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Sunday, July 14, 2019

A glimpse of Kerrville in 1881

"On the road to Kerrville," from sketches by L. W. MacDonald  published May 28, 1881 in "Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper."
"On the road to Kerrville," from sketches by L. W. MacDonald
published May 28, 1881 in "Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper."
Click on any image to enlarge
Years ago a kind friend gave me a framed set of illustrations from sketches by L. W. MacDonald which were originally published in "Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper," in New York, on May 28, 1881. They're detailed illustrations of cowboys driving cattle, one showing the herd and cowboys on a road; the other, in a hill-crowded valley lined with trees.
Of special interest are the captions. One reads "On the road to Kerrville," and the other, "Rounding up the cattle." At the bottom of the page it reads "Cattle-raising on our great plains.--
Scenes at Kerrville, Texas."
Images of Kerrville from 1881 are exceptionally rare. There are two main reasons: there were few if any cameras here during those years, nor any easy way to develop photographs even if you had a camera; and second, there were not a lot of people here. Some sources say the population of Kerrville in 1880 was only 156 people.
Rounding up the cattle near Kerrville,  from a sketch by L. W. MacDonald
Rounding up the cattle near Kerrville,
from a sketch by L. W. MacDonald
These cowboy illustrations, of course, were not photographs, but were drawn from sketches by L. W. MacDonald. Still, they show Kerrville when it was still a tiny town beside the Guadalupe River.
There are only a few structures in Kerrville today which were here in 1881. The Favorite Saloon building, at 709 Water Street, was built in 1874 by F. J. Hamer. The Gregory Hotel building may have been around in 1880; after many renovations and additions, it became Pampell's. The oldest part of the Schreiner store still standing probably dates from 1882, though the oldest part of the Schreiner Mansion dates from 1879.
In 1881 there were no church buildings in Kerrville. The Union Church was completed around Christmas, 1885; St. Peter's Episcopal Church first building was built around 1884, but that original building lacked a belfry until 1898.
The railroad did not arrive in Kerrville until 1887. Kerrville was not incorporated until 1889.
Let's look now at the illustrations published in New York in 1881.
In "On the road to Kerrville," there are several parts of the drawing that look very true to our community, like the shape of the hills, and the juniper tree on the hillside. The other flora shown in the image also seem plausible.
Crash of Lightning Near Kerrville, 1881,  from a sketch by L. W. MacDonald
Crash of Lightning Near Kerrville, 1881,
from a sketch by L. W. MacDonald
There are very few buildings in the image, which would be about right, and I don't see any church steeples among them. The poor building right on the riverbank is in harm's way the next time the Guadalupe decides to flood. I don't see any exact renditions of the few buildings I know were standing in Kerrville in 1881, but I don't think that matters much. The artist was not trying to illustrate Kerrville; these images were about cattle and the men that worked cattle.
Elsewhere I found another image by L. W. MacDonald which shows stampeding cattle racing away from a lightning strike.
"A flash of lightning and the crash of thunder sent many a herd of Longhorns stampeding to parts unknown," the same issue of Frank Leslie's 'Illustrated Newspaper' reported. "It also was dangerous for the cowboys who on horseback were the highest objects on the prairie, making them targets for lightning. This storm broke over a herd near Kerrville, Texas."
These three images show a glimpse of our community before the convenience and accuracy of easy photography. They show cowboys hard at work, negotiating difficult terrain, handling stampedes, driving a herd of cattle to market. They illustrate a way of life which was dangerous and difficult.
We know so little about the earliest days of our hill country communities.
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is happy he lives in the present day. Life here in 1881 would have been a lot of very hard work. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times July 13, 2019.

If you enjoyed this column, you'll enjoy my two books, which are collections of my columns from 1994 to 2018.  Both books are available at Wolfmueller's BooksHerring Printing Company, and online by clicking HERE.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Remembering Lee Wallace, who led Kerr County

