Historic Kerr County photographs available!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

A mystery Kerrville photo with a back story

A woman and girl, below the mill dam in downtown Kerrville,
most likely taken in the 1890s
Old Kerrville and Kerr County photographs intrigue me, as you already know.
This week a kind reader brought by a photograph of a woman and a girl standing beside the old mill dam in downtown Kerrville. The image is intriguing for several reasons, not only for its subjects and setting, but also for the story told about the photograph.
The old mill dam once stood just downstream from the current dam in Louise Hays Park, right in the middle of town. You can still see evidence of the old wooden dam in the riverbed, cutting at an angle across the river. A series of square holes in the limestone show where the posts of the dam once stood; some of those holes still contain wooden remnants of the posts.
What's left of this old dam is easiest to trace from a height, conveniently provided by the pavilion downtown at the end of Earl Garrett Street. From there its outline is easier to see, between the current dam and the concrete walkway crossing the river.
Standing: Frances, Caroline
and Emilee.  Seated:
Lena Schreiner
The photograph of the pair standing next to the dam was supposedly from the Captain Charles Schreiner family, and looking closely at the woman pictured, I can see a resemblance to Mary Magdalena 'Lena' Enderle Schreiner, Captain Schreiner's wife, but I cannot be certain. There is no way to tell who the girl was, since her face was hidden by her bonnet.
The woman is wearing a hat and what appears to be a fairly nice blouse and long skirt, but is standing on ground that appears muddy and wet. Dark gloves are on her hands. Her costume doesn't seem to fit her surroundings.
The girl is pointing at something on the ground, and the woman is looking in that direction, with her right arm akimbo. Just getting to the spot where the two are standing would have required crossing the fallen tree in the foreground, since directly behind the two is a channel cut into the limestone, which was filled with rushing water.
It seems the girl had something important to point out, and convinced the woman to descend the rickety stairs that clung to the river bluff.
An umbrella or parasol rests on the fallen tree. There are leaves on most of the trees, and needles on the cypress trees. The shadows are soft, and the sky appears to be overcast. The river is flowing nicely behind the pair, so it wasn't taken during a drought.
If the story about the photograph is true, and it's a photograph of Lena Schreiner, it had to be taken before September, 1905, because that's when Mrs. Schreiner died.
Charles and Lena Schreiner had eight children: three daughters and five sons. If the child is her daughter, I'd guess it was her youngest, Frances Hellen Schreiner Jeffers, who was born in 1881. If the child in the photograph is Frances, and if she was around 10 years old when the photograph was taken, then this photograph was taken around 1891.
That puts the back story in the realm of the possible. Photographs in Kerr County from the 1890s are not impossibly rare, though few exist. Photographs taken in Kerr County before 1890 are extremely rare, so the birth dates of the other two Schreiner daughters, Caroline Marie Schreiner Partee (1873) and Emilie Louise Schreiner Rigsby (1875) would make it unlikely that they're the girl in the photograph.
As the youngest child of eight children, Frances Hellen would have been more likely than her elder siblings to persuade her mother to tromp through the mud to visit the mill dam. (Such a trip would also have been even more likely had the girl been Mrs. Schreiner's granddaughter, which may also be a possibility.)
While I cannot prove the image is of Mrs. Lena Schreiner, I haven't found enough evidence to disprove it, either. The family tradition about the photograph says it's of Mrs. Schreiner, and it may well be.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects historic Kerrville and Kerr County photographs. Share yours with him!  He'll scan them and give them back to you. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times October 21, 2017.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Historic Weston Building in Downtown Kerrville

