Historic Kerr County photographs available!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The 100 year old controversy of Kerrville's railroad passenger depot

Kerrville's controversial passenger depot, built by the
San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad, 1915.
Click on any image to enlarge
Two new historical markers were unveiled September 16th at the site of the old railroad passenger depot and an adjoining lumber yard. The ceremony begins at 2 pm, and the public is invited.
The old San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad depot, on Schreiner Street between Sidney Baker and Clay streets, was built in 1915; today it is the home of Rails, a Cafe at the Depot.
SAP advertisement
The lumber yard next door was once the home of Beitel Lumber Company; that building dates from 1889.
The depot building being honored with an historical marker Saturday was not the first train depot in Kerrville. That wooden structure burned down in September, 1913.
"An alarm was turned in shortly after 11 o'clock, but by the time the first company was on the ground the entire building, which had evidently taken fire from within, was a mass of flames. In the freight warehouse were a number of barrels of oils of different kinds, which together with lard bacon and other inflammable merchandise made a terrific fire. On a siding near the depot were two cars of merchandise. These were also completely destroyed."
Chief Tom Tarver, who carried
Kerrville's mail from the depot to
the post office -- for 33 years.
It took several years to get a new passenger depot built, and once built a controversy erupted.
Not long after the new depot was constructed, on land sold to the railroad company by the Beitel family, a suit was brought to prevent the railroad company from using the new depot. Apparently, when the railroad came to Kerrville in 1887, the citizens of Kerrville donated around 14 acres of land for use by the railroad for a passenger and freight depot. The new, brick depot was not on the donated land.
In the July 31, 1915 issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun makes mention of the case; another issue, in July 29, 1916, says a verdict was reached for the plaintiffs. Notice of appeal to higher courts was reported in the same paragraph.
A news item in the Galveston Daily News, on May 10, 1916 may shed some light on the controversy:
The '500' railroad car
"An argument was heard in the Kerrville depot controversy," the newspaper reported, concerning a hearing before the Texas Railroad Commission in Austin, "where there is a division between the mayor and some of the citizens. Today's petition asked the commission to order the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad to build and maintain what was characterized as an adequate passenger station at Kerrville, located on the old depot site and on the south side of the tracks. It also protested against the petition of the mayor of Kerrville and the SA&AP Railroad for permission to use the brick depot constructed by the [company]. The new depot is declared inadequate and unsuitable and inconveniently and dangerously located. There is an injunction pending in the courts to prevent the use of the depot."
The railroad engine turntable
Looking at the 1904 Sanborn maps of Kerrville, I see the original depot was on the corner of Quinlan and Schreiner streets, about where Dealers Electrical Supply has their store today. The 1910 map shows the depot closer to the middle of that block, with the railroad tracks well away from Schreiner Street. The 1916 map shows the new brick depot (and current home of Rails) in its location, but still shows the old passenger depot on Quinlan.
The 1916 map shows something else interesting: Schreiner Street did not connect to what is now Sidney Baker Street, meaning the railroad track was not in the middle of the Schreiner Street, as it was when I was younger.
The controversy over the new depot continued until at least 1919, when the San Antonio Evening News reported the Railroad Commission drawing up an order to require the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad Company to use its new brick depot in Kerrville. That article says the brick depot had been closed for 18 months.
I suppose Kerrville hasn't changed all that much. After waiting years for a new depot, the little town divided over the question of the location of the depot.
The old lumber building was much less controversial.
On all of the maps I studied, the Beitel Lumber Company building is almost the only building in the area which remains. If built in 1889, it's older than many of the limestone buildings downtown, including the old Masonic building (home of Sheftall's Jewelers), and the Weston building (home of Francisco's Restaurant). Both of those buildings were built in 1890.
The Beitel Lumber Company yard in Kerrville was an extension of their business in San Antonio, and started here around 1889.
Ally Beitel's home on Myrta Street
A young member of that family, Ally Beitel, moved to Kerrville in 1909 to manage the business, and soon became very involved in community affairs, serving as president of the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, and the Kerrville Country Club. He even served a term as county commissioner.
Ally Beitel died young, at 44, after an extended illness, in May, 1933. His lovely home can still be seen at the southern corner of Washington and Myrta streets.
When I was a youngster a lumber yard was still in operation at the site, Hill Country Lumber, run by the Gus duMenil family.
