Edwards County Courthouse, Rocksprings, Texas

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“The county encompasses 2,120 square miles of the Edwards Plateau region.”

“The eastern section of the county has generally rolling terrain, with many hills and caves. The western region is typically flat. The county is situated upon a major limestone deposit surfaced with dark, calcareous stony clays and clay loams that principally support oak, juniper, mesquite, and cedar trees, as well as prairie grasses. Edwards County has more than fifteen natural springs that flow year-round; the headwaters of the Llano, Nueces, and West Nueces rivers are in the county.”

“The region that became Edwards County was home to Lipan Apache Indians. Spain established the mission of San Lorenzo de la Santa Cruz in 1762 to help Christianize the Indians, but was otherwise unable to settle the area. White settlement in the region did not begin until the mid-1800s. In 1858 the county was formed from Bexar County; the first land was sold in 1876. Edwards County was not officially organized until 1883. It was named for Hayden Edwards, one of the first American settlers of Nacogdoches. The county seat was originally Bullhead, which subsequently changed its name to Vance. Rock Springs (now Rocksprings) became county seat in 1891. In 1913, Real County was taken from the eastern section of Edwards County, thus decreasing Edwards County to its present size.”

“The early settlers of this region soon realized that the area was not suitable for farming, but that it did supply ample natural food for sheep and angora goats. Ranching began to dominate the county as the demand for wool and mohair increased in the early twentieth century. The production of wool and mohair reached its apex in 1940, with 331,970 sheep and 376,322 angora goats being counted in the county, after which Rocksprings called itself the “Top-o-the-World” in mohair production. The number of animals declined to 43,293 sheep and 154,144 angora goats in 1987. Ranching continues to control the economy of the county, with most available land still used for raising sheep and goats. Less than 5 percent of the county is under cultivation.”

“The population of Edwards County increased from 266 in 1880 to 3,768 in 1910. The county saw a steady decline in population since that time, to 2,933 in 1940 and 2,033 in 1980. Between 1980 and 1990 the trend reversed toward moderate growth, with the 1990 population being 2,266. The county is 50 percent Anglo and 50 percent Hispanic. This equal split developed in the 1980s. Most young Anglos leave the county to look for education and employment elsewhere and do not return, whereas the Hispanics generally stay near their families. Other minority populations are nonexistent; the largest population of blacks, eleven, was recorded in 1900.”

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“Very little growth has taken place in the towns of this ranching county. Rocksprings, the largest population center, had 1,339 residents in 1990. Such transportation services as railroads have not entered the county. The closest railroad for transporting goods, the Southern Pacific, is twenty-five miles south of the county. The only reliable transportation came in the 1930s with the construction of the state and federal highway systems; State Highway 55 and U.S. 377 intersect in Rocksprings. The new roads enabled the county to expand the production of wool and mohair by giving ranchers greater access to markets. Perhaps the development of mineral resources has been prevented by inadequate transportation.”

“Edwards County is in a state of arrested economic growth. The demand for mohair has decreased, thus hurting the economy, though a small amount of oil has been produced. Oil was discovered in this region in 1946, and production increased from 1,066 barrels in 1958 to 8,254 barrels in 1978. Production had slowed to 4,371 barrels a year by 1990. The county has benefitted from tourism dollars spent by hunters and fishermen drawn to the area by the abundant game and wildlife. The revenue from these activities now constitutes 20 percent of the annual county income.”

“The state has also purchased 40,000 acres of land around the Devil’s Sinkhole, a cave that is home to thousands of Mexican freetail bats. The size and shape of this cave have kept it from being developed-the walls drop straight down 150 feet, and the mouth is about fifty feet wide. Plans for the area include creating a wildlife preserve, though no mention has been made of opening it to the general public. No other development has been discussed.”

“Rocksprings (population, 1,055) is the county’s largest town and seat of government; other communities include Barksdale (100) and Carta Valley. The county has a Fourth of July rodeo and parade each year. The Top-of-the-World festival, held annually in May, celebrates the wool and mohair industry.”

Handbook of Texas Online, James B. McCrain, “Edwards County

I was the guest of Rocksprings and Edwards County on August 15, 2013 and returned to rephotograph the courthouse on July 25, 2015.

