The Stonewall Saloon was built in 1873 by Saint Jo founder Irby Boggess. It was the first permanent structure erected in the town. It stands on the northwest corner of the town square. It originally functioned as a saloon, and probably a supply house, to meet the needs of the cowboys traveling the Chisholm Trail, with the saloon downstairs and rooms above.
It continued as a saloon until the county voted dry. In 1902, the building was being used as a restaurant. In 1906, Mr Wiley purchased the building and converted into the Citizens Bank. He added a vault and modernized the front facade of the building with a large picture window.
By the end of the depression, the town was no longer able to support two banks and the owner of competing bank, H D Fields, purchased and dissolved the Citizens Bank. For the next few years the old saloon building was used for various commercial enterprises including a doctor’s office upstairs and a real estate business. It was the head quarters of the Kenerey Brothers Oil Business until the late 1950s.
In preparation for the county centennial in 1958, under the hand of H D Fields, the building underwent a major restoration and it opened as the Stonewall Saloon Museum. A large ornate mirrored back bar was purchased and hauled in from Floresville, Texas. Swinging doors were added that sported area rancher’s and farmer’s brands. Families donated items to be displayed in the new museum. It became a major tourist attraction for the small town. Stucco was applied to the exterior of the building at some point in the mid 1960s. During its years as a museum Lewis Lauderdale, Leslie Hendricks, Boyd Whitson and Sue Yetter served as the curator. All but Mrs Yetter, during their tenure, lived in a back room of the saloon.
Times changed and interest waned, and the museum closed for a number of years. But was brought back to life in 1996 when it was purchased by Johnny and Rita Mueller. They purchased the building and contents and remodeled the interior of the building to resemble an old timey western saloon and reopened the building on weekends and special occasions as a museum. They were forced to close when the northwest exterior wall collapsed. The wall was repaired, but the family did not reopen the museum.
In 2011, a group of historically minded citizens banded together and purchased the building. Their goal was to preserve the historic landmark building and to tell its story. Not only its story as a saloon, but in all of its capacities, the saloon, the bank, and the museum. Each chapter in the old building’s life touched the residents of Saint Jo and surrounding communities, each chapter has a story to tell.
While restoring the old building, surprises were found at every turn. Including corn cobs chinked in the wall as insulation and a .44 caliber shell under the floor. But the most amazing discovery was the remnants of a 1870s German folk art mural on the wall behind the bar. A portion of which is preserved in its original state for visitors to see. A local artist, Joel Hale, recreated the mural in close proximity to where it was originally painted.
The caretakers of this historic relic are taking great pains to correctly preserve the old building. They used historically correct mortar on the interior rock wall. The original ceiling is still intact. They lovingly removed the old, weathered, branded swinging doors in order to preserve them for a future display.
Saving the building itself was the first concern, but soon they will begin the process of sorting through the contents that were carefully packed when restoration began, to see what items, donated so long ago, are still available for display.
The museum is currently opened to the public on Saturdays from 10am to 4pm and on Sundays from 1pm to 4pm. Make plans to come see the old saloon, it is worth the trip. The Boggess Volunteers are on duty and love to share the history of the Stonewall and Saint Jo.