Bandera might be considered Panna Maria’s first “colony,” because it grew when the Silesian Texans expanded outward from their initial settlement. However, Bandera was actually established by Charles De Montel, John James, and John Herndon in 1853, before the founding of Panna Maria. The three business partners built a water-powered lumber mill in the hill country fifty miles northwest of San Antonio, but soon learned that prospective workers were reluctant to move to the edge of European settlement, where they would be under threat of attack by Native Americans. When Silesians began settling in Karnes County, the partners developed a new recruiting scheme. They offered families who agreed to relocate the right to purchase farmland and lots in Bandera. In early 1855, eleven families accepted the offer. Teamsters hired by the mill developers met the Silesians in San Antonio, and carried them and their baggage to Bandera. Many of the men did take jobs at the mill, where, among other commodities, they produced shingles. The Silesians also exercised their options to purchase land from their employers. They cleared much of it for farms, and also built houses, many featuring the thatched roof designs they knew from Poland. It was a fortunate circumstance that several of the Silesians, including members of the Anderwald, Dugosh, and Kalka families (who had lived within a mile of each other near Rozmierz) had been masons or carpenters in Poland. In fact, Polish Silesians helped build many of the limestone buildings that are still standing in Bandera. They also provided the labor to build the St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, which was established in 1855, making it the second-oldest Polish parish in the country.
When Bandera County was formed in 1856, the town was designated as the county seat. Just before the Civil War, a troop of US Cavalry were stationed at nearby Camp Verde, which increased commerce and encouraged settlement. Over the next few years, for example, more families moved from Panna Maria, because they came to believe Bandera to be the healthier place to live. The town continued to boom after the war. Bandera later became a staging area for cattle drives that took western beef to eastern tables, and many of the next generation of Silesian Texans became cowboys. The local economy declined after 1900. The cattle drives ended, and a series of floods destroyed the local sawmills and cotton gins. The local ranchers ultimately found that raising sheep and goats was more profitable than cattle on the thin, dry limestone soil. In time, Bandera’s location—an hour’s drive from San Antonio, at the gateway to the rugged but beautiful Texas Hill Country—made it an ideal getaway destination for fans of western heritage and enthusiasts of the great outdoor. By the end of the twentieth century, many of the historic farms and ranches have been transformed into popular dude ranches and bed and breakfast hotels.