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Sunday, February 28, 2021

New details revealed about Kerrville's Union Church

The renovated Union Church after a snowfall, 2003.
Click on any image to enlarge.

The most interesting parts of history are found in the small details, especially when those details are about a subject which you think you already know. Those details can add so much color and depth to a subject.
Clay Street location
This past week, Dr. Bill Rector brought by a series of documents about Kerrville’s Union Church.
The Union Church was built in 1885, and it offered our community a place for four different denominations to worship. Members of the Methodist faith worshipped there one week; the Presbyterians the next; then the Baptists; and finally, members of the Christian church.
In 1885, according to Bob Bennett, “Mrs. Whitfield Scott, who had come to Kerr County with her husband Captain Whitfield Scott, a Confederate veteran, and her sister, Miss Laura Gill, who later became Mrs. William Gray Garrett, began to solicit funds for the building of a Union Church. They were later joined in this work by Mrs. J. M. Starkey, a Methodist, and Mrs. Adeline Coleman, a member of the Christian denomination.
“These ladies went from house to house on horseback and wrote appealing articles in newspapers of that day to stimulate interest. There appears in the Christian Observer, a Presbyterian publication, in 1885, an article under the title “An Urgent Call,” which told how the youth of Kerrville were growing up without religion training, how there was no place of worship…, and how valuable a church would be to the growing community.”
According to an article published in the Kerrville Times in March, 1928, “Mrs. Scott and Miss Gill drove from house to house, not only in Kerrville, but throughout the county soliciting funds. It was hard work. People were poor, some did not believe in churches.”
On Lemos Street
Two lots were given by Capt. Charles Schreiner for the construction of the church in September, 1885; the lots were located on Clay Street, across the street from Pioneer Bank. A convenience store and gas station are on the site today.
The original church cost $190 to build, which was the low bid presented by A. Allen & Co. The building was completed just before Christmas, 1885.
After 1914, when the other denominations had erected their own places of worship, the Christian Church began to use the building.” The building was deeded to the First Christian Church in September, 1925.
Years later, the building was moved to Lemos Street. When I was a boy, the old church building housed an Army Navy Surplus store -- where a generation of children bought camping gear.
The church building had one more move to make. It now stands on a busy corner of the campus of Schreiner University. The Friends of the Kerr County Historical Commission restored the church building, dedicating it on Christmas Eve, 2002, at a cost considerably greater than its original cost of $190.
On Clay, 1914
Now for the small details which give this story more color and depth.
I’d never considered the difficulties those four congregations must have gone through to hammer out an agreement for the fair and equitable use of the church building they were constructing together. In my experience, getting a single congregation to agree on any building project is often difficult. Multiply that difficulty by four.
The solution was to form a “Union Church Association of Kerrville,” with trustees from each congregation. J. M. Starkey and J. N. Hazleth served as trustees for the Methodist Episcopal Church; W. F. Gill for the Missionary Baptist Church; R. H. Storms for the Christian Church; and W. Scott for the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. J. M. Starkey served as chairman of the association.
Yes, Gentle Reader, I also noticed the Methodists had two trustees, when all other denominations had only one. No idea why, but I noticed Mr. Hazleth never actually signed the document.
Two additional trustees were named ‘for the General Fund:’ Charles Schreiner, who’d donated the land, and W. G. Garrett, a local attorney (and later judge).
This group worked out all of the details – the whens and whos and hows. These trustees were elected by the subscribers to the project, ‘subscribers’ meaning those who’d contributed money.
I also noticed, as perhaps you have noticed, although the project was originally spearheaded by women, and the funds were raised by women, no woman served as a trustee.
These small details make the story intriguing, because they offer up more questions than answers.
I’m thankful to Dr. Bill Rector for sharing these documents with our community. And I’m thankful for his steady leadership on the project to create the Heart of the Hills Heritage Center, a museum which will be dedicated to the story of the Texas Hill Country.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who should really attend church more often. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times February 27, 2021.

