Finally...

Monday, August 31, 2015

Kerrville Entertainment a Century Ago

Over the past few weeks, I've been sharing parts of a history of Kerrville written by Anna Belle Council Roland, the aunt of a friend of mine, Lanza Teague. Ms. Roland wrote an 84 page paper, by hand, which contains some stories about our community's history I've never seen before. It's been quite fun reading the paper.
This week, I thought I'd focus on recreational and entertainment options available to early Kerrville residents.
"The community was not without its recreational facilities," writes Ms. Roland. "Parsons Hall, located in the 600 block of Water Street, had been remodeled in 1886, and the second story was for many years the meeting and recreational hall of Kerrville. Here all forms of entertainment were held, as well as dances."
Parsons Hall was built and named for Dr. George Parsons, a medical doctor who came to Kerrville around 1875 seeking health -- he was a victim of tuberculosis. Although he was a veteran of the Union Army, he was soon such a vital part of the community he was elected mayor.
"At a later time," Ms. Roland writes, "Pampell's Hall or Opera House became the entertainment center. It was here that the first picture shows were held. The stairway was on the outside and tickets were bought at the bottom of the stairs. The seats were wooden folding chairs, and it was not uncommon for some youngsters to become so excited during some episode, as in 'The Perils of Pauline,' that he squirmed too near the edge of the chair and it crashed to the floor. One of the largest crowds to gather there to see a picture was for the sowing of 'The Birth of the Nation.'"
Ms. Roland then proceeds to solve a little mystery that's been puzzling me for several years. On the 1916 set of early Kerrville maps prepared by the Sanborn-Perris company, I found an unusual item in the middle of the 200 block of what is now called Sidney Baker Street, roughly across the street from the current Kerrville City Hall, there is a small area marked "Open Air Theatre." It appears to be a fenced area with a small frame building in one corner.
"About 1913 there was an airdome in the middle of the block on Sidney Baker, about where the hospital parking lot is now located. Admission was 5 cents."
I had to look up 'airdome;' it turns out that was a name for an open-air movie theater. Back before air-conditioning, such a theater may have been the most comfortable way to watch a movie.
"For a brief time a picture show was located in the old Mercantile Building at the corner of Main and Earl Garrett.
"Next came the Dixie Theatre in the 800 block of Water Street. It was a big tin building, at first, with only a gravel floor; the screen was located at the front of the building, and the seats were crude benches. Some improvements were made, but in spite of its crudity, it operated until the late 1930s."
I have heard from people who remember the Dixie Theatre, which stood about where Rivers Edge Gallery stands today, near the intersection of Water and Washington streets. Their main memory of the place: tucking their feet underneath themselves, so the popcorn-eating mice wouldn't bother their shoes.
Later, in the 1920s, the Arcadia Theater was built; later still, in the mid-1930s, the Rialto Theater was built.
The Rialto once stood on property now owned by my family: the parking lot between our printing company and Grape Juice next door. (This also happened to be the site of Parsons Hall.)
If you look at the western wall of Grape Juice, you can still see the outline of the stairway to the balcony of the old Rialto Theater, and, about midway along that wall, up high, the risers of the old balcony.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who went to many movies at the Arcadia Theater. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times August 29, 2015.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Kerr County's British Immigrants

