Located about 30 miles northwest of
Antonio in the hill country of Kendall County, Texas, Boerne
(pronounced Bur-nee by the locals) – or Bauer, as Annie Fellows Johnston
called it in her novels -- was the setting for most of the action in
Mary Ware in Texas. Little Colonel fans are introduced to
the little Texas town in
The station was half a
mile away from the village, and as they swung down the sunny white road
towards it, at a rapid gait, both Norman and Mary looked out eagerly at
the place that was to be their home for a whole long winter, and maybe
From a distance it
looked almost like a toy village, with its red roofs, blue barns and
flashing windmills nestled against the background of misty hills. Low
mountain peaks rose here and there on the far horizon beyond.
"This is distinctly a
German village, you know," explained Mrs. Barnaby NEW LINK, as they
passed a group of little flaxen-haired Teutons on the roadside, who were
calling to each other and their dog in a tongue which Mary could not
"Bauer was settled by
an old German count and a baron or two, who came over here with their
families and followers. They made it as much like a corner of the
Fatherland as they could, and their descendants still cling to their
language and customs. They don't want any disturbing, aggressive
Americans in their midst, so they never call on new-comers, and never
return their visits if any of them try to make the advances. They will
welcome you to their shops, but not to their homes. Even the English and
Scotch people who have owned the out-lying ranches as long as they have
owned the town are looked upon as aliens and strangers, in a way."
Main Street, before 1905
later in the same chapter:
"I wish you....could
see the little town now, spread out below the hills in the twilight,
with the windmills silhouetted against the sky. At one end is the little
stone belfry of St. Peter's, at the other the square gray tower of the
Academy and just between, swinging low over the hills in the faint
afterglow, the pale golden crescent of the new moon. After all, it's a
good old world...
This c. 1900-1906 post
card offers a birds-eye view of the city, similar to the view Mary and
Norman Ware enjoyed from atop the windmill in back of their cottage in
Mary Ware in Texas. One of
three inventions that made it possible to tame Texas (the others being
barbwire and Colt revolvers!), windmills were used to pump water from
underground aquifers. Shown below is a c. 1930s windmill from the Walker
farm in Lubbock, Texas from the web page “Windmills
In real life, Boerne was where the Johnston
family ended several years of wandering that led them first to first to
Walton, New York , next to
California, then to
Lee’s Ranch near Phoenix, Arizona, and finally to
Antonio, Texas and environs in search of a healthier climate for
John, Annie’s stepson
who suffered from tuberculosis. Boerne had a reputation as a health
resort due to its dry climate and there were many sanitariums in the area.
It was in Boerne that Annie finally purchased her first home,
Penacres, where she resided with her two
stepchildren from 1905 until some months after John’s death in September
St. Mary’s Sanitarium in
Boerne was one of many in the Texas Hill Country.
During her nearly eight years in Texas, Annie wrote a book a year,
The Little Colonel's Christmas Vacation (1905),
The Little Colonel: Maid of Honor (1906),
Legend of the Bleeding Heart (1907), the
Little Colonel's Knight Comes Riding (1907),
The Little Colonel's Chum: Mary Ware (1908), and
Mary Ware in Texas (1910). The last three were written
Just as described in
Mary Ware in Texas, Boerne was “a distinctly German
village” located near a creek, according to this city history from the
Boerne Convention & Visitors Bureau:
The city of Boerne is
named for Ludwig
Borne, who inspired many young men to leave Germany in the 1840’s
and travel to the new world. Some of these German pioneers created a
settlement called “Tusculum” near present day Johns Road. Even after
most of the original creators had moved on, a few of the men decided to
remain and named the area Boerne.
The land on which the
settlement stood was eventually bought by Gustav Theissen and John
James, who platted the town in 1851. As businesses grew and stagecoach
routes began to appear in the area, Boerne itself began to develop as
well. A post office and stage stop was opened by August Staffel in
1856. William Dietert established Boerne’s first business, a gristmill
and sawmill on the Cibolo Creek. Soon the town was in possession of a
blacksmith shop, a livery stable, a butcher shop, a saloon and a general
store. Professor Karl Dienger even created a private school in the
Because Boerne had
been established by “free thinkers” – Germans who had no religion –
churches were not permitted in Boerne. Legend tells of signs posted
outside the city limits warning that preachers found inside the town
after sunset would be shot. George Wilkins Kendall decided to build a
Catholic church to honor his wife in 1860, and he was forced to build
south of town, outside the city limits. St. Peter’s Church stands on
what is now Main Street. The first church built inside the city limits
was the Episcopal Church
(editors note: St. Helen’s
erected in 1881 by British settlers.