The Weston Building in Kerrville
Two daring motorists, in front of the Weston Building,
at the intersection of Water and (then) Mountain Streets, circa 1920.
Click on any image to enlarge.
During the school year I seldom get to have lunch downtown with Ms. Carolyn, my teacher wife, but since Kerrville students had a holiday this past Monday, she met me for lunch downtown -- in between meetings and workshops held for the Kerrville Independent School District staff.
We met at one of her favorite places for lunch: Francisco's. The popular spot is owned by my high school classmate, Francisco 'Paco' Espinoza. We've enjoyed his restaurant from its earliest days, back when it was located next to the library in a row of former apartments, since moved to Depot Square.
Around 1990
As we were sitting outside I looked up at the old building, and wondered how many times it has been photographed over the years. Its location, at the intersection of Water and Earl Garrett, is one which is frequently part of community celebrations.
A different view
Parades of all kinds have marched near the building, from high school pep rallies, military parades, and even in the late 1890s, a regional Saengerfest celebration. Street dances have been held on the Star.
Lucky for us, people pulled out their cameras quite often to record the events -- and we get to see how the building looked in different chapters of its story.
Inside Chaney's
The building is called the Weston Building, after a family who ran a saloon on the site for many years. It's my opinion, however, it would be just as appropriate to call it the Barlemann Building, since that's the name of the family who built it and operated the first business there, the Ranch Saloon. It's been the home of many businesses over the last 127 years, including saloons, a combination confectionery/taxidermy business, a sports store, and a shoe shop. Today it's simply known as Francisco's.
The Weston Building in Kerrville
Nice awnings
The building was built in 1890 by Bruno Schott and Ben Davey. They built quite a few of the stone buildings in that era, including the Tivy School, and portions of the home of Captain Charles Schreiner.
As a boy I often hoped to find secret boxes filled with priceless items from the past. I know they exist, because one was once found in the Weston Building.
The May 19, 1927 issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun: "Contents of Box taken from Weston Building Cornerstone Stir Memory of Old-Timers."
The Weston Building in Kerrville
One of my favorites
While the building was being remodeled, workers came across a small tin box, sealed with solder.
"By a very odd co-incidence, the man who lifted the box from its resting place in the cornerstone was Bruno Schott, the man who placed it there 37 years ago."
Methinks he knew where to look.

The Weston Building in Kerrville
The Mistletoe Regiment.  Photo
from the Lanza Teague collection
"When the building was constructed in August, 1890, for Charles Barlemann to house his Ranch Saloon, Bruno Schott was one of the contractors, his partner being B. A. Davey. Schott is one of the contractors remodeling the building, which, through force of legislation now houses the confectionery of R. H. Chaney."
The legislation in question was Prohibition.
The Weston Building in Kerrville
The box itself contained "photographs of Charles Barlemann, his wife and two babies, a communication signed by many of the county officials and leading citizens of that day, a list of persons who were employed in the construction work on the building, a letter written by Barlemann telling of the death of his wife a few months before, and a copy of the Kerrville News dated April 12, 1890."
The Weston Building in Kerrville
Wool wagons
Mrs. Barlemann, Jennie, was the daughter of Joshua Brown, the founder of Kerrville.
One of the letters found in the box read: "Texas Indivisible, now and forever. A. McFarland, Co. Clerk, Kerr County, Texas. August 13, 1890: F. M. Moore, Sheriff; Charles Barlemann; H. C. Greven; Otto Boerner, best beer drinker and blacksmith; Wm Schildknecht; W. E. Stewart, druggist; S. R. Craven, pill roller; B. A. Davey, Bruno Schott.
The Weston Building in Kerrville
Another letter read: "This building was built by Davey & Schott, contractors. Men that worked on the building are Gottleib Schwope, Bill Archer, Tom Farmer, Herman Meimann, Bonificio, Ad. Webber, Otto Webber, Charley Henkle, Fred Roth, Fritz Volmering, Sam Haught, Tim Benson, E. Smith, Eg. Jarinsky, Joe Babb, Alfred March, Harp Bruff, Sam Glenn, Old Man Pettie, W. B. Schott, Ben A. Davey, Arch. and Builders."
The cornerstone was laid on Barlemann's 27th birthday, so that old landmark building was built for a young man and his business.

