Currently located near the intersection of State Highway 80 and FM 81, Thomas Ruckman and Lewis S. Owings founded the town of Helena in 1852 on the site of a former Hispanic trading post. Although once projected to become one of the largest cities in the state of Texas, Helena now exists as a remnant of a bygone era and as the shell of a town once known for violence, outlaws, and a legendary dispute between lawmen and land moguls.
During our visit to Helena, we stopped by the Karnes County Museum which houses most of what remains of the old town. On these grounds sit several well-preserved structures from Helena’s historic past, such as the post office, the courthouse, the schoolhouse, as well as two iron jail cells which housed the most infamous of Karnes County criminals. The museum curator, Ramona Noone gave us an insightful tour of the property and educated us on both the history and folklore of Helena and Karnes County. With her help, we were able to get a pretty good feel for everyday life in the Helena city limit (minus the gunslingers and outlaws). As expected, it turned out that there’s a lot more to this small Texas town that meets the eye.