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Edwards County Courthouse – 1883

Rocksprings was not the first county seat. Prior to 1891, the community of Leakey in eastern Edwards County served. One courthouse existed there, but information on it has faded into the mysterious annals of history. All that is known is that it burned on July 10, 1888. Three years later, the current building would be constructed in the western portion of the county, in what became Rocksprings. In 1913, Real County was carved from Edwards, and Leakey was taken up as the county seat. Leakey is the only county seat in Texas history to have served two different counties.

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Edwards County Courthouse – 1891

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 3.00.06 PM(Photo Courtesy: TXDoT)

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Built in 1891, the Edwards County Courthouse was designed by Ben Davey and Bruno Schott in the Romanesque Revival style. The plan is a simple square with offices on the ground level and the courtroom located on the second floor. A single corridor running north and south provides access to the ground level rooms, while a centrally located stair on the east side of this hall furnishes access to the second floor courtroom. The building is constructed of coursed native limestone. Decorative quoins, arches over each entry door and an unadorned stringcourse beneath the hipped roof’s cornice line all function as an integral part of the symmetrically proportioned facades. Wooden two-over-two double hung windows have been placed regularly throughout the courthouse and are embellished with simple sills and lintels. The focal points of the structure are the pavilions of the north and south elevations. Edging the gables of these pavilions are the courthouse’s only elaborate ornamentation raking cornices of smooth stone cut into intricately foliated designs. Set into the arched entry doors of each pavilion are simply fashioned, wooden fanlight transoms. With several exceptions, the Edwards County Courthouse has retained most of its 1891 appearance. Some restoration work was done following fire damage in 1898, and a new roof was built in 1927 to replace the original roof, which was torn off in a tornado. It is known that the gables once featured mansard roofs; it is possible that the original main roof was also of this style.“ - Texas Historical Commission

The contractors of this courthouse were the same as the architects, Davey & Schott. They were from Kerrville.

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DSC_5839DSC_5846DSC_5847On the way to Rocksprings…

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The front façade of this simple, yet imposing courthouse faces south on Main Street.

DSC_5863When I first visited this courthouse in August of 2013, it was shrouded in scaffolding. In July of ’15, the exterior’s restoration was complete, save a little bit of landscaping.

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The only information displayed on this cornerstone is the bare minimum. It would seem Davey and Schott laid this themselves, as there’s no apparent G and compass seal of approval from the local masonic temple. In 1891, you have to wonder if there even was a masonic temple in Rocksprings.

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The view of Main from the front doors

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Simple, but elegant; the rustic splendor of a courthouse this far out in the wilds of the Hill Country

DSC_5867The western façade, on Sweeten Street

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A full view of the courthouse lawn’s northwest corner, taken from the steps of the historic Rocksprings Hotel

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The northern façade, facing Austin Street

DSC_5900DSC_5872The old Edwards County Jail sits in a close diagonal from the northeast corner of the courthouse.

DSC_5873DSC_5879DSC_5878DSC_5882DSC_5874The northeast corner

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DSC_5876The Well Street view (east side)

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A statue at the green’s southwest corner is of an angora goat, the town mascot.

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Rocksprings & Edwards County

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City Hall, on Austin Street

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If you’re ever in Rocksprings, pop into the hotel. It’s got a very interesting interior that the employees will let you walk through on a self-guided tour, even if you’re not staying there.
DSC_5894DSC_5888DSC_5890Definitely not

DSC_5891DSC_5887DSC_5892DSC_5893DSC_5895DSC_5896DSC_5898DSC_5908DSC_5914DSC_5903DSC_5875DSC_5927Tours to Devil’s Sinkhole, the area’s major (and only) tourist attraction depart from the city’s visitor’s center, on the southwest corner of the square.

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And then there’s this, which I had to have my picture taken in front of.

DSC_5881DSC_5917DSC_5880DSC_5920DSC_5910I imagine this area has a pretty steady stream of motorcycles. Most of the Hill Country does, anyway. Who wouldn’t want to bike down this way, when the hills outside of Rocksprings are as beautiful as they are?

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Previous Courthouse: Kinney County

Next Courthouse: Sutton County

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