An upcoming show of Joe's collection of historic photographs....

Monday, August 29, 2016

Stage Coach Days in Kerrville

My friends Jon and Sandy Wolfmueller, of Wolfmueller's Books, gave me an interesting book last week. "Kerrville, Texas: a social and economic history," written by Frank R. Gilliland of Center Point. It was Mr. Gilliland's master's thesis, and it was written in 1951.
Mr. Gilliland, from my quick research through old newspapers, became an educator, and even taught in Center Point.
I like manuscripts like this because they are usually well-researched, and the author gives an account of his sources, including the persons he interviewed. Mr. Gilliland was able to interview many people, and among them were names most of us would recognize: A. P. Brown, the son of the founder of Kerrville, Joshua Brown; J. Marvin Hunter, who established newspapers across the state and a museum in Bandera; members of several pioneer families, such as the Starkeys, the Nichols, the Witts, and the Moores.
One interview stood out to me: Mr. Bert C. Parsons. Parsons was the son of Dr. George Parsons, a pioneer physician here who served as mayor of Kerrville in the city's earliest days.
The Parsons family owned the property on which our print shop stands from 1878 to 1958, a span of 80 years. (By comparison, our family has owned the property for only 58 years, since 1970.)
Parsons' main contribution to Gilliland's manuscript came in the section called "Stage Coach Days."
"About 1850," Gilliland writes, "the Southwestern Stage Company began operating a daily mail and passenger service as far as El Paso on the famous route that started in San Antonio and ended in San Diego."
That route went through Fredericksburg, and from Fredericksburg, our community got its mail.
"From this point mail was brought by horseback to Kerrville three times weekly, the first mail contractor being Fritz Saur, who lived at his Cypress Creek home until 1932. Hack service from Comfort to Kerrville was available at that time."
As for the stage coaches, "the coach accommodated eleven passengers and was drawn by four horses, driven by Pat Howard. Sometime between 1872 and 1880 a stage service was established on to Kerrville.
"In 1880 a daily stage service from Kerrville to Boerne was inaugurated by Dr. George Robins Parsons...he operated this line until completion of the railroad in 1887. At the same time he operated a Comfort to Fredericksburg stage coach, which continued in operation several years after the Kerrville to Boerne line was discontinued. The stage left Kerrville each morning at four o'clock, changed horses in Comfort, and transferred its passengers to the connecting line in Boerne. Travelers reached San Antonio after dark. A stage left San Antonio at about the same time in the morning, and passengers reached Kerrville at night. The round trip fare from Kerrville to San Antonio was twenty dollars. Dr. Parsons had four Concord stage coaches of the two-horse size on the two lines. The stage coach office was in Parsons' Hall, a two-story building which stood on the location of the present Rialto Theater, the second story of which served as town hall for many years."
The Rialto Theater was torn down in 1974, but one part of it remains. The old theater (and thus the stage coach office) stood in our present-day parking lot between Herring Printing Company and Grape Juice, in the 600 block of Water Street. The wall of Grape Juice closest to our print shop was the easternmost wall of the Rialto; in the stucco above the parking lot, you can still see the outline of the risers for the Rialto Theater's balcony.
So the stage coach which served Kerrville departed and arrived in what is now our print shop's parking lot.
That means, Gentle Reader, if you find yourself walking past our parking lot early in the morning, around 4 a.m., and you happen to hear the whinny of a horse, and the clatter of steel-rimmed wheels on pavement, you might be hearing a ghost stage coach leaving Kerrville and headed to Boerne.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who can barely imagine how busy that stage coach office must have been. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times August 27, 2016.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Saturday Link Pack

From Ornitographies, a series of photographs by Xavi Bou.
He photographs birds in flight using multiple exposures

Now that's a beautiful fly fishing rod.  Almost worth the several years' wait.

Writing young adult fiction is easier than I thought. Now I can write a Harry Potter knock-off.

Finding this in my Christmas stocking would be cool.  Kind of expensive, though.