For the past several weeks, I've been sharing portions of a paper written by Anna Belle Council Roland, an aunt of my friend Lanza Teague. Lanza and I share an interest in local history, and Anna Belle's short history of our community, entitled "The Growing Pains of a Shingle Camp: the story of a town," tells me Lanza's interest in local history runs in her family.
The 84-page document is filled with anecdotes I haven't seen elsewhere, including stories about the period from about 1887 until 1910 when British immigrants began arriving in our area. Many of those immigrants had last names you'd recognize, and have many descendents still living in the area.
"With the arrival of the railroad," Ms. Roland writes, "Englishmen began arriving. Many were second and third sons of wealthy families in England, and since by English custom and law they could not inherit the family land, they were sent to the United States to buy land suitable for raising sheep. These men were unaccustomed to the rough manners of the frontiersmen, and the frontiersmen were just as surprised by the refined manners and speech of the Englishmen. Because of this, the Englishmen were often the brunt of practical jokes, and sometimes of unscrupulous schemes.
"A story is told of one Englishman who bought and paid cash for the same flock of sheep over and over as they were driven past him repeatedly.
"They were often forced to write back home for more money, or another 'bounty' as they expressed it. One who was the brunt of such schemes, and of bad luck, died in poverty...and was buried by the county.
"Fortunately, most were successful and became outstanding citizens of the community."
Of course, not all of the English immigrants fell for such schemes, and many were indeed successful. Some came here for other reasons than to raise sheep.
Bob Bennett, in his excellent history of our community, also notes the British immigrants of our community.
"Although a few of their intrepid countrymen arrived in the Guadalupe valley earlier," Bennett writes, "a distinct migration of British colonists began to be felt in the decade beginning in 1879, and all these resolved people left a distinct impress on the rapidly developing ranching country."
The earliest British settler here was a Scot: J. D. Ramsey, a native of Edinburgh, who arrived in Kerr County in 1870.
In 1871, Ben Davey, a native of Yorkshire, England, arrived in Kerrville. Davey was a builder, and while his name might not be familiar to you, some of his work will be, because several of the buildings he built still stand. Davey was the contractor, often with a partner named Schott, for the following buildings: the Weston Building, which is now the home of Francisco's Restaurant; the old Tivy School, which is now the administrative offices of the Kerrville Independent School District; and, among others, the home of Captain Charles Schreiner on Earl Garrett Street.
In 1879, James Spicer, an English artist, arrived here "seeking health." A year later, his health improved, he was joined by his wife, and two children. The Spicers settled on Turtle Creek, and among their many descendents are members of the Mosty families.
Other Britons who settled here in the late 19th century include Nat Atchson, Capt. B. C. Bunbury, Robert Burns, Maj. McDonald and his three sons-in-law, Page, Davis, and Brewer, "who were instrumental in founding St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Kerrville," Alex and William Auld, the Rev. J. E. Hole, Jim Taylor, L. E. King, Ernest Roper, Guy Taylor, Howard Lacey, Charles and Herbert Brent, John Blackett, Jack Thompson, Percy Lawrance, P. W. Drew, C. Stanley Coppock, Willoughby and Dick Montgomery, Richard and Tom Holdsworth, George Peterson, Adam Wilson, Thomas Frayne, T. B. Hamlyn, A. MacFarland, Dr. Edward Galbraith, among others.
Dick Montgomery, one of those listed above, returned to England and became Sir Richard Montgomery.
Howard George Lacey, born at Wareham, Dorset, England, was educated for the ministry at Cains College, Cambridge. He gave up that calling for life here in the Texas Hill Country, "and spent the greater part of his life as a ranchman and in pursuing scientific research. He worked in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institute, the British Museum of Natural History, the Audubon Society of America, and the National Geographic Society. The Lacey oak (Quercus laceyi), was named in his honor, as were three small mammals (Peromysus pectoralis laceianus, P. boylie laceyi, and Reithrodontomys laceyi).
The British immigrants here made great contributions to our community.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects Kerrville and Kerr County historical photographs. If you have any you'd like to share with him, please bring them by 615 Water Street.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times August 22, 2015.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Early Kerrville Schools

My friend Lanza Teague, who shares my interest in local history, recently let me copy a manuscript written by her aunt Anna Belle Council Roland, entitled "The Growing Pains of a Shingle Camp: the Story of a Town."
The handwritten document is full of interesting stories about our community's history. Since Kerrville schools are soon starting their new fall terms, I thought it might be interesting to share some local school history gleaned from Ms. Roland's document.
Her earliest mention of a local school tells about the one started in 1857, a year after Kerr County was organized, and Kerrville made its county seat.
"In the fall or winter of 1857, William E. Pafford began teaching the children of [Kerrville] in the county courthouse. Those children whose parents were unable to pay were sent to school at the expense of the county. Pafford was paid $73.25 per indigent [student]."
That first courthouse, which served as Kerrville's first school, was tiny, made of logs, and stood on Jefferson Street opposite today's courthouse square, about where the Grimes Funeral Chapels stands today. The first commissioners court meeting issued the following order: ""that there be a contract made by the County Court for the building of a temporary Court House in Kerrville, to be built as follows: Of logs sixteen feet long, skelped down and to be eight feet high, the cracks to be boarded up, sawed rafters and good shingle roof with gable ends well done up, good batten door strongly hung and corners sawed down."
Other schools were mentioned which came after that first school.
"For a time after the Civil War school was held at the corner of Water and Sidney Baker [about where National Car Rental stands today]. It was later moved to John Ochse's store at the corner of Washington and Main [about where the old sanctuary of the Notre Dame Catholic Church stands today].
"In 1878 a rock school house was bought. It was known as the Masonic or Quinlan Building. The upper story was not occupied by the school. This building stood on the corner of Main and Sidney Baker [again, where the National Car Rental car lot stands today].
"At a later time a two room school building was constructed on Jefferson Street. Professor J. C. Lord and Miss Jennie Bayles were employed as teachers. Because the male students were organized into a military company and drilled, Lord called the school 'Guadalupe Institute.'"
It wasn't until 1889 that the present school system had its beginnings.
"For over thirty years after the settlement of Kerrville, the school had no permanent home. Captain Joseph A. Tivy realized the need for a school, and expressed a wish to donate land for that purpose. Since it was necessary for the town to be incorporated to receive this gift, the town hastened to comply. Shortly afterwards, [Captain Tivy] made two deeds which he conveyed to the city: 16.23 acres out of tract 115 just east of tract 116, the original tract of the town in 1857. One of the deeds stipulated 'the land shall forever be used exclusively for a building or buildings in which to conduct the public free schools of the said town of Kerrville, Texas, and for the playgrounds and ornamental grounds in connection with the said building and other uses and purposes as commonly pertain and are germane to public institutions of learning.'
"Construction of the new school was begun in 1890, and the school opened in 1891 with an enrollment of 250. In 1895, Tivy had its first graduating class of three students."
From those first three graduates have come thousands of additional scholars. It is my hope this new school year is successful and safe -- for students, faculty, and all those who help educate our young people in Kerrville.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native and a Tivy High School graduate.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times August 15, 2015.