In 1887, the San
Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad began daily treks to Boerne from San
Antonio, replacing the use of the stagecoach. The railroad brought mail
and newspapers from San Antonio daily and cut travel time between the
two cities to three hours. Tourism expanded, and Boerne grew
Many people suffering
from lung ailments traveled to Boerne to recuperate. It has been said
that at one time, Boerne contained more invalids and sick people than
Annie, in fact, lamented the “Germaness” of
the girls in the community in a
letter written to her friend and amanuensis,
Lawton ("Mrs. Walton" of the Little Colonel stories), noting
that she had to draw on her nieces’ school experiences while writing
Mary Ware: The Little Colonel’s Chum:
goes for the tussle with MARY WARE. I do not think I could have managed
her at all if it had not been for the bright, enthusiastic letters of
two of my nieces. Lara Heilman is at the University of Wisconsin and
Margaret Bacon at the Mount Vernon Seminary in Washington. I wrote to
them for school girl experiences and they came to my rescue, nobly.
the "Little Lawtons" could make daily calls at "Penacres." I never see
real sure enough American girls any more. The few girls I know here, so
plainly bear the tag "made in Germany" that they don't fit into my plays
at all... "
Despite Annie’s difficulties with finding
real American girls as models for her stories, she successfully
incorporated Boerne landmarks and businesses into
Mary Ware in Texas,
and many characters were also inspired by real residents, according to a
1949 interview with her stepdaughter,
Mary, that appeared
in the “Evening News:”
The visit to Boerne of
Miss Mary Johnston of Pee Wee Valley, Ky., near Louisville, who is
spending the winter with Mr. and Mrs. Frank Pancoast in San Antonio
(editors note: Frank V. Pancoast was a trust officer at Frost National
Bank and not only handled Annie Fellows Johnston’s financial affairs,
but was also a close personal friend. Mary Ware in Texas was dedicated
to “F.V.P.” –Frank V. Pancoast), opened many memory
Miss Johnston is the
daughter of the late writer, Mrs. Annie Fellows Johnston, who made her
home in Boerne from 1905 to 1911…”Mary Ware in Texas” was written at the
Johnston home, Penacres in Boerne. Miss Mary
Johnston was Mary Ware, the town of Bauer was Boerne and many local
characters were used. Mrs. Joe Johns and Miss Alice Massey of Boerne
were among Mrs. Johnston’s friends of that period…
Col. Bettie Edmonds of the Boerne Area Historical Preservation Society has
prepared a map showing many of the Boerne ("Bauer")
landmarks mentioned in
Mary Ware in Texas
as well as the real-life locations of the Johnstons’ Penacres
home and the home of Annie’s friend, Mrs. Johns.
Johnston Family Home, and probably Annie’s inspiration for the Ware
Depot, where the Wares alighted from the passenger train trip from
Home of Mrs. Joe
(Camille) Johns, Annie’s close friend
Episcopal Church, where Rev. Rochester served as rector in the story
Sanitarium, located beside Holy Angels Academy and across from St.
Academy, an elementary school visible from atop the windmill at the
Store & Residence, where the Wares ordered their groceries
Kendall Inn, a familiar landmark to the Wares, since it was located
in the same plaza as Dienger’s store
Office, where Mary Ware learns of the job opportunity to serve as
governess/warden for the mischievous Mallory children and which is
later terrorized by those self-same “little devils”
Cibolo Creek at
Theissen, the “Fern-bank” where Mary Ware gathered maidenhair ferns
as Christmas gifts
Cibolo Creek Dam,
a popular picnic spot and local landmark in real life
Phillip House /
Phillip Manor, the hotel from which the Mallory family was evicted,
due to Brud’s and Sister’s outrageous behavior
Catholic Church, with its stone spire, which was visible from atop
the windmill at the Ware cottage. On the hillside above it was
“Council Rock” where Mary Ware receives her first grownup valentine.