Made me chuckle.  C'mon, people, calm down a little.

A community works together, and tells the politicians they can't be a part of the process.

Ways to be a better person.  Gotta love the first idea.

I'm always trying to be more efficient.  Maybe some of these ideas will help you, too.

A long article about America's underclass.  Some of the ideas will provoke disagreement.  I have been reading a lot of articles trying to figure out the current national political mood.

Consider this column by David Brooks.  It's true, in Texas history, that many of those abducted and forced to live with Native American tribes for decades often had a very hard time returning to 'civilization.'

Sometimes writing the perfect task can be very difficult.  Love the line “Goals are dreams with deadlines.”

I've been enjoying my wife's crafting blog.  You go, girlfriend.

A stamp my daughter designed.  Cute.






Tuesday, August 23, 2016

On My Soapbox: the Kerr County Museum

Recently my friend Mark J. Armstrong, managing editor of this newspaper, wrote a column calling for a Kerr County history museum, and suggesting it should be named in honor of the late Clarabelle Snodgrass. Both ideas are great.
Armstrong is not the first editor of the Times to support such an idea, and I'm not sure why the idea has never gotten off of the ground.
"Boost the Kerr County Museum Collection," was the headline another editor once wrote. "Valuable historic relics have been collected by the museum club of the ... junior high school, under the leadership of Mrs. R. A. Franklin. Most museums have grown from a small nucleus, and there is no reason why this should not. If you have some article of historic value, send it to [us]. Windows showing part of the museum club's collection are now on display at the Arcadia, and additions to the collection will be made from time to time. We should keep alive the memory ... of the pioneers of Kerr County and our section of the state. A museum will help do that!"
The editor was named J. J. Starkey; the words were published in the Kerrville Times in January, 1933.
I can only imagine what they'd collected in 1933.
For many years I have collected local items of historical interest. The majority of my collection dates from 1956 to present. A smaller portion from 1900-1956. And an even smaller collection from before 1900.
The items collected in 1933 would have likely been mostly from the 19th century.   And they've disappeared into the river of time.
Starkey published a monthly insert in his newspaper, "Pioneer History." He worked hard to promote the idea of a Kerr County history museum, even resorting to appealing to our community's pride, by comparing our lack of a museum with the success of our neighboring cities.
"As citizens of Kerrville," he wrote in a 3/4 page ad, "we congratulate J. Marvin Hunter on the accomplishment of a long cherished purpose in the building of the Frontier Times Museum at Bandera, Texas. It is hoped that Kerr County may soon possess a similar monument to its own pioneers. The beginnings of a museum display have been made here, and we urge all to cooperate in building it up." This ad appeared in May, 1933.
In December, 1933, the Times ran a front-page story "Pioneers Plan County Museum...." The story told of the 'Pioneers of Kerr County,' who, in their regular quarterly meeting, "voted to actively begin the Kerr County Museum, which the organization has been contemplating for the past five years."
Interestingly, the secretary of the organization, Bert Parsons, offered one of the rooms in his home on Water Street to display some of the items. Well, interesting to me, since my family now owns some of the Parsons property, and our print shop sits on part of that tract. Most of my collection of Kerr County historical items is housed in our print shop, so this is the second time 'historical items' have been on display at this spot.
As for the items collected by the junior high students of Mrs. R. A. (Kate) Franklin, it's a mystery what happened to them. It's rumored some of the items were thrown away.
In September, 1940, Mrs. W. A. Salter, the editor and publisher of the Kerrville Mountain Sun, wrote these lines in her 'It Happened Here' column:
"It is regretted that the Texas History and Pioneer Museum which Kate [Franklin] started while she was [a teacher] here, and with which she had such wonderful co-operation, has never been quite completed. It would certainly be an addition to the school and community, and old timers would part with historical objects if they were sure that the treasures had a proper home."
I understand that sentiment completely.
Gentle Reader, next week I turn 55. I'm getting to be one of those old timers. As I look at the thousands of items in my collection, I know I need to find them a home. A proper home. But so far none of the suggested organizations have demonstrated the ability (or desire) to provide a safe place to exhibit and preserve these items of our history. Just as they did not in the 1930s, or in the decades since.
I don't know why our community lacks a museum. I have pondered the problem for a long time. Perhaps one of you has a good idea that will help.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects Kerrville and Kerr County historical items.  Lots of them. Some of the items are on display at the Museum of Western Art through August 27. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times August 20, 2016.

