Kimble County Courthouse, Junction, Texas

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“Kimble County is located in southwest central Texas on the Edwards Plateau, bordered on the north by Menard County, on the east by Mason and Gillespie counties, on the south by Kerr and Edwards counties, and on the west by Sutton County.”

“The county, which was named for Alamo defender George C. Kimbell, contains 1,274 square miles of broken, rolling plains with an altitude ranging from 1,400 to 2,400 feet above sea level. The majority of the county consists of shallow stony clay soils on the hills, sandy loam soils on the upland plains, and clay loam soils in the valleys and flood plains. The major watercourses are the Llano River and the east and west forks of the James River.”

“Before the arrival of white settlers, Comanche, Kiowa, Kiowa Apache, and Lipan Apache Indians occupied the area of present Kimble County. José de Urrutia passed through the area as the leader of a Spanish campaign against Apaches in 1739. In 1754 Pedro de Rábago y Terán passed through on his way to the country surrounding the San Saba River. Other early Spaniards in the area included Diego Ortiz Parrilla, who led a campaign against the Apaches in 1759, and the Marqués de Rubí, who led an inspection of the northern frontier of New Spain in 1767.”

“Despite conflicts between Spain, Mexico, and the United States over ownership of the area, it remained an Indian stronghold until the 1870s. The Kimble County area was first mentioned in Republic of Texas documents in 1842, when 416,000 acres of the present county were included in the Fisher-Miller Land Grant, which extended from the Llano River to the Colorado River. Apparently no one settled under the grant’s auspices. In 1851 Capt. Henry E. McCulloch commanded a Texas Ranger post near the center of the present county. Fort Terrett, a frontier post, operated in the area from November 1852 to September 1853, when it was abandoned due to the lack of settlers or Indians in the region.”

“The earliest white settlers included Raleigh Gentry, who settled on Bear Creek in the late 1850s; James Bradbury, who arrived at the South Llano River between 1850 and 1864; and settlers in the Big and Little Saline valleys, who arrived in the late 1850s and early 1860s. Until 1880 the county was primarily settled by immigrants from the upper southern states.”

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“On January 22, 1858, Kimble County was formed by the Texas legislature from lands formerly assigned to Bexar County and was attached to Gillespie County for judicial purposes. Following the Civil War settlements sprang up at the Johnson Fork of the Llano River, on Copperas Creek, and in the valleys of the James River. The first store in Kimble County was built in 1873 at the Johnson Fork. It was supplied by goods freighted in ox wagons from Kerrville.”

“Comanches raided the settlements frequently until Gen. Ranald S. Mackenzie drove them onto reservations and killed their horses in 1874 and 1875. Lipans and Kickapoos, using Mexico as a base, continued to make raids extending into Kimble County, but the last serious attack took place in 1876. The raids ceased after 1878. The county was also a popular haven for outlaws, who used its hilly terrain and dense cedar brakes to hide out. Such noted bandits and gunmen as Rube Boyce, the McKeevers, the Dublin Gang, and John P. Ringo of the Mason County War spent time there.”

“On September 6, 1875, Kimble County was separated from Gillespie County and attached to Menard County for judicial purposes. On January 3 of the following year Kimble County was organized, and in February William Potter was elected the first county judge. Ezekiel Keyser Kountz was elected the first county and district clerk. In the spring of 1876 the towns of Kimbleville and Junction were founded, and Kimbleville was elected the first county seat. Following the first district court session, Junction became the county seat. Kimbleville, located a few miles northwest of Junction in a flood-prone area, soon disappeared.”

“Kimble County developed steadily in its first few decades, growing from a population of seventy-two in 1870 to 1,343 in 1880; by 1890, 2,243 people lived in the area. Because the hilly terrain made it more suitable for ranching than farming, the raising of cattle and sheep soon dominated the economy. By 1890 the census reported 279 farms and ranches encompassing 474,062 acres; 38,988 cattle and 120,574 sheep were counted that year. That same year, 1,625 acres were devoted to raising cereal crops, and cotton was planted on 236 acres in the county.”

“By 1900 the number of farms and ranches in the area had dropped slightly to 217. The number of cattle also dropped slightly, to about 34,700, and the number of sheep decreased significantly, to 12,543. Meanwhile, more land was being put to the plow. The production of corn, wheat, and cotton had all expanded somewhat since 1890; by 1900 more than 740 acres were devoted to cotton, for example. The population had also increased, reaching 2,503 by the turn of the century.”

