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
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.