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MENARD, TX

MENARD, TEXAS. Menard, the county seat of Menard County, is on the San Saba River at the intersection of U.S. highways 83 and 190, a mile from the ruins of San Luis de las Amarillas Presidio. The early Spanish settlement at the presidio was abandoned in 1758, but the site was used as a camp by Indians and as a landmark for expeditions in search of a legendary silver mine supposed to have been in the vicinity. Ferdinand von Roemer visited the presidio ruins in 1847 and left a description of them. The town was called Menardville when the site was laid out in 1858 after the legislature approved the establishment of Menard County. That year three families lived there in log cabins surrounded by split-log palisades. Early attempts to organize a county government were unsuccessful. Fort McKavett closed in 1859, leaving residents little protection from frequent Indian raids; the fort reopened after the Civil War. In 1867 Menardville had a store operated by Adam Bradford in a one-room log house, a blacksmith shop, and a saloon and grocery. All supplies were hauled overland from Burnet. Menardville served as a trading post and overnight stop on north and west cattle trails; the old compound of the Spanish mission was used as a holding area for cattle on the way to market. In 1871 a second attempt to organize Menard County was successful, and the first term of county court convened under a live oak tree. A two-story courthouse was built at Menardville in 1872. By the mid-1880s the community had a church, a school, several stores, and 150 residents; livestock, wool, and hides were the principal shipments made from the area. William Columbus Redman published the Menardville Monitor in 1887; later papers included the Record (1889), the Enterprise (1892), and the Messenger (1908), which was owned and operated by humorist Claude Callan.

The San Saba River flooded the town in 1899 and caused considerable damage, but residents rebuilt their homes and businesses during the following year. The community continued to grow and by 1903 was able to support a private bank. In 1910 or 1911, while the Fort Worth and Rio Grande Railroad Company was making plans to lay track through the community, company officials asked residents to rename their town Menard in order to facilitate the painting of signs. After the first train pulled into town in 1911, Menard experienced an economic boom. By 1914 it had two banks, a variety of businesses, and a population of 1,000. Menard served as the county's principal shipping point for many years. Population estimates reached 2,500 in the late 1920s. Although the Great Depression hit the community hard, the Menard National Bank and the Bevans State Bank remained opened, and most Menard residents managed to recover. In 1931 the county hired a home demonstration agent to help area farmers and their families learn new ways to grow and preserve food. Menard had a population of 1,969 in 1931 and 2,375 in 1941 but began a slow decline in the 1950s, falling from 2,674 in 1952 to 1,914 in 1961. As road improvements made travel and shipping less dependent on rail service, the railroad company began to lose business. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway discontinued its service to Menard in 1972 but donated the old depot to the county for use as a history museum. The Menard County Historical Society began collecting artifacts in 1975 and dedicated the museum in 1978. In the 1980s Menard continued as a market for livestock, wool, and mohair, with tourism and oil production supplementing the local economy; some local ranchers attempted to establish a cashmere industry. The population was 1,697 in 1980, 1,606 in 1990, and 1,653 in 2000. Annual events in Menard included Jim Bowie Days in June, the Jim Bowie Trail Ride in September, and the Silver Mine Classic Lamb Show in October. Also of interest to visitors was the Historic Ditch Walk, which featured several early churches, the Pioneer Rest Cemetery, the San Sabá Presidio, Fort McKavett State Historical Park, and remnants of the old irrigation ditch built by the Spanish in the mid-1750s.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Menard County Historical Society, Menard County History–An Anthology (San Angelo: Anchor, 1982).

Claudia Hazlewood

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Claudia Hazlewood, "MENARD, TX," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hjm12), accessed August 30, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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