The Weston Building in Kerrville
As I remember it when I was
a youngster, 1970s
And what became of the box and its contents? It was sent to one of the Barlemanns' daughters, Mrs. E. L. Johnson, in Gonzales, the only member of the Barlemann family living at that time. In the photo of the Barlemann family found in the box, she was just a little 6 mos. old baby.
I sure would like to see the box and its contents. And, of course, I'd like to find the other boxes still waiting, sealed behind stones and soldered tightly shut, hidden in downtown Kerrville.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who likes treasure hunts, especially when items of local history are found.  Please share your finds with him! This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times October 14, 2017.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Who was Earl Garrett?

Kerrville's Victor Earl Garrett
2nd Lt Victor Earl Garrett, circa 1917

Ninety-nine years ago last Wednesday, on October 4, 1918, Victor Earl Garrett died near Exermont, France. He was only 24.
Garrett was a 2nd Lieutenant, a member of the 28th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, U. S. Army, and died during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
For many people, Earl Garrett is just the name of a street in downtown Kerrville. But he was a brave young man who volunteered to fight for his country, a member of a prominent local family, a family who mourned his death for the rest of their lives.
I've written elsewhere about Sidney Baker and Francisco Lemos, the other two heroes of World War I who are memorialized with a street name in Kerrville. Like Garrett, both Lemos and Baker died in battle.
Lt. Garrett was killed in action while leading an attack of five men on 30 entrenched German soldiers; his four fellows survived the attack, and managed to take 20 German prisoners.
For his heroism that day, and for an incident the previous July, Garrett was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
On July 19, 1918, during the fighting near Soissons, Garrett supervised the care of his wounded men with disregard for his own safety. And on his last day, despite having an injured foot, he refused to be sent back to safety, and led the attack on the German soldiers.
He was a student at the University of Texas at Austin when war was declared, and, according to the Daily Texan of November 19, 1919, "he was among the first students to leave school in the spring of 1917 for the training camp at Leon Springs." Garrett's name was among the 88 names read at the University on November 14, 1919, when the campus honored its war dead.
The Kerrville community remembered him fondly. Pastor W. P. Dickey wrote this memorial:
"It is given to some to impress others by some striking gift or to fall through some great weakness or misfortune but rarely does one make a profound impression simply by what he is; that, I think, was the supreme distinction of Earl Garrett.
"Quiet, gentle and unassuming as a child, a youth and as a man, yet he was in all crowned with the spontaneous love and respect of all who knew him. In his Christian life he was modest and unpretentious, yet so sincere and constant as to command the admiring comment of fellow students and soldiers.
"Loving the life of a student and a dreamer, the call of duty and loyalty to the highest ideals of a citizen and Christian proved him a man of the clearest convictions and of a courage which did not falter at any danger of hardship nor hesitate to give life itself, that truth might live."
Earl Garrett had several sisters, including an older sister named Harriet, who became a teacher in the Kerrville public schools. There are many who still remember her as a teacher, but few may remember she was also a published poet. I have a signed copy of one of her books of poetry, "Nostalgia," published in 1941, which includes the poem 'An Old Refrain (to my brother Earl).'

Those last few days before he left for France
I can't forget, though years have passed. One glance
Into that sacred page brings back the pain
That now has come to be an old refrain.

Our hearts were heavy; yet we tried to smile
Whene'er we caught his eye. And all the while
Our very souls about him seemed to yearn;
And all our thoughts were prayers for his return!

And when the time had come for him to go --
That final hour that each had dreaded so --
We sent him off with smiles to hide our pain; 
We hoped the Spring would bring him home again!

But many Springs have come and gone since then,
And he no longer knows the haunts of men.
His body lies in France where poppies nod;
His soul dwells up in Glory-land with God!

But those last days before he left for France
I can't forget, though years have passed. One glance
Into that sacred page brings back the pain
That now has come to be an old refrain.

