Sunday, March 11, 2018

A summer camp at the edge of Kerrville in 1906

Westminster Encampment Kerrville
Westminster Encampment Dining Hall
Click on any image to enlarge
In 1906 a Presbyterian church camp called Westminster Encampment was established in Kerrville, and it had a lasting influence on our community. Most of the 100 or so buildings are no longer here, but a few remain on the western edge of the Schreiner University campus. The camp operated until 1950, when most of its equipment was transferred to the then recently purchased Mo-Ranch, which is still in operation as a Presbyterian conference center west of Hunt on the north fork of the Guadalupe.
Westminster Encampment Kerrville
Robbins Lewis Auditorium
I was going through my collection of Kerr County photographs, and found a nice sample of photographs of Westminster Encampment. Going through them reminded me that days back then were slower and life simpler. It was an earnest time.
In those days communities competed to attract church camps, and Kerrville was fortunate enough to attract Westminster Encampment and Methodist Encampment. Both came here through gifts of land and financial donations.
Westminster Encampment Kerrville
Westminster Tabernacle
Westminster Encampment was organized by Rev. Hugh W. Hoon and a group of San Antonio ministers under the Presbyterian Synod of Western Texas. Kerrville, through the efforts of A. C. Schreiner and H. Remschel, offered 42 prime acres along the Guadalupe and $2,500 in cash. Those first few years offered fairly primitive facilities, but in a few years the camp offered comfortable lodging and conference services, including a special train stop for the San Antonio and Aransas Pass railroad, which ran near the site.
Westminster Encampment Kerrville
Westminster Encampment
Note the tents
Looking through the photos in my collection, I'm impressed by the architecture of the camp. Many of the buildings were designed to take advantage of summer breezes, and offered abundant porches and shade.
People came to Kerrville to these camps for several reasons. First, many loved the hills and river here. Second, it was a lot less humid here than elsewhere, such as Houston. Third, it was usually cooler here during the summer months than in the cities, in part because of our altitude. Many also traveled here because they felt Kerr County was healthier.
Westminster Encampment Kerrville
Westminster Encampment
photo by Wheelus
The purpose of Westminster Encampment was, of course, spiritual enrichment. But that purpose was met with rest, fellowship, sunshine, swimming in the river, and education.
Other groups used the encampment besides the Presbyterians. Looking through old newspapers, I see notices for a Y.M.C.A. camp to be held on the grounds, and Chautauquas, which were a type of educational lecture and music program, were often held there. Musical performances were also produced there, and advertised as being for everyone in Kerrville.
Westminster Encampment Waterfront Kerrville
Westminster waterfront
Many of the buildings on the camp grounds were built by Presbyterian congregations, but some by individual Presbyterian families. These houses were on streets which no longer exist: Billie, Atlas, Nassau, Hoon, and Delaney, to name a few.
Each camping season a small village assembled on the edge of Kerrville, offering many area firsts. For example, the first lending library in Kerrville is reported to have been at the camp.
Westminster Encampment Kerrville
Westminster Young People's
There were obvious economic benefits to Kerrville in having Westminster Encampment locate here, but there were some not as obvious other benefits, too. Westminster Encampment was the first of many area camps owned by a religious group, and it led the way as Kerr County became an area known for summer camps of all types. What would Kerr County be without summer camps?
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who spent a part of each summer during his teen years at a church camp in Leakey, Alto Frio Baptist Encampment. I have many happy memories of time spent there. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times March 10, 2018.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Kerrville Ephemera: the curious journey of Parsons' bill

