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Monday, August 29, 2016

Stage Coach Days in Kerrville

My friends Jon and Sandy Wolfmueller, of Wolfmueller's Books, gave me an interesting book last week. "Kerrville, Texas: a social and economic history," written by Frank R. Gilliland of Center Point. It was Mr. Gilliland's master's thesis, and it was written in 1951.
Mr. Gilliland, from my quick research through old newspapers, became an educator, and even taught in Center Point.
I like manuscripts like this because they are usually well-researched, and the author gives an account of his sources, including the persons he interviewed. Mr. Gilliland was able to interview many people, and among them were names most of us would recognize: A. P. Brown, the son of the founder of Kerrville, Joshua Brown; J. Marvin Hunter, who established newspapers across the state and a museum in Bandera; members of several pioneer families, such as the Starkeys, the Nichols, the Witts, and the Moores.
One interview stood out to me: Mr. Bert C. Parsons. Parsons was the son of Dr. George Parsons, a pioneer physician here who served as mayor of Kerrville in the city's earliest days.
The Parsons family owned the property on which our print shop stands from 1878 to 1958, a span of 80 years. (By comparison, our family has owned the property for only 58 years, since 1970.)
Parsons' main contribution to Gilliland's manuscript came in the section called "Stage Coach Days."
"About 1850," Gilliland writes, "the Southwestern Stage Company began operating a daily mail and passenger service as far as El Paso on the famous route that started in San Antonio and ended in San Diego."
That route went through Fredericksburg, and from Fredericksburg, our community got its mail.
"From this point mail was brought by horseback to Kerrville three times weekly, the first mail contractor being Fritz Saur, who lived at his Cypress Creek home until 1932. Hack service from Comfort to Kerrville was available at that time."
As for the stage coaches, "the coach accommodated eleven passengers and was drawn by four horses, driven by Pat Howard. Sometime between 1872 and 1880 a stage service was established on to Kerrville.
"In 1880 a daily stage service from Kerrville to Boerne was inaugurated by Dr. George Robins Parsons...he operated this line until completion of the railroad in 1887. At the same time he operated a Comfort to Fredericksburg stage coach, which continued in operation several years after the Kerrville to Boerne line was discontinued. The stage left Kerrville each morning at four o'clock, changed horses in Comfort, and transferred its passengers to the connecting line in Boerne. Travelers reached San Antonio after dark. A stage left San Antonio at about the same time in the morning, and passengers reached Kerrville at night. The round trip fare from Kerrville to San Antonio was twenty dollars. Dr. Parsons had four Concord stage coaches of the two-horse size on the two lines. The stage coach office was in Parsons' Hall, a two-story building which stood on the location of the present Rialto Theater, the second story of which served as town hall for many years."
The Rialto Theater was torn down in 1974, but one part of it remains. The old theater (and thus the stage coach office) stood in our present-day parking lot between Herring Printing Company and Grape Juice, in the 600 block of Water Street. The wall of Grape Juice closest to our print shop was the easternmost wall of the Rialto; in the stucco above the parking lot, you can still see the outline of the risers for the Rialto Theater's balcony.
So the stage coach which served Kerrville departed and arrived in what is now our print shop's parking lot.
That means, Gentle Reader, if you find yourself walking past our parking lot early in the morning, around 4 a.m., and you happen to hear the whinny of a horse, and the clatter of steel-rimmed wheels on pavement, you might be hearing a ghost stage coach leaving Kerrville and headed to Boerne.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who can barely imagine how busy that stage coach office must have been. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times August 27, 2016.

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