Helotes is located approximately twenty miles northwest of downtown San Antonio on State Highway 16 in northwestern Bexar County. The town was settled in the 1850s by immigrants primarily from Germany and Mexico. The pioneer whose land encompassed what is now known as Old Town Helotes was Scottish immigrant and surgeon Dr. George F. Marnoch, who purchased the property in 1858 and built a two-and-a-half-story limestone house in 1859; the house was awarded a Texas Historic Landmark designation in 2010. His eldest son, Gabriel Wilson Marnoch, was a well-known naturalist who discovered two reptilian and two amphibian species in the Helotes hills.
The Spanish terms elotes and olotes, Americanized to Helotes, which means corn on the cob, has been used for the area since the early 1700s, when it was mentioned in a Spanish report to the governor of the region, describing the area where Apaches scalped a Spaniard who had been looking for stray horses. How the name was derived is unknown; however, it is believed that Lipans had cultivated corn along the creek for centuries before frequent raids of Comanche Indians made such agricultural activities impossible.
By 1873 the town, a stage stop on the Bandera Road, was home to an official post office with German immigrant Carl Mueller as the town's first postmaster. He and wife Amalie Stolz Mueller, also ran the Helotes Stagecoach Inn. Mexican immigrant Francisco Menchaca worked as a ranch hand at the stagecoach inn until he was able to secure a Bexar preemption grant for 160 acres in 1875.
Helotes remained a farming community for decades and was the frequent site of cattle drives between San Antonio and Bandera in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Arnold Gugger, the town's third postmaster, and wife Amalie "Mollie" Benke operated a general store, homestead, blacksmith shop, and saloon in 1881 in an area that became the focal point of downtown Helotes, displacing Mueller's stagecoach stop to the southwest of town and making the Bandera Road-Helotes Creek intersection the new hub of commerce and activity.
As the twentieth century commenced, new downtown landowner Wilbert "Bert" Hileman added a dance hall and boarding house. In 1919 the Helotes post office handled mail for sixty-four area families, sixty of them involved in farming. In 1920 and 1930, a majority of the farms in the Helotes area were dairy farms. The region was also part of a scenic loop—a popular drive for San Antonio area motorists that enjoyed touring the Texas Hill Country.
In 1942 John T. Floore came to town and by 1946 he opened what would become the world-renowned John T. Floore Country Store, a Texas Historic Landmark listed in the National Register of Historic Places in the 2010s.
In early May 1966 the first Helotes Cornyval was held in downtown Helotes. By the 2010s the four-day festival, an annual event whose proceeds fund local nonprofits, brought an average of 30,000 people to town to participate in a parade, pageant, carnival midway, rodeo, and dances. Helotes remained primarily rural until the late twentieth century, when the sale of farmland to developers created a housing boom. Incorporated in 1981 as a Type A, General Law City, the town elected Tom Beatty, a retired United States Army lieutenant colonel, as its first mayor and Bexar County's first African-American mayor. In 1990 the number of residents had increased to 1,535. The 2010 census population was 7, 341—a 71.3 percent increase from its 2000 population of 4,285. The town is home to two elementary schools and one high school, Sandra Day O'Connor, which opened in 1998.