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Sunday, June 13, 2021

A Kerrville love story, written in stone, in the form of a cottage

The Nellie Holdsworth Memorial Cottage, 
once part of the Westminster Encampment, Kerrville.
Click on any image to enlarge.

The small cottage stands on the western edge of the Schreiner University campus, in the area which was once Westminster Encampment. Today all that remains of Kerrville’s first summer camp are three buildings: the Barbara Dullnig Building, the Westminster Auditorium, and this little stone cottage.
As my friends Maia and Jeremy Walther, along with partners Schreiner University and the City of Kerrville, prepare for the big grand opening of the Trailhead Beer Garden today, June 12th, I wanted to tell the story about the stone cottage next to the Trailhead building.
The story of that cottage is the story of one couple – it’s a love story.
I first knew the cottage as the offices of the Texas Arts and Crafts Fair Educational Foundation, and often delivered printing there, in the late 1970s and later. Next the cottage was the home of the Texas Heritage Music Foundation, which Dr. Kathleen Hudson led for many years. I understand Schreiner University plans to house a campus visitor center in the building soon.
What I’d never noticed before was a large plaque by the front door: “Erected to the Memory of Nellie Holdsworth 1937”
Who was Nellie Holdsworth?
Since the Trailhead building was originally built as the Barbara Dullnig Building in 1920 to commemorate a Presbyterian woman who led women’s church programs all across Texas, I assumed Nellie Holdsworth served in a similar capacity. I learned she was very active in Kerrville’s First Presbyterian Church, serving as president of their women’s auxiliary. She was also involved in the work of Westminster Encampment.
Richard and Nellie Holdsworth.
He blossomed under her care.
However, this church work was not the reason the cottage was built; it was built by her grieving husband, Richard Holdsworth.
According to an account written by Rosita Holdsworth Hollar, a niece of Richard and Nellie Holdsworth, the couple was a very happy one.
“Nellie Jensen Holdsworth,” Hollar writes, “was a small, plump woman five years her husband’s junior with excellent business training and a life attitude that made her able to make and keep worthwhile friends in every walk of life.” The couple married on Richard’s birthday, April 14, 1912, in San Antonio.
Hollar writes a poignant sentence about their life together: “Richard, who had grown up almost a recluse, blossomed under her care.”
The recluse became a Mason and joined Kerrville’s Rotary Club. His circle of friends grew. “He was known as a reserved person, a good, but fair trader, and not a social mixer.” His judgment and excellent credit helped as he invested in local real estate; his hard work helped as he raised cattle on the couple’s several ranches.
Later, the reclusive Richard Holdsworth became involved in local politics, and on April 12, 1933, he became the mayor of Kerrville. He held this office with distinction until June, 1936, when he resigned, ostensibly to go on an extended visit to his home country, England, with his wife.
But there is more to the story.
Wedding announcement
Hollar writes: “Mrs. Holdsworth began planning a trip to England ‘to see where you lived when you were small.’ Her husband had no keen desire to travel, but now conceded and began plans. Then the family doctor told him that her current illness was to become worse – incurable. The medico deemed it best that she not be told. Of all the bitter things life had brought him, this was the ultimate. He confided in family members who said ‘Go! You can give her every care; she would feel no better at home.’”
And so the Holdsworths went on that big trip to England. “Mrs. Holdsworth, as was her want, gave glowing accounts of the voyage, the sights, ‘although [Richard] would only explore for short days.’ One can only imagine what this fa├žade cost him,” Hollar writes.
They left on June 6, 1936, traveling by train to New York City, and crossing the Atlantic on the steamship President Roosevelt, according to a front-page story in the Kerrville Mountain Sun. “Mayor Holdsworth will visit his birthplace. He was born near the Yorkshire village of Rippenden, but left England at the age of seven.”
They returned after 46 days – and, once again, in a front-page story, the highlights of their last trip together were reported. Not only did they visit his birthplace, they ‘motored’ in Scotland all the way to Edinburgh. They explored the Lake District. They hit many of the required tourist spots. They returned to America aboard the steamship California.
Nellie’s health continued to decline, and she passed away at home in Kerrville on November 17, 1936. 
The cottage Richard built to honor his late wife was completed in about seven months, during the following June, and dedicated in August, 1937. The rock work on the exterior of the building includes fossils, crystals, and other rare materials. It was lovingly designed and constructed.
Somehow the building has survived when few in Westminster are still here. Perhaps the memory of Nellie Holdsworth is strong in that place.
Richard Holdsworth died on January 5, 1950 a little over 13 years after Nellie’s passing. The couple had no children; Richard never remarried.
If you head out to Trailhead Beer Garden this weekend for their grand opening, take a moment to look at the little rock cottage, and remember the couple it represents, and their last big trip together.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has definitely blossomed under the care of the lovely Ms. Carolyn. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 12, 2021.