Courthouse, where Mr. Barnaby had business
Shown below are photos and postcards of most
of those landmarks.
LANDMARK 1: PENACRES
Newspaper clipping courtesy of the Boerne Area Historical Preservation
Penacres was located at what is now 609 E.
Theissen Street and was the real home of Annie, Mary and John Johnston
during their years in Boerne. It was also the model for the cottage the
Wares rented from Mr. and Mrs. Metz in
Mary Ware in Texas. For more
about Penacres and the Johnstons’ experiences in the two-room cottage,
visit the Penacres page.
LANDMARK 2: BOERNE
Above and below, photos of the Boerne Railroad Depot courtesy of the
Boerne Area Historical Preservation Society.
The San Antonio & Arkansas Pass Railroad
began service to Boerne on March 18, 1887, reducing the nearly eight-hour
stage coach trip to San Antonio to just two-and-a-half hours. The cost of
the train trip was only three cents a mile, compared to 12 cents for the
stage. Residents celebrated the event with a daylong party that included
oratory, roasted beeves, music, dancing, lemonade and stronger drink – not
necessarily in that order!
Built at the corner of Rosewood and Ebner in
1906, the year after the Johnstons moved to Boerne and 19 years after the
passenger service began, the Depot no longer exists. Like Lloydsborough/Pewee
railroad station, passenger train service in Boerne fell victim to the
invention of automobiles and Interstate 10.
Mary Ware in Texas,
the Wares waited at this depot whenever they made the trip to San Antonio.
For the Johnstons, the depot marked not only the end and beginning of
excursions to San Antonio, but also longer trips to visit friends and
family back East -- the Burges in Pewee Valley, Annie’s mother in
Evansville and Mrs. Bliss in Providence, Rhode Island, who kept a summer
home in Boerne.
Above, an old railroad
route, Spanish Pass is three miles north of Boerne.
It stands at an elevation of 1,750 feet above sea level,
100 feet higher than the surrounding hills.
LANDMARK 3: HOME OF MRS.
JOE (CAMILLE) JOHNS
Photo courtesy of the
Boerne Area Historical Preservation Society
Annie’s close friend, Mrs. Joe (Camille)
Johns, lived in this c. 1879 limestone home located at 927 N. School Road.
Her son, Noee, was Annie’s godchild.
LANDMARK 4: ST. HELENA’S
Photo courtesy of the Boerne Area Historical Preservation Society
Located at 410 N. Main Street, St. Helena’s
Episcopal Church was founded in 1881. Annie Fellows Johnston, who attended
worship services at St. Helena’s, wouldn’t recognize the Gothic stone
structure above. It wasn’t built until 1929. The original church was
constructed of wood.
Alice Massey, who was close friends with
Annie during the Johnstons’ years in Boerne, was married to St. Helena’s
rector, Rev. James Albert Massey, and lived in the church’s rectory. The
Masseys served as prototypes for the
Mary Ware in Texas.
LANDMARK 5: ST. MARY’S
A post card view of St. Mary’s Sanitarium
Operated by the Catholic Sisters of the
Incarnate Word, the sanitarium, which originally served ailing Catholic
priests, specialized in the long term care of patients with TB and other
lung disorders. It was destroyed by fire and the remnants razed in the
1930s. We do not know whether John Johnston was ever a patient here. Many
TB patients were cared for at home. The Wares and the Johnstons would have
passed near the sanitarium whenever they attended services at St. Helena’s
or visited their friends, the
LANDMARK 6: HOLY ANGELS
Above and below,
postcards of Holy Angels Academy courtesy of the Boerne Area Historical
Holy Angels Academy was an
elementary school operated by the Catholic Sisters of Charity of the
Incarnate Word near St. Mary’s Sanitarium. It was one of the landmarks
visible from the atop the windmill at the Wares’ cottage. It was destroyed
by fire and the remnants razed in the 1930s.
LANDMARK 7: JOSEPH
Photo courtesy of the Boerne Area Historical Preservation Society
This stone building with its
elaborate gingerbread was built around 1884. During the years the
Johnstons lived in Boerne, it served as both a general store and the
residence of Joseph and Ida Dienger and their seven children. The store
sold staples such as flour, cornmeal, sugar, coffee, beans, dried peas and
potatoes. An extension added in 1900 housed a dry-goods store that sold
fabrics, shoes, linens and ready-to-wear garments. It was run by Joseph's
sisters, Lina and Louise. The Dienger building is now home to the
Public Library. Below, a photo of the interior, date unknown.
