Pass is a narrow gap through the hills northwest of Boerne.
The pass marks the southern limit of the Edwards Plateau. The area
is not well known today, but Spanish Pass has been a gateway into
the Hill Country
Driving out of San Antonio
on I-10 in the direction of Comfort,
the land begins to churn and roll while still within the San
Antonio city limits, but the hills become visibly more formidable
to the north and west of Boerne.
Migrating animals and nomadic humans naturally sought out the lowest
passes and the gentlest slopes through the hills. For that reason,
Spanish Pass became the preferred route from San
Antonio into the upper Guadalupe River valley.
One of the first automobile roads into the Hill
Country went through Spanish Pass. The railroad from San
Antonio to Kerrville
used the pass from Boerne
over to Welfare
on Joshua Creek. Because a freight train pulled by a steam locomotive
could only climb a 4% grade (a 4 foot rise in a 100 foot length
of track), it is unlikely the railroad from San
Antonio to Kerrville
would have been possible had the pass not existed.
The origin of the name is a mystery. One story said Comanches ambushed
and massacred 180 Spanish soldiers at the pass in 1722.
Spanish Pass Road
Photo courtesy Michael
Barr, July 2017
The real story
may have been that Germans encountered a group of Mexicans at the
pass while traveling between San
Antonio and Sisterdale.
To the early Germans, anyone who spoke Spanish was a "Spaniard."
After the encounter the Germans called the place Spanish Pass and
the name stuck.
the early 20th Century, after the railroad from San
Antonio to Kerrville
came through, a group of businessmen bought 800 acres on Lookout
Mountain, 250 feet above Spanish Pass. The businessmen wanted to
build a resort town, 5 miles north of Boerne.
Dr. Frank Fanning of San
Antonio was a major investor in the town of Spanish Pass. Dr.
Fanning was one of those colorful and controversial Texans who,
as Dr. Harry Ransom wrote, "held lively opinions about everything
from God Almighty to county politics to cures for rheumatism."
Dr. Fanning, known as the Magnetic Healer, used magnetism to treat
a variety of ailments including rheumatism, pneumonia, heart disease,
cancer, paralysis, dropsy, female complications and blindness.
Hoping to sell enough town lots upfront to finance the Spanish Pass
project, Dr. Fanning and his partners announced grand plans for
Spanish Pass. First they would build a swanky granite hotel on Lookout
Mountain. They would also construct an artificial lake stocked "with
all kinds of fish" and build dozens of "cozy cottages" for people
looking to escape the summer heat and dust of the city.
1920 Kendall County
map showing Spanish Pass NW of Boerne
(From Texas state map #10749)
Courtesy Texas General Land Office
sales called for desperate measures. Stories in San
Antonio newspapers began to circulate that were pretty far from
the truth. Lookout Mountain, at 1600 feet above sea level, was said
to be free of heat, dust and airborne impurities. Other stories
suggested that bugs, especially those pesky mosquitoes, could not
survive at that altitude. Summer nights at Spanish Pass were so
cool, visitors were told to bring long johns and a blanket.
If all that wasn't enough, developers advertised Spanish Pass as
a health resort. Evidence "suggested" that a mineral spring on the
property contained "curative elements for both the stomach and liver,"
and that a daily dose of miracle water from the spring made "positive
cures of stomach and liver trouble on several different occasions."
In April1925 Spanish Pass made national headlines when prohibition
agents raided a whiskey still in the hills between the pass and
The operation was one of the biggest the agents had ever seen. The
raid disrupted supply lines for a hundred miles. Half the speak
easies in San Antonio
Then as travel patterns changed, Spanish Pass lost its importance
as a path for humans. The town of Spanish Pass turned out to be
nothing but false claims and hollow promises. By the 1970 the railroad
was gone, and I-10 connected San
Antonio and Comfort,
skirting the pass to the south - leaving Lookout Mountain to the
heat and those pesky mosquitoes.
© Michael Barr
July 15, 2017 Column
The Handbook of Texas, "Spanish Pass."
"All Nights Cool And No Skeeters At Spanish Pass," San Antonio Light
and Gazette, August 28, 1910.
San Antonio Express, July 12, 1936, p12A.
"Moonshiner' Latest Occupation Listed," The Mexia Daily News, April