Orientation & Geography

North America, United States, Karnes County

Helena is a Texas ghost town located approximately 70 mi (110 km) southeast of San Antonio in Karnes County, Texas, United States. The seat of Karnes County from 1854 to 1894, Helena was once known as the self-proclaimed "toughest town on earth" in the mid-19th century. It was also the birthplace of the Helena Duel in which the left hands of two opponents are tied together with buckskin and each fighter is given a knife with a three-inch blade. The weapon was too short to reach a vital organ or cause a single fatal stab. After the combatants were whirled around a few times, they slashed away at each other until one bled to death from the accumulation of cuts and stabs. Crowds of blood thirsty spectators viewed this gory, gruesome spectacle and even bet on the outcome. Helena was named for the second wife of Lewis S. Owings, Helen Marr Swisher (1831–1910). Helena is now a Lone Star State ghost town, allegedly thanks to one father's grief over the town that killed his son, Emmett Butler. Colonel William G. Butler (1831–1912), Civil War veteran and a wealthy rancher, arranged for the railroad to be built 7 mi (11 km) away from Helena and the town quickly died. On December 26, 1884, William's son was killed by a stray bullet from a bar fight. A few days later, Colonel William went to Helena with bunch of cowhands to demanded to know who had shot his son but nobody tell the truth that incident that killed William's son, Emmett. Emmett's father shouted: "All right! For that I'll kill the town that killed my son!"