Historic Kerr County photographs available!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Rare photographs of Kerrville covered in snow

Kerrville in snow 1923
Kerrville after a snowfall February 5, 1923.
The building in the middle left is the Kerr County Courthouse.
Click on any image to enlarge.
This week's icy roads and brief snow flurries reminded me of some photographs in my collection of Kerr County and Kerrville photographs.
It hasn't been that long ago when taking a photograph meant exposing a piece of film to focused light, and then waiting weeks or months to see how the photograph came out.
Charles Schreiner mansion in snow
Schreiner Mansion
Youngsters might not believe this, but it was possible for months to pass before you saw a photograph you'd taken. Film came on a roll, and you didn't send the film to be processed until all of the frames on that roll had been exposed. Then you took that roll of film to a store where it would be processed. In Kerrville, when I was a boy in the 1960s, that meant your roll of film was shipped off to a processor in another city, and processing the film could take a week, or even longer.
Snowballs in the courtyard of the St Charles Hotel Kerrville
St Charles Courtyard
Decades later a crop of one-hour-photo shops opened up, often little huts in the middle of a shopping mall parking lot. I remember our local H-E-B had a photo processing department in the store. (It was across the aisle from the VHS movie rental department, but that's a different story.)
Local drugstores and even Wal-Mart now operate film processing departments.
Rumor has it an early H-E-B store in Kerrville offered film processing, back when Florence Butt was still active in the management of the company. According to the story, the processing was either done by Eugene Butt, her son, or local pioneer photographer Starr Bryden.
Whether or not that story is true does not change this fact: taking photographs was not easy, took time, and was expensive at the turn of the last century. That meant people didn't take as many photographs as they do now.
Kerrville hospital after a snowfall
Kerrville Hospital
(Kellogg Building)
All that's required now is to point your phone at a subject and push a button, instantly seeing the result. I took a photo this week, posted it to Facebook seconds after it was taken, and hundreds of people all over our community saw it in a just few minutes, some even before I got back inside the warm print shop building.
Photography is easy now, but back then one had to have a reason to take photographs.
There were the usual family reasons to take a photograph: a new baby, a new car, and birthday celebrations.
Kerrville wagon yard 700 block of Water Street around 1910
Wagon Yard, 700 block of Water
There were community reasons to take a photograph, too: parades, mainly, but also trains or new buildings.
And then there were meteorological reasons to take a photograph. Floods usually accounted for a few frames being exposed to light. Snow, which is rare here, was another reason to take a photograph.
I had hoped to take some snow photographs last Tuesday. Most of the images I took were not that good, and didn't show a lot of snow. I tried to take images of the snow blowing down Water Street, but they were not very impressive.
Florence Butt family snowball fight in front of first HEB store
Leland Richeson and members
of the Butt family in front of
first H-E-B
Photographs from our community's past show some really nice snowfalls. There are the usual shots of snowball fights, and of children posing beside their snowmen.
There are a few nice shots of local buildings, too, sporting a dusting of snow.
We may not have had sufficient snowfall this week to add to this historic gallery, but at least we can look back at the efforts of our forebears.
Tivy School at Kerrville after a snowfall
Tivy School in the snow
Imagine them, crunching through the snow, closing one eye, and peering through a foggy viewfinder with the other, and releasing a mechanical shutter. That cold photographer, at that very moment, had no idea how the resulting photograph would look. They had no idea whether the image was overexposed, out of focus, or if their finger was over the lens.
Kerrville snowfall 1897
Kerrville snowfall 1897
They also had no idea folks like you and I would be looking at the photographs they took that cold day in Kerrville, hundreds of us all looking at the photograph at the same time.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects historic photographs of Kerrville and Kerr County. If you have old photos of our community, please let him scan them for the collection. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 20, 2018.

