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Monday, November 30, 2020

A brief history of Kerrville's Methodist Encampment

The Guadalupe River swimming hole
for Kerrville's Methodist Encampment, 1920s.
Click on any image to enlarge.
Summer camps have played a huge role in the history and economy of our community. The first summer camp here, in my opinion, was the Westminster Presbyterian Encampment, which was along Quinlan Creek in what is now part of the Schreiner University campus. Westminster provided a place for rest, recreation, and spiritual training. It operated from 1906 to 1950, and today only two of its original buildings remain.
Summer camps for children started showing up in the early 1920s, when Rio Vista (1921), was opened by Herbert Crate between Ingram and Hunt. Camp Stewart (originally called “Camp Texas”) started in 1925. Camp Waldemar came along in 1926. Soon many summer camps could be found above Ingram and Hunt, bringing hundreds (if not thousands) of children to the hill country each summer for fun and instruction.
By the mid-1920s businesses in Kerrville noticed the positive cash flow these many summer camps were providing local establishments and hotels, and when a new group wanted to establish a camp here, community leaders made them quite an attractive offer.
The Methodist “Epworth League” of Texas, a Methodist youth organization started in Dallas in 1892, established a statewide meeting in Corpus Christi from 1906 until 1915, known as “Epworth-by-the-Sea.” The meeting moved to Port O’Connor until 1919, when a severe storm wrecked the property, which was then abandoned.
According to research provided to me by Linda Stone, “The leaders of West Texas Methodists wanted to have a new place for spiritual and intellectual training, as well as for social and recreational facilities for children, youth, and adults. This vision came to a climax in the fall of 1923, at the West Texas Annual Conference, when the following resolution was presented and adopted: "Resolution for the establishment of the West Texas Encampment Association under the direction and supervision of the West Texas Conference of the Methodist Church South." The first task of this Board was to find a suitable location for such an Encampment. A number of locations were offered throughout the conference, but Kerrville was considered by the Board as the most logical. In 1926, it was written ‘The trustees were fortunate beyond their fondest dreams in accepting this particular body of land. It fronts on the Guadalupe River, affording an ideal place for boating, swimming and fishing, and rises gradually to the back line more than a mile distant. ... The 200 acres with the improvements, private and public, are now conservatively valued at 100,000 dollars and could not be duplicated for that amount.’”
The front page of the February 7, 1924 issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun carried the bold headline “Kerrville Lands Methodist Encampment.” The story details the gift of 200 acres “from the Bud Porter and Starkey places west of city.” It was noted the site was within three miles of Kerrville and on the Old Spanish Trail highway. $11,500 needed to be raised to purchase the land for the encampment, and the Chamber of Commerce met at the St. Charles Hotel to plan a subscription drive. These funds were quickly raised by the Kerrville community.
“The encampment will also mean much to the moral and religious development as well as to the commercial interests of the city,” the article reported.
In the March 27, 1924 issue, a big “lot sale” and barbecue were announced in another front-page story in the Kerrville Mountain Sun. “About 150 choice lots, ranging in price from $100 to $1000 each were to be offered for sale the opening day.” Between 500 and 600 people attended, and 91 of the 130 lots were sold for $150 per lot. Those first lot sales were the beginning of the unique and iconic neighborhood on the hillside of what became known as “Mount Wesley.”
Remarkably, the same article says “work is being rushed in order to have everything in readiness for the program to begin July 8 and last until August 3.”
Many of the folks who purchased lots and built bungalows in the Methodist Encampment did so to have a place for their families to stay during the summer months of the camp. Though originally for summer use, today many are occupied year round.
Those first houses had wonderful names, often relating to the family which built them: such as James Perry of San Antonio -“Perry-Winkle”; W. R. Perkins of Alice - “Perk Inn”; Elsie Peace - “House of Peace”; J. F. Duke of Forney – “The Duchess.” Others depicted the environment such as David T. Peel of Corpus Christi - “Restholme”, Rev. H. E. Draper of San Angelo - “Loma Vista.” Even the cafeteria had a name, “Eatmor!”
Today what was originally called Methodist Encampment is called “Light on the Hill at Mount Wesley,” a ministry of Kerrville’s First United Methodist Church.
The neighborhood and the encampment are dedicating a Texas historical marker for the “Methodist Encampment Community” on Sunday, November 29, at 2 pm. The marker has been placed at the intersection of Methodist Encampment and McAllen streets. The event is free and open to the public. Masks and social distancing will be required.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who grew up a few blocks from Methodist Encampment. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times November 28, 2020