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Sunday, June 6, 2021

Our part of the Guadalupe River

Ingram Dam, 1968
Click on any image to enlarge

The story of Kerr County starts with the Guadalupe River.
Postcard, 1910s
The first settlers to our area were attracted to land beside the river; in fact, early maps of our county show tracts surveyed along the river, but land away from the river had no surveys. It was as if land away from the river had no boundaries, in part because it had less value.
Prehistoric people camped along the river, often at the second ledge or rise above the water, knowing well how often the Guadalupe floods. There are several archeological sites near the river which are in the downtown area. Every now and then I find an arrowhead (or, rather, a part of one) in the middle of downtown Kerrville. We are not the first ones who lived beside the river here.
Here's the story of the Guadalupe, gathered from my files:
The Guadalupe River begins here in Kerr County. Two forks of the river join in Hunt, with the North Fork surging from the ground just upstream from Mo-Ranch above Hunt, and the South Fork beginning near State Highway 41, four miles shy of the Real-Kerr county line. 
Launch, 1925
In fact, at the headwaters of the north fork you can see water rushing from a limestone ledge on state land at a little access point which is part of the Kerr County Wildlife Management area, almost directly across from the entrance gate to the area. For many years I have taken friends and visitors to see these powerful springs, though in recent years they were dry.
From these small beginnings the river travels southeast from Hunt for about 230 miles, emptying into San Antonio Bay. Its two major tributaries are the San Marcos and Comal rivers, and its drainage area is about 6,100 square miles.
I have traveled in search of the mouth of the Guadalupe, down in the muggy flats of Refugio and Calhoun counties, and it’s quite a different river down there: slow moving and filled with large creatures that would certainly scare this swimmer. We saw “slides” on the banks of the river there where alligators sled on their bellies to get into the water. The air is heavy there, and my memories of our search include the droning sounds of a million hidden insects and the bright bleaching sun.
Ski Show, 1950s
Louise Hays Park
According to the Handbook of Texas, the river got its name from Alonso De Leon in 1689, when he named it the Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe. De Leon was familiar with the lower stretches of the river. It was called other names by the Spaniards, including the San Augustin and the San Ybon. The earliest reference to our part of the river, at least above the mouth of the Comal, was in 1727, when Pedro de Rivera y Villalon wrote about it.
Kerrville was established on the river in the mid-1800’s, when Joshua Brown and company came here to harvest the cypress trees to make shingles.
Children, Dietert
Mill Dam, 1910s
A wide variety of commercial enterprises have depended upon the river since that first shingle makers’ camp. Several mills were constructed along the river, one far upstream, between Ingram and Hunt, the Sherman mill. In downtown Kerrville, Christian Dietert built a mill, the ruins of which are still visible today. Center Point had several mills over the years.
Swimming and recreational day camps sprung up in Kerrville, but upriver from Ingram on, summer overnight camps for boys and girls have been an important local industry for 100 years.
Despite a long history of businesses facing away from the river (including my family’s printing company), more and more newly constructed businesses are making use of the river as a feature. The construction of the City of Kerrville’s River Trail system opened up much of the river area to walkers and cyclists. Areas once closed to the public now have hundreds of visitors every day, especially when the weather is pleasant.
We live in a good place here, and I’m thankful the river has been such an important part of our county’s story.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who learned to swim, very long ago, in the Guadalupe River at Camp Stewart. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 5, 2021.

