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County
Karnes
Region
South Texas Plains
Population
2010 Census - Unknown
2000 Census - 35
Nearby
Towns
Helena, Texas
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Helena Texas History:
In 1852, Thomas Ruckman and Lewis S. Owings established Helena on the former site of Alamita, a Mexican trading post located on the San Antonio River. For years Helena’s location on the La Bahia Road (Chihuahua Road or Ox-Cart Trail), an important trading route between San Antonio and Goliad made Helena the most important town between the two larger towns. Ruckman established a mercantile store and built a gristmill. Owings operated a stage line between San Antonio and Victoria with stops in Helena and Goliad. The Helena Post Office was established in 1853 with Ruckman as postmaster. Because of Helena’s rapid growth, Ruckman and Owings were able to promote the establishment of Karnes County in 1854 with Helena as the county seat. During the Civil War Helena had a Confederate post office with its own stamp; much of the cotton destined for Mexican ports was shipped through Helena. During the town’s peak, it had a courthouse, a jail, a church, a Masonic lodge, a drugstore, a blacksmith shop, two hotels, and several saloons and general stores. Helena Academy, a coeducational school, was founded in 1867. During the 1880s the town’s population peaked at 250-300 residents. Helena was known as a tough town, and was the birthplace of the “Helena Duel where the left hands of the two opponents are tied together and each is given a knife with a three inch blade. In 1884, wealthy rancher William G. Butler’s son was killed in Helena. Legend tells that Butler vowed to kill the town that killed his son. In 1886, when Helena residents refused to raise money for a railway through town, Butler gave the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway a right-of-way that bypassed Helena, causing the towns demise. In an 1894 hotly contested election between Karnes City and Helena, Karnes City was voted the new Karnes county seat. Many Helena businesses moved to Karnes City or Runge, and the Helena courthouse was turned into a school. By 1904 Helena’s population was 181; by 1930 the town had 100 residents. The school closed in 1945 and the post office closed in 1956. The 1873 courthouse, the old post office building, the Helena Union Church, the John Ruckman Home, the Sickenius farmhouse, and the jail have been restored and are now part of the Karnes County Museum Complex. “Each year on a Saturday in December, the Helena Post Office operates for one day as a part of a Christmas celebration along the Alamo-La Bahia route; it issues special cachets and postal cancellations for mail sent throughout Texas and the nation.” Helena is located on the east side of the San Antonio River at the intersection of SH 80 and FM 81, 60 miles southeast of San Antonio, and 5.5 miles east of Panna Maria, 12 miles southeast of Cestohowa, 14 miles southeast of Falls City, 23 miles south of Nixon, 9 miles northwest of Runge, 36 miles northwest of Goliad, 13 miles north of Kenedy, and 7 miles northeast of Karnes City, Texas.
 
Historic Town of Helena, Texas Historical Marker Text:
“(Helena was) founded in 1852 on San Antonio River by Thomas Ruckman, a graduate of Princeton, and Lewis Owings, later first governor of Arizona Territory. Town was named in honor of Owings' wife, Helen. Situated on branch of famed Chihuahua Trail (running from Indianola to San Antonio to Northern Mexico), Helena was to experience quick growth. Much traffic of wagon freight and gold bullion travelled trail. Four-horse stages daily passed through town. Helena was designated county seat when Karnes County was created and organized in 1854. First election of county officials was held on gallery of Ruckman-Owings Store. During Civil War, Karnes County mustered six companies, including Helena Guards, for service. Helena was a Confederate post office and issued its own stamps. Much Confederate cotton destined for Mexican ports passed through Helena. During its heyday, Helena had a courthouse, jail, newspaper, academy, drugstore, blacksmith shop, two hotels, and several saloons and general stores. Bypassed by the S.A. & A.P. Railroad in 1886, town died. County seat was moved to Karnes City in 1894 after hotly contested election.” 
 