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Handwritten Treasure

My fellow local history sleuth Lanza Teague let me copy a paper her aunt, Anna Belle Council Roland, wrote several decades ago, a monograph titled "The Growing Pains of a Shingle Camp: the Story of a Town."
I love documents like these -- because it's inevitable I find in them something new about our community's history.
Take, for instance, the layout of Kerrville soon after its founding.
Ms. Council quotes Albert Enderle, an early settler of Kerrville:
"I came to Kerrville in the fall of 1873. The town was very small, there being about 20 to 25 houses, I suppose. Captain Tivy's house being on the outskirts of town on that side. His field ran from Main Street down Tivy Street to Water Street to Quinlan Creek."
Captain Tivy's house was likely the Tivy Hotel, which originally occupied the corner of Main and Tivy Streets. In 1873, it was on the eastern edge of town.
Mr. Enderle continues:
"From the Ice Plant [which was near the intersection of Washington and Water streets] to A Street was another field. This field belonged to Christian Dietert."
In fact, during this time, the Dietert family operated the Kerrville post office. Christian was the postmaster, but his wife, Rosalie, actually did the work and ran the office. Their home was near Spring Street, opposite the front doors of the Notre Dame Catholic Church sanctuary.
"Mr. Stanford had a field between Earl Garrett and Washington streets, from Jefferson Street to the hill." Mr. Stanford's house was on the corner of Washington and Jefferson streets, about where the First Presbyterian Church sanctuary stands today.
"D. Michon had a field between Sidney Baker and Clay Street from the railroad track to the old cemetery." The railroad track would have been along today's Schreiner Street; the cemetery is still there, across Holdsworth Drive from the football stadium. I believe I've seen a tombstone there with the Michon family name; that stone is in French.
Mr. Enderle's description continues: "The land between Quinlan and Town Creek was covered with timber. It was owned by Mr. Bowman who later sold it to Dr. G. R. Parsons and Captain Charles Schreiner. Dr. Parsons took the upper part, which is called Parson's Addition.
"Christian Dietert had a saw mill where the ice plant is now [near today's intersection of Washington and Water streets, on the bluff by the river]. Lots of cypress logs were scattered about the place which were sawed into lumber.
"The post office was back of the Wall residence near the river. The mail was brought on horseback about twice a week from Comfort. Mr. Dietert was postmaster for about twenty years.
"Faltin and Schreiner had a store where the Charles Schreiner Company is now. It was a lumber building about 16x30 feet with a shed room about 8x30 feet.
"The courthouse was a one room log house about halfway between Sidney Baker and Earl Garrett facing Jefferson Street. The jail was about 30 feet back from the site of the present jail. The jail was a small rock building of two stories. The prisoners were let down with a ladder and the ladder was pulled up again. It was enclosed with cedar posts about 24 or [2]5 feet high and the posts were pointed on top.
"Mr. and Mrs. Hughs had a boarding house where the Dixie Theater now is. [This would have been in the 800 block of Water Street, where the River's Edge Gallery is today.]
Most of that block's interior, behind the buildings, "was all covered with cedar poles.
"John E. Ochse had a store where the Catholic church is," Enderle said. That would have been the old Catholic church on the corner of Washington and Main streets, which is now used for administrative offices.
There's a lot of material in Ms. Council's report, and I'll cover some more next week. Until then, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who learned a lot from Annie Lee Herring.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times August 8, 2015.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Rare Kerrville Gus's Bar trading token

My friend Clint Morris shared the following photographs with me of a saloon coin he's run across.  I recognize the name Weston, of course: Francisco's Restaurant is the the Weston Building.  But I don't recognize the name of the bar, nor do I know exactly where it might have been.  I could assume it was in what would later be called the Weston Building, but I'm not sure.
Click on any image to enlarge.
Gus's Bar & Restaurant trading token, date unknown.
A nickel may have been enough for a beer.

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