Harper, George Franklin (1828–1926)

By: Martin Donell Kohout

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: January 1, 1995

George Franklin Harper, founder of Harper, Gillespie County, the son of Henry and Jane (Cummings) Harper, was born in Sangamon County, Illinois, on December 31, 1828. He first traveled to Texas in 1848 to visit his uncle Elijah Harper in Victoria. He settled in Texas after marrying his cousin Keziah Harper on March 16, 1851; they had three children. Harper was a Jeffersonian Democrat and supported the Confederacy in the Civil War by driving supply teams from Brownsville to San Antonio. After the war the impoverished family decided to move to East Texas, but after Mrs. Harper died in a wagon accident in Ellis County Harper returned to Floresville to stay with relatives. There he ranched, raised horses, and worked as a carpenter. On February 4, 1869, he married his cousin Katherine Harper, his first wife's younger sister; they had one child. They lived in Floresville until 1880, when Harper, seeking less crowded rangelands, bought a section of land in Gillespie County. There near Pedernales Springs he built a house at the site of an earlier Indian massacre and encouraged travelers to stay and settle in the area. He helped other settlers build houses, performed medical services in the absence of a trained doctor, and built caskets free. He also distributed mail weekly from his home and was appointed postmaster when a post office was established and the community officially named Harper in 1883. He served as postmaster until 1890, as a Gillespie County commissioner from 1892 to 1898, and as a school trustee and director of the Harper State Bank. He and his wife, known as Uncle Frank and Aunt Kate to the people of Harper, were influential community leaders; they hosted dinners, parties, and musical evenings, and Harper coached students for debates and spelling bees. He eventually switched from horse to cattle raising and arranged a number of large cattle sales. In 1917 he moved with his son Herman to Bandera. Later, with his son Walter, he moved to Florida, where he helped plant orange groves. He died on March 27, 1926, and was buried in Bartow, Florida.

Gillespie County Historical Society, Pioneers in God's Hills (2 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1960, 1974).

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

Martin Donell Kohout, “Harper, George Franklin,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 03, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/harper-george-franklin.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995