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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Two newly discovered photos of Kerrville in 1897

Kerrville, 1897.  On the left, the Gregory Hotel; on the right, the St. Charles Hotel.
These stood at the intersection of Water and what is now Sidney Baker Street.
Click any image to enlarge.
In the winter of 1897 photographs of Kerrville were taken by "Mr. Lowrey, a traveling man.' Two of his photographs survive, and this past week a kind reader shared them with me, and now I can share them with you.
The problem with 120-year-old photographs is this: none of the structures in the two images still exist. By looking closely at the images you'd never find the spot from which they were taken, using modern clues, since the landscape and buildings have completely changed since that time.
This problem makes figuring out from where each photo was taken more of a challenge, and therefore much more fun. In fact, you'd need a bag of tricks to solve the mystery.
I can now confirm both of the images were taken in Kerrville; one from what is now Peterson Plaza, facing roughly west, toward what is now Pampell's; the other was taken from the other side of the river, in what is now Louise Hays Park, near where the footbridge stands today, looking up the bluff to the area between the vacant Bank of America building to the vacant Arcadia Theater.
Neither photograph shows people, though that's probably because it was cold. One of the photos was taken after a snowfall.
That photo, of the side of the St. Charles Hotel (which stood on the eastern corner of today's Sidney Baker and Water Street) shows the Gregory Hotel (which, after many transformations, is now the Pampell's building). I've never seen this photo before.
There are several significant things in the photograph. First, it shows the St. Charles grew after 1897; an addition shown in other photographs of the building is not in this photograph. Second, a building is visible between the two hotels which I've never seen before. It's on the western corner of the intersection of Water and Sidney Baker.
One of the tools I use to help me decipher old photographs is my collection of Sanborn-Perris fire maps, and I have a copy of one from August, 1898. I bought transparencies of these old maps years ago from the Library of Congress, and they've proven useful many times.
The 1898 map shows the St. Charles without an addition, and the 1904 map shows the St. Charles with the addition, so the handwritten date of 1897 on the back of the photographs is probably accurate.
The 'mystery building' shown in the gap between the two hotels is listed on the Sanborn map, and labeled "Notions & Mill'y," and its description on the map matches the photograph. It's a frame building of one story with an awning in front.
Kerrville, from the river, 1897
Kerrville, from the Guadalupe River, 1897.
The buildings shown once stood in the 700 block Water Street
The other photo taken in 1897 was more difficult to figure out. It was taken from the Louise Hays Park area, near where the footbridge crosses today, and it looked toward the bluff and town. At first I didn't think it was actually of Kerrville, but had been mislabeled years ago. This happens frequently. I didn't recognize a single building in the photograph, and there was a building in the middle with a chimney and sloping roof.
But studying the old 1898 map showed me I was wrong: it was definitely of Kerrville. The photographer waded across the river and pointed his camera north. The building with the chimney in the center of the photograph is the St. Charles Hotel. The building closest to the photographer was the windmill and warehouse shop of Charles Schreiner. The other buildings were a part of the camp yard, where ranchers could park their wagons and spend the night when they brought wool or mohair to market, or when they made a run into town for supplies.
Nothing else is known about the photographer, Mr. Lowrey, beyond the inscription on the back of each photograph. Perhaps additional photographs taken by him will be found.
In 120 years the photos we snap today will likely be as foreign to viewers as are these photographs to us. However, if all of the digital photos we take are never printed on paper, it's possible we'll have more photographs of Kerrville from 1897 than we will from 2017.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects historical items from Kerrville and Kerr County, and who enjoys a good puzzle. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 17, 2017.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Solving the Mysteries of Kerr County Photographs

