Along the Road
It is funny how plans change. The trip was planned as a jaunt to Bandera with a photo stop to Polly’s Settlement to the west of Pipe Creek. Except for maybe a photo or two we weren’t planning on spending any time in Pipe Creek. It turned out differently. Driving through Pipe Creek my eye was caught by an old building,looked like maybe a dance hall. And next to it was an old empty cafe. Picture time. To be honest that much was expected as we drove into town. What happened though, was that we got to talking with the new owner of both buildings, and yes it was a dance hall— and will once again become a dance hall. Until recently it was being used as storage. It is in the process of being renovated as is the old cafe building next store. That building was once a general store and butcher shop, as well as an early gas station. To make a long story short, the owner invited us to wander through the buildings and grounds with him, taking photos as he shared the history. After an enjoyable hour or so, we got into the car to head out. Didn’t get very far. There on the other side of the highway was the old Lewis Bros Store, now an antique shop, and next to that a flea market. It’s hard, at least for me, to pass up a chance to discover a treasure. Didn’t discover any treasures, but did have fun exploring and taking photos.
Okay, time before it got any later to check out Polly’s Settlement and what looked like an excellent opportunity to photograph a bit of vanishing Texas. As it turned out, it started raining, and as we had traversed several miles of dirt road and low water crossings, it seemed the wise thing to do was to cut the photo taking short and get back to the main highway while we could. [Did get one picture Polly’s Chapel, though.} I do need one of these days to head back to Pipe Creek and visit the dance hall, and get those photos of Polly’s Settlement.
PIPE CREEK, TEXAS (Bandera County) — Sometimes a settlement is named after a founder, other times from an odd occurrence. Pipe Creek comes from the latter, at least according to local lore. The story goes, an early settler by the name of Odem,* while being pursued by the band of Apache dropped his pipe into a little creek to the west of Red Bluff Creek. Somehow, according to the story, the Odem managed to retrieve his pipe and escape the Apaches. And thus the creek was known thereafter as Pipe Creek, as was the little settlement that grew up along side the creek and the "Old San Antonio Trail." True? Perhaps, but for sure, the region was home to the Lipan Apache.
The first known settler was Francis Marion Hodges, who with his family settled on a 160 acre homestead on Red Bluff Creek in 1868. He was joined by others, most notably Oliver S. Shirley and W. H. White, in 1870. Mr. White had one of his oxen killed another wounded by the Apache the very first night he arrived. In 1873 a company was begun for "protection against Indian depredations." Scouts were paid $20.00/month. Later W. H. White wrote: "I came and found this region a trackless wilderness, infested with wild beasts and wild men; but the old dangers have passed away and today I behold a land of contentment, where happiness reigns supreme."
John Hodges, the son of Marion Hodges had this to say about what it was like when he was a child: "Our home was a pole pen with a tent stretched inside . Our nearest neighbor, a man named Granger, lived across the mountains, eight miles away. Every light moon the Indians would come into the country to steal horses. One time, when father was away from home, they stole two mares and colts from us but the animals got away from them and came running home. One of them was shot between the shoulders with an arrow and the other was lanced in the neck. We put them in the pen and mother took a gun, and made me hold an old flintlock rifle, and we guarded those horses until father returned."
For most of the homes, at least through the 70s, picket walls with thatched roofs and dirt floors was the norm. Neighbors were some distance. If one were to ride to Bandera they would find only one house between Pipe Creek and Bandera.
By the end of the 1870s Pipe Creek had grown to about seventy, had a post office (1873)in a little log house, with mail delivered to the post office by stagecoach, and two general stores. The first was opened by Mrs Marion Hodge on the Hodge homestead west of the village and the second shortly after was opened by J. W. Hamilton. Not long after opening the Hamilton store was robbed. The take: $7.00. The locals, mostly farmers and ranchers, raised cotton, corn, cattle, and sheep. In the spring of 1873 the settlement was hit by a swarm of grasshoppers. According to E. Buck Sr., "Corn was about knee high at the time the swarms of grasshoppers arrived, But in a few hours they cleared the fields."
The area where the "junction" (S.H. 16 & FM 1283) was originally granted to a railroad company. William J. Hamilton patented the land in August, 1878, building a cotton gin and grist mill. The gin's large cistern is still standing in the field behind what was the Keefe Store (Pipe Creek Junction Cafe). It was about this time that the production molasses from locally grown sorghum began.
Cattle were driven "up the trail" to Kansas, and for the first few years, sugar and coffee were scarce and flour was $14/hundred pounds. Most of the homes raised what vegetables were necessary, sharing and selling what was not needed. What milk and butter was not needed was often shipped to Bandera, becoming quite a profitable business for some. What freight was needed was brought in by ox teams hauling freight wagons. Along their way, the freight haulers were often set upon by bands of Apaches.
