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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Then and Now: Kerrville's Secor Hospital

Recently I gave a presentation at the Schreiner Mansion, where I paired historic photographs with snaps I'd taken that day with my phone.  I did this because I realized most people haven't studied area photographs as I have, and so it's sometimes confusing to know where an historic photo was taken.  So I took a copy of each historic photograph with me, and tried to find the exact spot where the old photograph was taken -- and then I took a photo with my cellphone.   Over the next few Wednesdays, I'll publish the results here.  Please feel free to share these with your friends.
Click on any image to enlarge

The Secor Hospital.  This hospital preceded the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital,
and was near the intersection of Sidney Baker and Main Streets in Kerrville.

I'm guessing this photo was taken in the 1920s or 1930s.
The site today.  It's the National Care Sales used car lot.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The case of the missing model

I have in my collection of Kerrville and Kerr County historical items an odd assortment of items, ranging from thousands of photographs, to oddities such as an early telephone switchboard or the corporate seal of a long-closed school for girls.
This week I was going through a part of my collection and found detailed notes prepared by Herbert Oehler, who wrote a history column for this newspaper years ago.
Mr. Oehler was an accountant by training, but he had a real love of local history. In fact, he wrote a personal history of his youth here in Kerr County, called "Hill Country Boy." (Copies are sometimes available at Wolfmueller'sBooks on Earl Garrett Street.)
You can see hints of both of his passions in his notes: they explore a great many subjects, and there are pages of neatly written tables, where information is provided in tabular columns. You can tell in his notes he was an accountant, but you can also see he was an historian.
Years ago, at the Hill Country Preservation Society museum, which was housed in the home of Captain Charles Schreiner on Earl Garrett Street in downtown Kerrville, there was a model of Kerrville as it appeared in 1870. The story goes it had been built by patients at Kerrville's Veterans Administration Hospital, for display during the county's centennial celebration of 1956.
I'll admit I was not among the fans of the old model of Kerrville. Many things about it just didn't seem correct.
Later, when Schreiner University acquired the Charles Schreiner mansion, many of the items which had been on display there were removed from the building. Some of those items were later sold at a sale held in the Union Church.
I don't remember seeing the model of Kerrville at that sale, so I assume it is stored somewhere at Schreiner University.
My opinion of the model may change, though, especially as I read through the notes of Herbert Oehler.
Apparently, when the Hill Country Preservation Society began, in the late 1970s, that model of Kerrville in 1870 was part of the planned display. Mr. Oehler was tasked with researching the model and verifying what was shown there.
He was thorough in his research, relying on anecdotal evidence in some cases, and he relies upon the work of Bob Bennett, who wrote a definitive history of Kerr County in 1956.
But Oehler also did extensive research using the county's records of land transactions in the downtown Kerrville area. There are pages of notes on land transactions, recorded in Mr. Oehler's precise hand, which show, block by block, the ownership of land in the downtown area.
And there are two hand drawn maps, too, which show the blocks of downtown as they appeared on the 1956 model, and then a separate map which reflects Oehler's research.
These maps show an area of downtown from the river to the edge of Main Street, and then from just past Clay Street to just past Washington Street (or from about the site of the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library to the campus of Notre Dame Catholic Church).
These two maps are very interesting, and show the locations of homes and businesses in Kerrville around 1870. 1870 is an interesting choice: it was just after the Civil War, when the future prosperity of Kerrville was still in doubt. Our community, at that time, was rustic. Very rustic. There were very few people here, and few buildings. The story of our bend in the river had not been written.
Hopefully I'll find where the old model of Kerrville now hides -- and compare it to Mr. Oehler's notes. There might be something there, after all.
Until next week, all the best.


Joe Herring Jr is a Kerrville native who collects historic photographs of Kerrville and Kerr County. Please bring him what you have: he'll scan the images and give you back the originals. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times April 25, 2015.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Then and Now: Water Street in the early 1900s

Recently I gave a presentation at the Schreiner Mansion, where I paired historic photographs with snaps I'd taken that day with my phone.  I did this because I realized most people haven't studied area photographs as I have, and so it's sometimes confusing to know where an historic photo was taken.  So I took a copy of each historic photograph with me, and tried to find the exact spot where the old photograph was taken -- and then I took a photo with my cellphone.   Over the next few Wednesdays, I'll publish the results here.  Please feel free to share these with your friends.
Click on any image to enlarge
Water Street, looking southeast, from the intersection of Sidney Baker Street, in Kerrville
I think this photo was taken between 1910 and 1920.

