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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Newly Discovered Photograph of Bandera Pass

Bandera Pass Texas around 1905
Bandera Pass, around 1905.
Automobiles didn't arrive in significant numbers until 1908,
so the road shown is a wagon trail.
Click on any image to enlarge.
I recently was given a photo on which is written "Bandera Pass, 1905." That date appears to be fairly close, given the other photos in the packet. If so, it's the oldest photo I've ever seen of Bandera Pass, and was taken before automobiles were common in our part of the world. The dirt road shown in the photo is a wagon trail. Looking at the photo it is not hard to imagine travelers on horseback cutting through the pass.
Bandera Pass Texas date unknown
Bandera Pass, date unknown.
Photo possibly by Ellen O'Neal
Bandera Pass has been in use for thousands of years, and when we drive our automobiles over the smooth road today, we're following a path used since prehistoric times.
No one knows how many generations of Native Americans passed this way, but an archeological site on the southern side of Bandera Pass suggests there was a camp there at least 3,000 years ago. If you use 25 years as a rough estimate of a single generation, people have been traveling along this trail for more than 120 generations.
When the Comanche arrived in this part of Texas, they used routes established by earlier tribes, including the trail between Bandera Pass and the river crossing near downtown Kerrville. The route was called the Comanche Trace.
Bandera Pass Texas around 1935 by Starr Bryden
Bandera Pass, around 1935
Photo by Starr Bryden
Later, when the Spanish built their missions and presidios in Texas, the route saw soldiers and priests traveling from San Antonio to missions in the northern hill country, including Mission San Saba, which was near present-day Menard.
In 1732 a battle between Spanish forces and Lipan Apaches occurred at Bandera Pass. In the three-day battle the Spanish were victorious and resulted in a brief period of peace between the Spanish colonists and the Apache tribes. An early map, from around 1815, shows the pass as "Puerta de la Bandera."
When Texas was a part of Mexico, the trail would have been used by Mexican soldiers and settlers.
Bandera Pass Texas around 1926
Bandera Pass, around 1926
And when Texas gained its independence from Mexico, the trail saw use by both settlers and groups of Texas Rangers.
One group of Rangers, it is said, fought a battle at Bandera Pass. John Coffee "Jack" Hayes, one of the most colorful Texas Ranger captains, fought in the battle. Though the various accounts of the battle seem to conflict with each other -- including the actual date of the battle, and whether the Ranger's newly acquired Colt Paterson revolvers played a role in the encounter -- it is likely more than one skirmish between the various local tribes and Texas Rangers occurred near the site.
The oddest travelers through Bandera Pass walked the trail in August 1856, when a herd of forty camels, arriving from the Texas coast after a sea journey from the Middle East, walked the last few miles of their journey to Camp Verde. What a sight they must have been.
Those camels followed a wagon trail not unlike the one shown in the recently found 1905 photograph of Bandera Pass.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who explored the hills and cliffs around Bandera Pass years ago, when he was much younger.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times February 17, 2018.

Kerrville Stories by Joe Herring Jr
Joe's second book is selling fast, and the first is sold out.  192 pages with tons of historic Kerr County photographs.  Click HERE for free shipping.  

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