some point in the late 19th century, the practice of camping began
to evolve from an often uncomfortable necessity of travel to an outdoor
activity a family did for fun.
Shortly after the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad completed
its tracks from the Alamo City to Boerne
in the late 1880s, a newspaper reporter took a complimentary ride
on the railroad's first train into the Kendall
County seat. While only 30 miles from town (and way closer today
given San Antonio's
growth), Boerne lay
not only out in the sticks but up in the hills. Those hills stood
a mere 1,500 or so feet above sea level, and only 800 higher than
San Antonio, but the
reporter and others referred to them as mountains.
"Altogether," the reporter wrote, "Boerne
offers a desirable place for excursionists [an early term for tourists],
and it can be made one of the most popular health resorts in the south,
if her people will exert themselves a little and make her advantages
known to the great outside world. Nature has been most lavish in her
gifts....The ozone is there, but her people must do the rest."
Doing the rest took a while, but by the spring of 1890, the Merchant's
Association of Boerne
had worked with the SA&AP to bring "excursionists" to their Hill
Country town. Such a trip might or might not prove beneficial
for a visitor's constitution, but the money they brought with them
would be excellent tonic for the town's economy.
On April 4 that year, the Boerne Advance published something of an
advertorial labeled, "How to Spend the Summer in the Mountains and
Live as Cheap as at Home." The piece noted in its first paragraph
that the railroad, "with their characteristic liberality and desire
to serve the interests of their patrons [read make $$$] have put on
a Camper's Ticket good from all points on their line to the town of
To accommodate visitors arriving by rail, the good people of Boerne
had organized what they called the Camper's Association to prepare
grounds to host "all who may come, even in thousands." The association
had secured tree-shaded frontage on Cibolo Creek, "one of the most
charming mountain streams in the whole state, pure running water over
a gravel bed, as clear as a crystal."
Not even 150
feet from the camping area, the creek afforded deep pools for adult
"bathers" as well as shallow water "that the merest little toddler
may be allowed to go in with perfect safety." In the other direction,
the businesses of Boerne
was not even a five-minute walk from camp. The Boerne Brass Band
would perform once or twice a week, offering music campers would
be able to enjoy while sitting under a large arbor "similar to those
used at large old fashioned camp meetings."
Access to the creek, use of the arbor and the music was all free,
but for modest prices other amenities were available. Tents used
at the last reunion of the Grand Army of the Republic (Yankee Civil
War veterans), "though slightly soiled from having been wet," were
available for only $7.50 to $8. If the tents were returned in good
shape, campers would get their money back, less $1 a month rental.
New tents could be purchased for $12 to $17, or campers were welcome
to bring their own.
Of course, no camping experience is complete without food. Under
a subhead reading "Eatables" it is explained that local meat, bread
and butter wagons would make daily deliveries to campers. Beef,
mutton and pork could be purchased at five to six cents a pound,
bread "as cheap as in any place," and milk at five cents a quart.
Butter would run from 20 to 25 cents, eggs 8 to 10 cents and vegetables
In town, the piece continued, campers could avail themselves of
goodies at "ice cream saloons, milk shake and soda fountains...all
of the best quality and lowest prices." Saloons offering other types
of beverages were not mentioned. While such drinking establishments
flourished back then, the businessmen who organized the association
wanted the new campground to be family friendly. "If any drunken
man or rough character enters the camp he will be immediately arrested
and given the severest penalty the law can give," they warned.
Stoves could be rented at the same rate as tents, though the upfront
deposit was $4. Firewood cost $2.50 a cord, delivered.
Just about every service the piece touted is long since a thing
of the past, private campgrounds and local and state parks being
today's norm, but the ad made one observation that anyone who loves
the outdoors knows to be true: "There is a novel charm and freedom
in camp life that cannot be found within the walls of any house...."
"Texas Tales" June
8, 2017 column