Things to Do

Beyond the Bluebonnets – 5 Other Things You Should Know About Willow City

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Most Texans living in the Texas Hill Country already know about the Willow City Loop, a 13-mile stretch of road off of FM 1323 about 12 miles northeast of Fredericksburg in Gillespie County.

In late March and early April, the two-lane highway is often bumper-to-bumper with bluebonnet-seekers. It is considered one of the premier springtime destinations in the state, winding through canyons and meadows filled with bluebonnets and other wildflowers, before finally reconnecting with Highway 16.

The Willow City Loop is usually just a scenic side-trip off of State Highway 16 on the way to or from Fredericksburg or Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, with nary a thought about the “city” itself and its rich, tenacious history. So, here are 5 more things to know about Willow City…

1. Willow City was settled by a preacher.

Willow City by Barbara Shallue

Photo: Barbara Shallue

Willow City was settled before the Civil War by a Baptist preacher who apparently didn’t feel comfortable around his German neighbors, so instead of traveling 12 miles to Fredericksburg for supplies and whatever, they would venture 90 miles to Austin… in a wagon, no less. (Source: Tourin’ Texas, July 2003)

2. Willow City was a hangout for outlaws.

willow city loop bluebonnets

Photo: Barbara Shallue

In the 1880s, Willow City was reportedly a hangout for outlaws. There were even three stabbings in the schoolhouse. (Source: Tourin’ Texas, July 2003)

3. Willow City was almost a ghost town.

Indian paintbrush

Photo: Barbara Shallue

In 1900, the population had reached a whopping 132 residents. There were three general stores, a drugstore, two blacksmiths, and a cotton gin. By the 1960s, the population had dropped to 17. It almost joined the list of Texas Ghost Towns.

The current population has held steady between 70 and 80 residents for a couple of decades; however, it is now home to only one general store and two bars. The school building remains as a historic landmark, but students travel to Fredericksburg for classes. The boiler in the gin exploded in 1924, killing two people, and the post office recently closed. There is one church, but it is currently lacking a preacher, and there’s not a single traffic light in sight.

4. There are two local watering holes.

white poppies
Photo: Barbara Shallue

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