On Saturday, Oct. 26, the annual Indian Summer Heritage Festival will be held in downtown Helena at the Karnes County Museum Complex at Old Helena.
The annual festival is hosted by the Karnes County Historical Society and the Karnes County Historical Commission and there is no charge for admission.
There will be barbecue, hot dogs and tamales, local authors, artists, arts and crafts, bake shop, petting zoo, pony rides, country store and angel collection, sweet shoppe at the old post office, face painting, stick horses, tours of museum and the Ruckman House, paranormal activities, food and drinks, Western gunfight reenactments by Bandera Cattle Co., entertainment and more. Vendors are welcome.
Entertainment schedule as follows:
10:30 a.m. -- Karnes City Highsteppers
Noon – Shootout by Bandera Cattle Company performers at the Ruckman House
1:30 p.m. Tejas Winds with folklore and music
3 p.m. -- Ballet Folklorico Dancers
Helena was a booming frontier county seat and a major stop on the well-traveled road from San Antonio to Goliad. Helena boasted two hotels, two newspapers, a livery stable, harness shop, boot shop, mercantile stores, and at least 13 saloons.
In the late 1870s, its population of 300 to 500 people swelled every Saturday night as cowboys came to town looking for fun.
Helena’s beginnings date back to 1852 when Thomas Ruckman, a settler from Pennsylvania, came upon a little village at a crossroads. The little village was called Alamita (little cottonwood) after the nearby spring fed creek. The only wayside stop between San Antonio and Goliad, it seemed like a likely place for a town.
Ruckman, struck with the beauty of the area as well as its economic possibilities, established a store. Soon others followed his lead and built other businesses.
Going into partnership with Dr. Lewis S. Owings, Ruckman laid out a new town which they named Helena in honor of Dr. Owings’ wife.
In 1853, with the population growing, Ruckman and Owings started a movement to create a new county from parts of Bexar, Gonzales, DeWitt and San Patricio Counties.
On Feb. 4, 1854, the state legislature passed the act creating the County of Karnes, named after the Texas patriot and Indian scout Henry Wax Karnes. Helena was appointed the county seat.
The first courthouse was blown down in a storm and in 1873 a new rock courthouse (the present day museum) was built.
Helena’s first post office was established in 1853. In 1867 the citizens of Helena took up a subscription to build a coeducational college, the Helena Academy. Fifty-five citizens gave $25 each, with some contributions made in livestock. The two-story building, no longer standing, was completed in 1872.
In the middle 1880s, the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad was negotiating for right of way to pass through Karnes County, and the citizens were told to raise $35,000 toward the railroad’s construction in addition to the property right of way. Citizens raised just a few thousand dollars short of that amount.
Helenea became a ghost town almost overnight as the stores and businesses moved to Karnes City which was voted the county seat in 1893.
The Karnes County Museum Complex is located six miles east of Karnes City on Hwy. 80 at FM 81 in downtown Helena.
For more information about the Indian Summer Heritage Festival contact Mary at 830-299-9441 or Sue at 210-710-4896 or visit www.karnesmuseum.com.