BRACKETTVILLE, TEXAS. Brackettville, the county seat of Kinney County, is on U.S. Highway 90 twenty-two miles northeast of the Rio Grande and 125 miles west of San Antonio, near the geographic center of the county. It is named after Oscar B. Brackett, who established the first general dry goods store near the site of Fort Clark in 1852. Brackett, as it was called originally, was established on the San Antonio-El Paso Road, and by 1857 its Sargent Hotel and small restaurant run by Mr. Sheedy were a regular stop for the San Antonio-San Diego stage line. The settlement was six miles south of Las Moras Mountain near the prolific Las Moras Springs. Roving bands of Indians, who had historically hunted and camped at Las Moras Springs, harassed early settlers.
The community experienced a period of steady growth after the Civil War, attracting cattle rustlers, buffalo hunters, gamblers, and businessmen. In 1868 Brackett had ten homes and a population of fifty. Kinney County's school was started by Mrs. Margaret Martin Ballantyne around 1870 and housed in Brackett's home. Rev. Egglington Barr, a chaplain at Fort Clark, held Protestant services. The community was known as Brackett or Brackett City when it received a post office in 1873; another Texas community was named Brackett, however, so the postal service changed the community's name to Brackettville. It was designated the county seat of Kinney County when the county was established in 1876.
St. Mary Magdalene's, Brackettville's first church, was established in 1875; the Gilead Church, a Seminole Indian church, sometime in the late 1870s; St. Andrew's Episcopal in 1884; the Church of Christ in 1899; the Baptist Church in 1904; the Methodist Church in 1920; a second Baptist Church in 1921; St. John's Baptist Church in 1926; Jerusalem Temple Apostolic Church in the mid-1960s; and the Frontier Baptist Church in 1977.
Brackettville enjoyed a period of exceptional prosperity during the period between 1878 and 1882, as nearby Fort Clark swelled with thousands of soldiers. The town grew rapidly, and many businesses, constructed of limestone blocks quarried nearby, were established. Devastating floods in 1880 and 1899 caused considerable damage and persuaded many of Brackettville's residents to move to higher elevations about the community.
The Gulf, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway originally planned to route its westward track through Brackettville but in 1882 followed an alternate path ten miles south of the community. In 1884 Brackettville had an estimated population of 1,400, two churches, three schools, a private bank, a weekly newspaper known as the Brackett News, a Masonic and Odd Fellows lodge, and a daily stage to Spofford. By this time the community was an established shipping point for wool and hides. In 1896 Brackettville had an estimated population of 1,000 and four teachers for 207 students. In 1914 the community had an estimated population of 800, a bank, a cotton gin, and a weekly newspaper called the Brackettville News-Mail, which had been established by W. W. Price in 1906. Each year between 1921 and 1926 the Brackettville school children were treated to four days of Chautauqua theatrical performances. In 1927 Brackettville had an estimated population of 2,000, a grade school, and a high school. Many residents of the community owned or worked on ranches in the area; sources of income included livestock, wool and mohair, pecans, and hay. Brackettville was incorporated on July 28, 1930, to ensure funding for a new water-distribution plant.
In 1936 the town had an estimated population of 1,822, of which an estimated 75 percent were of Mexican or Seminole-Negro descent. The commercial viability of the community at this time was highly dependent on business with nearby Fort Clark, sheep and goat ranching, truck farming, and the tourist industry. In 1936 Brackettville had an elementary school for black and Hispanic children and another for white children.
Brackettville reached its highest population in 1943 at an estimated 3,500. A federally funded brick high school for local black students was completed in April 1944; officially classified as a four-year high school, it is believed to the only one of its kind between San Antonio and El Paso at that time. The community had an estimated population of 2,653 in 1947. From 1952 to 1982 Brackettville had thirty to forty businesses and an estimated 1,700 people. During that time the town was Kinney County's principal market and shipping point. In addition to ranching, some income was derived from tourism, centered mainly on Fort Clark, which has been restored and opened as a guest ranch, and on Alamo Village, a replica of the Alamo used in several motion pictures. In the 1980s Brackettville hosted the Frontier Fair, Fort Clark Cavalry Days, and the Western Horse Races and Barbecue. In 1990 the population was 1,740. In 2000 the population was 1,876.
Agnes Fritter, "Pioneer Days of Kinney County," Texas History Teachers Bulletin 13 (1946). Kinney County: 125 Years of Growth, 1852–1977 (Brackettville, Texas: Kinney County Historical Society, 1977). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.