Photo courtesy of the Boerne Area Historical Preservation Society
of Mary Ware in Texas
describes some of the purchases the Wares made in Bauer to ready the Metzs’
rental cottage for occupancy:
The groceries they had
ordered were already piled on the table in the kitchen. A load of wood
was on its way. The new mattresses they had bought at the furniture shop
(kept by the undertaker of the village) were promised for delivery early
in the afternoon, and they had been introduced at each place as friends
of the Barnabys, who were to be charged home prices, and not the ones
usually asked of strangers. Mrs. Barnaby was what she called
plain-spoken, and although she made a jest of her demands they carried
Undoubtedly, the Wares ordered their groceries from Dienger’s general
store. And Annie didn’t make up the “furniture shop kept by the undertaker
of the village” where the Wares purchased their new mattresses. It was
based on the C.O. Ebensberger Lumberyard, Hardware, Furniture Store,
pictured below, which also offered "Undertaker & Embalmer Services” from
their establishment at 260 S. Main St. Founded in 1882, Ebsenberger
Funeral Home is now located at 111 E. Rosewood and is the oldest
continuously operating business in Boerne. It probably handled the
arrangements to ship John Johnston’s body to Evansville for burial.
Photo courtesy of the Boerne Area Historic Preservation Society
LANDMARK 8: BOERNE
HOTEL/YE KENDALL INN
A post card view of the Boerne Hotel, before 1906.
Boerne Hotel was one of six in the area, when Boerne enjoyed a reputation
as a health resort. It still exists today at 128 West Blanco Road and has
been known as Ye Kendall Inn since 1909. It is named for journalist George
Wilkins Kendall, who owned Post Oak
Springs Ranch and left Texas a lasting legacy by
crossbreeding Mexican Churros with fine-fleeced
Merino sheep to produce a new strain with soft wool and the stamina
required to survive the Texas Hill Country.
Wares and the Johnstons would have passed by the hotel whenever they
visited Dienger’s store, since it was located in the same plaza.
LANDMARK 9: POST OFFICE
Calrow Post Office in 1908 courtesy of the Boerne Area Historical
Boerne’s first post office was established
in 1856 and August Staffell served as its first postmaster. The post card
above shows the later Calrow Post Office as it appeared in 1908, when
Annie Fellows Johnston would make the one and three-quarters mile round
trip walk from
Penacres to pick up her evening mail, according to a 1908
letter she wrote to a friend.
Ware in Texas, the post office was the setting for Mary Ware’s
chance meeting with Rev. Massey, while she was searching for a job. As she
waited for the window to open, he told her about the naughty Mallory
children and family’s need to find someone who could keep them out of
mischief. The necessary qualifications for the job, he said, were “some
one as patient as Job, as tactful as a diplomat, with the nerve of a
lion-tamer and the resources of a sleight-of-hand performer --- the kind
who can draw rabbits out of a silk hat if necessary."
Later in the novel, Brud and Sister
terrorized the post office -- and postmistress -- by dropping a good-sized
garter snake into the slit of the package box and filling the keyholes of
the private letter boxes with chewing gum.
LANDMARK 11: CIBOLO CREEK
A 1900s photograph of
Sunday picnickers at Boerne’s Cibolo Creek at the dam
originally built by William Dietert to operate his gristmill and sawmill
courtesy of the Boerne Area Historical Preservation Society.
Ware in Texas, Cibolo Creek was where Mary and Norman Ware
poled their flatboat. These scenes were probably inspired by the author’s
own experiences during a summer’s stay at a nearby Comfort, Texas ranch
for invalid boarders. In her autobiography, she wrote that her
poling a flat-bottomed boat up and down the creek.”
It was along also the banks of the Cibolo on
a “high, steep cliff, straight as a wall,” that Mary Ware gathered
“delicate, feathery maiden-hair ferns, as luxuriantly green as in
mid-summer” that she gave to
Gay Melville and
Mrs. Rochester, as
Christmas presents. The spot was dubbed Fern-bank in the story.
