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Saturday, July 4, 2020

July 4th in Kerr County over the years

July 4th Rodeo Parade, 800 block of Water Street, Kerrville, 1950s.
Click on any image to enlarge.
In 1856, the year Kerr County was formed, the United States celebrated its 80th Independence Day. The country was still new when Kerr County was formed.
There is no record of how Kerr County celebrated its first July 4th, but one should remember there were very few people in the county at the time. In 1856, the largest town in Kerr County was Comfort (which was in our county at the time, before Kendall County was created). Center Point had more folks than Kerrville, too.
Kerrville Hose Co. No. 1,
in front of the St Charles Hotel,
around 1900.
Kerrville only had four or five houses in 1856, and was at the edge of the Texas frontier. Center Point and Comfort were more established, but had small populations. If the communities in the county celebrated that first year, the details have been lost to time.
The earliest record I found of Independence Day celebrations came from a 1902 issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun.
“Good time had at Ingram,” the headline read. “The picnic and barbecue at this place yesterday was a pronounced success. Plenty of everything to eat was in evidence. Candidates were on the grounds in greatest profusion, bragging on pretty babies, predicting abundant rains, and otherwise acting pleasant. The people were all happy, handshaking and good cheer was the order of the day, and all considered it one well spent.”
In the same issue, events marking the Fourth of July in Kerrville were reported.
“Great Success. The Fire Boys done Themselves Proud Yesterday,” the headline reads.
July 4 barbecue, around 1900
 “Kerrville’s big barbecue goes into history as one of the most successful entertainments the town has ever given — 2,500 people stood at the big tables — Prince and Nabob, Peasant and Plebeian elbow to elbow eating barbecue and drinking black coffee, joking and laughing and enjoying the dinner in the fullest sense.”
The event was a fundraiser for “Kerrville Hose Company No. 1.” The firemen were described as “Brau and Bonnie laddies as ever reared a ladder, or held a nozzle.”
2,500 is a large number of people to feed, and if accurate, would have been greater than the population of Kerrville in 1900, which was around 1,400.
“All had an abundance of barbecued meats, bread, pickles and black coffee, and half as many more could have been fed on what was left from the feast. The entertainment was good, in every way, and all passed off without fiction. Hon. Jno. Coleman of Houston delivered an address at 2 p.m. That was short, timely, and befitting the occasion.”
A rodeo in Ingram, 1930s
That evening the ‘Kerrville Dramatic Company’ presented ‘Rip Van Winkle’ as a benefit for the Kerrville Hose Company at Pampell’s Opera House. “Mr. Morrison, as ‘Rip’ was a pronounced success. The other members of the company were supposed by show goers…to be professionals rather than amateurs.”
Community barbecues continued for decades. In 1905, the Sun reported a Fourth of July picnic “near Frank Moore’s crossing of the Guadalupe, 3 1/2 miles above Kerrville. The picnic will be under the auspices of the Farmer’s Union…Let everybody turn out and make this entertainment break the picnic record of Texas.”
In 1935, a new July 4th tradition began in Kerr County: a big rodeo, produced the Kerrville Jaycees. These rodeos included parades, beauty contests, dances, and the big rodeo itself, which was held at “Antler Field.”
That meant the rodeo was held on the Tivy High School football field.
Pampell's, July 4, 1952
For many its first seven years, the rodeo was held on the football field at the intersection of College and Third streets. When present-day Antler Stadium was completed in 1941, the rodeo moved to the new location.
In 1955, a square dance jamboree was added to the annual rodeo, which included a performance by ‘the nationally famous Texas Starlets of San Antonio.’
By 1961 it appears the Jaycees dropped the rodeo in favor of a big air show.
By 1990 the festivities were held at Louise Hays Park, and featured live music. “From 7:30 to ‘dark thirty’ the Kerr Pops will hold a concert which will be the last scheduled event before the fireworks display, which is set to begin at exactly 9:37 pm.” Fireworks that year were sponsored by the Tipton-Carson Distributing Company and the Women’s Division of the Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce.
This format continued for many years, with a pops concert followed by a fireworks display at dark thirty. Parades were rare.
In 2012 a new format was introduced for the community celebrations: "Kerrville's 4th on the River." This new idea has taken several forms, including making the event one where admission was charged. One year the celebration was not actually on July 4, and attendance was poor. Another year the event faced the obstacle of having Louis Hays Park closed for renovations.
In 2012 the performers were John Wolfe, Monte Montgomery, JB & the Moonshine Band, Stoney LaRue, and the New Buddy Holly Band.
In 2013, Robert Earl Keen joined the lineup, and for several years has been the headline act for the celebration.  For many years Mamacita’s Restaurant has sponsored the community’s fireworks display.
This year's “Kerrville’s 4th on the River” celebration has been canceled, due to the pandemic. Several of the musical performers who were scheduled to appear will broadcast their music online that evening. For the first time in many years our community, and especially Louise Hays Park, will be quiet on the Fourth of July, and our park will be mostly empty.
Kerr County has celebrated the Fourth of July in many different ways, during times of economic hardship, war, and political division. Coming together as a community has been a line one can trace all of the way back to the very first days of Kerr County. This year, of course, is very different.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who wishes each of you a very happy and safe Fourth of July this year. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times July 4, 2020.