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Sunday, February 14, 2021

New facts about Francisco Lemos -- and a newly confirmed photograph of him

The entry on Francisco Lemos in 'Price of Our Heritage.'
Click on any image to enlarge.

As our community gets closer to having its own history museum, the kindness and generosity of folks with items from Kerr County’s long history continues to amaze and delight me. People are bringing amazing things from our community’s past because they know those items will soon have a home.
A few weeks ago, a kind person gave me several items relating to Sidney Baker, the young war hero for whom one of Kerrville’s principal streets was named. Surprisingly, the box of historic items included an original handwritten letter from Earl Garrett (another Kerr County war hero) to his sister, Harriet Garrett.
Newly confirmed
photograph of
Francisco Lemos
The box also contained another set of surprises: information about Francisco Lemos, another local war hero who died in France during World War I, for whom a street was also named.
Of the three men honored with a street being named for them, Francisco Lemos left behind the least amount of written or photographic records. He is something of a mystery.
I was delighted when I found in the box a taped interview with the late Rev. Matias Rodriguez, a conversation which focuses on facts about Francisco Lemos’s life. And I was very happy to find a newly confirmed photograph of Francisco Lemos.
Up until now the only confirmed photograph of Francisco Lemos was the one taken with his friend, Emmett Rodriguez. (Emmett Rodriguez was Matias Rodriguez’s father, and both men were long-serving local ministers.) It is that photograph which was reproduced in many places, including Lemos’s entry in the book “Price of Our Heritage,” which lists the men of the 168th Infantry killed in World War I.
However, Matias Rodriguez confirmed another photograph of Francisco Lemos, one showing him with the rest of Company D when they were at Camp Bowie, undergoing training before shipping out to France.
Lemos's draft
registration card
Here are some other things I learned about Francisco Lemos from the interview with Rev. Rodriguez:
Franciso Lemos had a nickname: ‘Quico,’ pronounced Kee-koh.
Lemos was raised by his grandmother, because his mother died when he was young. He had two brothers, Pedro and Ramon, and one sister, Paula. They were members of a pioneer Kerr County family. Francisco Lemos was the only one of his brothers to fight in World War I.
One of Francisco Lemos’s nephews, a man named Mr. Lara, was a small child when Company D boarded the train in Kerrville and left for Camp Bowie. Lara also told Matias Rodriguez, years later, that all of the photographs of Francisco Lemos and his family were thrown away.
On September 15, 1918, Francisco Lemos died in France, giving his life for his country. He was only 30 years old.
Private Francisco Lemos was on scout duty with Company G, of the 168th Infantry, 42nd Division, in the Saint-Mihiel Sector, about 1,500 yards northeast of the Louisville Farm, when a German high explosive shell killed him instantly. The same shell injured another soldier from Kerrville, his friend Emmett Rodriguez, who survived the explosion.
Lemos, who was born in San Diego, Texas, on December 7, 1887, volunteered for service in Kerr County, where he worked for the Schreiner Cattle and Sheep Company in Mountain Home. 
Emmett Rodriguez 
and Francisco Lemos
His registration card describes him as short, with a medium build, with dark brown eyes and black hair. He was a single and had no dependents. He'd never served in the military before volunteering. It is possible he did not know how to write his name, since his registration card is signed with "his mark," an "X." 
Like Francisco Lemos, both Sidney Baker and Earl Garrett also died in northeastern France. Sidney Baker died in the Argonne Forest on October 16, 1918; Earl Garrett, near Exermont, on October 4, 1918. Of those three, for whom streets in Kerrville were named, only Francisco Lemos is buried in Kerrville. His body rests at the Mountain View Cemetery, across Holdsworth Drive from Antler Stadium. Baker and Garrett are buried in France.
Francisco Lemos had been in France with his regiment for only a short time, and the Battle of Saint-Mihiel was his first engagement.
I've heard a story about the moments before the shell exploded, about how Lemos was singing as the scouting party proceeded along carefully, walking through a muddy field in the rain. I'd like to think the story is true, and that Lemos died while singing quietly, singing a song of home.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects items and photographs about the history of Kerr County. If you have something you’d care to share with him, it would make him very happy. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times February 12, 2021.

