Keefe Store | Pipe Creek
[Note: This story takes place during first visit in July of 2017. Since then the Pipe Creek Dance Hall and Cafe have been restored. I share the story because it shows that one never knows what one might discover when they take time to converse and ask questions. I also share the story because it includes images of the dance hall and café as it was.]
It is funny how plans change. The trip was planned as a jaunt to Bandera with a photo stop to Polly’s Settlement to the west of Pipe Creek. Except for maybe a photo or two we weren’t planning on spending any time in Pipe Creek. It turned out differently. A chance encounter detoured us.
Driving through Pipe Creek my eye was caught by an old building, looked like maybe a dance hall. And next to it was an old empty cafe. Picture time. To be honest that much was expected as we drove into town. What happened though, was that we got to talking with the new owner of both buildings, and yes it was a dance hall— and will once again become a dance hall. Until recently it was being used as storage. It is in the process of being renovated as is the old cafe building next store. That building was once a general store and butcher shop, as well as an early gas station. To make a long story short, the owner invited us to wander through the buildings and grounds with him, taking photos as he shared the history.
After an enjoyable hour or so, we got into the car to head out. Didn’t get very far. There on the other side of the highway was the old Lewis Bros Store, now an antique shop, and next to that a flea market. It’s hard, at least for me, to pass up a chance to discover a treasure. Didn’t discover any treasures, but did have fun exploring and taking
It was getting late and we had reservations in Bandera and I wanted to check out Polly’s Settlement and what looked like an excellent opportunity to photograph a bit of vanishing Texas. As it turned out, it started raining, and as we had traversed several miles of dirt road and low water crossings, it seemed that the wise thing to do was to cut the photo taking short and get back to the main highway while we could. I did manage to get one picture Polly’s Chapel (that's for another post).
One of these days soon I do need one of these days to head back to Pipe Creek and re-visit the dance hall, and finally get those photos of Polly’s Settlement.
Lewis Bros. Store
Sometimes a settlement is named after a founder, other times from an odd occurrence.
Pipe Creek comes from the latter, at least according to local lore. The story goes: An early settler by the name of Odom,* while
being pursued by the band of Apache dropped his pipe into a little creek to the west of Red Bluff Creek. Somehow, according to the
story, Odom managed to retrieve his pipe and escape the Apaches. And thus the creek was known thereafter as Pipe Creek, as
was the little settlement that grew up along side the creek along the "Old San Antonio Trail." True? Msybe. For sure though, the region
was home to the Lipan Apache.
The first known settler was Francis Marion Hodges, who with his life settled on a 160 acre homestead on Red Bluff Creek in 1868.
He was joined by others, most notably Oliver S. Shirley and W. H. White, in 1870. Mr. White had one of his oxen killed another wounded
by the Apache the very first night he arrived. Still, they stayed on, Apaches, or no Apaches.
Perhaps Mr. White realized that it was he who was invading Native lands. Probably not, in 1873 a company was begun for "protection against Indian depredations." Scouts were paid $20.00/month. Later W. H. White wrote: "I came and found this region a trackless wilderness, infested with wild beasts and wild men; but the old dangers have passed away and today I behold a land of contentment, where happiness reigns supreme."
"Our home was a pole pen with a tent stretched inside," writes John Hodges (son of Marion Hodges) when he was a child. "Our nearest neighbor, a man named Granger, lived across the mountains, eight miles away. Every light moon the Indians would come into the country to steal horses. One time, when father was away from home, they stole two mares and colts from us but the animals got away from them and came running home. One of them was shot between the shoulders with an arrow and the other was lanced in the neck. We put them in the pen and mother took a gun, and made me hold an old flintlock rifle, and we guarded those horses until father returned."
For most of the homes, at least through the 1870s, picket walls with thatched roofs and dirt floors was the norm. Neighbors were some
distance. In those days if one were to ride to Bandera they would find only one house between Pipe Creek and that town.
