Texas Lakes Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Saint Jo

Photo by TXDOT

U.S. Army expeditions and California-bound gold seekers drank from the headwaters of the Elm Fork of the Trinity River in 1849. A settlement called Head of Elm served drinks to cattle drovers traveling the Chisholm Trail. In 1873 settler Irb Boggess built a rock saloon and reportedly renamed the town Saint Jo for his teetotaler partner Joe Howell. The restored rock saloon looks like a movie set with antique bar and poker tables, vintage chaps and branding irons and photos of 19th-century cowboys. A 1908 vault speaks to the building’s later use as a bank. Refurbished century-old buildings on the quaint square house a popular cowboy-themed restaurant and a stylish historic hotel. A restored 1880 hardware store showcases Western art, especially the work of local artist Donna Howell-Sickles, Cowgirl Hall of Fame inductee and relative of town namesake Joe Howell. An adjacent boot shop features award-winning boots of C.T. Chappell, who also teaches bootmaking on site. Some folks call the surrounding countryside the ”Hill Country of North Texas.” You’ll see why on a drive north of town past the historic Head of Elm Cemetery to two wineries and a popular brick-oven eatery.