Loyal Valley is a community very close to the Llano-Mason County line, but the community itself falls on the Mason side. Settlers have lived there since the earliest days of German settlement in 1858. It is located on the main highway connecting the town of Mason to Fredericksburg. However, were it not for the fact that the most respected leader of the German immigrants who came to America, Baron John O. Meusebach, chose Loyal Valley as the location of his final home, the community might not have reached the degree of importance it did. He did not officially move there until after his home in New Braunfels was destroyed by a cyclone in 1869. But, once he moved to Mason County, the area around his home escalated to become a thriving community, complete with a variety of stores and other social and economic advantages. Loyal Valley’s importance as a town had a big impact on Llano County as it became a major source of travel for the many Germans living in the western part of Llano County. The significance of the town is evident from a mining map of Llano County in 1875, which shows a major road extended from Loyal Valley to the Llano River, crossed at the Schneider place, and continued around Smoothing Iron Mountain to Field Creek in the upper northwest corner of Llano County. At this point, the road connected to the Bluffton-Pontotoc-Mason Road, which was Llano County’s first major road going west.
Loyal Valley’s importance comes out in writings about the Hoo Doo War, which peaked in 1875. The outlaw leaders broke into Meusebach’s store and personally confronted him. Unfortunately, no one knows the details of that encounter, but afterwards, the outlaws never again interfered with Meusebach. Loyal Valley was also the home of Tim Williamson, one of the first men killed in the Hoo Doo War, and whose death sparked revenge in the mind of Williamson’s mentor, former Texas Ranger Scott Cooley, which lead to more killing. Cooley was a close friend of John Peters (Johnny) Ringo throughout the Hoo Doo War. Another major player, George W. Gladden, is said to have lived at Loyal Valley, and near the end of the feud, the people of Loyal Valley elected Ringo as constable. If there’s one thing the outlaws did a lot of, it was travel, so these strategic roads frequently put Llano County’s connection to Loyal Valley on their itinerary. Following the death of Meusebach, Loyal Valley gradually became of lesser importance. Little remains of Meusebach’s home, and what is still there today is barely visible. Although the remains are located extremely close to the main highway, they are hard to recognize due to the high volume of weeds that covers the remnants.
Another community that served as an important sister community to Llano County was CHEROKEE, located in San Saba County. This community, in the lower central part of the county, was important to citizens who lived in both northeastern and northwestern Llano County. As the crow flies, Cherokee was not very far from the Tow-Bluffton area or from the Valley Spring-Field Creek-Pontotoc area. Early roads connected these communities to Cherokee, and because of the short travel distance, area Llano County residents preferred to go to Cherokee for their shopping and business needs instead of the town of Llano. Llano records show Cherokee served as one of the earliest post offices for mail delivery to Llano County. It was more convenient and practical in the early days for citizens in the northern part of the county to receive their mail from Cherokee, because of the shorter distance and because a post office existed there at a time when there were not many postal facilities in operation. The date given for the Cherokee post office is recorded in Llano documents as 1858.
Written accounts of the death of one of Cherokee’s leading early settlers, Captain John Williams, shows that Williams and several other men had been to Bluffton on business and were driving cattle back to their home when they were attacked by a band of Indians in the vicinity of Baby Head Gap. Williams, who was unarmed, and Ed King were killed in the incident. This tragedy took place in 1862, indicating there was already a strong communal bond between Cherokee and northeastern Llano County.
Some northeastern Llano County residents owned property located in both Llano and San Saba County. Since early county lines were not clearly defined, residents in both counties socially intermingled and cross-connected so nonchalantly, the county they lived in was not significant. . Many couples from both counties intermarried. A good example of this was the Chadwick family, who actually lived on the Burnet County side of the Horseshoe Bend in the Colorado River at Old Bluffton. H.A. Chadwick, a Baptist minister, built Llano County’s earliest mill at Old Bluffton. After Parson Chadwick’s first wife died, he married a young woman from the Cherokee area, Nancy Cavness, daughter of early settlers, Edmond and Rebecca Mitchell Cavness. Around the same time, one of the Cavness sons, Matthew, married one of Henry Chadwick’s daughters, Elizabeth.