“The first telephone system in Kimble County came to Junction in 1905, and the first banks opened in 1906. In 1917 Junction acquired the county’s first electric lights. About this time the first gas stations began to open. In 1919 a countywide bond election carried for the building of graveled and paved roads in the county. By 1922 State Highway 27, running through Junction southeast to Kerrville and west to Sonora, was a working unpaved road, as were State Highway 4 running north to Menard and State Highway 29 leading south to Rocksprings.”

“The 1920 census recorded 372 farms in Kimble County and 672,596 acres of agricultural land. Over 139,600 sheep were reported, while the number of cattle had dropped to about 15,000, less than half the 1890 level. The number of horses and swine had also declined substantially. A major factor in this shift was the introduction of goats around the turn of the century. By 1920 almost 159,700 goats were reported, and by the end of the 1920s Kimble County was one of the leaders in the state’s wool and mohair industry.”

“During the Great Depression the number of unemployed county residents rose from 23 in 1930 to 153 in December 1935. By July 1936 the number had risen to 303. The number of farms in the county declined from 454 in 1930 to 402 by 1935 but rose to 443 by 1940. That year 666,366 acres, or 81.7 percent of the county’s land area, was used for agriculture. The population of the county grew almost 20 percent during the 1930s, rising to 5,064 by 1940. In April 1945 the Kimble County Electric Cooperative brought electricity to the county’s rural areas for the first time.”

“In the early 1980s, Kimble County remained primarily agricultural, with 744,000 acres, or 91.2 percent of its total area, used for agriculture. In 1978 the census recorded 381 farms and ranches in the county. In 1984, 90 percent of its $10 million income came from livestock and crops. The remaining 10 percent came mainly from tourism, hunting, fishing, and the sale of cedar oil and wood products. The number of employed workers over sixteen years of age was 1,713, the majority of whom were involved in agriculture, retail sales, miscellaneous services, construction, and manufacturing.”

“The U.S. census counted 4,438 people living in Kimble County in 2014. About 72.1 percent were Anglo and 25.6 percent were Hispanic.”

“Junction (population, 2,667) is the county’s largest town and seat of government. Other communities included London (180) and Roosevelt (14).Annual celebrations in Kimble County include the Kimble Kow Kick on Labor Day and the Wild Game Dinner on Thanksgiving Saturday, both of which take place in Junction.”

- Handbook of Texas Online, Nolan Thompson, “Kimble County

I was the guest of Junction and Kimble County on July 25, 2015.

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Kimble County Courthouse – 1885

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(Photo Courtesy: THC)

Succeeding a two-story, wooden frame building that went up in flames in 1884, this courthouse was built in the Italianate style. It too stood two stories and was designed according to a square plan. Contracting work was provided by a Mr. J.M. Piper, while the architect (though not listed in any records I’ve found) was Alfred Giles. That information is gleaned from a fragment of the original cornerstone on display near the Junction Chamber of Commerce. I’d like to thank the folks at Texas Escapes for pointing that out.

I have to say, this is the least “exciting” of all of Giles’ pieces.

In 1888, it was seriously burned in a fire (but remained salvageable). Repair work soon followed. However, forty one years later, the building wasn’t as lucky. Modernist demolition crews moved in and that was that for the 1885 courthouse.

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Kimble County Courthouse – 1929

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(Photo Courtesy: TxDOT)
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(Photo Courtesy: THC)

Moderne and Art Deco came together in the late 1920s to create the current Kimble County Courthouse. Architect Henry T. Phelps of San Antonio is responsible for the designs. E.D. Porter led its construction.

1974 saw a renovation and expansion project, and its final product is what we’re left with today.

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The Kimble County Courthouse, facing west on 6th Street
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At first glance, the lower half of the interior looks like it’s been coated with pennies.
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This is the view of 6th Street from the main doors.
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This is the northern entrance, on Main Street.
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Every façade of this courthouse has a clock. They’re not accurate, though.
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The view of Main Street from the northern doors
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This is 5th Street’s eastern entrance. I imagine it doesn’t get as much foot traffic as the others.
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Noble attempts have been made to keep the noise of the air conditioning units down.
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5th Street
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A small annex (if we can call it that) has been built at the southeast corner of the building.
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It makes the prefect smoking / sunbathing corner.
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DSC_5783The full extent of the southern façade
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Junction & Kimble County

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The only time you’ll see two kinds of junctions.
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This is north of town, where Highway 377 meets Highway 83.
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Only in Junction
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On the Square
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The closest thing to the Hollywood Hills that Texas has to offer
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Southbound on Highway 377, en route to Rocksprings
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Hey!
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Previous Courthouse: Mason County

Next Courthouse: Real County

 

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