The Beginning of Boerne
Boerne, the county seat of Kendall County, is bound by Cibolo Creek, Interstate Highway 10, and U.S. Highway 87. The city is some 30 miles northwest of San Antonio in the southern part of the county. In 1849, a group of German colonists from Bettina camped on the north side of Cibolo Creek, about a mile west of present-day Boerne. They called their new community Tusculum, after Cicero’s home in ancient Rome. In 1852, Gustav Theissen and John James laid out the town’s site and changed the name to Boerne in honor of Ludwig Börne, a German poet and publicist. Ironically, Mr. Börne never visited the town that was named after him.
A post office was established in 1856 with August Staffell as postmaster. William Dietert established Boerne’s first business, a gristmill and sawmill on the Cibolo Creek. Soon the town was in possession of a blacksmith shop, a livery stable, a butcher shop, a saloon, and a general store. Professor Karl Dienger even created a private school in the 1860s. The community had only 10 houses in 1859, but it was chosen to be the county seat by a margin of 67 votes after the county was established in 1862. A courthouse was built in 1870 and is still in use, making it the second-oldest courthouse in Texas.
Boerne developed the reputation of having a very healthful environment and quickly became known as a health resort. By 1884 it had five hotels, assorted businesses, and 250 residents. Cotton, wool, and grain were the principal shipments, but timber, cedar posts, and building stone were also profitable commodities.
The arrival of the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway in 1887 brought increased economic opportunity, and by 1890 the population of Boerne had risen to 800. Boerne residents voted to incorporate in 1909 and established a mayor-alderman form of city government. Also in that year they established the Boerne Independent School District.
The population was reported at 950 in 1914, and the community prospered through the 1920s. The Great Depression of the 1930s, however, all but put an end to the tourism and cotton farming that had been staples of the local economy. The population fell from an estimated 2,000 in 1928 to 1,117 in 1931; it had risen to only 1,271 by the 1940s.
In the 1950s, however, many residents turned to nearby San Antonio for employment, and Boerne became a bedroom community. The population grew at a slow but steady rate, reaching 2,169 in 1960. In the 1960s construction in neighboring Bexar County of the San Antonio Medical Center and the University of Texas at San Antonio, as well as the completion of Interstate Highway 10, made Boerne even more attractive as a town from which to commute. Its population rose to 2,400 by 1970, 3,254 by 1980, and to 4,274 by 1990. In the 1990s the population exceeded 5,000, making Boerne eligible for home rule. This was voted in by its citizens in 1995. Accelerated growth in the late 1990s and early 2000s has increased the population to 10,471 according to the 2010 census. Boerne’s population has increased to nearly 18,000 in 2020.
In spite of the influx of different ethnic groups, the German cultural tradition has dominated the community in many ways. The Boerne Gesangverein, or singing society, was established in 1860 and was an important social and recreational organization until it disbanded in 1977. German community organizations still active include the Boerne Schuetzen Verein, a shooting club formed in 1864, and the Boerne Village Band, which was formed about the same time as the singing society. Boerne has also held an annual celebration, the Berges Fest, since 1967.