Letters in my family written shortly before 1900, make reference to the frequency residents from the Tow-Bluffton area chose to do their shopping and business transactions in Cherokee. At one time the community thrived with a good number of stores and businesses. A college was opened there in 1894, by Professor F.M. Behrns, a native of Tow Valley. It was first called Cherokee Academy, then West Texas Normal and Business College, and finally Cherokee Junior College. At one time there were several roads in Llano County that went directly into San Saba County and on to Cherokee, including a continuation of CR216A, which was still in use when I was growing up. Today, however, these roads are not accessible to the public and are closed off by locked gates. That makes Highway 16 north from Llano the only public road to Cherokee in the northeastern quadrant of Llano County. There are still rural roads connecting the northwestern quadrant to Cherokee, including CR410 past the home of Hudson and Martha Long.
PONTOTOC, which is just barely inside Mason County, has been important to Llano County’s history from its inception. It is located only one mile further west than Field Creek, which is in Llano County. Since only a few families lived in that area in 1859, the first map of Llano County shows the old road going west from Old Bluffton across the top of Llano County where Field Creek and Pontotoc soon developed. The extreme northwestern corner of Llano County shares a common boundary with Mason and San Saba Counties, as well as being in close proximity to McCullough County. This area is so far removed from any of the county seats, as much as 24 miles to Llano, residents of Llano, Mason, San Saba, and McCulloch Counties petitioned the State of Texas in the 1890’s, asking for a new county, which they wanted to be called Mineral. The State turned down their proposal, probably for lack of adequate population. Even today, resident Frosty Miller lives in a house that is in San Saba County, while his barn is in Mason County, and his property across the road is a short distance to Llano County.
The final community that played a significant role in early Llano County wasn’t as close to our county line as others were, but its location on a major road connecting to our county seat put it in a place of importance. Today we know the community as ROUND MOUNTAIN, in Blanco County, but the town’s original name was BIRD TOWN. It was called this because one of the area’s earliest settlers, Joseph Bird, came there in 1854, and built a log house near the creek. A post office was established there by 1857, and the community became a stage stop on the mail route between Austin and Fredericksburg. Another road also went from there to the town of Llano, making THIS ROUTE the main road on the south side of the Colorado River for travelers into Austin. Highway 71 as we know it today was much as it is today near the town of Llano, but further down the road, what we now call the "Round Mountain Turnoff" or RR962, was the main route into Bird Town, which then went on to South Austin in the vicinity of Oak Hill. This route was the only way travelers could connect to Austin without having to cross the Colorado River at some spot, which was a problem when the river was on a rise.
Recently, citizens interested in restoring the name of this old road to its original title, BIRD TOWN ROAD, have asked me to include information about the road in an article. The road came into the town of Llano at the southeastern edge near the county extension offices, past the high school softball field, and across Oatman Creek, connecting to Chestnut Street, where it worked its way toward the heart of town and came up East Main Street. It was known by everyone as Bird Town Road for many, many years, until some livestock pens were built a little north of the extension offices. Gradually, the name of the road became HOG PEN ROAD. More recently, it is simply labeled at both ends as CR303. Persons interested in preserving Llano’s former history are hoping the name of the road can once again be restored to Bird Town Road. It’s great to know there are people in Llano County who are interested in the historical preservation of our county.
SOURCES: Handbook of Texas Online; Wikepedia Encyclopedia Online; GEM OF THE HILL COUNTRY (Oatman, pp. 19, 34); THE MASON COUNTY HOO DOO WAR (Johnson, p. 119); Petition State Archives in Austin; Marriages San Saba & Burnet County; Chadwick/Cavness family records; Maxwell family personal letters.