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Monday, September 21, 2015

How Kerrville was founded

For the past few weeks I've been sharing parts of a history paper written about our community by the late Anna Belle Roland, the aunt of a friend of mine, Lanza Teague. The 84 page document is handwritten, and follows the story of our community from its founding through the 1990s.
Ms. Roland's account of our community's founding is good, and adds details not found elsewhere.
"Joshua D. Brown," Ms. Roland writes, "in 1844 was living in Gonzales, Texas, and interested in a new industry, the making of cypress shingles. He first engaged in this industry along Curry Creek, but as the trees became more scarce, he led a party up the Guadalupe River in search of more timber.
"In 1846 they selected a site near a large spring located near what is now the 900 block of Water Street. Here they remained and worked for a few months until the Indians became so troublesome that they were forced to leave...."
I've always found the phrase 'the Indians became troublesome' quaint and understated. They became so troublesome Brown and his friends left their shingle making camp -- and stayed away for 2 years.
"In 1848, Brown and his followers returned," Ms. Roland writes. "This time they remained. Gradually, other settlers began to come, many of whom were German. New Braunfels and Fredericksburg had already been established. In the 1840s many Germans came to Texas because of unrest and oppression in Germany.
"Brown first purchased 640 acres in tract 116 extending 1 1/2 miles northward from the river. This was acquired from the heirs of B. F. Cage, a veteran of the Battle of San Jacinto."
My research suggest Cage's heirs thought he was dead when they sold the land to Brown -- but he was actually quite alive and well, and living nearby in Blanco. The land hand been granted to Cage in 1847 for his service in the Texas War for Independence, a year or so after Brown and company had made their first shingle camp here.
"Brown donated 4 acres of the land for public structures," Ms. Roland continues, "and the necessary land for streets. The settlement was first called Brownsborough, but at the request of Joshua Brown, it was named Kerrsville for his friend James Kerr. Later the 's' was dropped, and it became Kerrville.
"More than one shingle camp was established. Cypress shingles were much in demand in San Antonio, where they were carried by wagon. The location of only two of these camps is known: the original one of Joshua D. Brown's, and that of Saner's Mill, which was just east of the present intersection of Junction Highway and Methodist Encampment Road."
Evidence of Saner's Mill was probably covered by the lake created in the 1980s, which has been recently named for Chester Nimitz.
"These settlers," writes Ms. Roland, "were truly isolated. To the north, twenty-five miles away, was the tiny settlement of Fredericksburg; to the south and east, the German Settlement of Comfort, and in between, along the river, a group of settlers in the present location of Center Point; and to the west, nothing."
This isolation is hard for us to imagine today. Fredericksburg is only a half-hour's drive away; Center Point, less than that.
San Antonio was the largest nearby city -- and in 1850 its population was less than 3,500.
* * *
I'm glad to share information about Robert Puig's upcoming talk in Kerrville, this Sunday, September 20, from 2 - 5 pm, at the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library meeting room. He's been working on a history of the Mexican American Patriotic Celebrations of Kerrville, Texas -- covering from 1923 to 2003. There will be music and refreshments.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who enjoys reading old histories of Kerrville.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 19, 2015.

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