The scene today.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Kerrville church for many congregations

Kerrville's Union Church, at its current location.
Photo courtesy of the Kerr County Historical Commission
Although Joshua Brown and his crew of shingle makers arrived in our area in 1846, settling here permanently in 1848, the first church buildings in Kerrville weren’t built until 1885 with the completion of the Union Church.
The Union Church’s story is interesting to me for several reasons.
Considering that it took our community so long to build churches – almost 40 years – a generation of Kerrville residents had grown up in a community without the benefit of a church building.
In 1876 the Kerr County Commissioners Court approved the use of the county courtroom for “use as a place of worship of Almighty God,” but this arrangement, for several reasons, “wasn’t satisfactory.” The court’s order stipulated that the sheriff be paid $5 per day for the use of the courtroom, and that “no distinction shall be made between associations, sects, classes, or denominations of the community.”
In 1876 our community had a new courthouse, two stories tall, and made of stone. The community had insisted the building have two stories, and that the upper floor be available for community events. That courthouse was a big improvement over the previous courthouse: the first courthouse here was a log cabin, which stood near where Grimes Funeral Chapels stands today.
That 1876 courthouse served our community for ten years; in 1886 a much larger courthouse was constructed, and the 1876 courthouse was "recycled" and converted into the county jail.
During the late 1870s, according to Bob Bennett's excellent history of Kerr County, “Mrs. Whitfield Scott, who had come to Kerr County with her husband Captain Whitfield Scott, a Confederate veteran, and her sister, Miss Laura Gill, who later became Mrs. William Gray Garrett, began to solicit funds for the building of a Union Church. They were later joined in this work by Mrs. J. M. Starkey, a Methodist, and Mrs. Adeline Coleman, a member of the Christian denomination.
“These ladies went from house to house on horseback and wrote appealing articles in newspapers of that day to stimulate interest. There appears in the Christian Observer, a Presbyterian publication, in 1885, an article under the title “An Urgent Call,” which told how the youth of Kerrville were growing up without religion training, how there was no place of worship…, and how valuable a church would be to the growing community.”
Two lots were given by Capt. Charles Schreiner for the construction of the church; it was located on Clay Street facing what is Pioneer Bank today; a gas station is on the original Union Church site now.
“For several years thereafter, all denominations held services in the Union Church. It was agreed that the Methodist Church should use the building the first Sunday of every month; the Presbyterian the second Sunday; the Baptist the third; and the Christian Church the fourth Sunday. After 1914, when the other denominations had erected their own places of worship, the Church of Christ began to use the building.”
The building was later moved to Francisco Lemos Street, and when I was a boy housed an Army Navy Surplus store where a generation of boys bought camping gear.
Later still, the Friends of the Kerr County Historical Commission moved and restored the Union Church, and it now resides on the corner of the campus of Schreiner University, moving from its original lots donated by Captain Schreiner to a corner of the college which bears his name.
I suppose back in 1885 there was a lot of rejoicing in the new church building. As you visit your church during this time, take a moment to remember those three women, riding house to house on horseback, working to build the community’s first church.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who ought to attend church services more often, if only to serve as a poor example to the faithful.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times April 18, 2015.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Is this a photo of Chester Nimitz?


Recently I came across a photograph of a young Chester Nimitz in an email sent by a friend, and it reminded me of one another friend found in a scrapbook of photographs about the St. Charles Hotel.
First, the known photograph of Chester Nimitz as a student at the U. S. Naval Academy:
Click on image to enlarge
Chester Nimitz, as a young midshipman at the
United States Naval Academy
Click on image to enlarge
From a traveler's scrapbook, found by Lanza Teague.  The building in the background
is Kerrville's St. Charles Hotel.  The Nimitz family managed the hotel at the time.
Is the young man on the far right Chester Nimitz?

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