April 17, 1895 statement of A. Bl Williamson's account with Parsons Bros.
Click on any image to enlarge.
The old printer in me certainly enjoyed looking through my friend Bryant Saner's collection of Kerrville invoices from the turn of the last century.
Some were from companies of which I'd never heard. One had a typo. One showed frugality, which may have been one of the reasons that merchant was so successful. One was issued from a company that once stood about where our print shop stands today in the 600 block of Water Street. Another showed a wide and discordant assortment of products.
W. E. Stewart notesheet
For example, W. E. Stewart's stationery plainly said he was a druggist, and that's what I've seen in my research. "Physician's Prescriptions Carefully Prepared," his stationery stated. But his stationery also said he was a dealer in "paints, oils, dye stuffs, etc." He also sold "Toilet Articles and Fancy Goods," including fine stationery, and perfumes.
The note written on the W. E. Stewart stationery was signed by A. M. Gilmer, and requested "jury scrip due me for services as a Grand Juror at the last term of court also scrip for holding election."
Most of the other items were invoices to A. B. (Albert Bonaparte) Williamson, who was born in Kerrville in 1868. He lived in Kerrville his entire life, passing away in 1948. Williamson served as Kerr County treasurer for 24 years, and later was Cashier at First State Bank. Many of the invoices in Bryant Saner's collection use Williamson's nickname, "Bony."
Williamson was a customer of several drug stores including W. E. Stewart's, Rawson's, A. M. Morriss, Roberts & Kyle, and J. B. Mosby. Those last three were new to me.
He bought lumber from Frank J. Beitel, dealer in "Calcasieu, Lousiana and Texas Lumber," and from H. Remschel.
H. Remschel invoice
Remschel's invoice is interesting. It's marked paid and signed by Remschel, who probably knows how to spell his own name. The poor printer, however, spelled the name incorrectly, "Remshcel."
J L Pampell was frugal
Williamson also spent a total of 40 cents over a four month period with T. F. Coffey, a dealer in "confectioneries." Looking closer at the bill, however, the printed name T. F. Coffey is marked through, and replaced, by hand with Jno. L. Pampell. J. L. Pampell was the founder of Pampell's, which included a pharmacy and soda fountain, along with a soft drink bottling plant in the back of the building.
Rather than have new invoices printed, Mr. Pampell frugally used up the supply on hand. Such habitual thrift may have contributed to his family's successful business.
The invoice which I was most happy to see was from Parson Brothers, who operated livery feed, and sale stables. "Gentle driving and saddle horses a specialty," their invoice advised.
On April 17, 1895 the Parsons sent Williamson a bill for use of a saddle horse (50 cents), a buggy (50 cents), a hack (50 cents), and a surrey (75 cents). The total bill was $2.25.
Crescent Dairy invoice
That scrap of printed paper, with a handwritten statement of Mr. Williamson's account, was filled out and figured on the site of the parking lot next to our print shop, the exact spot where the Parsons' business once stood.
It delighted me to think of the journey this little scrap of ephemera had made over the past 123 years, to travel in a circle from its source in a livery stable in 1895 to its visit to a print shop in 2018.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects historical items from Kerrville and Kerr County. If you have something you'd care to share with him, it would make him happy. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times March 3, 2018.

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Friday, March 2, 2018

"The Which Way Tree," tells a Texas Hill Country story

Elizabeth Crook the Which Way Tree cover
The Which Way Tree, by Elizabeth Crook
The Which Way TreeElizabeth Crook's latest novel, is a compelling story set in the rocky canyons around Camp Verde and Bandera Pass during the American Civil War. In the book a young girl, Samantha, and her mother are attacked by a mountain lion; the mother dies and Samantha's face is disfigured. Orphaned, Samantha becomes obsessed with killing the mountain lion. Her half-brother Benjamin reluctantly joins the pursuit, if only to keep watch on his sister. As they seek her revenge they are joined by an aging preacher, a colorful rancher, and a panther-tracking dog -- all while being pursued by an angry and wounded Confederate soldier.
Life in Kerr County in the 1860s was hard. Human dangers were many, from Indian raids to terrifying Hangerbandes. Nature offered death from snakebites, disease, or common infections. People lived in isolation, sheltered inside crude cabins, living miles from help or aid. Ms. Crook paints that part of her story well, and accurately.
Elizabeth Crook by Kenny Braun
Elizabeth Crook
Photo by Kenny Braun
In addition, small historic details -- from the spelling of Kerrsville to a passing mention of Simon Ayala, a local one-legged cowboy -- are spot on. Reading the story transports you to our home country as it was in 1863.
Others have noted the influence of True Grit and Moby Dick on this story of Samantha's determination to kill the mountain lion which killed her mother. There is another influence on this novel, one perhaps not known to those who do not live here: the Texas Hill Country is a major character in The Which Way Tree. In Crook's novel the land shapes the characters as much as the time period in which they live, and Samantha's single-minded determination reflects the grit which was required of all who settled here in the 1860s.
Ms. Crook has deep Kerr County roots: her great-grandmother opened a grocery store in Kerrville in 1905, and her family owns property near Camp Verde. Setting the story in our area reveals her understanding of our local history, the fact that she's spent a lot of time here, and also a gentle appreciation of the land itself.
The Which Way Tree (Little, Brown, 288 pages, $26) is available locally at Wolfmueller's Books.

This review originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times March 1, 2018.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

