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Monday, October 15, 2012

Happy Quasquicentennial!

Kerrville's train depot around the turn of the last century.
This depot had a fire and has been gone a very long time.
According to Merriam-Webster, a quasquicentennial is the 125th anniversary of something -- and Kerrville had an important quasquicentennial last Saturday. In fact, the event which occurred on October 6, 1887 changed Kerrville forever, turning her from a sleepy isolated little town into a market center for this region, and allowed Charles Schreiner and others to make a serious market in wool, mohair, and cattle.
On October 6, 1887, the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad came to Kerrville for the very first time. It was a really, really big deal.
I found this in my files:
Until that time all freight came to Kerrville by wagons. Every nail, piece of paper, shoe, piano, and most of the cloth and lumber was hauled by oxen over the hills, mostly from San Antonio. In 1887, no other community in the hill country was served by a railroad. Fredericksburg didn't get her railroad until November 1, 1913, twenty-six years after Kerrville, and that line was never really profitable. Other nearby communities never saw a train arrive. Kerrville's trains ran until the 1970s.
I have a copy of the October 6, 1887 Kerrville Eye, a newspaper of the era. The publisher printed 2,000 copies of the edition -- a huge number, considering Kerrville probably had less than 400 residents.
In the issue several other newspapers' reports of the railway's arrival in Kerrville was reprinted. "Plucky little Kerrville," the San Angelo Standard reported, "has obtained her railroad, and if ever a town and county deserve the iron horse, Kerrville and Kerr County did. A bonus of $50,000 was raised in the middle of the drought and $46,000 of that bonus has been raised in cash; a few more thousand had to be raised to buy the right of way over land belonging to fossils of the tertiary period, a few of which are settled in that county. We hope the boon for which Kerr County has worked so strenuously will prove an even greater blessing than they anticipate."
The Burnet Hero declared "The Aransas Pass Road has reached Kerrville. The 'Eye' therefore excusable for being jubilant and winking many triumphant winks, as it worked hard to bring that town and section to the front of the railroad men. We know how it is ourselves and don't blame the 'Eye' for feeling proud. The 'Hero' got out an extra to celebrate the completion of the Dallas, Granite and Gulf road to Burnet, as it was the first air line to the point from the north -- but alas it was an air line with a vengeance. It was built of air, by air, through air."
According to the Texas Transportation Museum website, “at 11:45 a.m. on October 6, 1887, the first train arrived in Kerrville. On board the six Pullmans were 502 passengers, 200 from San Antonio, 131 from Boerne, 141 from Comfort and 30 from Center Point. Altogether this was 200 more people than actually lived in Kerrville. It was a banner day for the town, with parades and speeches.”
There were more than speeches and parades that day: there was also business to be transacted.
According to the 'Eye,' "A large lot sale will take place here about the 22nd of October. The magnificent ground near the depot has been laid off in lots by Capt. Schreiner, and will be sold that day. This is going to be a town. Don't miss the sale. Come and bid on a few lots."
Then later, a few inches down, the 'Eye' continues: "Visitors to Kerrville, did you ever see a prettier site for a town? Kerrville has the prettiest depot grounds of any town on the Aransas Pass [railway]. Capt Schreiner has cut this fine plot of ground up into lots... You will regret to the end of your days if you fail to attend the sale, and purchase a lot."
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is old enough to remember the freight trains which served Kerrville until the early 1970s. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times October 13, 2012.

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