1938 Tivy Bugle Corps taken on Antler Field, on Tivy Street
Tivy Bugle Corps, 1938, on Antler Field,
back when the football field was parallel to Tivy Street.
Note building in the background behind bleachers.
It's one of my small obsessions, trying to figure out where something once stood, or trying to confirm where an old Kerrville photograph was taken.
Take, for example, the old Tivy football field. I've mentioned it plenty of times. The current Antler Stadium was opened in 1941, just a few weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor, but Tivy had been playing football for decades before that stadium was built. I'd been told the old football field was near Tivy and Barnett Streets, but it was hard to figure out exactly where.
That football field hosted more than just football. For a string of summers it was also the site of a big July Fourth rodeo. It was a community gathering place, and it's now gone.
I had reported, years ago, the old football field was behind the school in an area bounded by College, 2nd, Gilmer, and North Streets. I thought this, I suppose, because a football field size area was there, and we'd practiced marching on that field when I was in the Tivy Band.
Wrong: the football field, I was told, was actually in the area bounded by Tivy, 3rd, College and Barnett. I was in the wrong block. Still, I couldn't figure out how they'd fit a football field in that crowded area; the old Tivy Elementary School took up most of that block.
Thumbing through the 1938 Tivy Antler yearbook today I realized how that football field fit into that block: its length ran parallel to Tivy Street, with bleachers also parallel to Tivy Street. I finally understood how the athletic field fit into the block because of a photograph showing the Tivy drum and bugle corps standing in formation on the field, with the bleachers behind them. The key, though, was a building behind the bleachers; that building is still there, at 805 Tivy Street.
The building shown has had many uses. When I was a child, I believe it was a kindergarten building; today it's the KISD Student and Family Services building. It has a distinct roofline that really stands out.
Home of Gene and Millie Butt, Kerrville
Taken in the home of Gene and Millie Butt,
on Earl Garrett Street.  The clue was the fireplace.
And, as a different example, I was looking through some of the images shared with our community by a kind person in Minnesota who found a collection of slides at an estate sale. A series of photographs showed students at someone's house, and in one of the images a woman is seated near a fireplace.
I had this feeling I'd seen that fireplace before. It was made of rough cut granite and had a very singular look.
It happened that I had a printing delivery to make to the H. E. Butt Family Foundation offices on Earl Garrett Street this week. In the first building I entered, I asked if I could take a photograph of the fireplace, which is quite lovely. The kind person there reminded me there was another fireplace in the next building, and I should take a photograph there, too.
When I got back to the print shop, I compared the two photographs with the photos from 60 years ago.
It turned out the fireplace in the 1956-57 photographs was in the second building, which was a home built for Gene and Millie Butt. (The similar house next door was built for Florence Butt, who founded what is now H-E-B Grocery Company.)
I have a hunch the woman in the photograph is Millie Butt, who was a beloved fifth-grade teacher here in Kerrville for decades. She was the daughter-in-law of Florence Butt, and sister-in-law to Howard Butt. (I'm hopeful someone can confirm this hunch, or point me in the right direction.)
For the most part, this obsession is harmless. Hopefully it will help piece together the story of our community.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who often focuses on things which should probably be ignored. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 10, 2017.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Every H-E-B employee in a single photograph

Original employees of HEB store in Kerrville Texas
C. C. Butt Grocery Company employees and the Florence Butt family,
a selfie, taken around 1915 in downtown Kerrville
An interesting photo returned to Kerrville this week. It was taken in the 800 block of Main Street, roughly behind where Wolfmueller's Books stands today on Earl Garrett Street. A parking lot is on the site now, but when the photo was taken, around 1915, a family's home was there, and the photograph was taken on the porch of their house. There are eight people in the photograph; six men and two women.
On the front row are Johnnie Hamilton, Nita Butt, Florence Butt, and Howard Butt; standing behind them are Claude Richerson, Leland Richeson, Charles Butt, and Gene Butt. Charles, Gene and Howard are Florence's sons; Nita is the wife of Charles Butt. Johnny Hamilton is the brother in law of Leland Richeson. The one person who is not connected to the others is Claude Richerson, but I have a theory to explain why he is in the photograph, which I'll explain in a bit.
Florence Butt opened a grocery store on Main Street in Kerrville in 1905 in a two-story building which was across the street from the house where this photograph was taken. That little grocery store grew into what is today's H-E-B Grocery Company.
I'm thankful to a kind friend who sent me an original print of the photograph; I had a nice scan in my collection (also from him), but having an original will allow me to study the details much easier. (That scan was used in my first book, "Home," which was published in 2010.)
Studying the original photo, I can now tell the photo was a selfie. You can see the shutter cable snaking from the camera to the bench on which four of the people are resting. I can't determine whether Florence or her son Gene took the photograph; Florence's hand looks as if it might be pushing the plunger on the cable, but Gene had an interest in photography at the time, and the cable looks as if it's heading toward him.
What's interesting about the photo, at least to me, is who is in the picture, and who is not in the picture.
Leland Richeson was the first employee of the grocery store, and was later a business partner with Howard Butt for many years. Later still, he became the first retiree from the company. If this photo was taken in 1915, Richeson was around 26 years old.
Leland's brother in law, Johnnie Hamilton worked at the store and roomed with the Butt family. I have a scan of a postcard he wrote home on April 3, 1915, where he writes "Am in Kerrville now. Guess will spend Easter here. Am feeling very well." Johnnie came to Kerrville because he had tuberculosis; he passed away from the disease in 1918.
Florence Butt home in Kerrville Texas around 1915
The Butt family home in Kerrville around 1915.
Back of Masonic Building (now Sheftall's Jewelers)
can be seen to right of home.
I can guess why Florence, her sons, and her daughter in law were in the photo. All were active in the grocery business. Charles, according to a sketch by J. E. Grinstead, was taking a leadership role in the company; in this photo, Charles would have been around 25. Howard had just graduated from Tivy in 1914; he would serve in World War I in 1918. Gene offered film processing at the store, and would later leave the grocery store to work at the post office. Sadly, Charles would later die of tuberculosis.
Missing from the photo was Florence's husband, Charles Sr., who passed away in March of 1915, also a victim of tuberculosis. Missing, too, was Florence's stepson Kearney Butt, who ran a second-hand furniture store in Kerrville.
Which brings us back to Claude Richerson. In early October, 1915, this item appeared in the Kerrville Mountain Sun: "Claude Richardson [sic] of the C. C. Grocery Store has accepted a position with Guggenheim-Goldsmith in San Antonio."
Based on all of this, I have this theory: this photograph was a picture of people who worked together. I think this was a photo of the employees and family of Florence's little grocery company.
According to H-E-B's website, the company now has over 76,000 employees. But on a cold day in Kerrville, sometime around 1915, the entire company could crowd around a rocking chair built for two, and have their photograph taken.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects historic Kerrville and Kerr County photographs and historical items. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 3, 2017.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Dedicated To Their Memory

