New Kerr County History Book Available!

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 1900.  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.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

An immigrant who helped design old Kerrville

Alfred Giles architect
Alfred Giles, architect, who designed hundreds of buildings
in Texas and northern Mexico, including several in Kerrville.
Click on any image below to enlarge.
You might be surprised to learn an immigrant from England helped shape the outlines of our community, as well as in other communities all over Texas, and even parts of northern Mexico.
The immigrant was Alfred Giles, born in Hillingdon, Middlesex, England, in the mid-1800s. He was an architect who designed hundreds of buildings, many of which still stand today.
Third courthouse Kerr County Texas
Third Kerr County courthouse
in Kerrville
He studied the 'arts of construction' at King's College, of the University of London, while an apprentice at the architectural firm of Giles and Bivens in London.
In 1873 Giles moved to Texas for his health. He found employment at the contracting firm of John H. Kampann in San Antonio, where he learned about the use of locally available building materials, especially stone.
In 1876 Giles opened his own firm in San Antonio, which designed a wide variety of buildings over the years -- from plain residences to showy mansions, from courthouses to banks.
Giles also designed many buildings in Kerrville and Comfort, and a few in Fredericksburg, Boerne, and Bandera.
Schreiner store and bank Kerrville Texas
Schreiner store and bank, 1890s
In Kerrville, Giles designed the Schreiner store and bank, though that building was extensively revised in 1919 after its construction in 1882 and 1893. He was the architect of the St. Charles Hotel, built in 1884, and torn down in 1936, which once stood on the east corner of Water and Sidney Baker streets. He also designed the third county courthouse in Kerrville, in 1885, which was torn down in 1926. He designed the Charles Schreiner Bank building at the corner of Water and Earl Garrett, complete with a row of brick office buildings, which stretched from the corner to near the Arcadia Theater, around 1914. These were torn down in the 1980s.
Home of Charles and Lena Schreiner Kerrville Texas
Charles and Lena Schreiner's home
A few of Kerrville structures Giles designed are still here: the home of Charles and Magdalena Schreiner on Earl Garrett Street, the Masonic Building just opposite their home, and the home Giles designed at 405 Water Street for one of Schreiner's sons.
The Schreiner Mansion on Earl Garrett Street was built in several phases. The original home was designed in 1879, and then revised in 1895 when the impressive stone porches were added. Giles designed both phases.
Masonic Building Kerrville Texas
The Masonic Building, 1890s
The Masonic Building, just across the street, was for many recent years the home of Sheftall's Jewelry. It was designed by Alfred Giles in 1890. The building was occupied by Kerrville Lodge No. 697 A.F.&A.M. from April 1891 until Charles Schreiner's death in 1927, when the Masons moved their lodge across the street to the Schreiner Mansion. In the Masonic Building, the Masons held their meetings on the second floor, while the ground floor has served many tenants. The first tenant was the U. S. post office. Around 1918 the ground floor was leased by Florence Butt and housed her grocery store until about 1926. (The Butt family has another connection to a Giles-designed building; Florence Butt's grandson, Charles, also a grocer, lives in the restored Carl Wilhelm August Groos House in the King William neighborhood of San Antonio, a house which Giles designed in 1880.)
405 Water Street Kerrville Texas
405 Water Street, Kerrville
The residence at 405 Water Street here in Kerrville was designed by Alfred Giles, and built in 1897 by Captain Charles Schreiner as a wedding gift for his son, Charles Schreiner, Jr. The younger Schreiner and his bride, Kitty West of San Antonio, lived in the house until the summer of 1912, when they sold the home to his brother, A. C. Schreiner.
A. C. Schreiner then sold the home to his son, A. C. Schreiner Jr., who married Nellie Elizabeth Ganter later in the summer of 1912. The sales price was "in consideration of love and affection." The younger A. C. and Nellie lived in the house for the rest of their lives.
In 1927 the couple had Adams and Adams design changes for their home, adding a second floor, arched porch, and tile roof to the original structure. These changes transformed the home.
Alfred Giles designed many buildings which are now landmarks. He also left another landmark.
Alfred Giles, in partnership with his brother-in-law Judge John Herndon James, began purchasing land near Comfort in 1885 to form Hillingdon Ranch, which consisted of over 13,000 acres. Hillingdon Ranch is still in operation, and is owned and operated by members of the Giles family, who raise cattle, sheep and goats.
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who admires talented architects. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 8, 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 2, 2019

What was Captain Charles Schreiner's biggest business success?