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There are still a few copies of Joe's second book available.  Click HERE for more information.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Time Travel, UFOs, and Two Photographs of Kerrville

Kerrville Texas, around 1920, with Union Church
Kerrville, around 1920, taken from the roof of the St Charles Hotel,
looking roughly north
Click on either image to enlarge
When I learn to time travel, I am going to ask several local photographers to frame their shots in a different way.
"Nudge over a little to the left, please. I don't have a photograph of that building," I'll ask in my kindest voice. "You know, while we're here, why not take photos of every building on this block for me?"
I'm sure they'll do this for me, a stranger from the 'future.'
This week I studied two photographs in my collection for clues, trying to figure out what the photographer was hoping to capture.
Both are labeled "Kerrville, 1921," though those dates were added much later.
First question: from where were the pair of photographs taken?
I'm pretty sure I know the answer to this one -- they were both taken from the roof of the St. Charles Hotel, which stood for decades at the corner of Water and Sidney Baker streets, with about the same footprint as the old Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital.
That old hotel was three stories tall -- so the roof was about four stories from the ground. There are several other photos in my collection taken from up there.
Then, as now, folks like to take photographs from a height, from a vantage point. At the time these photographs were taken, the St. Charles was one of the tallest buildings in town.
Both photographs show the hills in the distance. Since those have not changed, I could figure out which direction the photographer was facing. In one, the photographer is facing roughly south; in the other, roughly north.
It's what's in the middle distance in each photograph that I find interesting.
Kerrville, Texas, around 1920
Its sister photograph, taken from the same spot, facing roughly south.
In the photograph facing south, across the river, I notice the top of two buildings, the Favorite Saloon, and the old Schreiner Wool Warehouse. The wool house is gone, but the Favorite Saloon building still stands in the middle of the 700 block of Water Street. It's owned these days by the Rector family. It was built in 1874 and is the oldest building still standing in the downtown area.
In that same photograph, looking across the river, in the 'middle distance,' between the river and the hills, there is nothing but plowed fields. Louis Schreiner has yet to build his mansion 'Tulahteka" on one of the hills, which is a problem for the date handwritten on the photograph. That building, which was most recently the headquarters for the LDB Corporation, was actually built in 1920.  Since it's not there, the date for the pair of photographs has to be before 1920.
The other view, toward the north, is interesting, too for what you can see in the middle distance.
In the center of the photograph is the Union Church, which moved several times, finally finding a nesting site on the far western edge of the campus of Schreiner University. What's unique about this image of the old church is this: a clear view of its steeple. Another church is visible in the photo, too: the old Calvary Baptist Church, with its distinctive striped steeple.
Of course, as with any nearly 100 year old photograph of Kerrville, the photograph holds at least one mystery: a bell tower I've never seen before, but which appears to be near the old train depot.
Neither photograph is particularly well-framed, unless the photographer was attempting to photograph something flying in the sky. Both images do have interesting marks in the sky, but both marks are most likely dust or lint on the camera or film.  Or a cigar-shaped UFO.
There is a simpler solution than traveling through time and bugging earlier photographers to take different photographs, of course. When I time travel, I'll just take along my own camera.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects old photographs of Kerrville and Kerr County.  If you have one you'd like to share with him, please bring it by.  He can scan it and give you back the original, if you'd like. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 13, 2017.







Kerrville StoriesThere are still a few copies of Joe's second book available.  Click HERE for more information.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