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Sunday, November 22, 2020

I knew I'd seen this before

Kerrville in the distance.  This view jogged a memory.
Click on any image to enlarge.
While I most definitely do NOT have a photographic memory, I do have a memory for photographs. I am good at remembering images, which is helpful since I collect old photographs of Kerrville and Kerr County, a collection now in the multiple thousands of photos.
This ability helps me identify local photographs for people, pointing out the streets or buildings in the photographs, and helping them know where (and often when) the photograph was taken.
Sometimes, though, I’ll see something on a walk and it will remind me of a photograph from from my collection.
Last Wednesday, while on a walk on a hill overlooking Kerrville, I stopped for a second, realizing I had seen this view before. But where?
From the hilltop, Kerrville was quiet, and though I could see a lot of moving cars, I could not hear them. It was windy, and the sound of the wind going through a hilltop live oak masked any traffic noises. It was peaceful looking at town from the top of that hill.
Gray fox -- watching
I wasn’t the only one up there. A gray fox I’d surprised moments earlier was keeping a sharp eye on me, hiding behind a prickly pear cactus. 
The sun was low in the sky, and the shadows were getting longer. I snapped a quick photo of the view (and of the hiding fox), and headed back down the hill, hoping to reach my truck before night fell.
Now where had I seen that particular view?
Downtown Kerrville was in the middle distance; in the far distance was the Veterans Administration Hospital; both framed beyond a tangle of ashe juniper trees. I knew the pioneer photographer Starr Bryden took a lot of landscape shots, so I looked through my scans of his photographs. The image was not there.
I looked in several other places, and even searched using keywords like hillside, view, and scenic. Nothing came up. I gave up the search and went on to other things, like actual work.
But my old brain kept working on the problem, without direction or permission.
'Eventide' by Ike Koenig, 1949
Click to enlarge

Then I remembered a photograph I took recently at Peterson Regional Medical Center. I’d noticed an
Ike Koenig painting there, and I snapped a photograph of it with my phone. I believe the title of the painting is “Eventide;” it was painted in 1949. I believe it was formerly on display at the old hospital downtown.
Koenig had taken a few artistic liberties with the scene. She made the far hills in the painting very pointed and tall; the town seems compressed together, to better fit within the canvas. It’s possible the painting was made from Mount Wesley, looking toward town.
You can easily identify some of the landmarks she added to the painting. On the left, a white rectangle shows the old Tivy High School; next is the V. A. Hospital; next, the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital, and immediately its right, the old eight story Blue Bonnet Hotel; next you can see a little of the Weir Academic Building at Schreiner University. Finally, the old steel-arch Sidney Baker Street bridge can be seen, where it crosses the Guadalupe River at Louise Hays Park. She even has the ashe juniper trees and the limestone rocks of hilltops in the painting.
Mrs. Icie Hardy ‘Ike’ Koenig (1895-1994) was a very active local painter; I find her listed in a 1936 city directory, along with her husband Roy, who was a cook at the veterans’ hospital at the time. He passed away in 1947.
Mrs. Koenig helped organize the Kerrville Art Club, and she often taught art classes. I remember her; she lived at 317 St. Peter’s Street, on the corner of Jefferson and St. Peter’s. She belonged to First Baptist Church, and I knew her from there.
There are numerous mentions of Koenig in Kerrville newspapers, and almost all of them are about her art career. For a while she also owned a framing shop, where I think she sold art supplies, and gave lessons.
Ike Koenig lived a very long life, passing away in February, 1994.
Her impression of Kerrville from a hill northwest of downtown is peaceful, with all the activity far away. I saw the same thing last Wednesday, along with an observant gray fox.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who gets to go exploring most Wednesday afternoons. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times November 21, 2020.

