Kenedy Texas, located at the intersection of Highway 181 and Highway 72, was once part of a Spanish land grant to Don Carlos Martinez. After the Texas War of Independence in 1836, American settlement began. Kenedy Junction was stablished in 1886 on the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway on a tract of land, 400,000 acres to be exact, which was purchased by Mifflin Kenedy, President of the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Town Site Company.
When construction of the railroad had reached a point about one mile south of where Karnes City now is located, a station called Kenedy to honor Mifflin Kenedy was established. The station was equipped with a turntable, a depot, and restaurants. Many trains passed through the station each day including mail, work and passenger trains. In the spring of 1887, the railroad built a depot and a two-story hotel with a lunchroom (later The Beanery) at the junction. Construction work proceeded south from the station and reached the site of what is now the city of Kenedy. Here a three-way junction was established in the railroad. It was the intention to move the equipment of the first Kenedy station (now old Kenedy) to the junction as soon as possible to establish a new station, also called Kenedy.
On March 27th, 1887, the Kenedy Junction post office was officially established and its name was shortened to Kenedy on June 21, 1887. During the early years, Kenedy was comprised of a church, store and a cotton gin and The Karnes County National Bank officially opened in 1903. By1906, Kenedy had added newspaper offices, a livery, feed stables and one of the largest cotton compresses in the United States.
In 1910, Kenedy officially became incorporated with Henry W. Dailey as mayor. With the incorporation of Kenedy and the economic boom Kenedy experienced, the population swelled from 1,147 in 1910 to 3,763 in 1990.
Today, Kenedy is a booming town with an estimated population of 3,437 and is known for its part in Eagle Ford Shale boom. Kenedy is also known for its rich history and is proud to be recognized as the Horned Lizard Capital of Texas.
Hot Spring Wells:
In 1915, hot mineral water was discovered in Kenedy prompting the opening of the Hot Wells Hotel and Bath House. Visitors came from all over to experience the benefits of the hot mineral water which contributed to the city’s economy for nearly 25 years.
Six Shooter Junction:
In the early 1900’s Kenedy developed a reputation of having a “wild west” type of atmosphere caused by shoot-outs between feuding families and troublemakers who passed through the area. Because this was a location
The story of Gregorio Cortez begins on June 12th, 1901 during an investigation of a horse theft in Karnes County. During this investigation, Karnes County Sheriff W.T. Morris, learned that Gregorio Cortez, a tenant corn farmer along with his brother, Romaldo Cortez, at the Thulemeyer ranch, acquired a mare from a Kenedy resident. During a conversation between Sheriff Morris and Gregorio Cortez, Cortez was asked if he had recently acquired a “caballo,” a stallion. Cortez stated he had acquired a “yegua,” a mare. Due to poor translation conducted by a sheriff’s deputy, Morris believed that the Cortez brothers had stolen the horse rather than acquired it during a trade. Panic ensued and Sheriff Morris shot and wounded Romaldo, causing Gregorio to shoot and kill Sheriff Morris, citing self-defense. Cortez evaded police for nearly 10 days. Gregorio Cortez was captured on June 22, 1901 after traveling approximately 500 miles. The Texas Historical Commission has placed a historical marker bearing Cortez’s name at the intersection of FM 626 and FM 2101, near Lenz Hall.
“Grist for the Mill”
Located above the Postmaster’s door inside the United States Post Office in Kenedy is a large mural titled “Grist for the Mill.” The mural, painted by Charles Campbell in 1939, depicts a phase of the cotton industry in south Texas. The mural displays the process in which cotton is picked, weighed and sucked up by the cotton gin.
Kenedy Enemy Alien Detention Station
Located at the corner of Clinton Street and Hillside Street in Kenedy is a marker dedicated to the Kenedy Enemy Alien Detention Station. During World War I, the detention camp was used as a U.S. Army training post and during the Great Depression, the site was used as Civilian Conservation Corps #3806. In the early 1940’s it was decided that the camp would be used to hold detainees that the Department of State brought in from Latin America. From April 1942 to 1944, the camp housed approximately 600 detainees monthly as well as a staff of 84 INS and civilian workers. The station typically housed adult males and a small number of teenage boys. The camp had a 600 by 450-foot recreational field and three acres of gardening area which was used by the camp’s detainees for activities. In September of 1944, the internment camp closed and became and German and Japanese branch prisoner of war camp.
Karnes County Museum:
Built in 1873, The Karnes County Museum was originally the Helena Courthouse. After losing the first courthouse in 1865 to a storm, Helena rebuilt the courthouse out of rock. The courthouse eventually closed and is now used as the Karnes County Historical Museum. Take a step back into the past and learn about the rich history of Karnes County at The Karnes County Museum. The museum is located at 8167 N FM 81 in Karnes City and is open Friday to Monday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information regarding the museum, call (830) 780-3210.
Eagle Ford Shale
The Eagle Ford Shale is located the heart of Texas spans throughout 30 counties stretching from Leon County to Webb County, at the Texas-Mexico border. The shale lies directly beneath the Austin Chalk with varying depths of 4,000 to 14,000 ft. and produces dry gas, wet gas, NGLs, condensate and oil. The Eagle Ford Shale has played a vital part in the economic boom that Karnes County has experience since the mid 2000’s. With the Eagle Ford Shale running directly underneath Karnes County, the impact it has had on the community is evident with the addition of many new businesses including hotels, restaurants, small businesses and gas & oilfield businesses as well as the remodeling of older businesses. With the economic growth Karnes County has experienced, there has also been a demand for a larger workforce providing job opportunities for anyone seeking employment. It has been predicted that the Eagle Ford Shale will be fruitful for decades to come.
Rosales, F. Arturo. Pobre Raza! Violence, Justice, and Mobilization among Mexico Lindo Immigrants, 1900-1936. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1999: 93.