I'm happy the Kerr County Historical Commission is working to place historical markers at worthy sites in our community, and I'm thankful to folks like Mark and Linda Stone who have worked hard to restore these and other historical buildings. I'm proud, too, of Melissa Southern and John Hagerla for creating a successful businesses in the restored buildings.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has enjoyed many a meal in the old depot, from dining at Rails, and going all the way back to when it was a barbecue place run by the Walkers. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 16, 2017.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Football has a long history in Kerr County

Kerrville Tivy Football Pep Rally late 1950s
Tivy High School football pep rally, downtown Kerrville, late 1950s
Click on any image to enlarge
With football season underway, I wanted to check my files for stories about the history of football in Kerr County.
The earliest mention of football I've found is on a 1907 postcard, showing a game underway at the old West Texas Fairgrounds in Kerrville. However, despite the title on the postcard, the game being played certainly looks like basketball: there are two hoops in the photo and the teams are wearing shorts and light shirts. None appear to be wearing padding of any kind, and no one has a helmet.
The first mention I see of high school football was at Tivy, in 1911.
Tivy High School Football Team, 1913
A few years ago Jan Wilkinson mailed me an article from the September 26, 1957 issue of the Kerrville Times, written by Eugene T. Butt, who was himself a member of an interesting Kerrville family.
"Football came to Tivy in the fall of 1911," the page one article begins. "Prior to this time baseball was the principal sport and when school started in September the boys started baseball and played until the weather became too cold.
"In the summer of 1911, Professor Alvin Dille . . . was elected head of the Kerrville Schools. When school started in September, one of the first things he did was call all of the older boys together and to say, 'Boys, we are going to organize a Tivy Football Team. Who wants to try out for the team?'
Tivy football team, 1920
"Of course, almost all of the boys were interested, although there was not a boy who had played football before and but few of them had even seen a game. There were a very few holdbacks, however, for nearly every boy who wore 'long breeches' tried out and there were about twenty on the first squad.
"Professor Dille taught the boys the fundamentals of the game. The team worked from a straight T formation. Only simple plays were used -- such as end runs, 'line bucks,' and forward passing.
"We had one or two so-called trick plays. One was the criss-cross in which the quarterback gave the ball to one end and he gave it to the other end coming from the opposite direction. It was slow, though, and we never gained much with it.
1936 Tivy football team
"The Tivy boys had no uniforms, but wore old baseball uniforms or caps, old sweaters, or anything they had. A few of them got hold of old pieces of football equipment," Butt wrote. "I acquired a noseguard somewhere and it was responsible for the only touchdown we scored that season.
"The town team was punting and I broke through the line and the ball hit my noseguard and bounced back over the kicker's head and over their goal line, and Lewis Moore, a Tivy end, fell on it for a touchdown."
The earliest photo of the Tivy football team in my collection is of the 1913 team. That group at least had uniforms.
The 1936 Tivy football team had a stellar season, and played in Amarillo for the state championship. This was before schools competed against like-sized schools; Tivy was playing for the championship of all of the schools in Texas, against the Amarillo Sandies. In that two-team contest let's just say the Sandies came in next to last, and Tivy came in second.
A lot of folks remember traveling to that game; the team and the Tivy mascot, a young deer nicknamed 'Scrappy' traveled by train to Amarillo. I don't think anyone stayed in Kerrville that cold weekend; they all headed north, to Amarillo.
All of the area schools had football teams by the 1920s, and traditions begun then continue to today.
Houston Oilers at training camp in Kerrville ca 1970
Houston Oilers at training camp
on the campus of Schreiner Institute
Schreiner Institute also had football teams. The earliest dated photo I have of a Mountaineer football team is from 1923, sent to me by Jack Stevens, whose father was on that team.
There is even a little professional football history in Kerr County.
A few readers might remember the Houston Oilers training camp held at Schreiner Institute (now University), though the team arrived in Kerrville in early July for several years. The earliest mention I found was in July 1967, and the team continued coming to Kerrville each summer until 1973. Members of the team stayed in Schreiner dorm rooms.
Here's hoping for a successful and safe football season for all the teams in Kerr County this year.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects photographs and artifacts about Kerrville and Kerr County history. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 9, 2017.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

A noble company leaves Kerrville 100 years ago

"Boys leaving Kerrville WWI - 1917"
Company D on Main Street in Kerrville, in front of the Kerr County Courthouse
September 1917
Click on any image to enlarge
One hundred years ago this Tuesday, on September 5, 1917, Company D of the First Texas Infantry marched to the Kerrville depot of the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad, boarded the train, and headed to Camp Bowie near Fort Worth.
Company D was made up of local young men, mostly from Kerr County, but also a few from neighboring counties.
Two recently discovered photographs show Company D marching on Kerrville's Main Street, and are labeled "Kerrville boys leaving for 1st World War," and "Boys leaving Kerrville WWI - 1917."