That was the person for whom a street was named in Kerrville. Victor Earl Garrett was a young man, a dreamer, who felt called to duty, who was brave to the end.  He is buried in France, at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial.  Sidney Baker is also buried there.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who finds some columns harder to write than others. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times October 7, 2017.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Hula Hoop Craze Hits Kerrville, 1958

Hill Country Hula Hoop Contest, downtown Kerrville,
Earl Garrett Street, November 1, 1958
Click on any image to enlarge
In October of 1958, a series of articles in this newspaper announced an upcoming community event, the Hill Country Hula Hoop contest, to be held on the evening of October 30th on Earl Garrett Street in the block beside the courthouse.
I found some photographs of the event in my files, and I hope they bring a smile to your face, and hopefully spur a few memories from those who were there that day.
The articles about the event started very early -- September 24, more than a full month before hoopers of all ages were to compete.
"A hula hoop contest -- open to anyone, any size, from toddlers through age 90 -- will be held on the streets of downtown Kerrville," that issue reported in a page-one story. The event was sponsored by the Kerrville Chamber of Commerce. A trailer with a public address system was lined up, as well as three live bands. Merchants were asked to stay open late that night, because of the crowds expected in the downtown area.
Kerrville was early to catch the hula hoop craze; the modern hula hoop was invented in 1958 by Arthur Melin and Richard Kneer. A nationwide fad for the toy started in July 1958, when twenty-five million were sold in less than four months. Quite a few, apparently, were also sold in Kerrville.
To promote the event, this newspaper published numerous page one photographs in the weeks before the contest, and those pictured included Ace Reid, supporting his hoop with suspenders; Ava Eldridge, hula-hooping while water skiing on a disc; then-mayor Hilmar Pressler sporting a hoop.
Judges for the event were Mayor Hilmar Pressler, Mrs. Lloyd Luna, Mrs. Kenneth Manning, Jerry Bizzell, and Glenn Petsch. The news story reporting the names of the judges included the line "It was not stated, but it is assumed these people are experts in the use of the hula hoop."
The prizes were quaint: in the six years old and under, the winner received a $10 savings account at First State Bank; the oldest hooper was awarded a $7.50 gift certificate from Fawcett Furniture Company. Schreiner's, Central Drug, Lehmann's Stores, Brehmer's Jewelers, and J C Penney each awarded $5 gift certificates; the Arcadia Theater, a one-month pass; and the American Pure Milk Company offered a gallon of ice cream to a lucky winner. The article boasted that over $100 in prizes were up for grabs.
In an unsigned editorial published October 26, 1958, the editors wrote "Your attention is directed to the hula hoop contest Thursday evening from 6 until 7:30 in downtown Kerrville... We are concerned about the effect it will have upon the older participants. As one who has frustratedly tried to unravel the apparently simple technique of making the hula hoop hula, we might suggest the attendance of physicians and trained nurses.
"It is amazing how much agony and physical soreness the plastic hoops can cause after an hours bout with them."
When the appointed day arrived, after weeks of publicity, the skies opened up and rains fell. The event had to be postponed until the following Saturday, November 1st, which gave participants more time to practice.
The award for youngest hooper went to Debbie Yarbourough, three years old. The prize for oldest went to Harry Crate, whose age was not published. Freddy Perkins and Tina Plummer won in their age group for "trickiest" and "fanciest" hoopers. Freddy's trick: the ability to take off his shirt while keeping his hoop in orbit.
The event was held in the midst of an election campaign, when news of rockets filled the pages of the newspaper, when a typhoon struck Japan, and a category 4 hurricane came near North Carolina. It was a simpler time, but the news was just as worrisome as today.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who cannot hula a hula hoop. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 30, 2017.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Kerrville's oldest man-made structure is falling apart

