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D'Hanis - French Colony of the Republic

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St. Dominic's Catholic Church and St. Anthony's School, Old D'Hanis, TexasA small unincorporated community in central Medina County, Texas, this tiny burg is rich in history. The original townsite, about 1 Ĺ miles east of todayís community, was founded by Henri Castro in 1847. From France, Castro immigrated to the United States in 1827 and became a naturalized citizen. In 1842, he became an empresario of the Republic of Texas, when he received contracts for two grants of land on which he was to establish 600 families.

 

Between 1843 and 1847 he succeeded in chartering 27 ships, in which he brought to Texas from France, 485 families and 457 single men. His task was made difficult due to the Mexican-American War, but, in the end he was successful. He settled his first shipload of families at Castroville in September 1844; in 1845 he established the village of Quihi; in 1846, the town of Vandenburg; and the last village, D'Hanis, was founded in 1847.

 

In the spring of 1847, 29 families from the Alsace region of France settled along the San Antonio Road-Rio Grande Road. The village was named for William D'Hanis, a manager of Castroís colonization company. Each colonist was given a town lot and 20-acre farms were surveyed and deeded to the first colonists. With building materials in short supply, the first homes were rough shelters of mesquite pickets and thatch, but, these would later be replaced by European-style rock homes.

 

A small structure was built in the middle of the village that served as a Catholic Church with services conducted by priests from nearby Castroville. In 1849, the U.S. Army began to build Fort Lincoln about 2 Ĺ miles to the northwest of the village, which gave employment to some of the settlers and provided protection for Indian raids. South of Fort Lincoln, a small town formed called Seco Settlement. A few DíHanis residents moved to that community for more protection. Members of this community built a school, homes, and a number of small businesses.

 

In 1850, DíHanis sported about 20 homes and had a school teacher. Two years later a post office was established and the town became a stage stop on the San Antonio-Rio Grande Road. In 1869, the settlers built St. Dominic's Church and in the early 1870ís two nuns of the Sisters of Divine Providence taught school in D'Hanis.

 

D'Hanis DepotBy 1881, DíHanis boasted two stores, a dance hall, its large Catholic Church, and mineral well baths that were thought to have medicinal qualities. That same year, the Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio Railroad barreled through Medina County and bypassed DíHanis, building a depot 1 Ĺ miles to the west.

Like many other towns across the west, the vast majority of the settlement picked up and moved closer to the depot. The settlement then became known by the locals as ďNew DíHanis,Ē and the former site referred to as ďOld DíHanis.Ē After just a few years, there was little left of the old town, other than its cemetery and large Catholic Church. New DíHanis was just south of the Seco Settlement that had formed around Fort Lincoln in the early 1850ís. In the meantime, Fort Lincoln had closed in 1852, after the frontier line had advanced westward. The buildings remained intact for some time, and the Texas Rangers made headquarters at the site. Later; however, the barracks were torn down and transformed into residences at Seco Settlement and the hospital building was used as a private home.

 

 

 

In 1883, the D'Hanis Brick and Tile Company was founded producing hand-made natural terra cotta. After all these years, the company still operates in the small town, continuing to make brick and tile the old fashioned way. The bricks are made from local clay found in the area and sent all over the world. However, they are also very evident in the buildings in DíHanis, in everything from businesses buildings, to homes, to sheds.

By the next decade, the community also claimed four general stores, one saloon, flour and grist mill, and two hotels, including the wood frame J.M. Koch Hotel (pronounced Cook) built in 1898. In 1900 there were 266 people calling DíHanis home.

In 1906, the J.M. Koch Hotel, which primarily served railroad travelers, was rebuilt with local brick.  It continues to operate today as a bed and breakfast inn. In 1908 St. Anthony's School was built and the DíHanis News began publishing. It was later renamed as the DíHanis Star and would continue until 1923.

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D'Hanis Brick and Tile Company, D'Hanis, Texas

Established in 1883, the D'Hanis Brick and Tile Company continues to make brick and tile the old fashioned way. Kathy Weiser, February, 2011. Image available for photo prints and commercial downloads HERE.

 

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