I have two hardcover books available with tons of historic Kerr County photographs and selected history columns.  Click HERE for more information.  Free shipping to U.S. addresses.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

The story of Kerrville's First State Bank

First State Bank, in the 800 block of Water Street, downtown Kerrville, sometime in the 1920s.
Click on any image below to enlarge.
In 1907, a group of eleven Kerrville citizens started a new bank. This was a bold move in a small town which already had a strong bank, the Charles Schreiner Bank, owned by one of the most successful families in our region. Consider that for a moment: they were going to compete against Charles Schreiner, and later his son, Louis Schreiner. Bold, indeed.
The new banking group included a former Texas state senator and his son, two medical doctors, several merchants, one woman, and some ranchers. They met on May 25, 1907 to organize the First State Bank, and subscribed $25,000 in capital, which was paid in full and placed in the hands of the bank's trustee.
Recently, some friends at Wells Fargo Bank found some historic Kerr County photographs which I've been sharing here over the past few weeks. Among those photographs were several of the First State Bank, taken when it was located in the 800 block of Water Street, and showing several of the buildings through the years that housed the bank.
It makes sense Wells Fargo Bank had some of the old photographs. First State Bank (1907) became First National Bank (1959), keeping that name through several owners; until it was sold and became a part of Norwest Bank (1994); which later became a part of Wells Fargo Bank (1999).
In 1907, First State Bank was located at the corner of Water and Sidney Baker streets. During a recent renovation of 631 Water Street, when the original foundations were exposed, the outline of the old bank safe foundation could still be seen. That site is currently the home of Wellborn Engineering & Surveying. No photograph has been found (yet) of that building when it was in use as a bank.
In 1909 the bank moved to a new location in the 800 block of Water Street. It was built on a small lot purchased from George Walther, and it was a one-story building wedged between other commercial buildings there. In 1926 that building was enlarged.
Late 1950s
In 1953 the bank combined and remodeled two adjoining buildings and purchased complete new fixtures. The façade from that renovation still exists, in part, at 804 Water Street, in a building housing several businesses, including Fore Premier Properties and Yeo Bo’s Café.
That site saw further changes when, in 1959, the bank received its national charter and became First National Bank. I remember visiting there as a child in the late 1960s and opening up my very first bank account there, with the help of my father.
In 1973, when Ben Low was president of the bank, a new bank building was constructed at 301 Junction Highway. “We are very proud of this addition to the Hill Country area,” Low said at the time. “We wanted a modern building with the capability of expansion. We believe what we have will serve this community and area for many decades to come.”
My own memory of the new bank building of 1973 was watching armed men riding in loaded pickups and trailers as items were transferred from the old building in the 800 block of Water to the new site on Junction Highway, a strange parade which passed right in front of our print shop.
In researching the very beginnings of the First State Bank, I noticed something which spoke of the times in which was created. In the minutes for the board of directors’ July 20, 1908, meeting, it was decided “that no loan be made for less than twenty-five cents.”
While the bank which had its start nearby in the 600 block of Water Street has undergone a lot of changes and is no longer locally owned, the men and women who worked at those banks over the decades have helped thousands of businesses and even more families with their banking needs – and in providing capital and liquidity have helped our community grow.
Perhaps some of these photographs will bring back memories for you, too.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who appreciates the good a strong bank can do for a community. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 27, 2020.