From Kerrville to Junction by Wagon

Freight wagons near Kerrville
Freight Wagons traveling from Kerrville to Junction, around 1900.
Photo courtesy of the Blakely Collection.
Click on any image to enlarge.
Now that most of your holiday guests have headed back home (or you’ve returned from your holiday travels) it might be nice to consider what travel was like in this region at the turn of the last century.
Years ago Herbert E. Oehler wrote a book about growing up in the Mountain Home area called “Hill Country Boy,” which my father printed in the early 1980s. I recently found a copy at Wolfmueller's Books which I quickly purchased.
Leland Richeson C C Butt Grocery Kerrville
Leland Richeson in the
C C Butt Grocery wagon
Travel was different at the turn of the last century, according to Oehler.
“Travelers who skim over the smooth pavement of IH10 from Kerrville to Junction can easily make it in an hour now,” writes Mr. Oehler. “But there was a time early in [the last] century when the same trip consumed most of a day, sometimes even longer when rain made the road a series of water filled ruts except in those places where uneven rocks cropped to the surface.
Surrey Wagon near Kerrville
A Surrey Wagon, around 1910,
near Kerrville
“…During the time I was growing up…Roy Kemp was the operator [of the stage line connecting Kerrville and Junction]. The vehicle Kemp used was nothing like the stage coach depicted in current Western movies. It was a hack with three seats, an oilcloth-covered top, and oilcloth curtains with isinglass windows. In rainy or cold weather these curtains were rolled down and fastened tightly to make the hack more comfortable.”
'Isenglass,' Gentle Reader, is a substance made from the dried swim bladders of fish.
Oehler’s family’s place was one of the stops on the line. “It was not a passenger station in the usual sense but simply a stop where the horses which had brought the hack from Kerrville were unharnessed and a new team hitched up. The stage line hired a man to do this. He had a tent to live in, pitched under a big walnut tree near the creek. Besides hitching and unhitching the teams, it was his duty to see that the horses were fed, watered, shod and given such other care as required.”
Mail Wagon at Kerrville 1933
Tom Tarver getting the mail
at the Kerrville Depot, 1933
Oehler remembered the names of three of those hired to do this job: a Mr. McMickle, a Mr. Rainey, and his aunt, Emma Heimann. “Of course,” he writes, “Aunt Emma lived with us instead of in the tent while she held the job.”
Four horses were used to pull the hack from Kerrville to the Oehler’s place, unless it was rainy; then six were required, just to get the hack through the ruts. “This was particularly true of the Mountain Home to Junction stretch which had not been graveled except in a few places where the mud was especially deep.”
“The fact that this road was also used by freighters who hauled wool and mohair from Junction to Kerrville, and merchandise in the opposite direction, certainly didn’t tend to improve the road since the heavily loaded wagons cut deep ruts into the soft ground.
Wool Wagons on Water Street Kerrville
Wool Wagons on Water Street,
Blakely Collection
“The stage stop at our house supplied no special facilities for the passengers. On cold days they were welcome to come into the house to warm themselves in front of the open fireplace. Some who tried to make the trip more comfortable by warming their feet with a heated brick wrapped in a tow sack or in a strip of blanket, might bring the brick in to reheat it while they were soaking up the warmth.
“They were welcome, too, to seek out the little outhouse back near the barn. This was a two-holer, completely equipped with a bucket of corn cobs and a Sears Roebuck catalog. It is doubtful if every outhouse on the stage line gave the passengers such a choice,” Oehler writes proudly.
Freight Wagons downtown Kerrville
Freight Wagons, Earl Garrett
at Water Street in Kerrville
The road, Oehler speculates, “no doubt followed quite closely the military route surveyed by Col. Albert Sidney Johnston in the 1850s to provide access to the forts established along the western frontier.”
This route crossed Johnson Creek 12 times between Mountain Home and Kerrville (13 crossings if you count the Smith Branch crossing).
Consider that, Gentle Reader. We take for granted the terrain here as we travel in comfort, sealed in our air-conditioned cars, listening to music, and talking on the telephone.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who can remember traveling to Junction before IH10 was built, along a route which must have been close to that described by Oehler. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 6, 2018.





There are still a few copies of Joe's second book available.  Click HERE for more information.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

One Hundred Years Ago Today in Kerr County: An Immigrant's Gift.

