Karnes City

Karnes City, Texas

Karnes City, Texas

Welcome Sign in Karnes City, the seat of Karnes County, Texas. Photograph by Billy Hathorn.
Product photo
Promotion: Nearby

Map of Karnes County

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.

The first newspaper in Karnes City, the Karnes City Reporter, began publishing in 1891. Other subsequent newspapers included the Karnes Reformer, a Populist (see PEOPLE'S PARTY) newspaper established in 1894; the Karnes City Times (established 1895); the Karnes City Kicker (1896); the Karnes City Rustler (1898); and the Karnes Citation (1903; still publishing in 1993). The first banking business was that conducted by Buchel, Wagner and Company, which held local deposits in its safe and provided a checking service. The Karnes County National Bank was chartered in 1900. About 1907 the City National Bank was established, and in the early 1920s, the Guaranty State Bank. Both of these were eventually absorbed by the Karnes County National Bank, which was still operating in 1993. In 1914 Karnes City incorporated. Its business district was near the courthouse. As many as six passenger trains arrived daily. The Karnes City Chamber of Commerce was organized in 1926. In addition, a number of civic and fraternal organizations were very active in the early 1900s. The Woodmen of the World met in the old bank building, and a Masonic lodge was established. The Max Menn Post of the American Legion was organized in Karnes City after World War I. The Sociedad Mutualista Benito Juarez No. 1 de Karnes City was organized in 1922 and chartered in 1925. The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 8572 was chartered in 1979.

Continue Reading

Roberta M. Ziegler, Robert H. Thonhoff | © TSHA

Handbook of Texas Logo

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

Belongs to

Karnes City is part of or belongs to the following places:

Currently Exists


Place type

Karnes City is classified as a Town

Associated Names

  • (Kenedy 2)
  • (St. Joe)


Latitude: 28.88720290
Longitude: -97.90059200

Has Post Office


Is Incorporated


Population Count, 2021 View more »