History

The Johnson Ranch on Town Creek, set at an old crossroads, was the site of present day Johnson City. The north-south route from Blanco to the Colorado River was known as early as Spanish times. Miranda passed this way in 1579 crossing the Pedernales in the vicinity of Johnson City on his way to inspect the supposed silver deposits near Llano.

McCarty Spring
McCarty Spring, just four miles to the northwest of town, was a favored way station for travelers between Austin and Fredericksburg. Andrew Jackson Johnson, an older brother to Tom and Sam Johnson, located his home near this spring in 1858 or 1859. None of the early sites grew into a lasting settlement other than as ranch stations.

When Lyndon B. Johnson’s Grandfather, Sam Ealy Johnson, Sr., gave up his cattle-driving business (driving cattle up the Chisholm Trail had become unprofitable), he and his brother, Tom Johnson, sold out their interests to a nephew, James Polk Johnson.

How Johnson City Got Its Name
The nearest post office, mill, and general store were located 14 miles south in Blanco / Pittsburg. There were still renegade Indians roaming the area, so travel over any distance was viewed with great apprehension. For that reason, settlers in the north end of Blanco County began to plan for a city in the northern area.

In 1879, a barbecue was held at the springs on Town Creek located on the Johnson Ranch. At this meeting three sites for a town were offered, and the one accepted by vote of the settlers was a 320-acre plot of land on the Pedernales River offered by James Polk Johnson. After the decision, his many friends took him up on their shoulders and cheered both his victory and the decision by the residents to name the new town after him.

James Polk Johnson

James Polk Johnson successfully made the transition from rancher to businessman. It was his organizational ability that converted a natural way-station to a settled community and a county seat. James Polk’s Grist Mill was a steam-powered cotton gin and grist mill on Town Creek. Principal crops in this area were corn and cotton. In the early 1940’s, the gin was purchased by George Crofts and converted to a milling and grain operation, which flourished until the late 1970’s.

The First Buildings
By the time of his premature death at age 40 in 1885, James Polk had built the first grist mill, the Pearl Hotel and had under construction a building that was to be a general merchandise store (now the Johnson City Bank). This building came to have the first jail in its basement, and served as the first Johnson City courthouse. The first church congregation (Methodist) met in an upstairs room of this building until their church building was constructed, and later Lyndon B. Johnson had his local offices in this building constructed by his second cousin.

Blanco County
Blanco County was created on February 11, 1858, from Burnet, Comal, Gillespie, and Hays Counties. In establishing the county the legislature mandated that the county seat thereof shall also be called Blanco and should be within five miles of the center of the county. Judge William E. Jones of Curry’s Creek was appointed by the legislature to organize the county.

Kendall County
Following the formation of Kendall County in 1862 from portions of Blanco and Kerr Counties with the subsequent loss of territory and population on the south, pressure grew to move the seat of government. This was the major factor in the relocation of the county seat to Johnson City in 1890. The boundary line changes had positioned Johnson City within two miles of the center of the county.