Historic Ox-Cart Road, Texas Historical Marker:
“After centuries of use by buffalo and Indians, this trail from San Antonio to the Texas coast gained importance when opened to colonial travel by the Alarcon Expedition in 1718. Spanish conquistadores and priests, the Gutierrez-Magee Expedition (which invaded Spanish Texas in 1812), Stephen F. Austin, Alamo heroes, Santa Anna's messenger ordering the death of prisoners at Goliad, Polish and German settlers of Texas-- all traveled on road. Rich trade in gold, silver, and leather with Mexico and the West was conducted along the road from San Antonio to Powderhorn. The U.S. 2nd Cavalry Forts, established to protect the Texas frontier, moved men and supplies over it. Materials were transported in two-wheeled ox-carts, prairie schooners, Wells-Fargo wagons drawn by sixteen mules, and by pack animals. In 1852 Helena was founded on road as a midway point between San Antonio and Goliad; Lewis S. Owings operated a daily stage line here, 1854. Major incidents of the Bizarre Cart War of 1857 between Texan and Mexican teamsters occurred near Helena. Herds of longhorns from South Texas crossed the road here in route to market. After the railroad came through county in 1886, the Ox-Cart Road was abandoned.”
 
Historic 1873 Karnes County Courthouse, Texas Historical Marker Text:
“Soon after Karnes County was created and organized in 1854, a frame and clapboard courthouse was erected at this site in the center of Jefferson Square. This rock structure was built in 1873 to replace the first courthouse and adjacent county clerk's office, which had been destroyed by a storm and fire following the Civil War (1861-65). After county seat was moved to Karnes City in 1894, building was used as a school until 1945.”
 
Old Karnes County Courthouse, 1873:
Helena became the first Karnes County seat in 1854; Karnes City was voted county seat in 1894. The 1873 stone courthouse was designed by John Jacob Riley. The courthouse is now part of the Karnes County Museum Complex. It is located on the old town square.
 
Old Karnes County Jails:
The jail consisted of two iron cages.
 
Historic John Ruckman Home, Texas Historical Marker Text:
“Ruckman (Nov. 9, 1835 - Jan. 8, 1913), born in Northumberland County, Pa., came to Texas in 1856 to join his older brother Thomas, co-founder of Helena. Landing at Indianola on his 21st birthday, he came here to spend lifetime as farmer, rancher, postmaster, merchant, pioneer banker, and leader in Presbyterian Church. In Civil War, 1862-65, he was a lieutenant in Confederate Army. Married Lizzie Dickson, 1867. Children were John, Robert, Mary, Thomas, Follmer, Hester, Hugh and Margaret. In 1878 he built this house of Florida cypress. He is buried in Helena Cemetery.” 
 
Karnes County Museum, Helena, Texas:
The museum complex consists of the 1873 courthouse, the old post office building, the Helena Union Church, the John Ruckman Home, the Sickenius farmhouse, and the jail. “Each year on a Saturday in December, the Helena Post Office operates for one day as a part of a Christmas celebration along the Alamo-La Bahia route; it issues special cachets and postal cancellations for mail sent throughout Texas and the nation.” The museum features exhibits depicting life in Karnes County in the 1800s. Annual events include the October Indian Summer Heritage Festival, and “Christmas along the Corridor” event in December. Open Fri-Mon, 11am-4pm. (830) 780-3210. The museum is located less than 0.5 miles northeast of the junction of SH 80 and 8167 FM 81 in Helena, Texas.
 
South Texas Renegades Semi-Pro Football Team, Runge, Texas:
The team plays the South Texas Bonecrushers from Corpus Christi, the San Antonio Ravens, the San Antonio All Stars, Austin’s ATX Tigers, and San Antonio’s Alamo City Cowboys. There are many semi-pro football teams in Texas.
 
Annual Indian Summer Heritage Festival, Helena, TX, Oct:
Activities include live music, folkloric dancing, children’s activities, food vendors, a quilting bee demonstration in the historic Sickenius House, a quilt exhibit, a quilt raffle, and the traditional Sweet Shoppe will be offering homemade desserts in the old post office. This event is hosted by the Karnes County Historical Society. (830) 780-3210. This event is held at the Karnes County Museum which is located less than 0.5 miles northeast of the junction of SH 80 and FM 81 in Helena, Texas.
 
Annual Christmas along the Corridor, Helena, TX, Dec:
Activities include the Sweet Shoppe, entertainment and Pony Express Riders. The Helena Post Office is open and operating as a post office for the day. This event is hosted by the Karnes County Historical Society. (830) 780-3210. This event is held at the Karnes County Museum which is located less than 0.5 miles northeast of the junction of SH 80 and FM 81 in Helena, Texas.