a Pecan Shell
This is the site
of the McDonald Massacre of 1864. A historic marker
is just south of 290 and just west of the park tells the story. This
incident involved the Kiowas who kidnapped five family members and
killed two. Not a massacre by Hollywood standards, but it was certainly
distressing to the McDonald family. The family was reunited after
the Kiowas exchanged them near the Oklahoma border.
Massacre Historical Marker
Photo courtesy Michael
Barr, February 2020
from US 290 take RR 783 S approx. 1 mile
Matthew Taylor and the families of his daughter and two sons moved
here in 1863 from their homestead on the Llano
River. They built a cabin on this site near the source of the
In August 1864, Matthew and his son Jim returned to the Llano for
a load of hay, leaving in charge Eli McDonald, husband of Matthew's
On August 8, 1864, at a nearby spring, Jim Taylor's wife Gill was
surprised by a band of Kiowas and wounded by an arrow. Before she
died, she warned the others, who took refuge in the cabin. After a
brief fight, the Indians killed Eli McDonald. They captured his wife
Caroline and daughters Mahala and Becky Jane; and Alice, James, and
Dorcas, children of Matthew's son Zed. Matthew's wife "Aunt Hannah"
escaped and hid in a cave in what is now Harper Community Park.
Matthew and Jim Taylor discovered the tragedy the next day and sought
help from Eli McDonald's nephew Monroe. The two victims of the massacre
were buried near Spring Creek, twelve miles east of Harper. "Aunt
Hannah" was found and reunited with her husband. the captives wandered
as far north as Oklahoma with the Kiowa tribe before they were located
and ransomed by the U.S. Government.
160 Harper Pioneer Park Drive
Landmarks & Attractions
| St. James Lutheran
Church in Harper
Photo courtesy Barclay
Gibson, April 2004
St. James Lutheran Church Historical Marker
Photo courtesy Michael
Barr, February 2020
NE corner of US 290 and 4th St.
James Lutheran Church
In 1908, the first Lutheran missionary to the area, Rev. C. Stadler,
came to Harper. In April 1910, he confirmed the first class of Lutheran
young people. When there was no missionary assigned to the area, Lutheran
pastors from neighboring congregations came to serve. The worship
services were held at the Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian church
buildings or homes and the Harper Hotel when none of these were available.
The first Lutheran congregation officially organized on Mar. 9, 1913,
led by Rev. B. Schliefer. Mrs. Sophie Klein donated half of her lot
on Main Street, at the corner of what is now 4th Street, for the building
of a church. The name St. James was decided on at a meeting on Jan.
11, 1914. The church was built in the shape of a cross and its steeple
was in the form of traditional German churches. At the time, it was
Harper's largest church building. The dedication service was on Jul.
26, 1914. Until 1918, the German language was used exclusively in
the church. Over time, additional land has been purchased, annexes
built, and remodeling done. In 1943, the constitution was revised
and the church became affiliated with the American Lutheran Church.
The congregation later adopted a new constitution, which eventually
became a part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
The church has been a leading part of the community. It has organized
a Women's Society, Young People's Group, Vacation Bible School and
Sunday School. It has also hosted a revival-type event called Brush
Arbor Days and raised funds for the community help center. The church
has hosted many celebrations from baptisms, confirmations, weddings
and burials, to the ordination of pastors, holding of reunions and
175 Years of Texas Independence * 1836-2011
IS Hwy. 280 and FM 783
Organized in 1881 as the Barnett Spring Presbyterian Church, this
congregation originally met in a schoolhouse. The fellowship moved
to Harper in 1901 and erected this frame church on land donated by
Arch Austin. Sale of property given by R. W. Crosley helped finance
the construction. In 1903 a bell was purchased for the belfry. This
structure housed the Harper School in 1906 and again in the 1940s.
It also served as a worship site for other denominations.
Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1976
intersection of FM 783 (Doss Rd.) and US 290
Baptist Church of Harper
Organized in 1887 with nine members, the First Baptist Church congregation
initially met in the local school building and a brush arbor. A wooden
sanctuary and parsonage were built in 1897. The congregation has been
involved in community activities and mission work for many years.
Harper High school held classes in the church building in 1921 and
1941-42. A native stone structure was erected in 1944, consisting
of a sanctuary and Sunday School rooms. A fellowship hall annex was
added in 1971. This church has been part of Harper history for over
one hundred years.
163 N 3rd St.
Anthony Catholic Parish
The community of Harper, named after George Franklin Harper, grew
in the 1880s when pioneers from surrounding settlements moved to the
area. Prior to the establishment of a Catholic church, families drove
horses and wagons twenty-five miles to the Catholic church in Fredericksburg.
Because of this exigency, the Catholic Diocese of San Antonio assigned
Father Frederick Fassbender to say mass here in 1908. The first mass
in Harper was held at the home of Jacob Fielder on St. Patrick’s day
Father Fassbender, the trustees, and parishioners sacrificed time
and money to build the St. Anthony Catholic Church, dedicated on August
10, 1909. The generosity of the church members and the community contributed
to many of the integral pieces of the church, including the altar,
bell, cross, crucifix, statues, and a tapestry dated 1887.
St. Anthony Catholic Parish added to their campus over the years with
a cemetery in 1911, a rectory in 1920 and 1970, a parish hall in 1933
and 2007, and a new church in 1958. The parish hall has operated for
many years as a location for social activities such as weddings, games,
bazaars, parties, and events for the community. Many of St. Anthony’s
parishioners proudly served their country in the armed forces, including
World War I, World
War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, and Desert Storm. The parishioners
also contributed to their community through the church choir, vacation
bible school, or with youth activities, events, or community projects
for the people of Harper and Gillespie
County. For more than a century, St. Anthony’s Catholic Parish
served, and continues to serve, the church, community, state, and
2312 W. Hwy 290
In 1884, Frank
Harper, J.A. Rogers, E.C. Hopf, and W.P. Bowers met to organize a
school for the growing Harper community. Mary and J. A. Rogers, Jr.
sold two and a half acres to school trustees, and in 1885 a one-room
frame school was built with donated labor and materials.
In 1906, voters established the Harper Independent School District
and a new limestone school building was completed. By 1908, Harper
began absorbing other local schools, with the first being Pocket School
District No. 34, and continued to be the leader in education in the
area. Between 1908 and 1912, trustees continually faced monetary shortfalls
and the school year was shortened several times due to lack of funds.
However, through creative management, determination and community
donations, Harper schools always reopened to serve the community.
Mary D. Rogers sold additional acreage for school expansion in 1930.
Several schools consolidated with Harper in 1940, and additions to
the school, completed by 1942, were built through the federal Works
Progress Administration (WPA). In 1943 five acres purchased from Ed
Kensing allowed expanded student activities. The school introduced
a number of new activities in the 1940s, including six man football
played on cleared pasture land or in the rodeo arena of the community
At several times throughout its history, the school district was asked
to join the Kerrville
districts, but all requests were denied. Harper Independent School
District was once one of dozens of rural schools in Gillespie
County. Today, it is now one of three remaining school districts
in Gillespie County,
serving also portions of adjoining Kerr,
Kimble and Mason
Harper by Michael Barr
Located on the high divide in far western Gillespie County, Harper,
Texas is out there on the edge; connected to the German Hill Country
in some ways and separated from it in others.
Harper is famous for its healthy climate. more
Magic of Radio by Michael Barr
"On September 20, 1922 a newspaper called the Fredericksburg
Radio-Post hit newsstands for the first time.
That same month, in a garage in Harper, Gordon Harper built what
may have been the first wireless receiver in Gillespie County.
People came considerable distances just to see Harper's contraption
and watch the tubes light up. They stood as still as tombstones,
heads tilted toward the receiver, until music from a thousand miles
away broke through the static.
The science was too much to comprehend, but the wonder of the moment
was unforgettable." more
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