Monday, August 15, 2016

An overlooked detail in an historic Kerr County photograph

Potter, Joshua, and Sarah Brown, around 1873,
though I think it's closer to 1875.
There is a detail in one of the historic photographs in my collection that few notice.
The photograph, of Joshua, Sarah, and young Potter Brown, is currently on display at the Museum of Western Art. That exhibit runs through August 27.
Joshua D. Brown was the founder of Kerrville, coming here in the late 1840s to harvest the cypress trees along the river to make shingles. Sarah Goss Brown was his second wife; his first, Eleanor Smith Brown, died in 1848, about the same time Brown was establishing his shingle making camp here. One daughter was born in Brown's first marriage, a daughter named Mary Louisa. Seven children were born in his marriage to Sarah Goss Brown, four sons and three daughters. Alonzo Potter Brown, the youngest son, is in the photograph.
The original image of Joshua, Sarah, and Potter Brown was a tintype taken around 1873, and I received a scan of the original tintype from a descendent of the Browns, Jan Wilkinson. While I have seen copies of this image many times, mostly in commemorative newspaper issues, the image on display at the Museum of Western Art is a scan from the original tintype. It is the best reproduction of the photograph I have ever seen.
Tintypes were very popular in the 1860s and 1870s, partly because they were inexpensive to produce, and partly because they could be handed to the customer moments after the image was taken. Many tintypes were taken by itinerant photographers, often at fairs or carnivals.
One drawback to tintypes was the long exposure time required. One had to sit very, very still for a long time. In the photograph of the Brown family, it appears young Potter Brown could not stay still that long. His face is slightly blurred. Joshua's face is blurred, but less than Potter's. Joshua was sitting next to his son. Perhaps Joshua moved slightly trying to keep Potter still.
The only one who stayed still through the photograph is Sarah Goss Brown. Her blue eyes gaze clearly at the camera, and she has a slight smile on her face, as if she is just about to laugh out loud, but trying very hard not to do so. Her left hand is clenched in a fist.
The family is well-dressed in the photo. Young Potter is in a fine suit with a large collar; Joshua wears a jacket, vest, and slacks; Sarah wears a very detailed dress with a wide belt that has a shiny buckle, and a long skirt beneath that. They are wearing fine clothes, especially fine considering Kerr County was the edge of the frontier when the image was taken. Either the Brown family was at an event which required them to dress up a bit, or they had an appointment with a photographer and dressed for the image.
I'd suggest it was the latter, since the photograph has been tinted slightly. Rouge has been applied to Sarah's cheeks, and a slight touch of red to Joshua's, as well. The flower Sarah is wearing has been tinted yellow. I don't think a street photographer would have gone to the trouble to add these colors.
In 1873 none of the buildings in today's downtown Kerrville existed. The oldest building in downtown Kerrville, at 709 Water Street, is now the home of Hill Country Living. It wasn't built until 1874, a year after the photograph was taken. A portion of the home of Charles Schreiner's family, on Earl Garrett Street, was built in 1879. Other older buildings in the downtown area came along much later, many of them in 1890.
When the Browns had their photograph taken, there was no railroad to Kerrville; that came in 1887. When the photograph was taken there were few, if any, structures we'd recognize. The town would be an unexplored mystery to us.
But there is one detail in the photograph I find particularly interesting, in part because it reveals something about Joshua and Sarah Brown, and in part because of all the tintype portraits I've seen from that period, this is the only image which shows this detail.
In the photograph, Sarah and Joshua are holding hands. Her right hand rests comfortably on his left hand, as if it often found its way there.
I hope you'll see for yourself -- the photograph will be on display until August 27th at the Museum of Western Art.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects historic photographs and artifacts of Kerrville and Kerr County.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times August 13, 2016