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Sunday, November 15, 2020

Wow. H-E-B and the H. E. Butt Foundation made a huge donation for our community.

Kerrville's new H-E-B store under construction, June 2020.
The store includes a replica of the original 1905 grocery store Florence Butt opened here.
Click on any image to enlarge.

Last Tuesday, during grand opening ceremonies for Kerrville’s new H-E-B store, representatives from the H. E. Butt Grocery Company and the H. E. Butt Foundation presented two checks to the Friends of the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library; each check was for $500,000. These two gifts were for the creation of Heart of the Hills Heritage Center, a project designed to tell the story of our community in a museum setting.
According to a press release on the H-E-B corporate website, “H-E-B will make a $500,000 gift to the Friends of the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, which the H.E. Butt Foundation will match. The $1 million gift will support the creation of The Heart of the Hills Heritage Center, a sustainable history and heritage museum that will interpret the rich history of Kerrville and the surrounding area.
“When we learned that H-E-B was celebrating the new store grand opening with a generous gift to the Hills Heritage Center on the Campus of the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, the H. E. Butt Foundation Board of Directors voted to match the company’s generosity to this project,” David Rogers, President of the H.E. Butt Foundation. “A gift of this nature seemed like an appropriate way for us to support the Butt family history and legacy in Kerrville.”
Gentle Reader, consider me thrilled. 
J. J. Starkey (left) with
Charles Real
The idea of creating a history museum for our community has been around since the late 1920s, when a group of middle school students, as part of Mrs. Kate Franklin’s Texas history class, collected local historical items, interviewed families of the early settlers of our community, and wrote a 52-page history of Kerr County.
The items they collected were later displayed in the “Kate Franklin Museum” in 1936. The museum created by the students was placed in the Franklin Junior High School, which was part of the school campus in the Tivy and Barnett streets area, and remained on display there for many years. When the rooms occupied by their museum were needed for instruction, the school is said to have returned many of the items to the families which donated them.
The students were not alone in dreaming of a local history museum.
Clarabelle Snodgrass

J. J. Starkey, who was editor and publisher of this newspaper, also pushed for the creation of a Kerr County Museum, and organized a collection of local historical items to display. In looking through old issues of the Kerrville Times I find many pleas by Mr. Starkey for items for the proposed museum, in articles published from the early 1930s through the early 1940s.
Mr. Starkey's father had been Kerr County's "Chief Justice," or county judge, during the Civil War; J. J. Starkey was born here in 1870. I'd consider both men Kerr County pioneers.
In many newspaper issues he noted what had been donated to the "museum collection" and by whom. In December 1935 he reported a place had been found for the collection in the home of Bert C. Parsons. "Mr. and Mrs. Parsons are on the premises practically all of the time," Starkey wrote, "and articles brought in will be as well safe-guarded as in any museum."
The Parsons lived in a house near where the Founders Tree stands today, next to our print shop.
Dodo Parker
Photo by Ridge Floyd
In the mid-1970s, Josephine “Dodo” Schreiner Parker led the creation of the Hill Country Preservation Society, a museum housed in the home of her great-grandfather, Charles Schreiner. She and hundreds of volunteers worked hard on their museum, and it served our community as a viable history center for over three decades. In 2009, the building was donated to Schreiner University, which later sold or donated most of the historical items in the collection in a jumble sale at the old Union Church. The building is currently owned by the Cailloux Foundation, which operates it as a ‘historic house museum’ and event center.
Others who have dreamt of having a local history museum were Clarabelle Snodgrass and Michael Bowlin; both now gone from us. They were dedicated local historians who carefully preserved important stories of our community’s past.
The Heart of the Hills Heritage Center is led by a group of volunteers interested in our region’s history. Its chairman, Dr. William Rector, has worked very hard to guide the board toward building a sustainable museum. It is a 501(c)3 charitable organization.
A. C. and Myrta Schreiner
home, Kerrville

