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2013-06-13

First Cowboy Capital marker dedicated

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

To piece together the history of Bandera County, locals and visitors need look no farther than the Western Trail Heritage Park on Main Street. On Thursday, June 6, a second bronze plaque atop a limestone pedestal was unveiled, revealing how the town - and presumably county - was named.

Members of the Bandera County Historical Commission, along with City of Bandera Mayor Don Clark and other elected city and county officials, dedicated the Cowboy Capital stone marker, which was created by commission member and stone mason Cecil LeStourgeon. "Our cowboy hats have to go off to Cecil and Dave Burell, who were instrumental in helping get this completed," said Historical Commission Chairman Roy Dugosh.

Dugosh said members of the historical commission approved the information included on the marker. Elenora Dugosh Goodley, who served as chairman of the commission marker committee, researched and crafted the explanation of the origin of the town's name.

Naming of Bandera

According to Goodley, over a year of research had gone into the ferreting out the information included on the plaque - the majority of which came from Herman Lehman, who was captured by the Apaches in 1870. He later lived with the Comanches. At the age of 65, Lehman told the following story to newspaperman and magazine publisher J. Marvin Hunter, who also founded Bandera's Frontier Times Museum:

"Lehman said the Comanches told him Indians named Bandera. After the 1732 battle at Bandera Pass between the Apaches and Spaniards, a council was held and a treaty was made. In token of the agreement, a 'Red Flag' was placed on the highest peak of the pass as a warning to both parties.

"In 1841, at the same pass, a regiment of 40 Texas Rangers, led by Captain John Coffee Hayes, was attacked by Comanches. The rangers were armed with the new 'Colt Six-Shooter' and defeated the Comanches. After the battle, the Indians would gathered on the hills surrounding Bandera, point their arrows at the tiny town, and say, 'Bandera,' a Spanish word meaning flag.

"The town of Bandera was founded in the early 1800s by Charles D. Montel, John James, and John Herndon. It has been a historic cowboy town of cattle drives, saloons, dance halls and gunfights. From the early 1900s, Bandera has been known throughout the USA, Canada, and the world as the 'Cowboy Capital of the World'."

The handsome plaque joins an identical one dedicated in May 2012 that discusses the Western Trail and the cattle drives north to railheads in Dodge City, Kansas and eventually into Canada. Ironically, it took three years of dedicated work by Burell to resurrect the original plaque from its entombment in the ground under thick plexiglass where it had been relegated by former members of the City of Bandera Economic Development Corporation. It now serves as a proud companion piece to the newer plaque and pedestal.

Enter Texas Senate

In related business, during the subsequent meeting of Bandera City Council later that evening, Goodley announced that the local historical commission had applied to the Texas Historical Commission (THC) for an additional bronze marker proclaiming Bandera as the "Cowboy Capital of the World."

"The Texas Historical Commission has approved the marker and it is being minted in San Antonio," Goodley told city council. "A dedication ceremony will take place during Celebrate Bandera over the Labor Day weekend. The ceremony has been scheduled for 10 am, Saturday, August 31, in the Western Trail Heritage Park on Main Street."

In addition, Goodley had appealed to Senator Troy Fraser and Rep. Harvey Hilderbran for information on obtaining a resolution recognizing Bandera as the official Cowboy Capital of the World. As per their requests, Goodly forwarded the same information and facts she had earlier sent to the Texas Historical Commission. Without further ado, Fraser composed a resolution, which was quickly passed by the Senate.

History in nutshell

The resolution offered a succinct précis of the history of Bandera, beginning in 1852 when "a group of entrepreneurs acquired land on a cypress-line bend in the Medina River." The thriving settlement supplied products to the United States Cavalry stationed at Camp Verde, raised and ginned cotton and produced cattle, sheep and goats.

During the 1970s, the county became a staging area for cattle drives up the Western Trail. Between 1974 and 1894, seven to 10 million longhorns made the trek northward, along with one million head of horses.

Dude ranches came along in the 1920s when the Buck and Bruce ranches opened for the business of taking in paying summer guests. In 1924, the first advertised rodeo was held at Mansfield Park and the county became famous for producing world champion rodeo competitors.

"The wild and rugged western town of Bandera displayed the qualities and history of a cowboy capital long before the first printed reference naming it the 'Cowboy Capital of the World' in 1948."

Thank you, Billie Crowell

This last bit referred to Mrs. Billie Crowell, who, at that time, owned and managed the Dixie Dude Ranch, along with her husband, Dee.

According to the late Rudy Robbins, in 1949 or 1950, members of Bandera's visitors' bureau kicked around ideas to promote tourism - primarily the local dude ranches. Billie Crowell told Robbins that someone suggested calling Bandera the "Cowboy Capital of the World" on all brochures and publicity material. The suggestion apparently struck a chord and members of the visitors' bureau approved it with alacrity. "And that," wrote Robbins in an essay published in the Courier, "is how Bandera got its name."

Recognizing the rich western history of Bandera, the Senate of the State of Texas happily paid tribute to the many contributions its citizens made to the Lone Star State by officially proclaiming Bandera the "Cowboy Capital of the World."

"That should take care of those who say Bandera is the 'self- proclaimed' Cowboy Capital of the World," Goodley told council.

"We also need to send a letter to Stephenville and tell 'em to take down their signs now," added Harry Harris, president of the Frontier Times Museum Board of Trustees.


Pictured: From left, Dave Burell, Roy Dugosh and Cecil LeStourgeon take a well-deserved break after the dedication of the second explanatory marker in the Western trail Heritage Park on Thursday, June 6. Unlike the Western trail marker, the Cowboy Capital companion piece didn't suffer the ignominious fate of being buried in the ground

Elenora Dugosh Goodley shared Senate Resolution No. 769 with Bandera Mayor Don Clark during a June 6 meeting of city council. In the resolution, the Texas Senate officially proclaimed Bandera as the "Cowboy Capital of the World."

The Cowboy Capital small marker at the Western Trail Heritage Park is shown prior to its dedication on Thursday, June 6.