Finally, on a branch of the Cibolo in an
area marked by big, flat rocks and a bubbling spring, Mary constructed her
“surprise school” for Brud and Sister Mallory, using tender, young willows
switches to weave an Indian-style shelter.
The Wares – and Johnstons – could see Cibolo
Creek from atop the windmill behind their cottage.
LANDMARK 12: PHILLIP
A pre-1906 post card view of the Phillips Hotel.
Located at 706 S. Main Street, Phillips House started as a stage coach
stop and later, after train service was initiated, was one of six hotels
that served the many visitors who flocked to Boerne’s healthy climate. We
believe Phillips House was the real-life prototype for the fictional
Williams House where Mary Ware’s savage young charges, Brud and Sister
Mallory, lived for a time in Mary Ware
describes some of “die kleinen teufel” or “little devils’” antics that
eventually got the family evicted from the hotel: placing a puppy in the
ice cream freezer; mixing up the orders in the grocery delivery wagon;
pumping 10 gallons of kerosene out on the road; thundering their tricycles
through the hotel galleries; pitching potatoes like a Gatling gun; and
investigating one of the guests’ fishing tackle boxes without permission.
the story, Williams House was run by Mrs. Edna Williams. In real-life,
Wilhelmina Phillips ran Phillips House from after her husband’s death in
1884 until her own death in 1929. Just as described in
Mary Ware in Texas, her
daughter, Augusta Phillips Graham, helped with its operations, and after
her mother became unable to manage it herself, took it over. It was owned
by the Phillips family until the 1950s.
According to the Boerne Area Historical Preservation Society, the Boerne
Shooting Club was founded at Phillips House and the original target range
was located in back. Once established in a hotel annex were a jeweler, a
tinner and a drug store. To see another photo of the hotel with John
Johnston’s dog, Uncle August, in the foreground, visit
John Johnston’s page.
By the way, the Mallory children’s
outrageous behavior wasn’t confined to Williams House. Their rampages
extended along Main Street, where they terrorized the town by honking the
horns on parked automobiles to demand rides and swinging from the tails of
horses stabled in the livery. The livery referred to in the story was
located in real life behind the Staffel building at 334 S. Main, shown in
the photograph below from the Boerne Area Historical Preservation Society.
At one time, the c. 1854 stone structure served as the office for the
livery stable, the town’s first telegraph office and probably the town’s
first post office.
Photo courtesy of the Boerne Area Historical Preservation Society
LANDMARK 13: ST PETER’S
These photographs of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, from the Boerne Area
Historic Preservation Society, show the original church’s little stone
belfry that could be seen from the Wares’ windmill in
Mary Ware in Texas. The
structure was built in 1879 on a hillside plot on the south side of the
Cibolo while Indians were still raiding the area. The stone church has
since been replaced by a newer structure.
Mallory children designated a large rock high on the hill above St.
Peter’s as “Council Rock” when they dramatized Kipling’s
Jungle Book as part of their
lessons at Mary Ware’s “surprise school.” Mary Ware described Council
Rock’s location in a letter she wrote to her sister,
The hill rises
straight up from the public road, just back of the Mallory cottage and
St. Peter's. There is a roundabout road to the top, leading in from a
back lane, which is easy to climb, but, of course, the children chose
the steep trail starting near their gate. Nothing but a goat could walk
up it with perfect ease and safety.
Once at the top, the
view is lovely. You can see over half the county, and look right down
into the chimneys of the town. The whole hilltop is covered with
wildflowers; strange, beautiful things I have never seen before --- so
many exquisite colors, you'd think a rainbow had been broken to bits and
scattered over the ground.
It was at Council Rock
where Mary received her first grown-up Valentine’s Day token of affection,
when Lieutenant Boglin or “Bogie” presented her with “one of those fancy
bronze pins from the collar of his uniform, those crossed guns that
officers wear,” to fasten her veil. Mary had met Lt. Boglin through
Gay Melville some
months before, when she attended the “hop in the gymnasium” at
Ft. Sam Houston while
visiting San Antonio to do some Christmas shopping. Obviously taken with
her wide-eyed enthusiasm and unique combination of maturity and girlish
charm, he courted Mary until
decided to re-enter her life.