Stone wall, part of the mill race, on the site of the original
Christian Dietert mill in downtown Kerrville.
Click on any image to enlarge
J. E. Grinstead, posing
on the wall pictured above
around 1900
The oldest man-made structure in Kerrville is slowly falling apart.
It rests at the bottom of a bluff littered with debris from other, newer structures, and is hidden within a wild tangle of branches, vines, and weeds. Trash is piled in drifts at the site: food wrappers, clothes, broken glass; it's filthy.
The oldest man-made structure in Kerrville, in my opinion, is what's left of the Christian Dietert mill, found on the bluff along the river below the 800 block of Water Street.
Most who pass by would not recognize it. It looks like a pile of stones, though parts still look very similar to their appearance at least a century ago.
Clearing the channel,
the hard way
To see the old mill, you have two options. You can visit One Schreiner Center, and walk out on the remains of the old ice plant and look down. Or, if you have extra energy, you can go to the pavilion at the end of Earl Garrett Street, and take the stairs down. The ruins of the old mill are just past the foot bridge that crosses the Guadalupe River below the dam in Louise Hays Park.
The remaining mill structure is older than the oldest commercial building in town, the Favorite Saloon building, at 709 Water Street. That building was built in 1874, three years before the railroad arrived in Kerrville, meaning every bit of material used in its construction was either sourced locally, or hauled here in a wagon.
The view of the other
The original mill on the site was built by Christian Dietert with help from Balthasar Lich around 1857. Of course that original structure was altered and improved over the years, and destroyed more than once by flood waters, and it's possible there is not an original stone left on the site from the original construction. It's my belief at least some of the old original mill remains, even if it's only the cuts in the limestone where water discharged from the water wheel.
I found a nice story about the Dieterts in an old issue of Hunter's "Frontier Times Magazine" written by T. U. Taylor in 1941.
Sanborn Fire Map showing
the mill and two channels
Christian Dietert was a millwright born in Tesen, Germany, in 1827. In 1854 he voyaged to Texas with his brother William on a 4-masted sailing vessel; the trip took five months, and the pair arrived in New Braunfels in July.
The very next month Christian joined a company of 13 men who journeyed to the confluence of the Guadalupe River and Cypress Creek to survey a tract of land and help lay out the town of Comfort.
In 1855 Christian Dietert built a mill on Cypress Creek, but only two months after completion, the little mill had to be abandoned: Cypress Creek ran dry, and the mill was discarded for lack of water power.
Another view
That same year he married Miss Rosalie Hess, who had only recently arrived from Jena, Germany. She was nineteen years old, five foot two, and weighed an even 100 pounds. She was tiny.
In 1856 Christian Dietert's parents, two brothers, and a sister joined him in Comfort. Perhaps not surprisingly, Christian Dietert and his new wife moved to Fredericksburg early the next year. Perhaps there was just "too much family" in the little town of Comfort.
The Kerrville Roller Mills
While in Fredericksburg, Dietert helped construct the Van der Stucken mill, and toward the end of the year, Christian Dietert and his bride moved to Kerrville.
It was 1857, and the town of "Kerrsville" was still a rough frontier place. The article suggests there were only five one-roomed huts in the entire village.
The Dieterts bought a tract along the river in Kerville -- a tract which stretched from today's Earl Garrett Street to A Street. (What a nice little stretch of the river!)
The ruins today
There he built a shingle mill, using horse power until he could construct a water wheel, "with which he later sawed lumber from the Cypress trees growing along the banks of the river." The mill stood about where One Schreiner Center is today.
A flood a year or so later washed the first Kerrville mill away. Lacking funds to build anew, the couple moved back to Fredericksburg, where Dietert helped build a grist and saw mill on Live Oak Creek for a Mr. C. H. Guenther.
After only a few months of operation a flood washed away the mill and even the waterwheel.
So back to Kerrville the Dieterts came, building a new mill on the site of the old. No flood destroyed this new Dietert mill, though. It burned down instead.
Offered work building a mill in Comfort, and seeking a school for his children, the Dieterts moved again. During this same time he built a mill for his brother William, who lived in Boerne.
The ruins today
Finally, in 1866, the Dieterts moved back to Kerrville, this time to stay. Although another mill he built washed away in a flood, in 1868 he came up with an "under water iron turbine," and a "old type of flour mill consisting of two large stones, the lower a flat stational stone with a somewhat conical shaped stone above it, which in revolving crushed and ground the grain into flour."
The mill was successful and ground wheat, corn, and also operated a sawmill.
Though Dietert would build more mills, and even freighted for the Confederate government during the Civil War, Kerrville remained his home, even after he sold his mill to Captain Charles Schreiner.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has clambered over the ruins of Christian Dietert's mill since he was a boy.  It was easier back then. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 23, 2017.



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