A surprising find in downtown Kerrville

Home of Henry and Clara Candlin, around 1895,
on the western corner of Washington and Main Streets, Kerrville.
Click on any image to enlarge.
Henry Candlin and his wife Clara King Candlin moved to Kerrville in 1880, and left in 1899, moving to Greeley, Colorado. While here they had eight children, seven sons and one daughter.
A few of their descendants were in town recently, from Austin and Florida, and a friend sent them by the print shop. The descendants showed me a photograph of the Candlin's house in Kerrville, and I didn't recognize the structure. Looking at the building, I doubted it was in Kerrville. It looked like a German immigrant's house to me, like you'd see in Fredericksburg or Comfort.
Until the descendants' visit, I'd never heard of the Candlins.
Looking into their story, however, I'm surprised I had not. They were a very interesting couple.
Both were born in England. He was from Nottinghamshire, England; his ancestral home was on a street called The Cranny, in Offord Cluny, Huntingdon, England. She was from Swindon, Wiltshire. Her father was a Methodist Wesleyan minister, and they were married in London at the Wesleyan Chapel in 1879.
The Candlin Family, around 1892
In 1880 they moved to Kerrville. They lived in a house on the corner of Main and Washington streets, where Craig Leslie has his law office today. When I pulled out my old maps of Kerrville I found, to my surprise, a structure on that corner which had the exact same footprint as the house in the photograph.
So I was wrong: the house in the photograph which I suspected of being a German immigrant's house elsewhere was actually here in Kerrville, about a block from the Kerr County courthouse.
Henry Candlin was the first official Department of Agriculture weather observer for our community. His name can be found in newspapers statewide beside his reports of the temperature, rainfall, observations about crops and their prospects. He authored Kerrville's first Climate and Crop Report in October, 1896.
He was interested in science beyond meteorology. He provided two specimens of a river snake (natrix fasciata transvera Hallowell) to the Smithsonian Institution; one he collected from the Guadalupe, the other from Quinlan Creek. They were little black water snakes with yellow spots and a yellowish belly, perhaps called either a Blotched Watersnake or a plain-bellied water snake. I'm sure you've seen relatives of the long-absent specimens along the riverbank.
Henry Candlin was also a charter member of the local Masonic Lodge.
The Candlin home is circled above.
The family suggested he was city clerk here, which is possible. The City of Kerrville was incorporated in 1889. He also taught stenography and shorthand from his Kerrville home, according to an 1895 advertisement I found.
After moving to Greeley, Colorado, Henry Candlin focused on the temperance movement, and was active in the Loyal Temperance Legion. He also taught Sunday School in the Methodist Church.
The couple knew their share of tragedy. One of the couple's sons, Victor Gladstone Candlin, died in France during World War I and is buried there. Another son, Percy Raymond, was killed in an industrial accident. Both men were born here in Kerrville.
Henry Candlin died in 1931; his widow, in 1943. Both passed away in Greeley.  Their house on Main Street in Kerrville was replaced by a gas station in the 1930s.
Now that I know where the Candlin's home was in Kerrville, I have spotted it in the background of several other downtown photographs. It's nice to fill in a spot on the map with a good image of their home. I'm thankful for the friend who sent the Candlin's relatives my way.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is often surprised by new discoveries of Old Town Kerrville. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times February 24, 2018.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Newly Discovered Photograph of Bandera Pass

Bandera Pass Texas around 1905
Bandera Pass, around 1905.
Automobiles didn't arrive in significant numbers until 1908,
so the road shown is a wagon trail.
Click on any image to enlarge.
I recently was given a photo on which is written "Bandera Pass, 1905." That date appears to be fairly close, given the other photos in the packet. If so, it's the oldest photo I've ever seen of Bandera Pass, and was taken before automobiles were common in our part of the world. The dirt road shown in the photo is a wagon trail. Looking at the photo it is not hard to imagine travelers on horseback cutting through the pass.
Bandera Pass Texas date unknown
Bandera Pass, date unknown.
Photo possibly by Ellen O'Neal
Bandera Pass has been in use for thousands of years, and when we drive our automobiles over the smooth road today, we're following a path used since prehistoric times.
No one knows how many generations of Native Americans passed this way, but an archeological site on the southern side of Bandera Pass suggests there was a camp there at least 3,000 years ago. If you use 25 years as a rough estimate of a single generation, people have been traveling along this trail for more than 120 generations.
When the Comanche arrived in this part of Texas, they used routes established by earlier tribes, including the trail between Bandera Pass and the river crossing near downtown Kerrville. The route was called the Comanche Trace.
Bandera Pass Texas around 1935 by Starr Bryden
Bandera Pass, around 1935
Photo by Starr Bryden
Later, when the Spanish built their missions and presidios in Texas, the route saw soldiers and priests traveling from San Antonio to missions in the northern hill country, including Mission San Saba, which was near present-day Menard.
In 1732 a battle between Spanish forces and Lipan Apaches occurred at Bandera Pass. In the three-day battle the Spanish were victorious and resulted in a brief period of peace between the Spanish colonists and the Apache tribes. An early map, from around 1815, shows the pass as "Puerta de la Bandera."
When Texas was a part of Mexico, the trail would have been used by Mexican soldiers and settlers.
Bandera Pass Texas around 1926
Bandera Pass, around 1926
And when Texas gained its independence from Mexico, the trail saw use by both settlers and groups of Texas Rangers.
One group of Rangers, it is said, fought a battle at Bandera Pass. John Coffee "Jack" Hayes, one of the most colorful Texas Ranger captains, fought in the battle. Though the various accounts of the battle seem to conflict with each other -- including the actual date of the battle, and whether the Ranger's newly acquired Colt Paterson revolvers played a role in the encounter -- it is likely more than one skirmish between the various local tribes and Texas Rangers occurred near the site.
The oddest travelers through Bandera Pass walked the trail in August 1856, when a herd of forty camels, arriving from the Texas coast after a sea journey from the Middle East, walked the last few miles of their journey to Camp Verde. What a sight they must have been.
Those camels followed a wagon trail not unlike the one shown in the recently found 1905 photograph of Bandera Pass.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who explored the hills and cliffs around Bandera Pass years ago, when he was much younger.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times February 17, 2018.

Kerrville Stories by Joe Herring Jr
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