Main Building, Schreiner Institute
Schreiner Institute was founded on December 31, 1917, 100 years ago today.
Construction began in 1922 of an "English Colonial" campus few could imagine for Kerrville.
Click on any image to enlarge
One hundred years ago, on December 31, 1917, our community received a remarkable gift.
In the early days of Kerr County, just before the Civil War, a young immigrant moved here. His life was not an easy one: he lost his parents when he was young, and was on his own at 16. There were many years of hardship and even poverty for the immigrant and his family and some traces of his homeland never went away. Even late in his life he spoke with a slight accent, a faint echo of his first language, French. Some of his manners were a bit foreign, too.
Charles Armand Schreiner
Charles A. Schreiner
Yet he loved Kerrville and Kerr County and his actions proved his feelings for our community.
The immigrant was a hard worker, and he was smart. His business acumen was phenomenal. He was not trained in business; his father had not been a businessperson; he was never an apprentice, learning from a mentor. He had little formal education. But he was a gifted businessman, with an eye for value, and he was an excellent merchant. He built a great fortune,
His customers liked him, and his community trusted him: they elected him to several public offices, including county treasurer.
Late in his life, after providing for his large family, he gave a lot of his wealth away, in gifts large and small, mostly benefiting the community of Kerrville and our neck of the Texas Hill Country.
The gift which has touched the most lives was his gift which started a school on the outskirts of Kerrville, a preparatory school for boys.
Drill at Schreiner Institute in KerrvilleThe immigrant had the idea for the school before World War I. He announced his plan: on December 31, 1917, he would donate $250,000 to establish the school, along with 140.25 acres of land in Kerrville, with the provision work on it could not begin until the war was over and at least a year had passed from the signing of the peace treaties.
In those days $250,000 was an enormous amount of money, much greater than it is today. In the years after the announcement about the school, the immigrant added to his gift; the total he gave for the school eventually added up to a little over $550,000.
Main Building Schreiner InstituteIt wasn't until 1922 that construction on the school began. Three buildings were erected: a three-story main building, a dormitory, and a headmaster's house. The architectural style of the buildings was described in the Kerrville Mountain Sun as "English Colonial," a style "which is specially adapted to the rugged surroundings and has the further advantage of being very homelike."
When the cornerstone was dedicated, the immigrant was there.
In September, 1923, 94 years ago, the school opened its doors to students. Again, the immigrant was there for the festivities.
That immigrant, of course, was Charles Schreiner; the school he founded was Schreiner Institute, which is today known as Schreiner University.
* * *
There were several speakers at the opening of the school, and two in particular stand out: J. E. Grinstead, who was a newspaperman and writer, and Dr. J. J. Delaney, the first president of the school.  Their remarks were reported in the September 20, 1923 edition of the Kerrville Mountain Sun.
Delaney Hall Schreiner InstituteGrinstead was a favorite local speaker at the time. He'd come to Kerrville at the turn of the century because his wife was ill with tuberculosis, and in a few short years he owned the newspaper, was elected mayor, then school board president, and later state representative. He published a magazine, and spent his later years writing pulp westerns. He authored much of the image and myth of the Texas hill country.
Schreiner Institute Cadets 1920s Kerrville"A year ago," Grinstead said at the opening of the school, "this spot was an open field. A crop of grain had been harvested from it, and I used to take walks out this way and think it was a dreary place. And now, look at the beauty of it! Almost like the story of Aladdin and his wonderful lamp. When you think about how it came about, quite as wonderful. From the rough surface of a field, within a few months have sprung these magnificent buildings. True, there were many artists and artisans at labor, but in effect every brick, stone, tile and shingle was placed by a single man. A man who devoted his life to service. He was half a century accumulating the materials for this great institution, and it was he in effect who, having the materials at hand, raised on this eminence a wonderful monument to service. From this gift of Captain Schreiner, there is a wonderful lesson for you -- the lesson of service. Of service to God, to your country, and to your fellow man.
Main Building Schreiner Institute 1950s Kerrville"The building of the real edifice, the most beautiful thing of all, is just begun. You men of the first year of the Schreiner Institute are the foundation and corner stone of that more beautiful building, that shall grow and grow throughout the generations to come. A building of men whom, wherever they may be found, shall look back with pride and pleasure to the days they spent in this institution. You have opened the book, in which is to be written the history of Schreiner Institute. The pages are blank and white. Write upon them with the pen of inspiration, drawn from earnestness of purpose. Emulate, throughout your labors here, that splendid example of the unselfish service shown by the founder of your school."
Schreiner Institute 1950s KerrvilleJ. J. Delaney presented an oil portrait of Captain Schreiner to the school, and remarked "it is far more to us than a reminder of a man who gives generously of his wealth that the youth of Texas may have the opportunities of education. It should be a constant inspiration to high endeavor to every man who passes through these halls.
"It is easy to envy Captain Schreiner the 'opportunity' and 'luck' and complain of our disadvantages. Young men, the 'luck' of Captain Schreiner was to return after four years' hard service in the Civil War with nothing but what he had in his own spirit except a noble wife and two small children. His 'opportunity' was to wrest a living for them from an untamed wilderness with his bare hands or starve.
Schreiner Institute Kerrville"The opportunities for you today are a hundredfold larger and the same qualities which have brought success to him will bring abundant fulfillment of any worthy ambition that burns in your hearts.
"I wish that we might inscribe under this portrait just these words, 'Integrity, Industry, Economy,' for it is to these and not to easy fortune his success is due."
At the end of the dedication program one member of the school's faculty called the students together and led fifteen cheers for Captain Schreiner and for Schreiner Institute.
In the last century, since Charles Schreiner placed a quarter million dollars and 140.25 acres in trust, the school he started has touched the lives of thousands.
Until next year, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is especially proud of one Schreiner College graduate: his lovely wife, Ms. Carolyn, who graduated from Schreiner with a teaching degree, which she's used to make the world a much better place. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times December 30, 2017.





