Written by Daniel Miller on March 12, 2019
In September of 1933 J. C. (James Curtis) Riley, at the age of 17, drove to Austin, Texas from his home in Hunter, Texas, some 45 miles. He was in a Model “T” car with his uncle. The purpose of this trip was to obtain a beer license for his soon – to – be beer joint. It was now at the end of prohibition. He camped out on the steps of the Capital building and waited for it to open. He was the first person in line in Texas and got the first beer license!
Riley saw Hunter grow into a “boom town” with cotton farmers to the east and cattle ranchers to the west. Hunter just happened to be the midway point between Austin and San Antonio. The Missouri-Pacific Railroad decided to build a stop because of the water supply, York Creek. When the farmers and ranchers heard of this, they talked the railroad into building a dock to load their cotton and cattle. Soon the town was bustling with business. When Riley opened his doors on the old place, it was an instant success! There were people in the street and loaded beer wagons arriving daily at Riley’s Tavern.
Riley kept the tavern operational until 1991 (he became too sick to run it), or about 58 years. His heyday was between 1933 and 1977. Around 1977 San Marcos and Hays County went “wet” and business then slowed down. By then Riley’s had been open over forty years. Riley was coasting by then.
Prior to Riley taking over the place and before prohibition, the joint was known as the Galloway Saloon. The main part of the building has been dated around the mid-1800s. By the way, Riley’s mother was a Galloway.
Mr. Riley died in 1992 and is buried in York Creek Cemetery, not more than 2 miles from his joint and where he was born.