Old trail called ‘Spanish Pass’

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Spanish Pass is a narrow gap through the hills northwest of Boerne. The pass marks the southern limit of the Edwards Plateau.

The area is not well known today, but Spanish Pass has been a gateway into the Hill Country for centuries.

Driving out of San Antonio on I-10 in the direction of Comfort, the land begins to churn and roll while still within the San Antonio city limits, but the hills become visibly more formidable to the north and west of Boerne.

Migrating animals and nomadic humans naturally sought out the lowest passes and the gentlest slopes through the hills. For that reason, Spanish Pass became the preferred route from San Antonio into the upper Guadalupe River valley.

One of the first automobile roads into the Hill Country went through Spanish Pass. The railroad from San Antonio to Kerrville and Fredericksburg used the pass from Boerne over to Welfare on Joshua Creek. Because a freight train pulled by a steam locomotive could only climb a 4-percent grade (a 4-foot rise in a 100 foot length of track), it is unlikely the railroad from San Antonio to Kerrville and Fredericksburg would have been possible had the pass not existed.

The origin of the name is a mystery. One story said Comanches ambushed and massacred 180 Spanish soldiers at the pass in 1722.  

The real story may have been that Germans encountered a group of Mexicans at the pass while traveling between San Antonio and Sisterdale. To the early Germans, anyone who spoke Spanish was a “Spaniard.” After the encounter, the Germans called the place Spanish Pass and the name stuck.

In the early 20th century, after the railroad from San Antonio to Kerrville came through, a group of businessmen bought 800 acres on Lookout Mountain, 250 feet above Spanish Pass. The businessmen wanted to build a resort town, five miles north of Boerne.

Dr. Frank Fanning of San Antonio was a major investor in the town of Spanish Pass. Dr. Fanning was one of those colorful and controversial Texans who, as Dr. Harry Ransom wrote, “held lively opinions about everything from God Almighty to county politics to cures for rheumatism.”

Dr. Fanning, known as the Magnetic Healer, used magnetism to treat a variety of ailments, including rheumatism, pneumonia, heart disease, cancer, paralysis, dropsy, female complications and blindness.

 

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