How Olmos Park, Castle Hills, and Other San Antonio Area Towns Got Their Names

Helotes and Balcones Heights are among the uniquely named towns in Bexar County.

You may be wondering where these names come from? Converse, for example, is not named after a pair of Chuck Taylor All Stars shoes.

Incorporated in 1961, the town is named after James Converse, a senior construction engineer in the 1800s for the Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio Railway, who established a station in 1876 in what is now Converse. He laid out the town site four years earlier.

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The Express-News used Edward and Jean Callary’s “Texas Place Names” to explore the origins and meanings of town names in Bexar County.

The Express-News also referred to “Place Names of San Antonio” by David P. Green, city websites, and the Handbook of Texas, a website hosted by the Texas State Historical Association, for information.

Alamo Heights: After the Civil War, Isabel Brackenridge and her son George Washington Brackenridge purchased 108 acres at the source of the San Antonio River, according to the city. The couple built the mansion known as Fernridge on the estate George Brackenridge called Alamo Heights. The city was incorporated in 1923.

Balconies Heights: Founded in the late 1940s, residents of Balcones Heights enjoy spectacular views of downtown San Antonio from its perch on the Balcones Escarpment, the geographic fault line that stretches from Del Rio to the Red River. According to “Texas Place Names,” the city takes its name from the Balcones Fault, which sharply defines the eastern boundary of the Texas Hill Country. The community was incorporated in the 1970s.

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County of Bexar: Created in 1836, Bexar County originally encompassed nearly half of West Texas. The county takes its name from San Antonio de Bexar, one of the few Spanish administrative districts in Texas.

This settlement was named after the Presidio San Antonio de Béjar, the Spanish military outpost that protected the missions. The presidio, located at the sources of San Pedro, was founded in 1718 and named after Viceroy Balthasar Manuel de Zúñiga y Guzmán Sotomayor y Sarmiento, second son of the Duke of Béjar (a city in Spain).

Castle Hills: The town likely takes its name from the mansion called “the castle on the hill” built by the late Chester and Helen Ferne Slip in 1931, according to the town. It took more than a decade for Chester, who founded an oil distribution company, and Helen, an artist, to complete the house that once stood far out in the country.

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The land around Castle Hills was developed in the late 1940s. The Slip family sold their home in 2007. The property is now The Veranda, a special event venue.

China Grove: Not to be confused with the China Grove in Brazoria County or Jefferson County, this town in Bexar County was incorporated in 1960. The origin of the name is unclear, but it was used as a title from a 1973 Doobie Brothers song about the city. east of San Antonio.

Fair Oaks Ranch: This town on the northern edge of Bexar County is likely named after Ralph E. Fair Sr., a prosperous oilman and rancher, according to the Texas State Historical Association. Fair purchased several lots which became the 5,000 acre Fair Oaks Ranch.

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After his death in the late 1960s, the family heirs opened up sections of the ranch for development. As the area’s population continued to grow, residents began to explore the possibility of forming a city. Due to state restrictions on population density, two towns—Fair Oaks North and Fair Oaks South—were incorporated.

Gray Forest: The Gray Forest is less than 2 miles long and three quarters of a mile wide. Nestled in the Hill Country, the area began as a camp and real estate development in the 1920s, according to the city’s website. Incorporated in 1962, its name comes from the gray-green holm oak forest.

Helots: The city’s name is derived from the Spanish word elotes — or olotes — for “roast cobs, ears of corn, or cornfields,” according to “Texas Place Names.”

The general area had been called Helotes since at least the early 1700s and was largely a farming community until recently. The city was incorporated in 1981.

“As a place name, Helotes is unique to Texas,” according to “Texas Place Names.”

Hill Country Village: The town, which sits in the middle of North San Antonio near Hollywood Park, was once a pig farm but is now home to sprawling estates.

“In 1946, developers Meliff, Todd, and Hill Country Water Works began construction on Village Estates, the first subdivision north of San Antonio,” according to the Texas State Historical Association.

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With the encroachment of the San Antonio city limits and its associated zoning ordinances, residents of Hill Country Village incorporated the community in 1956.

Hollywood Park: In 1951 developer WH Barnes purchased land near what is now the junction of the 1604 loop and US 281 and named it Hollywood Park.

Hollywood Park was officially incorporated in 1955 after residents feared the community would lose autonomy to San Antonio, according to the City of Hollywood Park website.

Kirby: Kirby Station was a stop on the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1900, according to “Texas Place Names”. The station was named after the Kirby Yard, where the East Texas Kirby Lumber Company stored its lumber. The community was formed in 1965.

Leon Valley: Leon Valley was once a stagecoach stop between Bandera and San Antonio that was settled by ranchers in the mid-1850s, according to “Place Names of San Antonio.” These ranchers gave the area the name Leon Creek.

The city grew in the 1950s. Responding to possible annexation to the city of San Antonio, residents incorporated the city in 1952.

Live oak: The Express-News could not find an origin story for the name Live Oak. According to the city’s website, the founders of Live Oaks “considered the Interstate 35 and Loop 1604 interchange a perfect location amid gently rolling hills.” The city was incorporated in 1960.

Olmos Park: Olmos Park takes its name from the Spanish word for “elm tree”, which says nothing about the town’s origins as land once owned by an Austrian count. The posh suburb was developed by HC Thorman, an oilman and real estate magnate, in the 1920s. The town incorporated in 1940.

San Antonio: The city is named after the San Antonio River, which was named by Domingo Terán de Los Rios, the first governor of Spanish Texas, during an exploratory expedition in 1691.

The river received its name on June 13, 1691, because the expedition fell on the river on the feast day of Saint Anthony of Padua. However, San Antonio was not founded until 1718, when its first mission and presidio were established in San Pedro Springs.

Scherz: The small town is named after the Schertz family who immigrated from France in 1843, according to the town. Schertz was incorporated in 1958.

Selma: According to “Texas Place Names,” early settlers included Martha Jane and John Sobiesky Koontz Harrison, co-owners of the Harrison and McCulloch Stage Line that connected Galveston and the west in the mid-1840s.

Shavano Park: Shavano has two possible origins: Either it is a misspelling of the Shawano tribe, who were forcibly removed from the area in 1840, or a phonetic spelling of Charbonneau, the name of a local French rancher.

Terrell Hills: While stationed at Fort Sam Houston, Brig. General Charles Milton Terrell acquired 640 acres for a family farm around 1880, according to “Place Names of San Antonio.” His son, Dr. Frederick Terrell began selling the farmland, named Terrell Hills, in 1920. Dr. Terrell’s daughter, Sarah Terrell Engleke continued to sell the farmland after her father’s death. Terrell Hills was incorporated in 1939.

Wind crest: A relatively new development, Windcrest was created with 77 acres purchased by Murray and Barbara Winn in 1953, according to “Place Names of San Antonio.” The neighborhood’s popular tradition of elaborate Christmas light decorations began when the Winns distributed 400 strings of lights to their neighbors to attract new residents to the community.

Information from the University of the Incarnate Word has been used in this report.

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