I have two hardcover books available with tons of historic Kerr County photographs and selected history columns.  Click HERE for more information.  Free shipping to U.S. addresses.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The mystery photograph of Nelson’s Store -- where was it?

Nelson's Store -- where and when was this photograph taken?
Last week some kind folks at Wells-Fargo came across some old historic Kerr County photographs and they were nice enough to share them with me – and I’m happy to share some of them here with you.
One was of an old store. I’d never seen the photograph before, and I had no idea where the photograph was taken. Fortunately there were several clues on the building in the photograph.
The biggest clue, of course, was the big sign near the top of the façade – “Nelson’s” it proudly reads. I started looking through old newspapers, hoping to find a reference to the store in a local newspaper, but I couldn’t. The oldest Kerr County newspapers in the online service I use start around 1900, and they’re often very faint and hard to read.
Not to worry, the photo held other clues. The building is covered with advertisements: Butterick Patterns, Moline Plow Goods, Plano Manufacturing Company, and Ellwood Fences.
Butterick Patterns is still around, but it started in 1867. So the photo has to date later than 1867.
Likewise, the Moline Plow Goods company started in the 1870s, so the date of the photo has to be later than then, but it closed in 1923, and the company emerged later, but with a different name.
Ellwood Fences manufactured many types of wire fencing, from woven fences for chickens and livestock, to two-strand barbed wire.
The Plano Manufacturing Company also made farming implements, mainly horse-drawn harvesters. However, it only operated under that name from about 1891-1902. Of the advertising signs, this seems to be the narrowest range, meaning the photograph probably dates from that time period.
The biggest clue, however, is not one of the advertising signs, but a meeting-place sign below the “Nelson’s” sign – it’s faint, but I can barely read “W W Camp 435.” This sign, I believe, signified the meeting place of Camp 435 of Woodmen of the World, a fraternal order. Finding the location of that ‘camp’ was relatively easy: it was in Center Point, Texas. (That same exact sign would also be placed on the Woolls Building, sometime after 1902.)
San Antonio Street, Center Point, Texas, around 1905
I have an old postcard showing San Antonio Street in Center Point, published around the turn of the last century by “Chas. Apelt, Comfort, Texas.” He published a wide assortment of hill country postcards, most from 1905-1910, though it’s hard to get an exact date of publication. These were printed in Germany, which caused a Kerrville printer, J. E. Grinstead, to publish a line of postcards with the cutline “NOT printed in Germany. Printed in Kerrville, Texas.” Grinstead was quite a character. He was also the publisher of the Kerrville Mountain Sun, starting around 1900. Later he retired from the newspaper business, published a small magazine, and wrote pulp Westerns.
In Apelt’s postcard of Center Point, I think I’ve located Nelson’s store, or at least the building which once housed the store. It’s the second building on the left side of the postcard; that building has the same balcony/awning and the same number of windows.
If that’s the old Nelson’s Store building, I’m sad to report the building is no longer there. I think it once stood on San Antonio Street in Center Point, between Kelly and Skyline streets. The building between Nelson’s and Kelly Street is still there, on the corner.
Judging from the farming equipment sold there, plus the Butterick’s Patterns sign, and noticing the china on display in the store’s window, I imagine Nelson’s catered to farmers and the families of farmers.
There’s a chance the store was owned by Frank C. Nelson, who came to Center Point as a young man of 20 in 1891. The Kerrville Mountain Sun wrote in his obituary, “He was at one time one of the leading merchants of the community and was a charter member of the Woodmen of the World.” Frank Nelson died in 1952, and is buried in Center Point.
If you know more of the history of the store, I would enjoy learning more about it.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who likes solving mysteries about Kerr County photographs. If you have an old photo of our county, I’d certainly like to see it. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 20, 2020.