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Sunday, February 7, 2021

A box full of history: items about Sidney Baker, local hero

A certificate sent to Mr. and Mrs. B. F. Baker, honoring their son, Sidney.
Click on any image to enlarge.

Last week I reported here on a letter Earl Garrett wrote to his sister, Harriet Garrett, from the front lines in France during World War I. (Earl Garrett died in that war, and our community honored his heroism, as well as the heroism of Sidney Baker and Francisco Lemos, by naming three downtown streets for them.) 

The letter itself was in a large container of items relating to another of those heroes, Sidney Baker.

Sidney Baker,
around 1918
Sidney Walter Baker was one of the twelve children of Benjamin Franklin Baker and Elizabeth Peterson Baker. Sidney Baker was born in 1896 in Gonzales County, Texas. His father was a carpenter and farmer, and helped build the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad line into Kerrville. The family moved to Kerrville in the 1880s, moved away to Gonzales County, where Sidney Baker was born, and then returned to Kerrville in 1904.

Among the items given to me last week were several photographs of Sidney Baker I’d never seen before. One was a formal soldier portrait, which, in my opinion, isn’t the best photo of Baker in my collection. Another showed Baker and several of his siblings when they were quite young. Another showed his mother, Elizabeth Baker, visiting her son’s grave in France after the war.

Company D had been recruited locally by Captain Charles J. Seeber, and in the spring and summer of 1917, the company drilled on the grounds of Westminster Encampment, just east of town. The grounds of the encampment are now part of the campus of Schreiner University. The company also drilled on the West Texas Fairgrounds site, which was across Town Creek south of the Five Points area, between Junction Highway and the river. For the most part, the drills were practiced without weapons or equipment, and many of the men did not have regulation uniforms.

Company D departed Kerrville by train on September 5, 1917, heading to Camp Bowie, near Fort Worth. 

It was a sad day for everyone, but especially young Sidney Baker. He was saying goodbye to his steady girlfriend, a young woman named Daphne Williams.

Bill Sloan, a former editor of this newspaper, shared some research on Sidney Baker with me years ago. That research was based on Baker family correspondence, and offered a unique look into Sidney Baker's life.

Sidney Baker joined the National Guard unit on the advice of his older brothers, Frank and Ira. Having worked as a helper for his father, and also as a seasonal worker on the Peterson Ranch, Sidney was attracted to the prospect of a steady income. 

According to Sloan's research, Sidney Baker was a reluctant soldier. After basic training at Camp Bowie, he was promoted to PFC, "but a few weeks later, after getting into an altercation with another recruit, he was busted back to buck private, and he never received another promotion."

A planned visit to Kerrville to see Daphne Williams was canceled when an "old sergeant wouldn't let me off, so there was nothing I could do."

Again, according to Sloan's research, Sidney Baker sought a hardship release to help his mother, who was in financial difficulties. "Please do everything you can to get me out of this Army life," Baker wrote his mother, "and tell all the Kerrville boys to take a d----d fool's advice and stay out of the Army."

Then, in March 1918, when Baker was in New York awaiting transport to Europe, Daphne Williams broke off their relationship.

On March 25, 1918, Sidney Baker wrote his mother, before leaving for France.

"I guess we are leaving tomorrow for France, but we sure had lots of trouble trying to get started. Daph sure has gone back on me, and I had just as soon the whole German army shoot at me as for to do that. You tell Daph what I said when you see her and ask her to keep writing to me and I will fix things when the war is over."

Baker left the States on the Finland, on July 26, 1918. The Finland was the same ship which carried Francisco Lemos to Europe.

The war in Europe was a long way from Kerrville, and the worst battles for American troops were yet to come.

When the war was over, on the very first Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, Elizabeth Baker, Sidney Baker's mother, was so very happy. Kerrville was celebrating the end of the war. On that same day wrote to Sidney "I write to let you know we have received the news that we have peace, and I was never as happy in my life. Oh, if I could just be with you to rejoice, but I have the pleasure of thinking you won't be killed now."

