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Studying the natives (plants and people) of Bandera County

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Posted: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 12:50 pm

Dicho Espanol de la Semana: Una cosa es decir y otra cosa es hacer. It is one thing to say something, and another to do it. In other words, easier said than done.

Getting Organized

Since lately I have, in a way, been lecturing newcomers on the advisability of learning more about Bandera, we have decided that for the next few weeks we will feature native plants and notable characters in the history of this unique county. So, here goes.


Many of us have heard the names of John James and Charles de Montel as founders of Bandera who established the famous shingle mill on the Medina River. But less familiar to us is the name of John Hunter Herndon, who very likely provided the wherewithal to build the mill and lay out the town.

John Herndon was born in Kentucky and came to Texas in 1838. He studied and practiced law in Houston before moving to Fort Bend County. Expanding his activities he later owned ranches in Matagorda, Guadalupe and Medina counties. He engaged in other real estate and entrepreneurial ventures. He was said to be the wealthiest man in Texas and owner of a million acres.

War and reconstruction destroyed most of his vast fortune. At one point he moved to Boerne, where he died in 1876. He was buried in Hempstead. Whether he ever visited Bandera is not known, but he obviously had a major role in its creation.



Texas madrone, arbutus yala pensis.

Common names: Naked Indian, Lady Legs, Mazanita, Madrona. My tree book, Texas Trees by Paul Cox and Party Leslie describes the madrone tree as an evergreen up to 30 feet with stout crooked branches and smooth reddish peeling bark.

Some years ago, my good friend the late Cathy Powell and I made an inventory of the native trees in the path of the proposed four-lane redo of Hwy. 16 from San Antonio to Bandera.

We attended the hearing on the project at San Geronimo, and succeeded in persuading TxDOT to move the right of way near Cedar Hill to spare several madrone trees growing there. These trees are still there!

Rare enough in the Hill Country, the madrone grows in more profusion in the mountains of western Mexico. But there are a few here and there on hillsides around here.

Dorothy Mattiza had a number for sale on the Gunsight Mountain Ranch above Tarpley. I bought two of them. One died and the other flourished, becoming quite a handsome tree.

But I made a mistake. Speedy Hicks told me that a transplanted madrone flourished only in more or less hiding, his being in a remote corner in back of his house.

So I planted my madrone in a corner of the border above our driveway, where it now shows off its beauty amid several lesser trees.

Oh well. If you come see us, I’ll show it to you!

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