Lee Wallace, Kerr County Judge in the early years of the 20th century, at the
Kerr County Courthouse, January, 1929.
Image courtesy of the Hearne Family.
Click on any image to enlarge
Today there are few people in Kerr County who would recognize Lee Wallace's name, though at one time Judge Wallace was one of the most influential persons in our community.
Lee Wallace, around 1915.
Photo from Hearne family
Recently, the Hearne family shared some Lee Wallace items with me, including some photos, and a 1937 draft of a collection of stories written by Wallace about Kerr County and its characters. These stories have been fascinating to read, and I hope to share a few of them with you here later.
Beyond these stories and photographs, Lee Wallace left behind a monument most of us would recognize, even though his connection to it has been forgotten: Lee Wallace was county judge here when the front part of our current courthouse was built, back in 1926.
Our current brick courthouse replaced a lovely stone building constructed forty years earlier, in 1886, which was designed by Alfred Giles.
It's been reported here the 1886 courthouse was replaced because it burned down. That is not accurate. The 1886 courthouse was in use until the 1926 courthouse was completed, and in the spring of 1927, the county offices moved from one building to the other.
The voters approved a bond issue to build the new 1926 courthouse in December, 1925, in the amount of $110,000.
Kerr County Courthouse, built in 1886
The former 1886 courthouse had several problems. First, it was argued, the old building was too crowded. "County officers long ago outgrew the present quarters," the Kerrville Mountain Sun reported in early November, 1925. "The building is overcrowded all the way through, especially the offices of sheriff, county and district clerk, and county judge, the latter official being compelled to store part of his school supplies out in the hallway." In those days the county judge was also the chief officer of the public school system.
A news clipping of the
1926 Kerr County Courthouse
"In addition to being crowded," the article continues, "the present court house is unsafe. For several years the walls of the building have been cracking and spreading, this of course gradually, but nevertheless steadily, and the time is not far distant when the walls of the structure are going to collapse. In fact, engineers who have been keeping a close check on the condition of the building have already considered condemning it for public use."
Merrill Doyle, in his little memoir published in 1975, mentions the old 1886 courthouse, and some of its residents: bats. "...the tower room...had been taken over by a colony of bats. Their occupancy had left an unforgettable air about the place and it was said that on a still, damp night, the aroma could be scented a half-mile away."
1886 Kerr County Courthouse
The original court order calling for the bond election included this wording: "Kerr County, Texas, is in need of a new Court House and Jail, and that the safety and permanency of the records of said County, and the safety of its citizens, requires a new and adequately constructed Court House (with fire-proof vaults)...." Perhaps the emphasis on 'fire-proof vaults' in the order led some to believe the old courthouse had burned down.
The bond issue passed handily, with 590 votes for and 363 votes against.
1926 Kerr County Courthouse
The 1926 Kerr County courthouse was designed by Adams & Adams, architects with offices in San Antonio, a firm which designed several other buildings in our community.
I'm thankful to the Hearne family for sharing so many historically significant items by and about Lee Wallace with me. The short vignettes Judge Wallace wrote provide a new look at Kerr County as it was in the early 20th century, and I look forward to sharing them with you here.
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who appreciates the generosity of so many people who share historic items with him.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times July 6, 2019.

If you enjoyed this column, you'll enjoy my two books, which are collections of my columns from 1994 to 2018.  Both books are available at Wolfmueller's BooksHerring Printing Company, and online by clicking HERE.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital Opened 70 Years Ago This Week

Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital, Kerrville Texas
Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital, Kerrville, Texas,
opened July 3, 1949.
Click on any image below to enlarge.
There have been many Big Days in our community.
October 6, 1887 was a Big Day -- the first train arrived here on the new San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad, bringing 502 visitors to Kerrville, which was about 200 more people than lived in Kerrville at the time. On April 25, 1950, our community built Louise Hays Park in a single day. On August 26, 1967, the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library opened with great fanfare. There have been many Big Days in Kerrville's history.
Another Big Day for our community was July 3, 1949 -- seventy years ago this coming Wednesday. On that day a gift was given to our community, when Hal and Charlie Peterson dedicated the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital.
Kerrville really shouldn’t have had a hospital as nice as the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital. When it was opened on July 3rd, 1949, it was a really big deal. But it was a deal that, if you take a hard look at the numbers, probably was bigger than the community it served.
The population of Kerr County in 1950 was only fourteen thousand; then, as now, about half of the county’s population lived in Kerrville.
To build a hospital in such a small, rural community wouldn’t seem to make a lot of financial sense. Hospitals require a lot of capital – equipment changes all of the time, medicines are expensive, and the people you need to run a hospital are highly trained.
Yet two brothers, with help from others in the community, made it happen.
One, Hal “Boss” Peterson, was a gifted businessman. He left his parents’ ranch home at 15 to work in M. F. Weston’s Garage, on the corner of Sidney Baker and Water Streets in downtown Kerrville. By the time he was 18, he owned the garage.
Together with one of his brothers, Charlie, he built an empire known as the “Peterson Interests,” which included bus lines, real estate developments, businesses, and ranch land, altogether 22 major enterprises worth millions of dollars.
Hal was the visionary, more the gambler of the two. He had more business ideas per day than most have in a year. Charlie was the more grounded, quieter of the two. His counsel helped keep Hal from many a business mistake.
So when Hal had the idea to build a hospital in Kerrville – a grand idea which seemed impossible – and Charlie supported the idea, they began to make it happen.
They “put the big pot in the little one” with the project. Hal Peterson only had one regret about the project, wishing they’d named it after both of their parents, calling it the Sid and Myrta Peterson Hospital.
While the community was grateful to the brothers when they announced their plans, there was also a lot of disagreement where the hospital should be built. Some favored sites on the edge of town, and other sites were discussed. Most of the discussion was ill-informed.
The story goes that Hal Peterson got tired of listening to all of the suggestions and bluntly decided to build the hospital on land the brothers owned, even if it was right in the middle of downtown Kerrville.
And so the hospital was built on the corner of Sidney Baker and Water Streets, where it stayed until the new hospital, renamed the Peterson Regional Medical Center, opened in 2008.
Even though the 1949 hospital building is gone, along with the numerous additions and buildings which came to be part of its campus, the kindness and care are still here.
I'm thankful we have such a good hospital in our community.
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who was born at Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital.  Both of his children were born there, too.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 29, 2019.