"Kerrville Boys leaving for 1st World War"
Company D on Main Street in Kerrville, in the 600 Block, heading west
September 1917
In one photo, the troops are marching west in the 600 block of Main Street, just past where John Miller has his car dealership today. In the other, they are marching in front of the courthouse square in the 700 block of Main Street.
In that photo you can see Kerr County's second and third courthouses, two cut limestone buildings that were torn down in the 1920s. Both of those structures were sited near Main Street on the courthouse square; the current courthouse is centered in that block and would be behind the two courthouses in the old photograph.
I have a roster of Company D which was published in October, 1917, a month after the young men left Kerrville. It lists 77 privates in the company, 2 mechanics, 2 musicians, 12 corporals, 9 sergeants, including a first sergeant and mess sergeant, and three lieutenants. Company D was recruited and organized by Capt. Charles J. Seeber.
106 names are on the roster; three of those names are listed on the Kerr County War Memorial, a thought provoking structure on today's courthouse lawn; those three are among the 19 other Kerr County men who died in World War I.
The three men of Company D listed on the Kerr County War Memorial are Francisco Lemos, Sidney Baker, and Leonard Denton -- and those three are in the group pictured in the two photographs.
Leonard Denton never left Camp Bowie; he died from influenza in April, 1918, and is buried in the Turtle Creek Cemetery.
Sidney Baker and Francisco Lemos are also in the photograph; both would die in combat in France. Baker died in October 1918; Lemos, September 1918. Both were killed in the last few weeks of the war.
Baker is buried in France and Lemos is buried in Kerrville at the Mountain View Cemetery, next to Tivy Stadium.
Company D roster, Camp Bowie
October 1917
If the photographs are of Company D marching to the train station, as labeled, one of the photographs records Sidney Baker turning for the last time to walk on Tchoupitoulas Street, a street which would be renamed in his honor a few years after the photograph was taken.
I noticed several things about these two photographs of the young men marching along Main Street.
First, they appear to be taken around noon. Secondly, a horse drawn carriage travels with them, carrying about four women, and boys walk with the troops. Third, in one of the photographs a dog is tagging along.
Rev. S. W. Kemerer, the pastor of the Kerrville Methodist Church, wrote about the men's departure from the train depot back in 1917:
"Probably the largest number of people that ever assembled at the Aransas Pass depot in Kerrville gathered Wednesday afternoon to bid farewell to Company D, which departed for new training quarters at Camp Bowie, Fort Worth.
"As Company D goes forth from our midst to fight for country and humanity, the heart of Kerrville and entire surroundings is with them.
"That was a memorable sight at the station," Rev. Kemerer writes, "when Kerrville gathered to tell the boys good-bye, and bid them God-speed on their first lap to the front -- to Somewhere in France.
"The train was making up, and the engine puffed and rang its bell sharply while performing its indispensable part in this gigantic tragedy of all time. A great throng was grouped about the station and lined up along the tracks. There were fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sweethearts and loved ones, friends and neighbors... We heard kindly greetings and brief jokes and repartee, but somehow they sounded a little forced and lacked spontaneity. There were no loud calls or shouts. A deeper note was sweeping the hearts of both the soldiers and the gathered throng. But there was the warm handclasp and low spoken well wishes, and sometimes only a look of blessing and farewell. God knew that many mothers' hearts were torn, that many fathers' hearts were too full for words, and that tears streamed from many eyes, so God also wept in the tender rain that fell, for He looked on and understood and loved.
Company D, First Texas Infantry, at Camp Bowie, 1917
"Then the bugle sounded, and the boys lined up. Captain Seeber uttered brief short orders. Each line became straight, every form erect. An orderly called the names crisply. What a response! It sounded short and sharp like the crack of a gun -- 'Here,' 'Here,' 'Here,' -- until every man had made answer....
"They were a noble company. They answered like men who had measured the task and were eager to engage in its accomplishment.
"So the train moved away, the engine with two flags fluttering at its headlight, the bell sounding ceaselessly, the soldier boys leaning far from the windows waving farewell. And the great throng waved farewell, and the lovely hills of Kerrville threw farewell kisses, and the clouds wept farewell."
Indeed, they were a noble company. And now, in these newly found photographs, we can see them as they march together to leave Kerrville.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects items from Kerrville and Kerr County's history. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 2, 2017.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A brief history of libraries in Kerrville

Children at the newly opened Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, around 1967.
I recognize a few of these youngsters; I went to school with them, and was their age.
Click on any image to enlarge
This weekend the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library celebrates the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the library, which took place on August 26, 1967.
