Helena is near the intersection of State Highway 80 and Farm Road 81, on the east side of a bend of the San Antonio River in Karnes County. Although it is practically a ghost town today, its beginning was most auspicious, and for many years it was the most important city between San Antonio and Goliad. Since Spanish colonial times the La Bahía Road, later to be called the Chihuahua Road or Ox-Cart Trail, ran from San Antonio to La Bahía (now Goliad) and the Texas coast. Along this road was carried the rich trade with Mexico and points west. In 1852 Thomas Ruckman and Lewis S. Owings founded Helena at the site of an earlier Mexican trading post called Alamita. They renamed the town in honor of Dr. Owings's wife, Helen. Entering into a business partnership, they envisioned a metropolis arising at this important road stop. Ruckman opened a mercantile and built a gristmill. In 1853 a post office was established, and Ruckman served as first postmaster. The population in and around Helena increased so much that the two partners successfully promoted the organization of Karnes County in 1854, with Helena as the county seat. The first election of county officials was on the gallery of the Ruckman-Owings store. Much traffic of wagon freight and gold bullion traveled the trail, and Dr. Owings operated a stage line of four-horse coaches from San Antonio to Victoria via Helena and Goliad. The main incidents of the Cart War occurred in and around Helena.

Adapted from the official Handbook of Texas, a state encyclopedia developed by the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). It is an authoritative source of trusted historical records.

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Helena is classified as a Town

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  • (Alamita)


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Helena by the Numbers

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Pop. Year Source
35 2014 Local Officials