Bandera: How did it get its name?

Bandera’s history is full of fascinating stories

BANDERA, Texas – Many would describe Bandera as remote cowboy country, positioned on the edge of the frontier.

So, it comes as no surprise that the town’s name likely stems from the frontier days.

However, as it is with many area towns, no one knows for sure just how it played out.

Take a tour and learn how many of our South Texas towns got their unique names

"It’s an unknown. It’s a mystery,” explained Rebecca Norton, executive director of the Frontier Times Museum.

What is known is that Bandera is named after the scenic Bandera Pass, located north of town on the way to Kerrville.

But first, a little translation is needed.

"Bandera in English means 'flag' or 'banner,'” Norton said.

The pass was identified on maps as early as 1842, but that is where the mystery kicks in. Several theories exist as to how the pass was given its name.

The most likely account, according to Norton, has to do with the battle between Spaniard settlers and the Apaches at the time. The two sides had been at war for many years before opting for peace.

"They came together in a council to form a treaty and a flag was placed on the hill,” Norton said.

The flag became a line of demarcation and perhaps the inspiration for the name Bandera Pass.

"The Apaches would not come south of the hill and they Spaniards would not go north,” Norton said.

The story behind the town’s name is fascinating, but that is not where Bandera’s colorful history ends.

To see how more South Texas towns got their names, click HERE

Norton said several legends have floated around with ties to the town, including a story of a young, dapper teacher who arrived in the 1870s.

"Legend had it that it was actually John Wilkes Booth,” Norton said. “He had survived and was able to escape after assassinating President Lincoln and settled here in Bandera.”

Meanwhile, in the Frontier Times Museum, you can find an abandoned bank safe. The safe was robbed in a Bandera bank robbery in the 1930s.

"They were able to blow a hole in the top of the safe, grab all of the money, but they only left $1,” said Norton.

The crafty thieves were never caught, leading to speculation.

“I’m almost sure it was the Newton Boys,” Norton said, referencing a famed South Texas outlaw gang in the 1920s about which a 1998 movie starring Matthew McConaughey was made.

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About the Author

Justin Horne is a meteorologist and reporter for KSAT 12 News. When severe weather rolls through, Justin will hop in the KSAT 12 Storm Chaser to safely bring you the latest weather conditions from across South Texas. On top of delivering an accurate forecast, Justin often reports on one of his favorite topics: Texas history.

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