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photo of Johnson City in 1906, Texas

Johnson City, Texas


Street scene 1906 showing Courthouse Square. Old Baptist church in the distance
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The Site of the Johnson Ranch on Town Creek, the present day Johnson City, was at a very old crossroads.

A north-south route from Blanco to the Colorado River was known and traveled as early as Spanish times. Miranda in 1579 passed this way, crossing the Pedernales in the vicinity of Johnson City on his way to inspect the supposed silver deposits near Llano.

McCarty Spring, just four miles to the northwest of town, was a favored way-station for travelers between Austin and Fredericksburg. Andrew Jackson Johnson, an older brother to Tom and Sam Johnson, located his home near this spring in 1858 or 1859. Topography and the conditions of early-day travel by horse or horse and wagon had long established this section of the Pedernales Valley as a natural stopping place and cross-roads. However, none of the early sites grew into a lasting settlement other than as Ranch stations.

In the 1870's, Lyndon B. Johnson's grandfather, Sam Early Johnson, Sr., gave up his cattle-driving business (driving cattle up the Chisholm Trail had become unprofitable). He and his brother, Tom Johnson, sold out their interests to a nephew, James Polk Johnson.

The nearest post office, mill, and general store were located 14 miles south in Blanco/Pittsburg. There were still renegade Indians roaming the area, so travel over any distance was viewed with great apprehension. For that reason, settlers in the north end of Blanco County began to plan for a city in the northern area.

In 1879, a barbecue was held at the springs on Town Creek located on the Johnson Ranch. At this meeting, three sites for a town were offered, and the one accepted by vote of the settlers was a 320-acre plot of land on the Pedernales River offered by James Polk Johnson. After the decision, his many friends took him up on their shoulders and cheered him for his victory and for the decision by the residents to name the new town after him.

James Polk Johnson made the transition from rancher to businessman very successfully. It was his organizational ability that converted a natural way-station into a settled community and a county seat. He began creating this town by constructing the first cotton gin/grist mill and the first hotel. He gave his land for a courthouse square and he sold retail and residential lots around it. He named the hotel The Pearl, after his daughter. In the midst of this brief building boom, he died prematurely at the age of 40 in 1885, never seeing his last project - a native limestone building diagonally across from The Pearl completed.

photo of the courthouse, Johnson City in 1906, Texas

The unfinished building (now the Johnson City Bank) was to be a general merchandise store. This building came to have the first jail in its basement and served as the first Johnson City courthouse. The first church congregation (Methodist) met in an upstairs room of this building until their church building was constructed, and later Lyndon B. Johnson had his local offices in this building constructed by his second cousin.

Following the formation of Kendall County in 1862 from portions of Blanco and Kerr Counties with the subsequent loss of territory and population in the south, pressure grew to move the seat of government. This was the major factor in the relocation of the county seat to Johnson City in 1890. The boundary line changes had positioned Johnson City within two miles of the center of the county.

Johnson City Chamber of Commerce
(830) 868-7684
Email: info@JohnsonCityTexasChamber.com
Johnson City Texas Chamber

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