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History of Karnes County

Even though Karnes County is historically a small county in Texas, it has a very colorful history. Did you know that the oldest Polish settlement in the United States was in Karnes County? Did you know that the self-proclaimed "toughest town on earth" in the mid-19th century was in Karnes County? Did you know that one of the two Texas alien internment camps during World War II was in Karnes County?

Most people might know one or two of these facts, but not all three. And it doesn't end there. Take a glance at the historical events below to find out more about the wonderful history of Karnes County.

Panna Maria

Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Panna Maria, TX

Considered to be the oldest Polish settlement in the United States, Panna Maria was founded in 1852 by Father Leopold Moczygemba, a Franciscan missionary. Polish immigrants began arriving in December 1854 and the town was officially settled on Christmas Eve of that same year.

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External Links: Official Website, Father Leopold Moczygemba, Handbook of Texas, Wikipedia

Helena

A street scene in old Helena

Currently considered to be a ghost town, Helena was the first county seat of Karnes County from 1854 - 1894. During this time, it became known as "toughest town on earth" or so the citizens proclaimed. During its heyday, Helena had a courthouse, a jail, a church, a Masonic lodge, a drugstore, a blacksmith shop, two hotels, and several saloons and general stores and also had plenty of gunslingers who came to town. It is the birthplace of the Helena Duel, a practice whereupon two opponents have their left hands tied together and each fighter is given a knife with a three-inch blade.

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External Link: Handbook of Texas, Wikipedia

Fugitives

During the late-19th century, there were plenty of fugitives in Karnes County mostly due to the visitors of Helena.

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Courthouse

In 1894, the current courthouse was built in
Karnes City, the new county seat. It was designed
by architect John Cormack with a Romanesque
Revival theme.

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External Link: Karnes County Courthouse

Kenedy Internment Camp

Kenedy Internment Camp

In 1894, the current courthouse was built in
Karnes City, the new county seat. It was designed
by architect John Cormack with a Romanesque
Revival theme.

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>> View Photos


External Links:
Handbook of Texas, John Whipple, Sr

Landmarks & Places

Because Karnes County had such colorful history in the late-19th century, there are many landmarks, building and places that have been preserved
to ensure they will never be forgotten.


External Link: Texas Landmarks