|Kerrville depot of the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad|
Over the past two weeks I've done an experiment: I pulled up newspapers from the past, studied the headlines, and reported what was going on in our community that particular week. The first column in this series looked at Kerrville 50 years ago; the second, 75 years ago.
I thought it would be interesting to see how far back we can go. This week we'll look at the Kerrville news from 100 years ago this week; next week, if it turns out to be possible, from 125 years ago, and so on.
This will get particularly difficult after this week, since our community was formed a little over 160 years ago, but let's see where the trail takes us.
The big news in Kerrville 100 years ago this week was a fire.
"SAP Depot Destroyed by Fire," the headline in the September 27, 1913 issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun reads. (SAP stood for San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad.)
"Flames wipe out freight and passenger depot Tuesday night. Loss Complete. Origin of fire not known. Heroic work of fire company saved adjacent buildings. South wind helped." the sub-headlines read.
The depot which burned down is not the one which currently houses Rails, the "Cafe at the Depot." That brick building was built several years after the fire on that September, 1913, evening; it was built to replace the one which burned down.
The building which burned was a wooden structure, and was located on a different lot than today's depot.
"The most destructive fire that has occurred in Kerrville in many years resulted in the complete destruction of the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Depot at this place Tuesday night.
"An alarm was turned in shortly after 11 o'clock, but by the time the first company was on the ground the entire building, which had evidently taken fire from within, was a mass of flames. In the freight warehouse were a number of barrels of oils of different kinds, which together with lard bacon and other inflammable merchandise made a terrific fire. On a siding near the depott were two cars of merchandise. These were also completely destroyed.
"Aided by a strong south wind the firemen put up a valiant fight for the adjacent buildings, and none were burned, although some of the nearer ones became very hot and were scorched some. Oceans of water from the powerful streams played on the building and on the blazing structures kept the heat down until at two o'clock the fire was practically out.
"The amount of the loss has not been yet determined, but will run into many thousands of dollars. A splendid demonstration of the ample water facilities for firefighting, and also of the Kerrville firefighters, were given in the manner the big fire was handled.
"The Charles Schreiner Company and the West Texas Supply Company, each of whom has a large warehouse on the track near the depot, gave $25 each to the general fund of the fire company in token of their appreciation of the strenuous efforts made in behalf of their property."
There was another railroad-related story on the front page of that issue of the Mountain Sun: "Proposed Railroad for Kerrville."
That story told of efforts by "capitalists and railroad promoters" to "connect Kerrville and San Angelo by new line and to make outlet from the plains country to gulf."
The San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad extended from Aransas Pass to Kerrville; the Gulf of Mexico stopped the line on one end, and the hills of Kerr County on the other. Over the years several attempts were made to extend the line from Kerrville. 100 years ago the discussion was to connect Kerrville and San Angelo; other schemes linked Fredericksburg to San Angelo.
None of these lines were ever built, but it's interesting to see all of the speculation surrounding railroads here only 100 years ago.
The century-old newspaper is covered with ads for Charles Schreiner Company and the Charles Schreiner Bank. Other advertisers include the Kerrville Livery Company, the Lakeside Park, C. C. Butt Grocery Company, all enterprises I've written about elsewhere.
One ad in particular caught my eye: "Recreation Hall. Billiards, Pool, Box Ball, Checkers, Dominoes, Chess," the ad reads. That part is not so special. It's the next part that's surprising: "Free Public Library, fifteen hundred volumes." The place was owned by George W. Walther, and I think it was in the 800 block of Water Street, opposite today's Francisco's Restaurant. It's interesting the offerings of the place. Consider this alteration of a popular show tune: "There's trouble in River City; that starts with T, which rhymes with P, which stands for Pool... and a free library, which shares ideas, which cause even more trouble."
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects Kerrville and Kerr County historical items. If you have something you'd care to share with him, bring it by his print shop office on Water Street. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 21, 2013.
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