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Monday, November 18, 2013

Kerrville incorporated when, exactly?

At the intersection of Sidney Baker Street and Main Street, on the corner of the newly developed "Peterson Plaza," words over an archway declare the Kerrville was established in 1889. In addition, the official seal of the City of Kerrville also indicates our community started in 1889.
This date, 1889, indicates the year the City of Kerrville was incorporated and elected its first mayor and city council, not the first year people lived here, or called the community "Kerrsville." 1889 is given as the date municipal government started here.
Yet in recent research I found a problematic series of stories from that era, written about Kerrville and its incorporation. The stories, which appear in both San Antonio and Galveston newspapers, report about a successful election here to incorporate our community.
The problem: the newspapers are dated 1888.
There's a story in the discrepency, of course.
The 1889 date comes from several sources, but most notably from Bob Bennett's excellent history of Kerr County, which was published in 1956 as a part of the county's centennial celebrations.
On August 23, 1889, a group of Kerrville citizens met in the law office of Robert H. Burney and "definitely started the plans for incorporation." A petition was soon presented to the county judge, W. G. Garrett, signed by fifty "resident citizens and qualified voters of Kerrville, Texas" stating the "desire to incorporate said town of Kerrville for municipal purposes, in accordance to the laws of the State of Texas."
Since the court was not in session, Judge Garrett granted the request 'in vacation' -- and an election "to determine whether or not said town of Kerrville shall be incorporated" was scheduled for September 7th, 1889. Consider that for a moment: from the first meeting in the lawyer's office until the election was held about two weeks passed. There were no lengthy studies, public hearings, prolonged debate. I wonder if the full Commissioners Court would have approved the election.
There was not a lot of voter turnout, either. The petition stated Kerrville was a "town of more than one thousand inhabitants," yet only 98 votes were cast in the election. The results: 95 for incorporation and 3 against.
The election for the new city's first mayor and aldermen was set for September 26th, where Joseph A. Tivy (yes, the same Tivy for which the high school, and a city street, were named) was elected mayor; A. C. Schreiner, W. W. Burnett, Ed Smallwood, B. C. Richards and Nathan Herzog were chosen as aldermen. If my memory local people is correct, Mr. Herzog was an employee of Mr. Schreiner. Ed Smallwood was the editor of the newspaper.
Ironically, the very first city council meeting in the City of Kerrville was held on Halloween, 1889, about two months after the process began.
At the first meeting Richards and Smallwood were named as a committee to draft ordinances for the city; at the second meeting, Richards was appointed to "devise ways and means for operating the city government;" Richards and Schreiner were named as the finance committee.
And that's the story of our community was incorporated, as taken from Bob Bennett's book.
Yet if you look at the April 8, 1888, issue of the Galveston Daily News, you'll see a small item which reports an election was held on April 4, to determine "whether or not the people of the town of Kerrville, recently incorporated...would vote a tax of 40 cents on $100 valuation of property for the purpose of paying interest on school bonds, was carried...by there being 33 votes cast and 32 votes in favor of the tax."
And so, a little mystery: was Kerrville incorporated in 1889, or in 1888?  Hopefully I'll be able to clear it all up next week.
Until then, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who noticed the same 1888 issue of the Galveston Daily News carried the obituary of Ella Tivy, who is one of the three buried on Tivy Mountain. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times November 16, 2013.

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