The Center will tell more than just the stories of the early settlers here – exhibits are planned on the geology of our area, of the fossil record which can be found here, of the Native American groups which preceded those first Kerr County ‘settlers’ by more than ten thousand years.
And now, thanks to the generosity of H-E-B and the H. E. Butt Foundation, this long-held dream of a local history museum may actually come to pass. I’m very grateful for their generosity.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who learned this week that Greg Nichols, the general manager of our local H-E-B stores, can really keep a secret. I had no inkling of the announcement of such a wonderful donation.

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Sunday, November 8, 2020

Fond memories of Tivy pep rallies in downtown Kerrville

Tivy High School downtown pep rally, autumn 1956.
Car experts, please see note below. *
Click on any image to enlarge.

One of the things I’ve been missing during this prolonged pandemic is large community gatherings. Or even smaller gatherings. Or just "gathering."
I was reminded this week about a community gathering which took place for decades during Tivy High School’s football season each year – downtown pep rallies for all of the home games. 
While these started well before my time at Tivy, several features were the same over the years. During my high school years there were several groups which participated: the Tivy Cheerleaders; the Golden Girls and Antlerettes; and the Tivy Marching Band. We marched from Antler Stadium, straight down Sidney Baker, and then hooked a left on Water. We assembled at the intersection of Water and Earl Garrett streets, forming a large circle around the cheerleaders. Several cheers were given by the crowd, led ably by some very energetic young people, and then the Tivy Alma Mater was played. Cheerleaders, Golden Girls, Antlerettes, and the marching band were all in uniform. The marching band uniforms, I remember, were made of wool and were both itchy and overly-warm for most of the football season.
The Tivy students formed a huge crowd in the middle of a busy downtown area, and after the last notes of the Alma Mater were played, the crowd dispersed for the walk back to the stadium and our rides home, but not before stopping and buying a coke or milkshake in the downtown soda fountains.
From most of the photographs of downtown pep rallies in my collection, it appears the students far outnumbered the onlookers for these rallies, though quite a few folks from the downtown area participated, too.
Homecoming parades were even bigger events, with floats built by the different graduating classes and several of the high school clubs; plus fancy cars carrying the various candidates for homecoming king and queen. I remember these parades as large events; my senior year at Tivy I was responsible for a part of the homecoming parade, and I just about ran myself to death that day.
Imagine having most of Sidney Baker Street blocked by a parade for part of a busy Friday afternoon – as well as the cross streets between
Antler Stadium and Water Street, including Main, Jefferson, Schreiner streets, plus the downtown section of Water. Snarling up traffic on two state highways was more easily accepted back in those days. And many of those rallies occurred before the construction of IH-10; that means all traffic between San Antonio and El Paso used to trundle through downtown Kerrville.
Downtown pep rallies continued through at least the late 1970s (I graduated from Tivy in 1979). I’m not completely sure when they were finally abandoned, likely because of traffic concerns, and the stresses it put on a lot of folks.
Still, I have fond memories of those days, of marching in the band, of being proud of my high school, hearing the crowd end each pep rally with the words “We are from Tivy/ From Tivy are we….”
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who played a dented cornet in the Tivy High School band, which was then under the incredibly patient leadership of Mr. Avie Teltschik. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times November 7, 2020.