I have two hardcover books available with tons of historic Kerr County photographs and selected history columns.  Click HERE for more information.  Free shipping to U.S. addresses.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

The case of the missing blacksmith shop photo

The August Braeutigam Blacksmith Shop, around 1895,
which was at the east corner of Water and Quinlan streets.

Years ago I received an email asking if I had a photograph in my collection of an old Kerrville blacksmith shop. The sender was kind enough to send along a scan of an article Herbert E. Oehler wrote for this newspaper on July 12, 1976, with the title “Son of a Pioneer,” about August Braeutigam.
August Braeutigam
Braeutigam opened a blacksmith shop here in Kerrville at the east corner of Water and Quinlan streets in 1885. The blacksmith shop site is part of the parking lot of Entertainmart today, just across Water Street from the library campus.
Unfortunately, I’d never seen the image he wanted, though I wished I could help. I filed the request in my rusty mental file cabinet, knowing photographs taken before 1900 were quite rare in Kerrville, and there was little hope in finding the image.
That changed this week when some friends at Wells-Fargo came across a stack of old Kerrville photographs, and shared them with me. Among the images was the photograph of the old blacksmith shop.
Herbert Oehler wrote the story this way:
“When August Braeutigam established his blacksmith shop at the corner of Water and Quinlan Streets in 1885, he was no amateur in that craft. He had practiced his trade since 1869, and had owned shops at three other locations in Texas and one in California before coming here.”
Nellie Braeutigam
The family lived next door to the shop, “and Mr. L. A. Schreiner and A. C. Schreiner lived across the street,” according to a family history I received. The family lived and worked there for another thirty years.
August and his wife Nellie had one child, a daughter named Annie. She married J. L. Pampell, the founder of Pampell’s, which was on the corner of Water and Sidney Baker streets. Pampell’s was a drug store with an old-fashioned soda fountain when I was a child. Like most people my age, I have very fond memories of Pampell’s, of the Hood family who owned it when I was young; of Emmie Kneese, who made the world’s best milkshakes; and of Virgie Morris who kept my favorite chocolate bars in stock in gleaming glass cases near the front door.
“Milton Pampell, August’s grandson,” the family history says, “recalls days when as a young boy he would watch his grandfather at work. Milton was given a small leather apron to wear and never was allowed to come into the shop without shoes on in order to protect him from the sparks wile forging the iron and the cinders that might be found on the ground.
Annie Braeutigam
“Mr. B. L. Enderle remembers well when he grew up in Kerrville how the freight wagons would stop at the Braeutigam blacksmith shop. ‘Mr. Braeutigam, a beloved gentleman, would service and repair the wagons while a hired hand would shoe the horses.’”
August Braeutigam was elected an alderman to one of the first Kerrville city councils, back in 1890 – 1893.
The photograph of the old blacksmith shop is quite interesting, and the quality of the image is surprisingly good, given how old it is. August Braeutigam can be seen leaning against the topped-off tree, wearing a leather apron. I particularly like the advertisement above his right arm which reads “Wagons/ Studebaker/ Carriages.” My best guess is the photograph was taken in the 1890s, though the fire hydrant on which one of the other fellows is sitting might suggest a later date.
“Tire Shrinking/ Horse-shoeing/ Plow and Wagon Work” is painted in large high-contrast letters on the side of the building, on the side toward the Town Creek bridge. This is notable because that’s the direction from which wagon freight traffic would have passed on its way to the downtown Kerrville area. By the time Braeutigam opened his blacksmith shop, freight to and from San Antonio traveled by rail. But all freight west – to Ingram, Hunt, Mountain Home, Junction, or Rocksprings – would pass directly in front of Braeutigam’s shop.
August Braeutigam died in 1916; his wife Nellie in 1942. Both are buried here in Kerrville, at Glen Rest Cemetery.
Thanks again to the kind folks at Wells Fargo who shared this photo with all of us. Yes, I’ve sent a copy on to the Braeutigam family member who requested it years ago.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who loves old photographs of Kerrville. If you have one you’d care to share with him, he will be happy to scan the image and give you back the original. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 13, 2020.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Part Five: By the Skin of Their Teeth

Moon over Davis Mountains, near Fort Davis, Texas, 2011
"The Old Guide,"
published 1898

