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Boerne: Healthy Living in the Hills

August 4, 2014

Boerne was the third German settlement to be established in the Hill Country north of San Antonio, just a few years after New Braunfels and Fredericksburg. When the community was first formed in 1849, it was called Tusculum, after Cicero’s home in ancient Rome. However, in 1852 the town was re-christened Boerne after Ludwig Boerne, a German author whose work criticized the German hierarchy and advocated reforms to increase religious, political, and economic freedom.[1]

Garland Perry’s Historic Images of Boerne, Texas (1982) and Historic Images of Boerne and Kendall County, Texas (1998) are indispensable resources for studying Boerne’s development. Both books include not only a wealth of photographs from 19th and early 20th centuries, but also extensive text describing the history, architecture, and people of Boerne. The latter publication also includes transcripts of several interviews with long-time residents.

Boerne pioneers produced cotton, tobacco, sheep, and cattle. Cypress shingles were also an important source of income for many families and both wagon freighting and longhorn cattle drives played important roles in the local economy.[2] By the end of the century, Boerne also became a vacation destination and health resort. An 1894 San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway timetable includes a one-page description of Boerne that highlights it’s healthful climate:

The reason the air is so conducive to the cure of diseased lungs is described as being caused by the trade winds, which, for a period of perhaps eight months in the year blow from the coast passing over a wide stretch of country, mostly dry, but covered with the mesquite, a species of the mimosa, the odors from which, as from the pine, the trees or bushes being resinous, have a curative effect in all diseases of the lungs, which with the bracing mountain air found on reaching Kendall County, restores the wasted tissues and brings new life to the wasted form and red blood to the cheeks.

Boerne’s cotton and tourism sectors suffered badly during the Great Depression – so much so that the population dropped from 2,000 in 1928 to 1,117 in 1931 and still hovered just under 1,300 in the 1940s.[4] However, the town’s 1949 centennial publication Boerne: Key to the Hills makes no mention of depopulation or economic ills. Instead, it focuses on Boerne’s idyllic landscape:

Boerne nestles among the hills that are covered by friendly oak and cedar trees. There are many small streams, and clear creeks for pleasant living and hiking. All the while your ears are filled with the musical songs of many birds.

Advertisements in this publication highlight Boerne’s pastoral economy: Deer Springs Ranch’s Quarter Horses, Circle K Ranch Sufolk Sheep and Hereford Cattle, and Prospect Ranch Orchids. Tourism is represented through ads from the Hi Hill Ranch Resort (with a “luxuriously inviting swimming pool filled with pure artesian water”) and Lucian’s Bar-K Ranch Hotel “The Health Resort of America.”

Following WWII, Boerne became a popular bedroom community for people working in San Antonio and its population grew steadily, reaching 6,178 in 2000. [4] However, many residents continued to value Boerne’s rural past – a past colorfully described in Frankie Davis Glenn’s Reminiscences: Stories of a Country Girl (1994). Glenn recalls the tasks and amusements of her childhood: tending the gas-powered irrigation system on her family’s small farm, washing clothes by hand, celebrating Christmas with a Cedar tree, and attending community dances. She also recounts the history of her German immigrant forefathers and their early days on the frontier, providing a rambling, but informative family memoir that nicely complements Garland Perry’s more general historical studies.

 


Works Cited

[1] Garland A. Perry, Historic Images of Boerne and Kendall County, Texas: A Sesquincentennial Project 1849-1999 (Boerne, TX: Perry Publications), 1998: 3.

[2] Ibid.: 5-9.

[3] Vivian Elizabeth Smyrl, “BOERNE, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online(http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hgb09), accessed July 30, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

[4] Ibid.

 

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