A woman holding a chicken in a plastic chair sitting in front of green plants
Rose Jackson keeps chickens, including Ms. Henie Penie, on her property in Harper, where she’s planning to open a bistro along US 290.

The settlers who first came to the Harper area in the 1860s were drawn by rolling Hill Country grasslands well-suited for raising cattle. Hunting and ranching still anchor the unincorporated community in Gillespie County, although visitors are likely to spot exotic game like blackbuck antelope and nilgai along with white-tailed deer, goats, cattle, and horses. After graduating from Harper High School in 1979, Rose Ellen Jackson married into a ranching family, and she’s lived in the Hill Country ever since. In 2019, Jackson opened The Arosa Bed and Breakfast—a funky collection of retro-style campers in downtown Harper—which she is now closing and converting into a restaurant. “My daughter Faith helped me manage The Arosa, and now the two of us are planning to open a bistro called Boujee in the spring,” she says. “It’s going to be a charcuterie bar, with meats and cheeses, small plates, beer, wine, and weekly specials. Nothing fried!”

Coming up Roses

Rosa means ‘rose’ in Spanish. I’m called Rose Ellen, and I have three sisters who are also named Rose: Rose Mary, Rosa Lee, and Rose Anna. My mom just really loved roses. I’ve got vining roses and regular rose bushes on the Arosa property.”

 

Where the Wild Things Are

“There is still a lot of ranching in Harper, but the local livestock auctions are mostly for exotic animals. Raz Livestock sells chickens and ducks but mainly deals in exotics like ostriches, zebras, llamas, and all kinds of weird little deer. Vic’s Exotics also deals with exotic game. The Raz Livestock auction goes on the third Saturday and Sunday every month. As a matter of fact, I just bought two chickens there for my coop. Years ago, I saw a giraffe being brought to auction down [US] 290.”

 

Rodeo Days

“This year was the 58th annual Harper Frontier Days and Rodeo, and I was on the parade committee with my daughter Faith Bierschwale. The parade takes place on the last Saturday in September and goes down 290. Team roping events also take place on Friday night. Then there’s the rodeo and dance on Saturday. I like watching the kids do the calf scramble, where they run around trying to get the tags off the calves.”

Marking History

“One of the major attractions here is the Pioneer Memorial Museum. If you want to know about the pioneer days and the pioneer ways here in Harper, it’s a nice little museum. It has copies of a book called Here’s Harper that has a lot of background about the town’s history and local families—even my name is in there! It has many objects the old families from Harper have given to display.”

 

Around Town

“The only shop here is Whiskey Bent Boutique on 290. It has clothing and gifts—cute T-shirts and nice Native American-inspired jewelry. Headwaters Saloon is a classic pool hall, and the Station on 290 is a venue that brings in country music bands every month. The Tres Molinas Hill Country Ranch & Resort is about 5 miles out of town, toward Doss. It has about 125-plus acres with cabins, horseback riding, a roping arena, and ponds for fishing.”

 

Local Grub

“Harper has two restaurants. The Mexican restaurant, Los Tres Potrillos, is the most popular because it has a full bar. People like to sit on the patio and have a drink. The Longhorn Cafe has a little bit of everything, and breakfast is served all day. It’s got chicken-fried chicken, hamburgers, sandwiches, barbecue, and a good chicken-fried steak. I love their Asian salad. There’s a huge life-size fiberglass Longhorn inside.”

 

Neighborly

“Harper has this small town mentality where everybody knows everybody. You can’t go to the restaurants or to the new Ace Hardware store here without knowing someone. And I like that. If something were to happen—like when people lost electricity during the ice storm—it’s neighbors helping neighbors, bringing water and food, and taking them where they need to go. Everybody is really helpful.”

Town Trivia:

Population:
1,332

Number of Stoplights:
0

Year founded:
1863

Nearest City:
San Antonio, 83 miles southeast

Marquee Event:
Harper Frontier Days and Rodeo, the last Friday and Saturday in September

Map it:

Harper Pioneer Memorial Museum, 190 Harper Pioneer Park Drive

From the December 2022 issue
The December 2022 issue of Texas Highways Magazine, "A Tex-Mex Holiday"


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The December 2022 issue of Texas Highways Magazine


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The December 2022 cover of Texas Highways Magazine


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