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Sunday, May 23, 2021

That time a bear got loose in downtown Kerrville -- 1898

Interior view, Henke Brothers Meat Market,
which was in the 800 block of Water Street.
Click on any image to enlarge.

This week, while researching a different mystery, I ran across a twice-told tale, a story told by two different storytellers.
The tale involves a bear roaming downtown Kerrville at the turn of the last century. This caused a general excitement among those present for the event, and none who were there that day forgot the story.
Henke's, probably early 1960s
Many people have very fond memories of Henke Brothers Meat Market, which was located in the 800 block of Water Street. People especially remember the good barbecue you could buy there, and eat behind the store. 
In 1898, the Henke Brothers purchased the City Meat Market from the Karger Brothers, who were ‘great bear hunters,’ and who kept a pet bear chained up behind the butcher shop. The sale of the butcher shop included the poor bear.
On the very day the Henkes took possession of the enterprise, according to the Kerr County Album, the bear “broke loose and started roaming up the alleyway and entered Schreiner’s store, causing much excitement. Store employees took ammunition and guns from the hardware department and the bear was killed….”
For years this was all I knew about the excitement caused by a bear lumbering along in downtown Kerrville. This week, however, I found an article which fills in a few more details.
Louis A. Schreiner was the third child of Charles and Magdalena Schreiner, and he was born in downtown Kerrville on New Year’s Eve, 1870. He was a banker, and worked at his father’s Schreiner Bank from the age of 19.
Louis A. Schreiner, and guests, around 1968
In early 1969, after “Mr. Louie” celebrated his 98th birthday a few months before, the imitable Nina Harwood interviewed him for this newspaper. Ms. Harwood certainly got several good stories from him, including the story of the rambling bear.
Mr. Schreiner describes the path the roaming bear took after it escaped its chains: from the meat market, which stood between Water Street Antiques and Francisco’s Restaurant in the 800 block of Water Street, the bear escaped down an alley which still exists today. The old Masonic Building, which today holds Turtle Creek Olives and Vines, has a little sidewalk between it and the Baehre Building, home today of Rita’s Famous Tacos and Pax Coffee and Goods. The bear walked down that little sidewalk and entered the Masonic Building.
Louis Schreiner remembered it this way:
After leaving the Masonic Building, the bear crossed the street – to the Schreiner Mansion.
“I was [around] 25 years old at the time, and was slowly recovering from typhoid fever.
“My brothers, Walter and Charlie, who were nursing me at the time, since my parents and two sisters were in Europe, had placed me in a bed on the front porch. When the bear came into the yard, I was unable to move. But fortunately, he went around the house and to the rear of my father’s store.”
Work was being done on the mansion at the time, with Italian stonemasons “installing some fancy rockwork on our fence.”
When the bear suddenly appeared in the backyard, the stonemasons climbed trees as fast as they could, not knowing bears are excellent climbers of trees.
Fortunately for the stonemasons, the bear decided to go shopping at Schreiner’s store.
John Grider, of Grona & Grider ‘Blackmiths and Wheelwrights,’ which stood roughly opposite Water Street from Francisco’s Restaurant, “grabbed a gun and took after the bear. Upon entering the store, Grider shot holes in a half-dozen pairs of shoes before he finally killed the animal,” Louis Schreiner told Nina Harwood with a chuckle.
The Kerr County Album tells what happened next.
“That being opening day for the market,” the Henkes offered “bear meat for 12 cents a pound.”
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has seen bears in the wild in Colorado, though his lovely wife, Ms. Carolyn, once saw a bear at the H. E. Butt Foundation Camps, near Leakey. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times May 22, 2021.

