County Seat: Hondo; County Population: 40,924
The Medina County capitol, a National Register Property, was built in 1892 in an Italianate style as designed by Martin, Byrnes & Johnston. The tower and ornamental clock were removed in 1941, and new wings were completed in 1942.
The original county courthouse – which now serves as city hall – was erected in 1854 in the first county seat of Castroville.
County seat elections resulted in the eventual relocation of the seat from Castroville, located on the eastern edge of the county, to Hondo. Votes were cast in 1859 and 1886 in favor of Castroville. Hondo City residents, concerned that Castroville was not on the railroad, finally prevailed in 1892.
According to June Rayfield Welch, author of “The Texas Courthouse Revisited,” “Castroville supporters charged vote fraud and sought an injunction, but while they were occupied, Hondo partisans spirited away the records.”
Medina County was named for the Medina River, which winds through the county’s boundaries. The county seat of Hondo is Spanish for the word “deep,” a reference to the Hondo River that runs through the center of the county.
The area was initially explored by Cabeza de Vaca in 1519, 27 years after Christopher Columbus came to the New World. Medina County was officially created from Bexar County by the Texas Legislature in 1848.
With the Texas Hill Country at its northern border, Medina County boasts scenic slopes to its north, along with fertile valleys in the south.
Hunting is a major factor in the area, with approximately 9,000 deer killed each year.
The local economy is supported by agribusiness, tourism and varied manufacturers. Most of the agricultural income is based in cattle; crops include corn, grains, peanuts, hay and vegetables.
One of the county’s claims to fame is a renowned sign located in Hondo established by the Hondo Lions Club, whose members were concerned about cars speeding through town.
The club sponsored a contest among its members to compose a slogan that would encourage drivers to slow down. As a joke, the following slogan was suggested: “This is God’s Country, Don’t Drive Through it Like Hell.” Everyone loved it, and the sign went up around 1930.
About 10 years later, objections were voiced regarding the wording on the sign, and it was taken down. However, by then, the sign had become a bit of a trademark. Those who wanted the sign to stay made one change…the addition of the word “please.” The objectors were satisfied, and the sign remains, greeting motorists who travel along U.S. Highway 90.
Hondo’s famous sign has been featured on television and in national newspapers and magazines, and a post card depicting the sign is distributed by the chamber and local businesses.