Dedication Ceremony, WWI Memorial Park,
Kerrville, 1938
Did you know we have a park in Kerrville dedicated to the memory of Kerr County soldiers who gave their lives for our country in World War I?
Neither did I until a friend brought by some old photographs by the print shop last week, although I've passed by the little park several thousand times. It's likely you have passed it, too.
The park is located at what was once the gateway to the city, at the intersection of Broadway and Water streets. The joined streets become Memorial Boulevard. It's the little triangle of land opposite the Union Church, which is on the western tip of the campus of Schreiner University, and also opposite the Raphael Community Free Clinic.  Recent utility work has left a unsightly slab of concrete and various utility boxes marring the site.
Before IH10 sliced through our county, all traffic between San Antonio and El Paso passed this little triangle of land; that route was called the Old Spanish Trail, and it stretched from Florida to California, just like IH10.
So, in 1938, when the park was dedicated, it was the entrance to our community, and the park was chosen for its prominent location.
The photograph shows a group of women standing behind a carved stone on which a bronze plaque is mounted. On either side of the women are two men with U. S. flags. Behind them a group has gathered, and you can see a tent (similar to funeral home tents) in the background.
Looking at the photograph, I thought I recognized some of the women, and so I had to research the photograph. I found it featured on the front page of the July 7, 1938 edition of the Kerrville Mountain Sun.
"Gold Star Mothers Attend Dedication of War Memorial," the headline read. At the time of the dedication, almost 20 years had passed since World War I ended. (That anniversary would come in November, 1938.)
According to the story, "the site of the park was purchased by the Civic League from the county commissioners, and the marker was given by Mr. and Mrs. Garland Lang. The city of Kerrville will care for the spot...."
There was a "massing of colors," while the "'Call to Colors' was sounded by the buglers from the Boy Scouts.
"Col. L. H. Webb, medical officer in charge of the U. S. Veterans facility at Legion, served as master of ceremonies, and called the names of Kerrville's glorious dead, telling something of their lives, and introduced the Gold Star Mothers."
The past commander of the State Department of the American Legion attended, and a man named Dean Martin gave a speech.
He said "people were gathered for a memorial day, for a day of dedication, to pay tribute of respect to the memory of those men from our county, our homes, who, answering the call of duty went down to the Valley of the Shadow and there answered the last roll call. In giving freely they gave their all and now sleep where the poppies bloom, 'between the crosses, row on row.'
"We are gathered," Dean Martin said, "to link the present with the past, and to face the future unafraid. 'Optimism without frivolity, seriousness without despair.'
"War means mothers who look for letters they will never see, wives who wait for voices they will never hear, and children who listen for footsteps that will never come."
The Gold Star Mothers pictured at the dedication were (on the front row) Mrs. Faust Merritt, Mrs. W. G. Garrett, Mrs. W. P. Cowden, Mrs. Eddie Kaiser, and Mrs. E. W. Baker. On the back row were Mrs. Mark Mosty (representing her brother, Robert Spicer), Mrs. Della Sommers (representing her brother, Grover Hollimon), and Mrs. Knox (representing her brother, Randolph Davis). The color bearers in the photograph are George Hauer and E. E. Kelsey, V. F. W. members.
This Memorial Day weekend, as you pass by the little park, remember the men for whom it was built, and the mothers' tears with which it was dedicated. It is a quiet little memorial and we often pass it by without notice.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who will certainly miss his father-in-law, Irv Gregory, who passed away Tuesday. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times May 27, 2017.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

