Hays County, located in south-central Texas, was created on March 1, 1848 from the southern part of Travis County. It was named after the legendary Texas Ranger captain John “Jack Coffee Hays”, who was a renowned Mexican-American War officer. The county's boundaries remained stable for nearly a century, until the re-establishment of the border between Hays-Travis County in 1955 added more than 16,000 acres to Hays County. It wasn't until the establishment of the Gary Job Corps Training Center on the site of the former Gary Air Force Base in 1964 and the increase in enrollment at San Marcos University that Hays County began a period of steady growth.
From 19,934 in 1960 to 27,642 in 1970, 40,594 in 1980 and 65,614 in 1990, the population of Hays County has grown significantly. Although Democrat Jimmy Carter won a majority in 1976, Republican presidential candidates have been elected in Hays County in nearly every election between 1980 and 2004. Hays County covers an area of 693.5 square miles and is located at 98°00' west longitude and 30°00' north latitude, twenty-three miles southwest of Austin. The main natural grasses are the large blue stalk and indigenous grass; the trees commonly associated with Central Texas, including live oak, cedar, walnut and mesquite, are native to Hays County. Since the beginning of the century, Hays County has enjoyed a steady influx of tourists attracted by the caves, springs and spas of Wimberley and San Marcos.
In 1880, Hays County's first railroad line was completed to San Marcos from Austin; it was later extended to San Antonio. Merriman and Mike Sessom were original settlers and members of the John Coffee Hays Texas Ranger Company; they worked with General George Neill and led the first herd of cattle from Hays County to Kansas in 1867, followed by other campaigns. The ethnic and racial makeup of Hays County is difficult to document accurately, but certain general features emerge from its census history. Hays County remained predominantly agricultural; nearly 90 percent of agricultural revenues in the mid-1960s came from Woods's thirty-sixth Texas cavalry regiment which was organized at Camp Clark in neighboring Guadalupe County in 1862; Company A consisted mainly of men from Hays County. John Coffee Hays is remembered as one of Texas' most famous heroes.
He was a leader during the Mexican-American War and served as a Texas Ranger captain for many years. His legacy lives on through his namesake county which has grown significantly since its establishment over 170 years ago.