Karnes City

Karnes City, Texas

Karnes City, Texas

Welcome Sign in Karnes City, the seat of Karnes County, Texas. Photograph by Billy Hathorn.

Karnes City, the county seat of Karnes County since 1894, is at the intersection of U.S. Highway 181 and State highways 80 and 123, in the central part of the county some fifty miles southeast of San Antonio. On December 12, 1890, a group of Cuero businessmen, styled as Buchel, Wagner and Company, purchased a 1,000-acre tract from J. L. Calvert for five dollars an acre. Because the tract was near the geographic center of the county and astride the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway (built in 1886–87), the firm purchased it for plotting a townsite that could ultimately become the new county seat. The town was named in honor of Texas patriot Henry Wax Karnes, but to distinguish it from Kerens in North Texas, the post office department added "City" to the name. The Karnes City post office was officially established on April 1, 1891. The first store in the new town was a small building in which R. F. Harris had groceries and the post office. Buchel, Wagner and Company soon built a general merchandise store in the community. The first hotel there was the Sullivan House; next was the Kolodziej Hotel, completed in April 1891. In May 1892 a public auction of lots was held. When it became apparent that the town would grow, the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway built a side track where lumber for new homes and businesses could be unloaded. Other early businesses included Doc Puckett's saloon, the A. Gehler lumberyard, Wiley Parker's livery stable, and J. B. Pollock's drugstore. Karnes City, by then a flourishing trade and cattle-shipping center, won the December 21, 1893, election to become county seat, beating out Runge, Kenedy, and Helena (the seat of government since 1854). In January 1894 contested records were carted to Karnes City by night. Construction began on a new courthouse and jail. Jail cages and prisoners from Helena were moved to Karnes City in March, and on May 25, 1894, the prisoner who had robbed a train at Brackenridge (later Falls City) and killed the fireman was hanged on gallows constructed on the new courthouse square. In June the Karnes City Water Works contracted to supply water. On October 25, 1894, the new courthouse was dedicated. In 1903 Karnes City had a population of 600, and in 1909, 900.

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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Place type

Karnes City is classified as a Town

Associated Names

  • (Kenedy 2)
  • (St. Joe)


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Karnes City by the Numbers

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Population Counts

Karnes City
Pop. Year Source
3,202 2019 Texas Demographic Center
3,042 2010 Texas Demographic Center
3,457 2000 Texas Demographic Center
2,916 1990 Texas Demographic Center
3,296 1980 Texas Demographic Center
2,926 1970 Texas Demographic Center
2,603 1960 Texas Demographic Center
2,588 1950 Texas Demographic Center
1,571 1940 Texas Demographic Center
1,141 1930 Texas Demographic Center
787 1920 Texas Demographic Center