If you enjoyed this column, you'll enjoy my two books, which are collections of my columns from 1994 to 2018.  Both books are available at Wolfmueller's BooksHerring Printing Company, and online by clicking HERE.

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Sunday, June 23, 2019

Coast to Coast, and right through Kerr County

Crews at work on IH10 in 1967, near the intersection of SH16.
Click on any image to enlarge.
While going through my collection of historic Kerr County photographs this week, I found some negatives which I'd never scanned. I could tell they were photographs of construction. Intrigued, I put them in the scanner to find out what they were.
IH10 at Quinlan Creek, 1967
They were taken in February, 1967, and show men constructing a roadway with heavy equipment. Research showed the photographs were of the construction of IH 10, from about the intersection of Highway 16 (Fredericksburg Road), heading east, toward Comfort.
Many would assume Interstate 10 has been here forever, but I actually can remember when that highway was built through Kerr County. Before it was built, travel to San Antonio meant going through each town between here and there -- Center Point, Comfort, Boerne and so on. It took forever.
Travel to Junction meant going through Ingram, Mountain Home, and Segovia, if I remember correctly. I do remember traveling toward Junction on the old highway was a pretty drive, going along bluffs overlooking Johnson Creek, and a steep descent into Junction near Lover's Leap, entering that town on a steel truss bridge, crossing the Llano River below the courthouse.
IH10 near SH 16, 1967
Looking at old newspapers, the earliest mention of IH 10 and its path through Kerr County was back in 1960, when the Kerrville Chamber of Commerce voted to send a delegation to Austin in support of the route through Kerr County.
By late 1962, a route for the Interstate had been selected, but there was discussion in our community. Some favored IH 10 following roughly the same route as Highway 27, since the state already had rights of way along that road.
The problem with that idea, it was noted, was Kerrville's municipal airport, which is quite near the river along Highway 27, meaning putting an interstate through there would have limited future growth of the airport. Further, that route would have put IH10 going through some part of downtown Kerrville, or at least nearer downtown Kerrville than the current route of IH10.
IH10 at Quinlan Creek, 1967
In 1962, the Kerr County Commissioners Court, led by county judge Julius Nuenhoffer, endorsed the route for IH10 through Kerr County which was eventually selected, the route we all travel today.
One of the photographs I scanned this week was published in the Kerrville Daily Times on February 26, 1967, for their annual "Progress Edition."
In early 1968, W. R. Faust, assistant district engineer for the Texas Highway Department's San Antonio District, spoke to the Kerrville Rotary Club, predicting "the entire stretch of IH10 in Kerr County will be complete" by 1972. He also reported the first stretch from Highway 16 toward Comfort, a distance of 6.4 miles, had been completed, and the final 8.2 miles to the Kendall County line was under contract.
IH10 near SH16, 1972
Construction to the Kimble County line was also progressing, he said, and contracts for that stretch would be let in late 1969.
Accompanying Faust to the Rotary Club meeting were local resident highway engineers Ray Lindholm and Vern Marrs, men Nuenhoffer described as the "unsung heroes of the highway department."
The section of IH10 between Kerrville and Comfort opened in December, 1970. Construction from Comfort east had not yet been completed, but "hundreds of Kerr motorists have driven over the spectacular new highway -- which officials say is one of the prettiest in the state."
The section of the highway for which I found photographs this week was opened with a ribbon cutting, which included Kerr County Judge Julius Nuenhoffer, and my friend, John M. Mosty, who was mayor of Kerrville at the time.
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is older than IH10. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 22, 2019.

