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Historic marker back on 11th Street

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

A crowd of local history buffs gathered at the corner of 11th and Cedar streets at 6 pm, Friday, Sept. 4, for the dedication of a historical plaque, titled "Bandera Historic Town Center Marker" - the first known point in the City of Bandera.
The dedication had long been a dream of Mary McGroarty Smith, longtime member of the Bandera County Historical Commission.Other members had also championed the installation.
In the 1800s, before Bandera had a Main Street, 11th Street served as the city's main drag. Now, the area been designated as a historical district. During the original survey of the city, a marker, indicating the center of town had been installed.
However, that marker had long since disappeared and it had become McGroarty Smith's mission to have it replaced. At age 92, her dream finally came to fruition.
The contemporary marker was placed on the original point at which the City of Bandera was surveyed.
City of Bandera Mayor John Hegemier was decked out in cowboy gear at the behest of Elenora Dugosh Goodley, a member of the historical commission. He spoke at the dedication.
"This is actually quite interesting for me because when I was in college, I worked for three summers as a surveyor," Hegermier revealed. "While on a survey, we used shovels and metal detectors to locate the 'known point.' This site is significant because it's the first 'known point' in Bandera."
In his address, Judge Richard Evans noted that people traveled to this area with ideas and dreams that were just that - ideas and dreams of building a town - until "the first point was set. After that dreams became reality. It's important for people to know where they started from."
Evans continued, "Mary immigrated to Texas from Ireland. Since then, she's done more for this area than many natives and this is a dream come true for her."
And, he added, contrary to popular belief, he was not around when that first "known point" was set on what was to become 11th Street.
Goodley wrote the narrative included on the marker, which was subsequently approved by the Texas Historical Commission. She offered an overview of the events that led to the installation of the first "known point."
In the early 1840s Charles DeMontel and John James explored and surveyed an area on the northeast side of the Medina River. An early settler of the area, DeMontel was a German immigrant who had been a soldier in the Texas Army.
James, who had surveyed across Texas, also produced some of the earliest mapping of the Hill Country.
DeMontel and James formed a company with John Hunter Herndon and purchased land from Bernardino Ruiz out of Bexar County Land Survey, No. 58, Section 5, on Dec. 9, 1841. Subsequently, the three men established buildings and oversaw expansion of the town of Bandera.
Near what became the center of the townsite survey - now 11th Street - Ruiz built a small stone house, which was later used by James as a land office. The building was later sold to DeMontel. He and James eventually established a sawmill in the new town.
As the town was plotted and lots sold, others emigrated to the area. In 1854, Lyman Wight established a Mormon colony, which included a schoolhouse and furniture factory, near Bandera. After Polish immigrants arrived the following year, their early hand-cut limestone buildings became an integral part of the city's architectural heritage.
In 1856, the Texas Legislature created and organized Bandera County with the fledging town of Bandera as its county seat. Former slaves, along with immigrants from the British Isles, including Ireland and Scotland; Germany, Norway; and France soon became part of the fabric of the vibrant community.