A kind friend gave me a copy of the library's dedication program, and from that treasure I learned the following history of libraries in Kerrville:
Westminster Presbyterian Encampment, Kerrville
Westminster Presbyterian Encampment, Kerrville
Though Kerr County had its beginning in 1856 (and Kerrville in 1889), the first library wasn't organized until 1931. The Fine Arts League had an auxiliary organization, the Literary Club; its main purpose was to establish a library.
When the League disbanded during the Great Depression, the Literary Club shared its meager resources and "began an struggle for a building that was to take many years to achieve."
The Texas Presbyterian College house at Westminster Encampment, which was on the side of the Schreiner Institute campus closest to town, became the first library. "Despite the depression a book shower the first year provided nine books and small donations."
The Schreiner Mansion photographed
during the time
it served as the library
Books were loaned at "3 cents per day with a charge for overtime added to the revenue." Due to club activities membership in the club grew, and the holdings in the library gradually increased.
"With the donation of 390 books in 1939, the library was forced to move its 1300 books into two rooms of the Capt. Schreiner home." By 1941 membership was opened to the public at $1.00 per year. Around that time the Kerrville Library Association was formed.
In 1954 the library became a free library, meaning its resources were available to everyone. By the county's centennial (1956), the Kerr County Public Library circulated 23,837 books.
Memorial Library, Kerrville
Memorial Library, Kerrville
Around 1958 a former church building on the corner of Water and Rodriguez streets was purchased, and, for the first time, the library owned its own building.
In 1961 a bookmobile service was provided to Bandera, Gillespie, Kendall, and Kerr Counties, a demonstration project of the Texas State Library Service; it was discontinued after one year due to a lack of funds.
Moving day for the books
By 1965, "the library again faced expansion and the addition of a new wing was scheduled." Contributions came in -- around $7,000 -- even before the fund drive was announced.
I'm not sure how the Butt family became involved, but they did, and in a grand way. By the summer of 1967 the new library was complete.
Parking, BHML
The dedication ceremony really pulled out the stops. Lady Bird Johnson, who was then first lady, came and gave the dedicatory address. Bands played, local officials spoke, anthems were sung, and prayers were offered. And, when the dust settled, Kerr County had a library, one of the best in the state.
For me it was a wonderful event; 4 days after my 6th birthday and the weekend before I started first grade (at Starkey Elementary) this family I'd never heard of -- the Butt family -- built a library, it seemed, just for me.
Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library
Because no intersections separated the new library from the print shop I was free to walk there any time. In fact, to get me out of the print shop, I'm sure I was encouraged to walk down to the library.
And walk there I did. Often. I loved the new library.
I'm thankful to the hundreds of families, individuals, and companies who've made the dream of a great library a reality. I look forward to the library meeting the needs of the community for many years to come.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who still has his very first library card. Well, of course he does. He never throws anything away. This column appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times August 26, 2017.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library celebrates 50 years of service

Dedication Ceremony, Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, Kerrville
Dedication Ceremony, Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, Kerrville
Click on any image to enlarge
Fifty years ago today, on August 26, 1967, our community celebrated the grand opening of the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library at a dedication ceremony attended by 2,500 people, including Lady Bird Johnson and the donors of the library building, Howard and Mary Butt.
It was truly one of the red letter days in our community's history, marking the culmination of a decades-long dream while also expressing great hope for the future of Kerrville and Kerr County.
The new library building at 505 Water Street, built on a site overlooking the Guadalupe River, was a gift of Howard and Mary Butt, both Tivy graduates with family ties in Kerr County, and designated as a memorial to their families.
Howard Butt at Dedication Ceremony, Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, Kerrville
Howard Butt at the ceremony
It was designed by the architectural firm of Christian, Bright & Pennington of Corpus Christi, and construction was under the supervision of J. H. Daniel of San Antonio, with Lawrence Goodrich the foreman in charge of construction. The landscape architect was Durward Thompson.
Overall, the building had floor space of over 21,000 square feet on three floors, and closely resembles in appearance and design the library built for the University of Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1963. That building was also a gift of Howard and Mary Butt, and is still in use on what is now the Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi as an administration building.
Our library building features a mural of Kerr County history by Merrill Doyle, and mosaic tile artwork by Salina Saur. Tiles by Mary Green decorated the amphitheater, featuring characters from books for children. The decoupage panels decorated the children's reading area were made by Christine Gerber. Dotted around the property were quotes from literature and phrases from poetry, selected by Mary Butt.
Dedication Ceremony, Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, Kerrville
Kerrville mayor Gordon Monroe and
Lady Bird Johnson at the event
From beginning to completion, the planning and construction of the building took about 18 months. At the dedication ceremony, Howard Butt thanked his wife Mary for her dedication to the project.
