History

Take a Texas Hill Country Ghost Town Road Trip If You Dare

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You’ve driven past this sign on US Highway 290 between Johnson City and Hye. You may have found the town on the map, but have you ever gone to see what’s there? Here are five towns that have come and gone. There may be newer houses nearby, but not the stores and post offices which were the heart of the town.  The drive to each takes you through the Hill Country’s finest scenery.

1. Sandy Isn’t There Anymore

Sandy General Store and Post Office

Photo:  Robert C Deming

There was a town here, established about 1872 with a post office and general store, “in spite of frequent raids by Indians” according to Texas State Historical Association. You can see the former store and post office from the road, but it is now a private residence. There is also an old cemetery nearby at the end of Sandy Cemetery Road. The former townsite is at the intersection of FM 1320 and FM 1323 ten miles north of US Hwy 290, an easy and pleasant drive which crosses the Pedernales River and ends at a T intersection.

2. Albert Is a Part-Time Town

Albert, Texas Sign

Photo: Robert C Deming

This town can be reached from US Hwy 290 by going three miles south on the Lower Albert Road (the town is actually on FM 1623 a short distance from the intersection of Lower Albert and ZFM 1623). It was settled in 1877 as Martindale, renamed Albert when Albert Luckenbach sold his now-famous store and built a new store and post office. LBJ went to school there, and it was once a stagecoach stop. The town declined until there was nothing left but ruins, but was brought back to life in 2004. Albert now has a grand old oak tree, bar, and dance hall, and is a great place to fritter away your afternoon if you are there on one of the four days a week it is open.

3. Bankersmith, Briefly Known as Bikini’s

Banersmith, TX

Photo: Robert C Deming

Bankersmith, named for a Fredericksburg banker named Smith who helped finance the Fredericksburg and Northern Railway, was established in 1913. The town didn’t last much longer than the railroad, but it made a brief re-appearance when an Austin bar owner built a dance hall in 2012 and announced that the name would be changed to Bikini’s. The town had a musical past while it was home to Bill Smallwood and his BS Band from 1978 to 1983. The old touring bus the band used to tour the country still remains on the property. Bill’s band plays western swing, jazz, and country, and traditionally closes out Oktoberfest in Fredericksburg on Sunday afternoon. The former town is just past Grapetown on the Old San Antonio Road, about 12 miles from Fredericksburg. Keep driving southeast for country dining at the Black Pig Restaurant or Alamo Springs Cafe.

4. Grapetown

Grapetown, Texas
Photo: Robert C Deming

Long before there were vineyards and wineries in the Hill Country, there was a place named Grapetown. The first store was opened here in 1860 and a post office in 1885 in Doebbler’s Inn, and when the Fredericksburg and Northern Railroad came nearby there were as many as 145 people living in the community. Now all that remains is the Grapetown Shooting Club, where an annual Schuetzenfest (shooting competition) was held. According to Texas History OnLine, at the first contest, 140 kegs of beer were consumed over 4 days. The community is 9 1/2 miles southeast of Fredericksburg along Old San Antonio Road.

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