Vanishing Texas Vernacular Architecture

Willow City

Willow City is on Willow Creek 11½ miles northeast of Fredericksburg in northeastern Gillespie County. The earliest recorded settler before the Civil War was a slaveholding Baptist preacher reported to harbor a strong dislike for the neighboring Germans. Sometime after the war a group of settlers-including ranchers Andrew Moore, Jim Renick, William Luckenbach, Bill Hardin, and Pierce Smith, storekeeper Gene Harrison, and miller Bill Ricks-came to Willow Creek and founded one of the few Gillespie County communities settled by English-speakers rather than Germans. These early settlers traded mostly in Austin because they preferred dealing with other Anglo-Americans rather than with the Germans in nearby Fredericksburg. The town prospered and gained an early reputation as a criminal hangout. The post office opened in 1877 and was named Willow until 1887, when it changed to Willow City. The town had two teachers as early as 1881; one was John Warren Hunter, who once had to wrestle a six-gun away from an angry student. In 1885 a Methodist congregation was organized, although a church was not built until 1900, under Rev. T. J. Lassater. From 1892 to 1894 Green Hardin Harrison published the Gillespie County News; later he sold the newspaper to Webster McGinnis, who moved it to Fredericksburg. Willow City received telephone service in 1893. In 1904 the population was estimated at 132, and by 1915 Willow City had three general stores, a drugstore, two blacksmiths, and a cotton gin. The population declined during the first half of the twentieth century, to 100 in 1925 and to forty in 1939.

The Willow City School District #804 was in the northeastern part of Gillespie County, with its northern border extending to the Llano County line.  The first school was a one room log cabin, which also served as a church.  R.C. Roberts, who came to the community in 1876, described the schoolhouse as “a one-room log cabin, no longer new”.  It had split log benches and no floor.  After severe flooding, a two-story frame schoolhouse was constructed in 1890 on higher ground.  This building had two classrooms downstairs and one large classroom upstairs, with an outside stairway.  A bell tower summoned the students to class.  It was early in 1905, when the Willow City District became independent, that it was decided to build a new school.  J.W. Lindeman and J. C. Hardin each donated a plot of ground, and after a bond issue, the new, two-story granite school building became a reality.  It had school rooms on the first floor and one room on the second.  The second floor served as an auditorium and classroom, during the years when there were three teachers.  Improvements were made to the building in 1915, in order to obtain state aid.  Ventilators were added.  A partition was built on the first floor to create an entrance hallway, and blackboard space was added.  The school had no water supply until 1920, when a well was drilled.  Until that time, students brought their own water from home or a resident living close to school supplied water.  In the 1950′s, restrooms were added to the north side of the building.  With three teachers, one for each room, grades one to nine were taught through 1956.  Then in 1957 with two teachers, grades one to eight were taught.  The 9th graders went to Fredericksburg for high school. Willow City Independent School District was consolidated with Fredericksburg ISD in 1961.

REFERENCES:  Martin Donell Kohout, “WILLOW CITY, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed January 23, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association; The Friends of Gillespie County Schools.

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