population stood at 250.
One of the major promoters of Boerne was the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad, which made Boerne an official stop on March 12, 1887. It was a huge event for the little town and the cause of much celebration, eventually generating an increase in settlers among laborers and others seeking new opportunities, such as the recent 1870s wave of British immigrants to the Texas Hill Country. With the arrival of the railroad Boerne also quickly became a health resort destination, particularly for the citizens of nearby San Antonio, where the topography was flat and the weather mercilessly hot in the summer months.
According to estimates by the US Census ACS (American Community Survey) 5-year survey, as of February 17, 2020, the racial composition of Boerne was as follows:
13,177 (89.04%) White
937 (6.33%) Other race
428 (2.89%) 2 or more races
168 (1.14%) African-American
33 (0.22%) Asian
31 (0.21%) Native American
25 (0.17%) Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
Total population: 17,106. 157th largest city in Texas. Overall median age: 38.5 years. Proportion of men to women: 92 per 100. Total area: 29.78 square miles. Median household income: $63,420. Noteworthy is the population growth between 2010 and 2018, from 10,736 to 17,106, an increase of 59.3% over 8 years. Rate of home ownership: 52.7%. Residents holding a Bachelor’s degree: 28.33%. Graduate degree 11.05%. Languages spoken: English—84.3%; Spanish—14.8%. Marriage rate overall: 53.3%.
Total number of US military veterans: 1125, of which 1009 were male, 116 female, broken down by the following numbers and percentages per war:
431 (35.9%) Vietnam
324 (27.0%) First Gulf
298 (24.9%) Second Gulf
134 (11.2%) Korea
12 (01.1%) WW II
PRESERVATION OF HISTORIC BUILDINGS
According to Trip Advisor, there are no less than ten landmark historic structures in Boerne that the citizens have done their utmost to restore and/or preserve: 1859’s Ye Kendall Inn, now expanded from its original four rooms to 36 and considered a “boutique hotel;” the original 1870 Kendall County Courthouse, which received a grant from the Texas Historical Commission for its full restoration and was rededicated in 2010; the 1885 Kuhlman-King Historical House; 1859’s Robert E. Lee House, so named because the famous general often stayed there between trips to US forts in the area before the Civil War, when he was stationed in Texas; the Weyrich Building, constructed In 1878; the 1855 Herff-Rozelle Farm, now home to the Cibolo Nature Center; the 1891 Henry J. Graham Building; the 1910 Boerne City Hall, formerly a school serving all grades; Kronkosky Tower, built in 1911; and 1923’s St. Peter’s Catholic Church, modeled in part on Mission Concepcion in San Antonio.
OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES IN AND AROUND BOERNE
Bounded by Cibolo Creek, Interstate Highway 10, and US Highway 87, Boerne has much to offer the adventurous individual who enjoys the outdoors and likes to explore, hike, backpack, go fishing, swimming, tubing, boating, or canoeing, bird-watching, picnicking, riding mountain bikes or horses, or even strolling through a butterfly garden. All these experiences can be had in the environs of Boerne--at the aforementioned Cibolo Nature Center; at the Cave Without a Name, eleven miles northeast of Boerne, a natural living cavern filled with incredible stalactites and stalagmites; Cascade Caverns, cool, year-round temperatures and spectacular rock formations (watch out for the tiny bats!); the 189-acre Boerne City Lake Park; the River Road Park on the banks of Cibolo Creek; Guadalupe River State Park; and the “That’s History” backpacking trails in and around Boerne and neighboring towns of Comfort and Sisterdale.
OTHER UNIQUE PLACES OF INTEREST
St. Scholastica Monastery sits serenely upon a hilltop in Boerne. It has been the Motherhouse of the Benedictine Sisters since 1962. Today there are sixteen Sisters in the Boerne community. With the help of dedicated laity, they continue to minister to the spiritual, educational, health, and legal needs of thousands of area residents each year. Founded in Cuba in 1911, they were forced to relocate to Boerne in 1918 after a hurricane ravaged their island home.
The Agricultural Heritage Museum contains blacksmithing and woodworking shops, a replica of a pioneer house, outdoor displays of antique farm equipment, and a museum full of various exhibits. It also hosts the annual Boerne BierFest in September, which is similar to New Braunfels’ Wurstfest held in November of each year.
The Hill Country Mile is a collection of locally owned specialty shops and restaurants that runs all the way through the heart of historic downtown Boerne. It is a true shopper’s paradise featuring sixteen specialty and gift stores, three art galleries, boutique clothing, home décor, eight antique shops, and eateries. The Boerne Wine Company has an incredible selection of cigars, wine, and food.
CHURCHES, HOSPITALS, HOTELS, AND AUTOMOBILE DEALERSHIPS
Most of the mainstay Christian denominations are represented in Boerne—numerous independent Bible churches, Church of Christ, Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Unity, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Mormon, even Cowboy Church. The nearest Jewish Synagogues and Muslim Mosques are located in San Antonio.
There are 27 hospitals in or near Boerne. Also numbered among the healthcare facilities are several hospices. The motto of one of them, Alamo Hospice, is: “No One Dies Alone, Afraid, or in Pain.” Wow! Talk about “Amazing Grace.” Remember the Alamo!
There are 57 hotels, including over 20 bed and breakfast inns, which can accommodate nearly any budget and offer a range of amenities, including bars, restaurants, wi-fi connections, pools, health and wellness facilities, and, at several, pets are allowed.
Where transportation needs are concerned, just about every major automobile manufacturer on Planet Earth is represented in Boerne, whether, American, Japanese, British, German, Italian, or Korean. From Fords to Land Rovers, Boerne has you covered.
With the unprecedented number of people moving to Boerne in recent years, it is little wonder that real estate sales and homebuilders’ new construction jobs are literally going through the roof, pardon the play on words. And the trickle-down effect these two industries have on title insurance companies, appraisers, mortgage lenders, banks, home inspection services, sales of homeowners’ insurance policies, surveyors, exterminators, and the like is simply incalculable.
The local economy in Boerne revolves around industries involved in aviation, arts and crafts, automotive, finance, textiles, information technology, insurance, pharmaceuticals, and telecommunications. The city’s three largest industry categories are: healthcare and social assistance; retail sales; and accommodation and food service.
There’s no doubt about it. Somebody has finally put Boerne, Texas on the map. And I’m betting the local Chamber of Commerce had just a whole lot to do with that accomplishment. Congratulations, ladies and gentlemen, on a job well done!
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