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Sunday, May 16, 2021

What a gift: August 1912 issue of Grinstead's Magazine!

Grinstead's Magazine, August 1912
Click on any image to enlarge

A few weeks ago, I received a telephone call from a kind reader who lives in Comfort, Texas. She told me she had some old issues of Grinstead’s Graphic, and if I was interested in them, I could have them. I was definitely interested, and so I hopped in my truck and headed to Comfort.
J. E. Grinstead, a Kerrville newspaperman, author, politician, and publisher, produced two different magazines during his long career here. His first was called Grinstead’s Magazine and was published from around 1912 to 1920, though sporadically; his second, Grinstead’s Graphic, was published monthly from 1921 to 1925. The issues were written and produced by J. E. Grinstead alone, and featured commentary about local politics, a fictional story or two, and occasionally a poem.
In an age before television (or much radio), such a magazine would have been a welcome diversion, and Grinstead had subscribers all over the country, including the diaspora of Kerr County, folks living far from their homeland.
J. E. Grinstead moved to Kerrville in 1899 seeking health for his wife, Sarah Frances Bay Grinstead, who was ill with tuberculosis. The couple had two young boys, Grady and Doyle. 
The couple purchased the Kerrville Paper and renamed it the Kerrville Mountain Sun.
Sarah died within a few months of the Grinsteads’ arrival here, a few days after Christmas, 1899.
Within a year, J. E. Grinstead married a Kerrville widow, Gertrude Wright. They had three children: a daughter, Bessie, and two sons, Jesse and Pam.
I was thrilled to get the copies of Grinstead’s Graphic, of course. But among the magazines is one I’d never seen before: the August 1912 issue of Grinstead’s Magazine.
Grinstead is often called a ‘booster,’ who published glowing articles about Kerr County. This 1912 issue is entirely devoted to praising Kerr County as a place to live and work. It’s basically a 96-page advertisement for our communities.
It’s a blunt advertisement.
“This magazine is not published by any man or set of men who desire to exploit the people of other sections for the purpose of separating them from their coin. Here is a county containing eleven hundred square miles, and having a population of a little more than five thousand. There are not enough people here, and those who are here want more people to help them build up a prosperous modern community. There are no town lot auctions, nobody is offering to sell ten acres of land that will pay for itself and leave a handsome bank balance the first year.”
He also writes “We need more people in this country, but they must be good people. One who is an undesirable citizen elsewhere will be very lonesome in this community.”
And also “Kerr County is no land of dreams. To prosper here you have to get busy, but you can get along better on the same amount of work here than you can in most countries.”
Gentle Reader, you know I love old Kerr County photographs. This issue of Grinstead’s Magazine is full of them, showing places, events, and some of the prominent people of Kerr County in 1912. He spends a lot of pages describing the natural beauty of our area – and provides many photographs showing the river, scenic views, agricultural subjects, and images of hunting and fishing.
He paints an enticing picture, hoping to encourage good folks to move here.
I’m very thankful to the kind reader who gave me these historic magazines, sharing them with all of us.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who was surprised to learn this August 1912 issue of Grinstead’s Magazine was printed about 30 feet from his desk at his family’s downtown print shop; Grinstead’s office once stood between our print shop and Grape Juice. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times May 15, 2021

Though this newsletter is free, it isn't cheap. You can help by sharing it with someone, by forwarding it or sharing it on Facebook. Sharing is certainly caring. (Did you know I have Kerr County history books available online, with free shipping?)




Sunday, May 9, 2021

The first "aeroplane" in Kerrville

'Captain' Charles Theodore (at controls) of what might be
the first airplane to land in Kerrville.
Click on any image to enlarge.

