Historical Society of Helotes
HomeAbout UsHelotesMembershipToursMeetingsEventsShop

A Look at Helotes

 

Helotes was incorporated as a city in 1981; however, the town, whose name is derived from the Nahuatl/Spanish word elotes, or corn on the cob, has been on Texas maps since the nineteenth century. The term elotes has been used since the early 1700s, when it was mentioned in a Spanish report to the governor of the region. The report described the area where Apaches scalped a Spaniard who had been looking for stray horses.  Lipan Apaches, Tonkawas, and Comanches camped in the Helotes hills. The Apaches grew corn along the fertile banks of Helotes Creek before the Comanches' frequent raids made such agricultural activities impossible.


Settled in the 1850s by European and Latin immigrants primarily from Germany and Mexico, Helotes has a long history as an identifiable town.  After the establishment of the Helotes Post Office in 1873, Helotes was put on county maps.  Along with the Post Office, German immigrant Carl Mueller and his wife Amalie ran the Helotes Stagecoach Inn.  The old Mueller homestead is now a private residence. 


The pioneer whose land encompassed what is now Old Town Helotes was Scottish immigrant and surgeon Dr. George F. Marnoch, who built a two-and-a-half story limestone house on Scenic Loop Road in 1859.  After his death, his son Gabriel, a renowned naturalist, inherited the Marnoch homestead (which still stands today and is a privately-owned residence) and married a local girl, Carmel Trevino.  Marnoch heirs sold a portion of the family land that became downtown Helotes to Swiss American Arnold Gugger.  Gugger, in 1881, built a two-story limestone home (now the Helotes Bicycle Shop) for his bride Amalia "Mollie" Benke.  He also built a General Store and a blacksmith shop (no longer standing).  These were the first downtown buildings.


Twenty miles from downtown San Antonio, Helotes remained a farming community for decades and was a frequent site of cattle drives between San Antonio and Bandera in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  As the 20th century commenced, new downtown landowner Bert Hileman added a dance hall and boarding house (now a sporting goods store and boutique shop).  In the 1920s, James and Kate Riggs purchased the downtown property from Hileman and added a grocery store and a gas station / garage.  


In 1942, John T. Floore leased James Riggs' Red and White Grocery Store.  In 1946, Floore purchased property in downtown Helotes and opened his own "country store," a music venue that became the world-renowned John T. Floore County Store, today a Texas Historic Landmark listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. 


In early May 1966, the first Helotes Cornyval was held in downtown Helotes.  The spring festival, whose proceeds funded local nonprofits, was so popular it became an annual event.  It is now held over a four-day period the first weekend in May at the Helotes Festival Association Cornyval Grounds on Leslie Road.  The event brings an average of 30,000 people to Helotes over the long weekend.  The festival includes a parade, carnival, rodeo, dances, and lots of food, including plenty of roasted corn-on-the-cob.


Helotes remained primarily rural until the late 20th century, when the sale of farmland to developers created a housing boom.  Along with the population growth came a new school.  In 1998, Sandra Day O'Connor High School opened in Helotes.  According to the 2010 census, Helotes has a population of 7300 residents.


Despite its growing population, Helotes retains a unique small town appeal.  Renowned as much for its citizens' independent spirits, as for its lush hill county landscape, Helotes is the quintessential Texas town.      


 

Floore.jpg

 

The Gugger Homestead in Old Town Helotes, circa 1914, was awarded Texas Historic Landmark designation in 2007. Today, it houses a bicycle shop.
  

Floore.jpg

 

Arnold Gugger, purchased 110 acres from the Marnoch family, and founded downtown Helotes in 1881.
  

Floore.jpg

 

Amalie “Mollie” Benke Gugger
  

Floore.jpg

 

Old Town Helotes, established in 1881, is located on Old Bandera Road.
  

Floore.jpg

 

A comprehensive history, Helotes, Where the Texas Hill Country Begins, and a pictorial history, Helotes, Images of America, by Cynthia Leal Massey, are available for purchase locally at Simply Yours Gifts & More and Helotes Bicycle Shop in Old Town Helotes and at online bookstores.


Floore.jpg

 

John T. Floore Country Store, circa 1949. In 2005, the dance hall was honored with a Texas Historic Landmark designation and a listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
  

Floore.jpg

 

An early Helotes school, circa 1908.
  

Floore.jpg

  
The Helotes General Store was built by Gugger in 1881. Owned by several families over the years that ran it as a general store and meat market, it housed the popular Hickory Hut Bar-B-Q Restaurant until 2006. Today it houses Flour Blooms Bakery.
  
  

Floore.jpg

   
Cattle drives through town occurred frequently, as this 1916 photograph shows. Emil Gottschalck and sons purchased the downtown property and turned the dance hall into a meat market. Today, this building houses Soler’s Tri-Sports.
  
 

Floore.jpg

   
Built in 1859, the Marnoch homestead on Scenic Loop Road is the oldest house in Helotes. The home was built for Dr. George Frederick Marnoch, a Scottish surgeon and his family. This is an early 1900s photograph of the homestead, which was awarded Texas Historic Landmark designation in 2009.