If you enjoyed this column, you'll enjoy my two books, which are collections of my columns from 1994 to 2018.  Both books are available at Wolfmueller's BooksHerring Printing Company, and online by clicking HERE.

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Sunday, June 16, 2019

Texas Hill Country Freighters of the 1800s

Freight wagons heading west from Kerrville, 1905.
This photo was taken below what is today Kerrville's Riverside Nature Center,
at the confluence of Town Creek and the Guadalupe River.
Click on any image below to enlarge.
Modern stores are stocked with an abundance of products which appear on the shelves of our local stores by hard work, magic, and algorithms. Even shopping lists populated with obscure items can usually be filled.
How do all of those products get here today? And how did they once get here?
Freighters crossing a creek in
Kerr County, around 1900
Consider the freighters who hauled products to Kerrville from the 1850s until around 1918, men with mule teams hauling goods in two and sometimes three heavily-packed wagons hitched together, traveling over hills, through rivers, down steep canyons: theirs was not an easy job, but a vital one.
Winifred Kupper, in her book on the Texas sheep industry, “The Golden Hoof,” has a chapter devoted to these freighters, based on stories told by her uncle, Robert Maudslay, a sheepman, and rounded out with her interviews of Roy Littlefield, William Ward, S. U. Dickey, and Charley Switzer, freighters.
“There were usually three wagons to a train, the last one smaller and lighter than the two in front. The whole outfit was drawn by eight to sixteen mules and horses, two or four abreast,” Kupper writes.
Freight wagon postcard, 1915
These wagon trains could haul as much as fifteen thousand pounds of freight, “with the freighter riding his wheel horse and cracking and snapping his long rawhided-braided whip over his team.”
Most of the freighters were known by a nickname: Old Jim, Old Scotty, Old Smitty, Old Pirtle – you get the idea. “The roadways, a common environment, put a common stamp on them all. They were hard, ingenious, and profane. A lot of them, the ranchers will tell you, were plumb ornery besides…. They were important, and they knew it,” Kupper writes.
Wagon camp yard, downtown
Kerrville, around 1910
“A man’s own team occupied at least the place in his mind and his talk that the modern truck driver concedes to his favorite make of machine. Moreover, between the teamster and his mules there was a relationship that no truck driver had with the engine under his hood. Mules might be eternally full of cussedness, but they were the best pullers there were. They could pull through mud holes and up rock-ledged hills, and they could bring the wagons through hell and high water. To the old freighter there was something personal and almost human about them. He talked to his mules – urged them and encouraged them and swore at them. And they responded with heaves of their shoulders and a tremendous straining of legs.”
But the mules could prove difficult, as well. Here’s a story, which was likely true:
Wool wagons, Kerrville, around 1908.  Wagons
came to town filled with wool, and headed out,
filled with ordered products
One freighter told about “mules that balked at one of the rare pasture gateways in the region. The teamster lashed and tugged and gee-hawed, but the mules just stood. Finally, unaware that the mail hack had driven up behind him with a preacher for its sole passenger, he let out a stream of language that would have put the devil to shame, ending with: ‘You [expletive] sons of hell, you’d make a [expletive] preacher cuss.’
The preacher got out, walked up behind him, and said sympathetically: ‘Brother, I believe you’re right.’”
Their ‘voyages’ took a lot of preparation. “Provisions and equipment were laid in – coffee, slabs of bacon, flour, tobacco, dried fruit, a sharp ax, extra harness parts, feed for the mules, bedding, a slicker, cooking utensils, a jug of water. These were likely to be put in the small last wagon, the other two being loaded with the great variety of things…that ranchers ordered: windmills, sheepshears, lumber, salt, wire – anything from a washtub to a barn roof…. The loads when finished were covered with great tarpaulins stretched tight and fastened well. These were the only protection against the weather.
In the freighter’s mind, “there would be diverse matters: the girl he was leaving behind him, the loneliness that stretched before him for God knew how many days, and the anticipation of what troubles the road would bring. For trouble there would be. It was the one certain thing in an uncertain voyage.”
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who tries to find everything on the grocery lists Ms. Carolyn requests – even though there’s always that one obscure item he’s never heard of before. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 15, 2019.

If you enjoyed this column, you'll enjoy my two books, which are collections of my columns from 1994 to 2018.  Both books are available at Wolfmueller's BooksHerring Printing Company, and online by clicking HERE.



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