City is one of the few communities in Gillespie
County settled by English speakers. One of the earliest settlers
was a slave-holding preacher with a strong dislike for Germans.
The preacher and his neighbors freighted in supplies 90 miles from
Austin rather than do
business with the Germans in Fredericksburg,
just 15 miles away.
Willow City, or Willow Creek as the place was first
called, was one of the few settlements between Fredericksburg
and points west. To say Willow Creek was on the frontier was not
exactly accurate. Willow Creek was far beyond the frontier line.
By 1869 the village had a store, a school and a church along Willow
Creek. A room added to the school housed the first Masonic Hall
in Gillespie County.
Comanches and rattlesnakes, the first inhabitants of Willow Creek
were cattle and sheep ranchers and a motley collection of undesirables.
A stranger in town was most likely a cattle thief.
road between Fredericksburg
ran through Willow Creek. Twice a week the mail carrier brought
mail from Fredericksburg,
the nearest post office. He left the mail bag on the porch at J.
D. Harrison's general store.
When August Cameron's mail route between Fredericksburg
came through Willow Creek, things got complicated. With so much
mail passing through town, Mrs. Harrison embroidered "Willow City"
on one of the mail bags to keep the mail from getting mixed up.
The town has been called Willow City ever since.
In 1880 Willow Creek went on a rampage and almost wiped out the
entire town. Merchandise from Mr. Harrison's store was strewn along
the creek bank for miles. Another store, owned by Mr. Gliddon, washed
away completely. But citizens rebuilt Willow City on higher ground
about 3/4th of a mile from its original location.
Beginning in 1888, Green Harrison published a newspaper in Willow
City called the Gillespie County News - the only English
language newspapers in the county. After a few months the Gillespie
County News moved to Fredericksburg.
The news plant was in an old house where Fredericksburg City Hall
In 1907, after several changes in ownership, the Gillespie County
News was renamed the Fredericksburg Standard.
In 1915 Willow City had 3 general stores, a drug store, 2 blacksmiths,
a cedar post yard and a steam powered cotton gin. Two men and a
pair of mules died when the boiler at the gin exploded on September
For a community in the middle of nowhere, Willow City had an active
social scene. The Poultry Club met monthly. The Literary Club met
twice a month at the school. Elder Dan Moore of Willow City held
a religious service at the summit of Enchanted
Rock every July 4.
Willow City had its chances to be a boomtown.
In the 1890s prospectors discovered a vein of gold in a quartz hillside
near Hudson Mountain, 4 miles east of Willow City. Samples of the
ore looked promising, but the vein played out before the gold rush
As with other places in the Hill
Country, there is just enough gold and silver around to fire
the imagination, but not enough to be profitable.
At least 2
railroads announced plans to lay track into Gillespie
County from the north. Both railroads would come through Willow
But the trains never made it. Railroads have never worked well in
The cost of drilling tunnels and whittling down solid rock hills
is too great.
When the new
road between Fredericksburg
bypassed Willow City, the little town was left high and dry. Time
stood still in the hills and canyons around Willow City. Fifty years
later the town still was stuck in the 1920s.
But isolation shielded Willow City and preserved its rare natural
To this day the countryside around Willow City has a wild charm
that is hard to describe to someone who has never seen it. How is
it that a country, so much of it covered with rocks, prickly pear,
cedar and mesquite, is among the most beautiful places on earth?