Her son never saw the letter.

Two days later, on November 13, 1918, she received a telegram informing her that Sidney Baker had been killed during the bloody fighting near Hill 288 in the Argonne. When Kerrville was celebrating on November 11, Elizabeth Baker did not know her son was gone.

That Sidney Baker was a reluctant soldier does not mean he was not brave. He was very brave and saw some of the worst fighting any American soldier saw. Of the three Kerr County men who died in battle in World War I, he survived the longest, living until the last weeks of the war. But of the three, he was the youngest to die.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is very thankful to the kind and generous person who shared these priceless items with all of us. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times February 6, 2021.

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Sunday, January 31, 2021

Dear Hattie: A Letter Home from France, 1918

A letter home from the front lines in France, March 1918.

This week I received four small fragile sheets of paper in a tiny envelope, a letter written in pencil from a brother to his older sister, dated March 20, 1918. A kind person gave me the old letter this week, along with many photographs, and other items from Kerr County’s history. It’s a real treasure trove of historical items.

“My dear Hattie,” the letter begins. “I had a bath today. I am sure you would pardon the pride of this statement if you knew all the facts in the case. As a matter of fact it is the first bath I have had in nearly three weeks. I will continue to brag about this bath for about ten days and then I’ll avoid the subject until I get another.”

Hattie is a nickname for Harriet. Harriet Garrett was a teacher in Kerrville’s public schools, and was also a published poet.

Victor Earl Garrett
The letter was written to her by her younger brother, Victor Earl Garrett, and mailed to her from France, where he was part of the 28th Infantry during World War I.

After telling Hattie about the letters he’d recently received, about “a month’s mail in the last ten days,” Earl Garrett asks Hattie to send him some things.

“There are several things I would like to have which I cannot get over here. I have written about the Saturday Evening Post. In addition, I would like about 2 jars of Pompeian Cream (‘Don’t enjoy a good complexion, use Pompeiian Cream and have one’), a good flashlight with about three extra batteries, and a pocket knife.

“Maybe Dede will attend to the flashlight, batteries, and knife. Also about a dozen Keen Kutter razor blades. As a crowning act to all this, you might put in a box of Pampell’s chocolates, and several boxes of Nabiscoes…

“Of course all of this is to be paid for out of money which I sent Papa through the Farmers’ Loan and Trust Co. I’m sort of a nuisance, am I not Hat?”

After a brief description of the weather in France, he asks “Are they making plans for a big Encampment this year?” I’m guessing he was asking about plans at Westminster Presbyterian Encampment, which was held each summer on what is now part of the Schreiner University campus.

“What are your plans for the summer, Hattie? El Paso, Alabama, or Chile?”

It’s an ordinary letter between siblings, about very little other than reassuring her (and the rest of his family) that he was ok and safe. 

There is no mention, of course, of the battle for which his regiment is preparing, the Battle of Cantigny, which occurred about a week after this letter was written. It was the first significant American offensive operation in World War I.

“Not much of a letter, but there is not much to write about. Please excuse pencil. Yours, Earl.”

That autumn, on October 4, 1918, Victor Earl Garrett died near Exermont, France. He was only 24.

Garrett was a 2nd Lieutenant, a member of the 28th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, U. S. Army, and died during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. For his heroism that day, and for an incident the previous July, Garrett was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Kerrville honored Garrett’s heroism, as well as the heroism of Francisco Lemos and Sidney Baker, by naming downtown streets in their honor.

Harriet Garrett, “Hattie,” his big sister, died in 1975, at the age of 88. She was active in our community until the very end, writing poetry, singing at events, participating at her church.

I’m thankful for the kindness of the person who gave our community these items this week.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects items from Kerr County’s history. If you have something you’d care to share with him, it would make him very happy. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 31, 2021.

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Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Mosty Family of Kerr County: Generations of Service

The eight Mosty siblings celebrating their mother's birthday:
Left to right: Lee, Harvey, Lizzie, Mark, Addie, Karl, Sam, and Ruth.
Seated: Elizabeth Bean Mosty.
Click on any image to enlarge.