Schreiner Wool Warehouse, 700 block of Water Street, Kerrville around 1900.
Note train cars next to building.
This stood just to the left of today's Cartewheels Catering;
later this building housed Lehmann's, and later still, Winn's.
Click on any image to enlarge.
For a long time I thought Charles Schreiner's wealth came mainly from his Kerrville store and bank. Later, I added his real estate investments, not just in towns like Kerrville and neighboring communities, but also the numerous ranches he owned. By 1900 he owned around 600,000 acres stretching from Kerrville to Menard. Schreiner also financed and organized great cattle drives north to the markets in Kansas and elsewhere which were often quite profitable. Add to these the corporate boards on which he served, mostly for companies in which he'd made an investment, including the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad, and the original National Bank of Commerce.
Charles Schreiner
Any one of these would have made Charles Schreiner a comparatively wealthy man, and would have made him very similar to other Texas businessmen of that era. It seems most Texas towns had a primary mover -- the one person who owned the bank, the water system, the electric system, the telephone system in their little town.
Lately, though, I've thought the true source of his wealth was something else, something I would have never guessed, and that source differentiates Schreiner from the other Texas successes.
Schreiner created at least two local commodities markets which served international buyers: a market for wool, and, to a lesser extent, a market for mohair.
Unloading wool at the warehouse
Sheep and goats, in those days, were an anathema to most cattle ranchers, but Schreiner championed these livestock in several important ways.
First, through his bank, he influenced ranchers to diversify into sheep and goats. Basically, many of the loans to ranchers for livestock stipulated that some of the capital was to be spent on sheep and goats. I’m sure this was not always well received, but there was cleverness in Schreiner’s policy. Sheep provided an opportunity for profit at least twice a year, when the wool was clipped, plus the additional opportunity for sale as meat; goats offered similar advantages to cattle.
These fiber products also helped Schreiner build a market for what was possibly his most clever enterprise: wool and mohair warehousing. He ran a huge wool and mohair commission business. While he cannot be credited with creating this concept, one could certainly argue he perfected it. In fact, there was a time when Kerrville – little Kerrville, on the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert, far from any large cities – was credited with more mohair commission sales than any other market in the world. Schreiner had, in other words, not only created a market for these fibers, but had cornered that market.
Wool wagon at camp yard
In the late 1800s, Schreiner's name is found in the San Antonio papers in association with his wool commission business. By the late 1880s Schreiner was selling over 1 million pounds of wool, receiving bids from buyers all over the world. Newspapers of the time say 1 million pounds of wool equaled 35 train car loads.
At the turn of the last century, Schreiner was selling about 1/6 of all wool produced in the entire state of Texas, according to newspaper accounts from the time period. That amazes me.
Schreiner himself did not raise the sheep or goats which produced all of this wool and mohair, nor was all of it produced on ranches he owned. Here's where his business genius can be appreciated: he created a stable market for these commodities.
That meant the sheepmen and goat raisers, who labored to raise the sheep and goats, keeping them fed while moving them from range to range, protecting them from harm, doctoring their illnesses and wounds, and providing for the wool or mohair to be clipped, all while taking on enormous risks -- these stockmen had a reliable market for their products. They did not have to bear the additional risk of finding a market for their wool and mohair.
Schreiner provided them a market, which gave them a fair market price, and a place to bring their clips. He also collected a commission on every pound of wool and mohair he sold.
More wool at warehouse
I've known some very successful businesspeople, and I've read about many others since my days at the University. Schreiner's story is different.
The thing about Charles Schreiner's business achievements which really amazes me is not his lack of formal business education, and not his ability to build a series of businesses which interlocked so closely together, each supporting the others in an almost vertical integration -- no, the astonishing thing about Schreiner's outstanding success is that it was done in a remote, isolated community, without the benefit of reliable transportation or communication.
Using an initial source of capital, first through a partnership with his brother-in-law Caspar Real, and then later through a partnership with August Faltin, Schreiner created new capital with hard work, innately realizing the benefits of treating others well and providing them value, and a shrewd sense of the possibilities of the Texas frontier.
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who thinks about events from long ago.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 1, 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, May 26, 2019