Located along the stagecoach lines between Bandera, Bourne, and San Antonio the settlement became a resting point frequented by drummers (itinerant salesmen) and circuit riding preachers. The most famous of the Circuit Riders to call on Pipe Creek was the Rev. Jack Potter, "The Fighting Parson." Most of these circuit riders while in Pipe Creek made their headquarters in the (Medina R.) cypress timber home Jerry Scott, built on the "East Prong" of Pipe Creek. Scott's wife, whom the settlers took to calling "Aunt Jane," ministered to the needs of many of the females settlers. A bit south of Pipe Creek in Bandera Falls, the English-Crist home in the late 1890s and early 1900s served as a lodging stop for travelers heading south.
Judge F.W. Dorow, a German who settled in Pipe Creek in 1872 and become a citizen, served in the Texas Legislature, as well as the Justice of the Peace and Bandera County Commissioner for the Pipe Creek area. It is said that the Judge was instrumental in having the Pipe Creek school house built.
The first school house, doubling as a church was built in 1981 near the cemetery. The walls were pickets, covered with a thatched grass roof and had a dirt floor. The benches were made of split logs. John Hodge noted in his recollections that school was only held two to three months every year and that when he and his brother James rode horseback the nine-miles to school they each carried a ball and cap pistol for protection "as we did not know when the Indians might attack us."
By the early 1880s Pipe Creek had about 100 widely scattered residents. In 1886 the first Baptist Church was organized, The Methodist followed in 1904. Services were held in the school house until new sanctuaries were able to be built. In 1908 Pipe Creek got telephone service— the single town phone was located in the general store. In 1913, as the area's population increased, the Dreskin School was built. Shortly after, though, with a decline of school age residents, that school merged with the Pipe Creek School. A new school was built in 1948, which in 1950 was consolidated into the Bandera ISD. In 1930 Adolph Schott built the Pipe Creek dance hall
Electricity arrived on December 24, 1940, the first connection was in the Schott Store. In the 1950s and 1960s the population of Pipe Creek grew to 220. After the 60s, however, the population declined to sixty-six by the end of the 70s and remained at that level until the turn of the century when commuters from San Antonio discovered the area and began calling Pipe Creek home. In the early 1990s the town consisted of construction, auto, and real estate businesses, as well as a restaurant, a hardware store, a community center, and several churches.
[Images are located below "Keefe Store" info]
Location: State Highway 16 about nine miles east of Bandera in eastern Bandera County.
E. B. and Carrie Keefe built their store in the spring of 1911, having purchased the property from Felix & Harriet Newcomer for $150 who had purchased the property from William J. Hamilton. The original store was a two-story frame building with the store on the first floor with the family living quarters on the second. After running the store for a few months the Keefes sold the land and store back to the Newcomers. Their son ran the store and added shed wings to both sides of the store. In 1914 Tom W. Deskin Sr, offered Jim and his widowed mother a 480 acre ranch north of Pipe Creek as even trade for the store and property. The Deskins ran the store for the next four years, followed by a succession of others. One subsequent owner, Dick Cox purchased a motor truck in 1913 for deliveries and hauling supplies. In the spring of 1924, Adolph and Loura Schott purchased the land and store. Loura was Jim Newcomer's daughter. In 1930, Adolph built the dance hall next to the store, doing much of the work himself.
When 1936 the road in front of the store was widened, taking with it the old store, the current store was built. Adolph did most of the framing by himself. Henry Gombert of Boerne did the rock work. The store was the first place in Pipe Creek to receive electricity, December 24, 1940. In 1944, the Schotts leased the store to L.M. Clopton who built a cafe on the corner. In 1951, the Ed and Ann Jennings took over the store, turning it into a corner convenience market. The store was noted for its humorous signs and a parking meter that had a sign reading, "First and only parking meter in Bandera County." There was also a post with "City Limits" sign nailed to both sides of the post.
Behind the store stood the "Marrying Oaks," a popular place to get married. Ed Jennings, also the local Justice of the Peace, performed the weddings.
In 1982, the property was sold to the Don & Ginger Lee who opened the Pipe Creek Junction Cafe in August 1986. The "Junction" noted for its pecan pies and fried catfish remained open until the fall of 2011, when it went up for sale. The building is now being renovated, along with the dance hall next door, and will reopen as restaurant.
The "Marrying Oaks" in back of the store were a popular place to be married by Justice of the Peace Jennings. Ed operated the store for more than 30 years, retiring and closing the store in the fall of 1982. - Jay Edwards Don and Ginger, former owners of "Helotes Cafe," purchased the property in the spring of 1986, the corner where the old store and dance hall sits. They remodeled the old store into a restaurant called "The Pipe Creek Junction Cafe" which opened August 1986. [Keefe Store images follow Pipe Creek images]
* This same Odem it is said also "named" nearby Privilege Creek. After retrieving his pipe Odem traveled further west to another creek where the landscape was so appealing that Odem supposedly said he would lay his pre-emption "with the privilege of lifting it" if he found better land elsewhere. Thereafter, the creek was know as Privilege Creek.
PIPE CREEK IMAGES
KEEFE STORE IMAGES