An Autumn Kerrville Afternoon in 1956

Tivy High School pep rally
Tivy High School Pep Rally, 1956
Downtown Kerrville, intersection of Water and Earl Garrett streets
Click on any image to enlarge
In the autumn of 1956, students of Tivy High School staged a pep rally in downtown Kerrville, as they had for decades, and as they would continue to do for decades. As with most of these events, there was a photographer on hand, taking photographs, most likely for the yearbook. The photographer carefully labeled most of the photographs.
These photographs were taken with film used to make color slides, which is a little unusual, but fortunate. While the colors have shifted a little to red and orange over the past 60+ years, a shift which can be easily corrected using modern computer software, the important thing is this: these images are in color. Many of the images in my collection from that era are in black and white, so having color images from 1956 is a real treat.
No one is completely sure who took these photographs, but there are several theories, including the yearbook photographer theory. The leading candidate, if this theory is correct, would be Barbara Matthews Eddy. (If these photos were taken for the yearbook, these images would appear in the 1957 Antler, as the yearbook is published at the end of the school year.)  Many clues suggest Ms. Eddy was the photographer: the handwritten labels on the slides, plus the fact that many of the found photographs were taken later, when Ms. Eddy was in college in Minnesota.
Kerrville Tivy pep rally
Tivy High School Pep Rally, 1956
How these photographs returned to Kerrville is a story that would not have been believed in 1956.
As many of you know, I publish a history blog online. (A 'blog' is kind of an Internet newsletter.) Most Mondays and Saturdays I post photographs or stories about the history of our community. There is no charge to read the blog, and pages from the blog have been viewed over 500,000 times. The website address is simple:
People come across the blog all over the world. I've had readers from all fifty states, plus 141 foreign countries. Honestly, though, some of the countries on the list are ones I would not be able to find on a map, and most of the visitors from outside of the U.S. don't spend a lot of time on my website. Go figure.
Monday I was contacted by a person in Minnesota who told me he'd found a box of color slides at an estate sale in Hastings, Minnesota. I suppose he searched the internet for Tivy, or for some of the names written on the sleeves of the color slides. That led him to my blog, and to my email address, which he used to contact me.
Kerrville Tivy High School
Tivy High School Pep Rally, 1956
He's never been to Kerrville, but has some family in New Braunfels. And he was very generous with the photographs, scanning some and emailing them to me.
Imagine, then, how this story would have read in 1956: "Local man publishes blog, which is read over the Internet by a man in Minnesota; the man in Minnesota scans 60 year old color slides and sends them to local man by email."
I've asked for permission to publish the photographs on my blog, and the man in Minnesota has graciously agreed. Over the next few days I'll post the photographs. I think you'll agree they're pretty cool!
1956 was an important year in Kerr County: it was the year the community celebrated the 100th anniversary of the creation of Kerr County. It was also a year when thousands of photographs were taken of events which marked that celebration: parades, contests, store displays. Most of those photographs, however, were in black and white.
Tivy High School pep rally
Tivy High School Pep Rally, 1956
The photographs of the pep rally made me realize some of the traditions which were popular when I was a student at Tivy in the late 1970s were started many years earlier.
In a few of the photographs, the students have their right arms pressed against their chests. Their right hand and arm are parallel to the ground; their right elbow is straight, too, and away from their bodies. Their extended right hands are just covering their hearts, palms facing down, parallel to the ground.
I knew exactly what they were doing as some of these photographs were taken, at the exact moment the shutter clicked. They were singing the Tivy alma mater while the Tivy marching band played. "We are from Tivy," they were singing, "from Tivy are we...."
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who played the Tivy alma mater many times on his dented cornet, more or less in time and tune with the rest of the Tivy marching band.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times May 20, 2017



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