There are still a few copies of Joe's second book available.  Click HERE for more information.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Top 5 Kerr History Stories of 2017

Louise Hays Park Dam at Kerrville
Time, like an ever rolling stream, has carried 2017 away.
Above: the dam on the Guadalupe River at Louise Hays Park in downtown Kerrville
At the end of the year, it's fun to see what stories on my blog you liked best.  Sometimes I'm surprised by what folks liked best -- and sometimes I'm surprised by what people didn't like as much.  Either way, I learn something about you -- my readers -- that I will try to put to use in 2018.

The top 5 stories of 2017:

No. 5

Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital Kerrville 1949The Story of Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital, April 4, 2017. A lot of us were born in the old SPMH, which stood at the corner of Water and Sidney Baker streets for around 60 years.  This story was unexpectedly popular.
"Kerrville really shouldn’t have a hospital as nice as the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital. When it was opened on July 3rd, 1949, it was a really big deal. But it was a deal that, if you take a hard look at the numbers, probably was bigger than the community it served."  Click here to read the story.

No. 4

Tivy Pep Rally downtown Kerrville 1956An Autumn Kerrville Afternoon in 1956, May 21, 2017.  A fellow from Minnesota contacted me by email and said he had some photos of Kerrville; he was kind enough to share them with all of us.  They were taken, most likely, by a local physician, Dr. Matthews.  Several people pointed out it couldn't be 1956 -- the car in the photo was a 1957 model.  However, Gentle Readers, in those days new cars were introduced in the autumn.  And there is a sign on the door of the car which reads "1956 Football Sweetheart."
"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....'    Click here to read the story.

No. 3

Caspar Real family cabin, around 1900Kerr County Thanksgiving in 1856, November 21, 2017.  I enjoy studying local history, but sometimes I wonder about the daily life of those who settled here in the mid-1850s.  For example, what did they eat?
"The [Denton] family was never short of meat or honey. Though hogs and deer were plentiful, Denton preferred bear meat. "You can eat bear meat every day in the year and never tire of it, and, when cured, you can eat it raw as well as cooked. Everybody used bear oil as a substitute for lard; it made the best shortening in the world. My uncle, John Lowrance, was a mighty bear hunter and often had 1,000 pounds of bear meat in his smokehouse. He considered it the most wholesome of meats and believed that a diet of it would cure any sort of stomach trouble."  Click here to read the story.

No. 2

Ruins of Mill Works downtown KerrvilleKerrville's oldest man-made structure is falling apart, September 24, 2017.  It's a shame that a site so important to the history of our community is not being preserved.
"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.  Click here to read this story.

No. 1

Florence Butt and coworkersEvery H-E-B employee in a single photograph, June 4, 2017.  Who doesn't like a good success story, especially when it's about a woman who first tried selling groceries door to door, before opening her tiny grocery store on Main Street in Kerrville?  This story was the most popular story of 2017.
"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. Click here to read this story.
I'm thankful for the more than 100,000 times readers checked in to read a story or two in 2017.  It is amazing to me that a blog about such a narrow topic -- the history of one rural county in Texas -- could be so popular with so many readers around the world.  I'm grateful for your continued interest and support.

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There are still a few copies of Joe's second book available.  Click HERE for more information.

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