My long-time friend and classmate Carol Neely dropped by two very interesting photographs this week, and they inspired me to investigate the story they depicted. The photos were part of her late father’s collection, and I was very thankful to receive them.
The two photos show an early biplane: one showing a closeup of the pilot, and then another showing the entire plane along with the pilot and another young man. Calvin Neely had labeled the photos “First Aeroplane in Kerrville….”
As you know, I love a mystery, so I decided to investigate.
Here are the clues I saw in the photographs:
The young pilot,
Charles Theodore
First, I think the “aeroplane” was photographed at the West Texas Fairgrounds, which once stood between Guadalupe Street and Junction Highway, and bordered, roughly, by Hugo Street and Lewis Avenue. The big clue as to the location of the airplane in the photographs is just behind the men and the machine: you can make out the inner and outer fences of the fairground’s racetrack.
The West Texas Fair was a big deal. Not only was it a place to show off agricultural, livestock, and homemade items, it also offered horse racing and other entertainments. Those entertainments changed from year to year, but they were designed to bring in the crowds.
The July 29, 1916 issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun has an article headlined “Airship to Fly Over Kerrville.”
In 1916 airplanes were a rare thing here. I checked the local newspapers for the years 1914 and 1915; there were no reports of “aeroplanes” coming to Kerrville. The U.S. Army had an airbase at Fort Sam Houston, testing a Wright Brothers plane in 1911, and accepting a Curtiss Model D Type IV in April of 1911. I’m not sure those planes had a very great range, but it’s conceivable an airplane could have come close to Kerrville sometime between 1911 and 1916.
“The West Texas Fair,” the article reports, “will offer the people of this section a new thriller this year…. The people will be able to witness a thing of which we have all heard and read, and which few of us have seen – a birdman in the air demonstrating the manner in which aeroplanes are handled in the great European war.”

Kerrville's 'West Texas Fairgrounds'

Captain Charles Theodore flew an aircraft during Kerrville’s West Texas Fair in mid-August, 1916. I believe the young man in the photograph is Charles Theodore.
Theodore was a popular aviator in Texas, and often appeared and performed at fairs and public gatherings. In an advertisement for a show in McKinney, Texas in 1917, he is headlined as “Captain Charles Theodore and his Curtiss Airplane,” and a photograph shows such an airplane in flight.
Looking closely at the two photographs of the aeroplane in Kerrville, it appears to be a modified Curtiss Model D Headless Pusher. The pusher part of the name comes from the propeller positioned at the back of the aircraft, pushing air away from the front of the plane for power; the headless part comes from the absence of a canard in front of the pilot.  It was made of wood and cloth and looks terrifying to fly.
I believe the aeroplane photographed in Kerrville matches the photographs of the plane in the advertisements elsewhere.
Waco was, for a while, Theodore’s home base. In 1916, the local Young Men’s Business League had collected $1000 for him to “establish a flying field” on land donated by “one of Waco’s “most prominent citizens.” Theodore stayed there for a year or so, and it was during this time he put on a show in Kerrville. Later he moved up to Dallas, to a new airfield opening there.
I found two news articles describing separate crashes Capt. Theodore survived while performing. Flying was especially dangerous in those days, but he kept flying.
He continued to fly and perform until October, 1919. While doing stunts for a show in Dallas, in a more modern and powerful Curtiss JN-4 Canadian, and after walking along the wings of the aircraft while a fellow pilot was at the controls, he attempted to hang on to the landing frame while the plane did a loop. This crazy stunt was not successful, and he fell to earth.
He was clear-eyed about the risks of aviation, if not about evaluating extra risks. In an interview he once said “Yes. I guess I will get mine some day – they nearly all do – but in the meantime it is a fascinating game – and well, I am in that business, and do not have any intention of getting into anything else.”
He was only 37 when he died, and had been flying for about 10 years. He was probably the first person to fly an airplane here in Kerrville.
I’m thankful Ms. Neely shared these wonderful photographs with all of us.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who often flew with his mother when she had her private pilot’s license. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times May 8, 2021

Though this newsletter is free, it isn't cheap. You can help by sharing it with someone. Sharing is certainly caring. (A special thanks to everyone who purchased my books last week.)




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