"If this building's beauty, character, and functional qualities are above the ordinary," he said, "I want to pay tribute to my wife who has dedicated at least a year and a half of her life to planning it."
Lady Bird Johnson also praised Mary Holdsworth Butt's work on the library.
"Mrs. Butt," the First Lady said, "who has become conversant with every brick and stone and light plug since its inception tells me that it has room to grow immediately from its wonderful collection of 20,000 to 75,000 volumes. With great relish she told me of the day the school children carried loads of books from the old library into this one, and of last week how so many of the community leaders were handling the phone calls and last-minute chores to prepare for this day."
Crowd at Dedication Ceremony, Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, Kerrville
An estimated 2,500 people attended the event
August 26, 1967 was a hot day in Kerrville. Even though fifty years have passed, people remember how hot is was that day. Ruth Hinkle remembers "it was extremely hot, several people fainted." Steve Meeker remembers the same "it was very hot and several people did faint."
Mrs. W. A. Salter wrote about the day in her column in the August 30, 1967 issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun: "The day was one of beauty...the mist on the river, the haze on the hills...the washed look of the world and the sunshine bathing the scene...and the magnificent setting."
The hot weather did not keep the crowds away. 2,500 people attended the ceremony, which was about a quarter of the population of Kerrville. Those who were not included in the guest list admitted inside the building filled up the area below the library, between the library and the river bluff. It was quite a crowd, but from the photos, you can tell it was a special occasion. "My mom made us dress up for the occasion," Sue Alice Jackson Shay remembers.
Photographs of the event, especially candid photos taken by those who attended, clearly show how excited and happy everyone was. The new library was a big deal to the community, and not just as a physical building. The ideas behind the library were just as important.
Attendees Dedication Ceremony, Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, Kerrville
Another view of the attendees
"Perhaps no place in any community is as totally democratic as the town library," Lady Bird Johnson said in her address. "The only entrance requirement is interest, whether you are a Ph.D. or haven't even started school. It is here that you can communicate with the liveliest minds of the ages...Books are the scissors by which man can cut his bonds of his own ignorance. I salute all the planners who have seen that this library is not only a landmark of learning, but a landmark of beauty. This is, indeed, a proud day for all of us."
Charles Butt, the youngest son of Howard and Mary Butt, has provided support for the library for decades, including for the last series of renovations completed several years ago. He also spoke at the dedication fifty years ago, expressing in an invocation his hope that the library help spread knowledge and "put an end to mistrust, prejudice and ignorance."
At the end of the ceremony, Howard and Mary Butt gave the keys to the building to Kerrville mayor Gordon Monroe and the county judge of Kerr County, Julius Neunhoffer.
"It is our privilege to deliver the possession of this beautiful building," Howard Butt said, "of making this gift of what we hope will be a great institution to serve the people of the Hill Country and the children for years and years to come."
I was a child when the library opened, and I know this hope was fulfilled. Not just for me, but for many children, including my own, decades later.
"My love of reading was born in that library," Deborah Lozano wrote me. "I do remember when it opened and the excitement I felt. I was about 8 years old. I still remember the smell of all of those books when you walked in the door...I rode my bike there almost every Saturday and spent my summer days there as well."
View of audience Dedication Ceremony, Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, Kerrville
It was a very hot day
"My love started the day the library was dedicated," JoAnn Somers Honey shared with me. She was 6 or 7 years old during the dedication ceremony. "Perched high atop my Daddy's shoulders, and thrilled that this 'new house' would be the house that would open up more books to me, and eventually the whole world."
Alex Calderon has special memories of the library dedication, through his father, Aladino, who worked for the city. "We helped set up all the chairs and dug the hole for the tree [Lady Bird Johnson] planted." His father "also set up the podium and we watched the ceremony. After it was over we got to meet Mrs. Johnson and then we took everything down. It was quite an event. That is what I remember."
Likewise, Daniel Craft remembers helping his uncle, Wesley 'June' Cass, landscaping the parking area behind the library. Within "every brick in the back area, [we] filled them with dirt, and planted a small piece of St Augustine grass from Mosty Brothers Nursery."
The Kerrville Daily Times ran an editorial that weekend which stated "Saturday was an historic day in Kerrville. Dedication of the stunningly beautiful Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library by the nation's First Lady is a turning point in the cultural and educational history of our city and, for that matter, of the entire Hill Country."
It really was a turning point, and, for many continues to "change the trajectory" of many young lives.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who spent many hours at the new library in 1967.  This story appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times August 25, 2017.



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