Monday, August 8, 2016

An Eight-Story Hotel in downtown Kerrville

Kerrville's Blue Bonnet Hotel, at the intersection of Water and Earl Garrett Streets.
This photo was taken in the mid-1950s from atop the newly-built Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital,
probably by Starr Bryden.
When one stands at the intersection of Earl Garrett and Water streets, on the corner opposite Francisco's Restaurant, where a parking lot is today, it might be easy to think that the parking lot has been there forever.
Consider this: an eight-story hotel once stood on part of that parking lot.
There are fewer and fewer of us in Kerrville who remember the Blue Bonnet Hotel. During my childhood, the old hotel was around forty years old, and had obviously seen better days.
My earliest memories of the hotel are of joining Dad as he attended his weekly Kiwanis meetings -- and of those memories, the strongest is of the food served during those meetings. I thought the food was great, and going with Dad to Kiwanis was very special.
I also remember two ladies who lived, for a time, at the hotel: Miss Thurma Dean Miller, who was in charge of children's ministries at First Baptist Church, and Margaret Bierschwale, who wrote a history of Mason County which my father printed. It was a great treat to go to the Blue Bonnet, ride the elevator, and visit them.
The Blue Bonnet Hotel was quite a big deal for Kerrville and Kerr County.
The March 31, 1927 issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun sports this bold headline: "Blue Bonnet Opening Marks New Era in City's Growth."
Indeed, the late 1920s were a period of growth for Kerrville; a year earlier the Arcadia Theater opened, to much fanfare, in the middle of the 700 block of Water Street, and Kerr County had recently built a new courthouse -- the one still in use today.
"The new hostelry, a triumph of architectural design and mechanical construction, lends a distinct metropolitan atmosphere to the city. The facilities and service offered undoubtedly will attract increased numbers of tourists to Texas' greatest playground," the Mountain Sun reported.
"The present unit of the hotel contains 80 rooms, each equipped with private bath, telephone, fan and circulating ice water. All corner rooms have a shower as well as a tub bath. The guest rooms are of commodious size and papered in pleasing harmonious colors with wood work in natural oak. Furnishings and carpeting are of quality in keeping with the high character of the hotel. On each floor are two-room suites, a living room and a bed room with connecting door. Each room throughout the building has outside exposure.”
The Blue Bonnet Hotel Company had high hopes: it planned to build "six or seven" hotels in Texas, including a Blue Bonnet Hotel in San Antonio, at the corner of Pecan and St. Mary's streets. Other towns identified in the story were Laredo, Corpus Christi, Brownsville and Abilene. Of these, only the San Antonio hotel is listed as under construction.
When the hotel opened, it was only five stories tall; a short while later the building grew to eight stories, going from 80 rooms to 140.
Along its ground floor several shops rented space: a drug store, complete with soda fountain; a barber; a beauty parlor; a coffee shop, and a magazine stand. There was an "enclosed ballroom," and plans for a garden terrace overlooking the Guadalupe below.
How the company's plans were altered by the stock market crash a few years later, along with the Great Depression which followed, is probably a story in itself. I don't know how many hotels the company actually built.
The Blue Bonnet Hotel was torn down in late 1971, by the Charles Schreiner Bank, which built the parking lot which stands on the spot today.
I have fond memories of the Blue Bonnet Hotel, and I wonder what a new hotel might mean today for Kerrville, and Kerrville's Old Town area.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has several artifacts from the Blue Bonnet Hotel in his collection of Kerrville and Kerr County historical items. This column was published in the Kerrville Daily Times August 6, 2016.

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