Leroy Mosty, of Mosty’s Garage, at the corner of Water and Lemos streets in downtown Kerrville, loaned me a nice book the other day. It’s called “Mosty: From There … To Here.”
It’s a brief history of the Mosty family, as remembered by Harvey Mosty. The book was produced by his grandson, James Craft.
Harvey Mosty
“The following was originally handwritten by Harvey Mosty (my grandfather) at the request of my mother, Marie Annaletta Mosty Craft,” James Craft writes on the introduction page. The original text was put on paper by Harvey Mosty in the 1950s.
Harvey Mosty was the second child of Lee Anthony (L. A.) Mosty and Elizabeth Bean Mosty; he was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1885.
L. A. Mosty was a noted nurseryman in Kerr County, and many of the plants and trees sold in Kerrville from the turn of the last century came from a Mosty family nursery. Quite a few of these trees still grace Kerrville’s older neighborhoods.
Although I’ve known members of the Mosty family all of my life, I didn’t have a real understanding of their family history until I read this little book.
L. A. Mosty was born in Akron, Ohio in 1851. He married Elizabeth Bean at Lampasas, Texas in 1881. The young family moved from Lampasas to Kansas City, Missouri, around 1883, and where Mosty worked at a hardware store, and later as a cattle buyer. He moved his family to Kansas in 1889, and they farmed there. On Thanksgiving Day 1894, they loaded up a wagon and returned to Lampasas, to a ranch owned by Elizabeth Bean Mosty’s family. The journey lasted until March, 1895, and included a crossing of the Red River near Dennison.
“After crossing the Red River,” Harvey Mosty writes, “I saw my first Live Oak Tree. Sure looked good to me. Had never seen a broadleaf evergreen before.”
I notice several places in the book where Harvey mentions things a nurseryman would know from years of experience
“In the fall of 1896, I planted my first crop,” he writes. Harvey Mosty would have been around eleven years old at the time.

L. A. Mosty display at the 1914 West Texas Fair

“Dad and Lee had left for Menard, Texas, hunting work. Grandad Bean furnished me a double shovel plow and showed me how to sow the oats and plow it in. He started me off keeping the front plow shovel in the furrow left by the rear shovel the previous round. I got about half through the field and it looked like I was not getting along fast enough, so I took to running both plows, cutting 2 furrows at each round. When spring and summer came, the oats planted according to Grandad Bean’s instructions made a good crop. The rest that I had hurried on was nothing but weeds. I learned then to do everything right and as told by older people.”
L. A. and Elizabeth,
and I think Lee, Jr.
I noticed a passage about a trip from Lampasas to Menard in 1897, where Elizabeth Mosty and the kids at home boarded a train in Lampasas, traveled to Ballinger, then took a stage coach to Menard, where they joined L.A. and Lee, Jr. at their “camp on the Gus Nois farm a few miles below Menard on the San Saba River.”
That name, Gus Nois, might have been a young Harvey Mosty’s memory of a man name Gus Noyes. His son, Charles Noyes, would later be the subject of a bronze statue by Pompeo Coppini, which stands today on the courthouse square in Ballinger, Texas.
Later that year the family moved from Menard to Kerrville: L. A., Elizabeth, and their eight children. In 1897, L. A. Mosty established his nursery business here in Kerrville. 
This family has had a great impact on the history of our community.
Harvey Mosty was a nurseryman, and, with his brother Lee, of Center Point, was credited as offering the “first soft-shell pecans on native stock.” They had quite a business. In 1936, for example, the brothers shipped “a full [rail] carload of peach trees to Sherman, numbering 12,000 plants.” What an incredible number of trees.
Harvey Mosty was active in his community: he served on the school board, the chamber board, was one of the developers of the Garden of Memories cemetery, was a Mason, and was a member of the Baptist Church. He passed away in 1958, here in Kerrville.
Mosty Brothers Nursery is still in operation, in Center Point.
I’m very thankful to Leroy Mosty for loaning me this delightful book.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is thankful for our community. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times on January 9, 2020.

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