In 1849 there was no wagon route from San Antonio to El Paso. In the years just after the Mexican-American War of 1846, when the United States had won vast new territories in the American southwest, such a route was suddenly of national importance. Two young U. S. Army lieutenants, W. H. C. Whitig and William Farrar Smith, were ordered to find a route for wagons to travel between the two cities, and to scout for sites for army forts along the way. They chose as their guide José Policarpo Rodriguez, who tells about the journey in his autobiography, “The Old Scout,” published in 1898.
The group traveled without much incident from February 1849 until mid-March 1849. One day, near present-day Fort Davis in the Davis Mountains, they crossed paths with a small group of Indians: an old man, three or four women, and a small boy. There were some strong words expressed by the old man and at least one member of the expedition; some members of the expedition were in favor of killing the Indians and proceeding.
“Don’t be afraid,” Policarpo said in Spanish to the old man, “we will not hurt you.”
Davis Mountains
And so the small group of Indians, members of the Mescalero Apache tribes, passed safely on their way, and the Whitig-Smith expedition continued safely on theirs, but only after a signal fire had been lit by one of the women.
About the fire, the old man told Polly, “it is to call the Indians here, and then you’ll tell what you are after.”
His words were very true: within only a few hours the expedition was encircled by two bands of Apache warriors – a smaller circle, led by Chino Huero, who happened to be the son of the old Indian man spared by the expedition, the husband of one of the women, and the father of the young boy.
The larger group of warriors was led by Gomez, a fierce chief who controlled the Davis Mountain area of Texas (and Mexico). Gomez was not subtle: he intended to kill every member of the expedition.
Chino Huero plead with Gomez and promised “if he harmed these people their friendship would not only end, but Gomez would have to pass over his dead body, and those of his men, to reach his victims.”
All eyes were on Gomez, who, after a very long pause, called together a council of the chiefs.
“Three or four other chiefs came forward,” writes Rodriguez. “They took the goatskins off their saddles and spread them on the ground together. They then retired a little way and took off their moccasins, walked barefoot to their places, seated themselves in a ring, faces inward, and began their deliberations. Lt. Whitig, Dick Howard, and I were taken into the council. They lighted a pipe and passed it.”
Davis Mountains
Policarpo Rodriguez tells how he felt at that moment: “I recollect I raised my heart to God and said “My last day is come; God help me die like a brave man.” He looked over the Indians around him, picking his first target. “I had fully resolved to kill Gomez the first man.”
“The council listened as Chino Huero spoke. Finally, he won even against the head chief.”
Quickly the chief mounted his horse and rode in a circle around the expedition, shouting instructions to his warriors, riding three times very rapidly, “talking all the time to his men. Then he went round twice more much more slowly and talking much more deliberately.”
José Policarpo Rodriguez,
around 1898
The chief had decided to spare them “on condition we not disturb them. They wanted to remain in that country, even if it was barren. It would be of no use to us, but they could live on grass and roots.”
The chief then commanded that the expedition join him at his camp for a meal, and the expedition joined him there and spent a restless night in the Indian camp. It was obvious Gomez was having difficulty keeping his men from harming the expedition members.
The next day the expedition headed west, on their journey to El Paso. But that night the expedition did something clever.
They made a big show of setting up camp, building camp fires, and setting up tents. They knew they were being watched by many eyes from the rims of the surrounding hills. As darkness fell they kept the fires burning brightly, but quietly loaded all of their gear on their mules and silently slipped away, leaving the illusion of a quiet sleeping camp behind them.
They marched all night and the next day, too, hoping to put as much distance between themselves and Gomez and his warriors as they could.
And that’s how José Policarpo Rodriguez and the other men of the expedition lived to tell the tale.
This and many other tales of early Texas can be found in Rodriguez’s book, “The Old Guide,” which can be read online for free: click HERE
Until next week, all the best.

Click Here to learn more
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who can't imagine the difficulties the men of the Whitig-Smith Expedition endured.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 6, 2020.

I have two Kerr County history books available, filled with historic photographs of Kerr County.  Both books are available at Wolfmueller's BooksHerring Printing Company, and online by clicking HERE.



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