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* A special note for car experts:

Some of my eagle-eyed readers will notice the photo at the top, labeled "Tivy High School downtown pep rally, autumn 1956" features what appears to be a 1957 Chevrolet.  How could 1956 be accurate?
Well, as you might recall, automobile manufacturers unveiled their new models in the autumn.  The 1957 Chevrolet would have been introduced in the autumn of 1956.
But there's an even bigger clue in the photograph: the hand-made sign on the door, obscured by one of the Tivy Marching Band twirlers.  That sign reads "1956 Football Sweetheart."
So... despite having a 1957 model automobile in the photograph, I'm very confident this photograph was actually taken in 1956.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

The mysteries of a simple Kerrville photograph, revealed

wool laden trucks, Kerrville, 1921
Wool Trucks, 700 block of Water Street, downtown Kerrville, 1921.
Photograph by Starr Bryden.
Click on any image to enlarge.

Last week, a long-time friend brought by two large photographs; one was of Pampell’s, and the other was of wool trucks parked in the 700 block of Water Street. I wrote about the Pampell’s photograph last week, and this week I’ll play detective with the wool truck photograph.
Here’s the thing about both of these images: I’ve published them before, but these prints are very large, so you can see lots of details. Plus, whoever made the prints did an excellent job, so they’re very sharp and clear.
Meaning, of course, there are lots of clues in these particular prints of these photos I haven’t been able to see before.
For instance, on the lead truck, I can see a little license plate under the windshield which clearly says 1921. That is probably an accurate clue as to the year this photograph was taken. I know this photograph, and one taken the same day, which shows the drivers standing next to their trucks, were both taken by Starr Bryden, who signed the photographs “Kodak Chap.”
To understand where this photograph was taken, the lead truck is parked in front of today’s Arcadia Live Theater, and the caboose truck is in front of today’s Humble Fork Restaurant (which is located in the historic Pampell’s building). The 700 block of Water Street is in between Sidney Baker and Earl Garrett streets; the trucks are facing southeast.
wool laden trucks, Kerrville, 1921
Taken the same day -- showing drivers.
I count five trucks in the photograph, but the angle makes counting them difficult. The clue turned out to be the fenders over the front wheels. At first, I thought a trailer was attached to the second truck, but on closer inspection, I can see both a fender and a front tire of a third truck obscured by the rear tire of the second truck.
I’m hoping the Neunhoffer brothers can identify the make and year of at least the first truck.
How the trucks are rigged up is interesting, too. Did you notice the tires on that front truck? They look like a tread material has been nailed or bolted to an old wooden-spoke wheel. 
The front truck also has a tarp rolled up and stowed on the front passenger-side fender, probably to protect the load of wool sacks in the truck bed. It looks like such a tarp has been deployed on the fourth truck, where its load of wool has been covered up. 
Big wooden boxes are on the driver-side running boards, which I would assume held tools and other necessities.
The first and second truck also have a large flat wooden item – about the size of a table top – attached to the stakes along the truck bed. I don’t know what that object is – but it was probably important to the drivers and shearers in some way.
The big, pillow-shaped sacks in the back of the trucks probably contained wool, since that’s how Bryden labeled the photographs. But there’s always a chance some of the sacks contained mohair. Charles Schreiner had his two-story wool warehouse on that block of Water Street; it once stood about where the dining porch of Cartewheels Catering stands today, on the northeast side of Water Street.
Just like the wool wagons pulled by teams of mules which preceded these vehicles, these trucks are stacked high with wool sacks. It’s amazing those old trucks could haul that much weight over primitive hill country roads.
The trucks look like they’ve been though a lot of use and wear, though just making it to Kerrville from distant ranches west would have been quite an adventure.
A few weeks ago a customer stopped by the print shop to pick up a project we’d completed for him. He was headed to Rocksprings with a load of mohair, in large burlap sacks just like the ones in this photograph, and I went out to see them stacked in the back of his pickup. I’d seen a lot of similar items in historic photographs, but I’d never seen the actual item in real life. It was nice seeing a part of Kerr County history still in use today.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who, like most townies, has no idea how much hard work ranching really takes. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times October 31, 2020.

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