LANDMARK 14: COURTHOUSE
Above, a c. 1890 photo of Boerne’s courthouse from the Boerne Area
Historic Preservation Society,
and below, a colored postcard of the courthouse, c. 1910
The historic courthouse building still
stands at 204 E. San Antonio Street, and remains in use today, making it
the second oldest courthouse in Texas. It was built in 1870 and the front
section was added to the building in 1909, while the Johnstons were living
Mary Ware in Texas, James
Barnaby attended to some business at the court-house in
while his kindly wife arranged for the Wares to rent the Metz cottage and
then proceeded to help them move in:
“…I'm not going to
leave you until you're safely settled," was (Mrs. Barnaby’s) comforting
assurance. "James has some business at the court-house that will keep
him in town for an hour or so. As soon as we drop him there I'll drive
around with you to make arrangements about the cottage…”
Another real-life sight mentioned in
Mary Ware in Texas was the
blooming of the Texas bluebonnets, described in Chapter 12
http://www.littlecolonel.com/Books/Texas/Chapter12.htm, which Annie
aptly titled, “In ‘Blue-Bonnet’ Time:”
THE time of
"blue-bonnets" had come. No matter where else in Texas the lupin may
grow, one thing is certain; there is enough of it in the meadows around
Bauer nearly every spring to justify its choice as the State flower.
This particular March, acres and acres of it, blue as the Mediterranean,
stretched away on either side of the highroads. Viewed from a distance
when the wind, blowing across it, made waves of bloom, it almost seemed
as if a wide blue sea were rolling in across the land.
visitors to Boerne today will never see those vast fields of blue.
Development and droughts have taken a toll on the state flower, says Col.
Bettie Edmonds, who has lived in the area since the late 1960s.
Though Bauer/Boerne was much more civilized
than Mary Ware, or for that matter, the author herself, had expected,
it still observed a few Wild West customs, such as sending the
sheriff or his daughter, attired in western regalia, to meet the train, an
event described in
Her sentence was
interrupted by a dashing girl in khaki and a cowboy hat, astride a fiery
little mustang. She rode past the carriage, calling out a greeting as
she passed. Norman turned around exclaiming, “Did you see that? A
cartridge belt around her waist and a six-shooter in her holster! That’s
the wild West for you.”
“That’s the sheriff’s
daughter,” explained Mrs. Barnaby. “She’s his deputy, and meets the
trains when it’s necessary and he’s out of town.”
DASHING GIRL IN KHAKI AND COWBOY HAT,
ASTRIDE A FIERY LITTLE MUSTANG" by illustrator Frank T. Merrill
According to research done by Col. Bettie Edmonds, the “dashing girl in
khaki and cowboy hat” was in real life Louise Zoeller Foote, the oldest
daughter and deputy of Sheriff George Zoeller. Packing her pistol, she
rode her horse through the countryside to meet the train, serve papers and
perform other duties as a deputy. The Kendall County Sheriff Tax Collector
1903 billhead below, which was offered for sale on eBay, was signed by
Thanks to Col. Bettie Edmonds of the
Boerne Area Historic Preservation Society for sharing photos, postcards
and articles about Boerne landmarks and people, and for the tremendous
amount of time she has devoted to researching Boerne’s Little Colonel
Letters from Boerne:
"Cousin Annie" A
letter from Annie Fellows Johnston to Mrs. Henry Lawton ("Mrs. Walton")
from Boerne Texas, April 19, 1908. On the writing of Mary Ware, life
in Texas, and maybe a hint to the location Annie Fellows Johnston had in
mind of the 'fictional' boarding school, Warwick Hall?
"My dear Lilly"
A letter from Annie Fellows Johnston to a close friend, Lilly (??We think
Lillian Barbour of Evansville, IN), sent from Boerne Texas, in September
1908. This letter is packed with previously unpublished background
information on Annie Fellows Johnston's personal life at the time, as well
as quite a bit of insight on The Giant Scissors and Mary Ware,
the Little Colonel's Chum.
"My dear Miss
Dickinson" A letter from Annie Fellows Johnston to a Miss
Dickinson, sent from Boerne Texas, January 11, 1910 along with a copy of
"The Jester's Sword" Discusses translations of works into Italian,
Spanish, Japanese and Braille, and points up some of the dissatisfaction
she was known to have had with her publishers.