By the end of the 1870s Pipe Creek had grown into a little hamlet of about seventy souls. She boasted a post office (1873) in a little log house (with mail delivered to the post office by stagecoach) and two general stores. The first was opened by Mrs Marion Hodge on the Hodge homestead west of the village and the second shortly after was opened by J. W. Hamilton. Not long after opening the Hamilton store was robbed. The take: $7.00. The locals, mostly farmers and ranchers, raised cotton, corn, cattle, and sheep. In the spring of 1873 the settlement was hit by a swarm of grasshoppers. According to E. Buck Sr., "Corn was about knee high at the time the swarms of grasshoppers arrived, But in a few hours they cleared the fields."
Pipe Creek was served by a stagecoach line out of San Antonio, along the "Old Spanish Trail" and by a line out of Bourne, both with a Bandera destination. Stagecoaches are nice, but trains are better. The area where the "junction" (S.H. 16 & FM 1283) was granted to a railroad company. At the same time, August, 1878, William J. Hamilton patented the land and built a cotton gin and grist mill. The gin's large cistern is still standing in the field behind what was the Keefe Store (Pipe Creek Junction Cafe). It was about this time that the production molasses from locally grown sorghum began.
Remains of Old Gin Cistern
Cattle were driven "up the trail" to Kansas, and for the first few years, sugar and coffee were scarce (not having coffee would be a sacrifice for me) and flour was $14/hundred pounds. It is not recorded, but I suspect a goodly amount of moonshine was brewed and a many gallons of herbal wines jugged.
Most of the homes raised what vegetables were necessary, and produced milk and butter for their own use, sharing and selling what was not needed. Excess milk and butter was often shipped to Bandera, becoming quite a profitable business for some. What freight was needed was brought in by ox teams hauling freight wagons along the Old Spanish Trail. Along their way, the freight haulers were often set upon by bands of Apaches.
Located along the stagecoach lines between Bandera, Bourne, and San Antonio the settlement became a resting point frequented by
drummers (itinerant salesmen) and circuit riding preachers. The most famous of the Circuit Riders to call on Pipe Creek was the
Rev. Jack Potter, "The Fighting Parson." Most of these circuit riders while in Pipe Creek made their headquarters in the
cypress timber home Jerry Scott, built on the "East Prong" of Pipe Creek with cypress from the Medina River. Scott's wife, whom the settlers took to
calling "Aunt Jane," ministered to the needs of many of the female settlers. A bit south of Pipe Creek in Bandera Falls, the
English-Crist home in the late 1890s and early 1900s served as a lodging stop for travelers heading south.
The first school house, doubling as a church was built in 1981 near the cemetery. The walls were pickets, covered with a thatched
grass roof and had a dirt floor. The benches were made of split logs. John Hodge noted in his recollections that school was only
held two to three months every year and that when he and his brother James rode horseback the nine-miles to school they each
carried a ball and cap pistol for protection "as we did not know when the Indians might attack us."
Judge F.W. Dorow, a German who settled in Pipe Creek in 1872, become a citizen and served in the Texas Legislature, as well as a
Justice of the Peace and Bandera County Commissioner for the Pipe Creek area. It is said that the Judge was instrumental in having
the first Pipe Creek school house built.
By the early 1880s Pipe Creek had about 100 widely scattered residents. In 1886 the first Baptist Church was organized, The
Methodist followed in 1904. Services were held in the school house until new sanctuaries were able to be built. In 1908 Pipe
Creek got telephone service— the single town phone was located in the general store. In 1913, as the area's population
increased the area's second school, the Dreskin School, was built. Shortly after, though, with a decline of school age residents, the school merged with the Pipe Creek School. A new school was built in 1948, which in 1950 was consolidated into the Bandera ISD. In 1930 Adolph Schott built the Pipe Creek dance hall.
Electricity arrived on December 24, 1940, the first connection was in the Schott Store. In the 1950s and 1960s the population of
Pipe Creek grew to 220. After the 60s, however, the population declined to sixty-six by the end of the 70s and remained at that
level until the turn of the century when commuters from San Antonio discovered the area and began calling Pipe Creek home. In the
early 1990s the town consisted of construction, auto, and real estate businesses, as well as a restaurant, a hardware store, a
community center, and several churches.
