Fallen Lone Stars: Llano, Texas

Llano's Southern Hotel, built from 1880-83, also served as a stagecoach stop. Today, the building serves as office space for The Buttery Co., one of Llano's oldest businesses.

Llano’s Southern Hotel, built from 1880-83, also served as a stagecoach stop. Today, the building serves as office space for The Buttery Co., one of Llano’s oldest businesses.

Llano (pronounced LAN-oh) is located in the Texas Hill Country about an hour north of Austin, very near the geographic center of Texas. Founded in response to a legislative act creating Llano County in February 1856, the town was established June 14 of the same year. A public vote under a live oak tree on the south side of the Llano River chose the town’s location: a tract of 250 acres donated by a local rancher.

The area boomed from 1886-1893 after iron ore deposits were discovered in nearby Iron Mountain. With high hopes for the future, the Llano Improvement and Furnace Company embarked upon a mission to build an iron furnace and foundry. Land speculators from Dallas and northern states poured into the area with investment money, wanting to be part of “the Pittsburgh of the West.”

The Llano County courthouse, built in 1893 and still in use, is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (Photo by Larry D. Moore)

The Llano County courthouse, built in 1893 and still in use, is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (Photo by Larry D. Moore)

The population soared to 7,000 in 1890, encouraging the Austin and Northwestern Railroad to extend its line to a terminal on the north side of what promised to be a thriving metropolis. Increased access to transportation attracted granite quarrying and finishing companies intent on profiting from the abundance of granite in the surrounding hills.

Then the bubble burst. The iron ore deposits proved insufficient for commercial exploitation, and the Llano Improvement and Furnace Company abandoned its project. The company’s withdrawal threw the town’s big plans into disarray. Although charters had been sold to construct a dam, an electric power plant, a streetcar system, and electric streetlights, only a small dam and the streetlights were completed. Speculators and local businesses lost fortunes as a result.

A wagon hauls a slab of granite through the streets of Llano in this undated postcard photo.

A wagon hauls a slab of granite through the streets of Llano in this undated postcard photo.

A series of fires in the late-1890s, probably set to collect insurance money, destroyed much of the town. Consequently, insurance companies refused to provide any coverage in the area until well into the 20th Century.

The granite processors remained. Today, Llano’s primary industries are farming, ranching, and granite quarrying and finishing. The town’s population is roughly 3,000 people except during November and December, when the undisputed “Deer Capital of Texas” overflows with hunters.

 

Kathleen Rice Adams header

Kathleen Rice Adams
A Texan to the bone, award-winning author Kathleen Rice Adams spends her days chasing news stories and her nights and weekends shooting it out with Wild West desperados. Leave the upstanding, law-abiding heroes to other folks. In Kathleen's tales, even the good guys wear black hats.

Her short story “The Second-Best Ranger in Texas” won the Peacemaker Award for Best Western Short Fiction. Her novel Prodigal Gun won the EPIC Award for Historical Romance and is the only western historical romance ever to final for a Peacemaker in a book-length category.

Visit her at the Hole in the Web Gang's hideout, KathleenRiceAdams.com. Or, connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Her Amazon author page is here.

15 Comments

  1. Interesting post. I have heard of Llano, but never been there.

    1. Janine, Llano is a quiet little town these days, but well worth a visit. In many ways, it’s like stepping into the past. 🙂

  2. Kathleen, this is so interesting. I love these old towns that are thick with history. That Southern Hotel really saw a lot of fascinating characters. I’m sure many a gunslinger signed the register. You always find the most intriguing things to blog about. It’s sad to see so many of these towns falling into ruin, forgotten and unloved.

    1. I’d love to have been in the lobby for just one day when the Southern Hotel was at her peak, wouldn’t you? Who knows what fascinating characters might have sauntered in.

      There are a bunch of tiny towns in Texas that used to be much larger towns, relatively speaking. (You know that, of course, being a sister Texan. 🙂 ) I’m hoping to make this a series of posts. I’ve already written two or three more. 🙂

  3. I just love the pictures, Kathleen! If those buildings could talk…such stories they could tell! The small town that I live in (pop. 7000) has a background that dates back to the French fur traders–something more common here in the more northern states.

    1. Now that WOULD be fun, Kathryn! Wouldn’t you just love to eavesdrop on a couple of the architectural grand dames in some of the Old West towns?

      You should share the history of your town with us! I’ll bet it has some fascinating tales to tell. 🙂

  4. Ugh, not a hunter, so that fact kinda didn’t like me LOL. But a great post, Kathleen, Always interesting to learn of a new-for-me place with such a rich history. Does Llano have anything to do with Llano Estacado (sp.) Hugs..

    1. Tanya, I’m not a hunter either. I just can’t bring myself to kill anything, which probably means I would’ve starved in the Old West.

      The town and the Staked Plains (Llano Estacado) share the word “Llano,” but that’s about all. The Llano Estacado is way west of the town of Llano, which is in central Texas.

      It’s no wonder “furriners” from outside Texas get so confused when they visit! 😀

  5. Another interesting tale, Kathleen. Love to learn about my adopted state.

    1. We forgive you, Connie. You got here as quick as you could. 😉

  6. interesting post,thanks for sharing,enjoyed reading it throughly,,ive been to Texas only once and loved the trip

    1. You’ll have to visit again, Vickie! Texas is HUGE and full of all sorts of interesting “stuff” — and quite a few nutty people. 😉

  7. I enjoyed the post and pics, Kathleen. Thank you for sharing Llano’s history with us.

    1. You’re quite welcome, Britney. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  8. Great post, Kathleen. So very interesting! Thank you for sharing.

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