E. B. and Carrie Keefe built their store in the spring of 1911, having purchased the property from Felix & Harriet Newcomer for $150
who had purchased the property from William J. Hamilton. The original store was a two-story frame building with the store on the
first floor with the life living quarters on the second. After running the store for a few months the Keefes sold the land and
store back to the Newcomers. Their son ran the store and added shed wings to both sides of the store. In 1914 Tom W. Deskin Sr,
offered Jim and his widowed mother a 480 acre ranch north of Pipe Creek as even trade for the store and property. The Deskins
ran the store for the next four years, followed by a succession of others. One subsequent owner, Dick Cox purchased a motor truck
in 1913 for deliveries and hauling supplies. In the spring of 1924, Adolph and Loura Schott purchased the land and store. Loura
was Jim Newcomer's daughter. In 1930, Adolph built the dance hall next to the store, doing much of the work himself.
When 1936 the road in front of the store was widened, taking with it the old store, the current store was built. Adolph did most
of the framing by himself. Henry Gombert of Boerne did the rock work. The store was the first place in Pipe Creek to receive
electricity, December 24, 1940. In 1944, the Schotts leased the store to L.M. Clopton who built a cafe on the corner. In 1951,
the Ed and Ann Jennings took over the store, turning it into a corner convenience market. The store was noted for its humorous
signs and a parking meter that had a sign reading, "First and only parking meter in Bandera County." There was also a post with
"City Limits" sign nailed to both sides of the post.
Behind the store stood the "Marrying Oaks," a popular place to get married. Ed Jennings, also the local Justice of the Peace,
performed the weddings. Ed operated
the store for more than 30 years, retiring and closing the store in the fall of 1982.
In 1986, the property was sold to the Don & Ginger Lee who opened the Pipe Creek Junction Cafe in August 1986. The "Junction"
noted for its pecan pies and fried catfish remained open until the fall of 2011, when it went up for sale. The building has now been
renovated, along with the dance hall next door and is open.
* This same Odom it is said also "named" nearby Privilege Creek. After retrieving his pipe Odom travelled further west to
another creek where the landscape was so appealing that Odom supposedly said he would lay his pre-emption "with the privilege
of lifting it" if he found better land elsewhere. Thereafter, the creek was know as Privilege Creek.
Additional information from John Odom, the great grandson of 1853, Thomas Lawson Odom:Texas Frontier, Northwest of San Antonio. This story mentions my great grandfather Thomas Lawson Odom. Odom was being pursued by Lipan Apaches and lost his pipe in a creek. He turned on the Indians, found his pipe, and named the creek Pipe Creek. He and his wife Lucinda Milstead Odom ran cattle in the area of today's Leon Springs, Texas. They also made shingles from the Cypress trees on the Medina River and sold them to the U.S. Army that was building frontier forts some 200 miles northwest on the Colorado and Concho Rivers. Odom delivered the shingles by ox cart to the forts. Thereby learning the trail. In 1876, he drove his herd of 3,300 head of cattle up the trail to abandoned Fort Chadbourne, where he established the OD Ranch also known as the Fort Chadbourne Ranch and Odom Ranch. 1853, Texas Frontier, Northwest of San Antonio. This story mentions my great grandfather Thomas Lawson Odom ( name is misspelled Odem). Odom was being pursued by Lipan Apaches and lost his pipe in a creek. He turned on the Indians, found his pipe, and named the creek Pipe Creek. He and his wife Lucinda Milstead Odom ran cattle in the area of today's Leon Springs, Texas. They also made shingles from the Cypress trees on the Medina River and sold them to the U.S. Army that was building frontier forts some 200 miles northwest on the Colorado and Concho Rivers. Odom delivered the shingles by ox cart to the forts. Thereby learning the trail. In 1876, he drove his herd of 3,300 head of cattle up the trail to abandoned Fort Chadbourne, where he established the OD Ranch also known as the Fort Chadbourne Ranch and Odom Ranch.
One of his many sons was my grandfather Cyrus Wallace Odom (1861-1949). T.L. left the Bandera area in 1876, when he drove his cattle some 217 miles to the northwest and established his new ranching operation at abandoned Fort Chadbourne. He prospered and was elected to the Texas House in 1881 from Runnels county. Thanks again. John Currie Odom, Jr.
Thank you John for supplying more information.
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