Remembering Kerrville's Glen Chenault this Memorial Day Weekend

Robert Glen Chenault, a young Marine from Kerrville.
Click on any image below to enlarge.
Of the men listed on the Kerr County War Memorial, I personally knew only one, and while every soldier listed on that monument left a painful gap in our community when they died, torn away from their families and friends, it's that young man I think of first on this holiday.
Robert Glen Chenault was a young Marine from Kerrville who died in Vietnam. My family called him Glen. Our two families attended First Baptist Church in Kerrville.
Glen joined the Marines on June 28, 1967 in San Antonio, went through training at Camp Pendleton in California, and arrived in Vietnam on December 16, 1967. On the night of January 31, 1968, while on patrol in defense of the Da Nang Military Complex C, near Quảng Nam, Glen's squad came under fierce enemy fire, and Glen was among several American soldiers in his squad killed.
He had been in Vietnam about a month and a half -- 47 days, if you count the day he arrived. He was only 21 years old when he died.
Glen Chenault, around 1964
Recently I found a letter Glen wrote to my family on Christmas Day, 1967; it was written on his 10th day in Vietnam.  It's a single sheet of paper, written on both sides, and folded in the middle. While the handwriting is not neat, it is clear and readable.
"Things here are pretty good," Glen wrote, "kind of busy, though. That's the reason for the delay in writing. I want a lot of letters from you all this next year. If I can, I'll answer them all.
"Like I said, things are okay with me. They could be better, but they could also be a lot worse. My company is located about 2 miles north and about 10 miles west of Da Nang. It is just like you would imagine Viet Nam to be; rice paddies, grass huts, and all that other good stuff.
"How are things in Kerrville? Oh yes, this is Christmas Day here, Christmas Eve in Texas. What a change. I will really appreciate next Christmas [when I am home]."
Glen asked how I'm doing in school (I was a first-grader at Starkey at the time), commented about my younger sister, asked about his parents.
"I think our squad is off tonight. If so, I can take a bath and all that good stuff. Paddy water is wet, but I don't believe I want to bathe in it." Later, in a postscript, he writes "We are off this evening, thank goodness. I just took a great hot shower and shampoo. I think I can make it now."
Glen worked at my parents' print shop, and spent a lot of time with my late father. They spent hours working together, talking, and after Glen decided to sign up with the Marines, talking about the military.
Posthumous honors for Chenault.
L-R: Lt Col B F Visage, Valna Sauer Cox, and
Glen's parents, Doris and Tommy Chenault.
When Glen's body was shipped home for burial at Kerrville's Garden of Memories cemetery, Glen's parents asked my father and the late Raul Arreola to identify the body for them. The two men did so to spare Glen's parents that last memory of their son.
Glen's letter to my family is yellowed, now. Somehow it survived the fire that destroyed our print shop building in 1995, though it stills smells like smoke from that evening, and there is some water damage on parts of the letter. The letter was in a file cabinet in a section of the shop building hardest hit by the flames. How my father found the letter in the charred debris, I do not know.
"Well, I've just about run down," Glen wrote to close his letter. "Tell everyone hello. So long for now, see you next Christmas. Your friend always, Glen."
At the end of the very next month, PFC Robert Glen Chenault died for his country. I've looked through our files and this is the only letter from Glen I've found.
Glen's parents, Doris and Tommy, passed away years ago and are buried next to their son. I remember them all, and how Glen's death changed them.
As we observe Memorial Day this year, remember the brave soldiers who sacrificed so much for our country.  And please remember, too, the ones they left behind.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who remembers the Chenault home on Wheless Avenue, and the fun we had there. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times on Memorial Day weekend, 2019.
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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 Books, Herring Printing Company, and online by clicking HERE.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Pop Up Museum Display: Kerrville 1934

An economic map of Kerrville, as it was in 1934, during the Great Depression,
complete with 72 historic photographs of Kerrville homes, taken in 1934.

Click on any image to enlarge.
My patient friends at Pint and Plow have waited for months for me to complete the fabrication of an idea I had for a display there -- another of my "Pop Up" museum displays.
As you know, Kerr County lacks a history museum.  There is no one place that tells the story of our community's history.
The Walther family allows me, from time to time, to display historic photographs on the walls of their coffee shop (in the historic Dietert home, which is connected to their brewery and restaurant).  It's a kindness, actually, and I'm very thankful for their support.
Here's what's on display:
In 1934 the city government in Kerrville hired a contractor to take a photograph of every house on every street in the city limits.  While most of the photographs no longer exist, a little over 300 are still available today.  The Kerrville Genealogical Society has the best and most complete collection of these images.
The "yellow," or middle-value houses.
Decades later our family lived in
number 29.
Going through the photographs is like hopping into a time machine.  You feel as if you're walking down Kerrville streets in 1934, as one house after another is photographed.  In one, a mother is playing with her child on a blanket in the front yard.  In several, a group of children, including a boy with a baseball bat, follow the photographer from house to house.  In another set of photographs, a group of children, including one on horseback, follow the photographer as he makes his photographs.
These photographs were taken during the Great Depression.  Franklin Roosevelt had been president for about a year, and many programs of the New Deal had not yet taken effect.  It's a grim time for our nation -- and for our community.
To make the display, I selected 72 photographs that were representative of the entire collection.  I divided them by the value of the house in the photograph -- starting with one-room houses and progressing to mansions.   Each group of 12 photographs each is divided by the value of the house in the photograph.
Kerrville map, 1934.
The numbered dots indicate locations
of the houses in the photographs.
Then I color coded them.  Red was for the smallest houses; yellow for the middle-sized; green for the largest houses.  Then I numbered each of the photographs, from 1 to 72, and assigned the same color code to the number.
Next, I placed markers on a 1934 map of Kerrville -- a map drawn the same year the photographs were taken.   It quickly became obvious that the red (or smallest) houses were grouped together in several neighborhoods, while the green (or largest) houses were also grouped together in several areas.
In this way I could display a rudimentary economic map of Kerrville as it appeared in 1934.
The 72 photographs on display show the differences between the poorest of Kerrville and the richest of Kerrville, and the images are interesting to study.  I selected photographs which showed people whenever possible, because people are a great part of the story.
I've also selected many photographs of houses which are still in use today.  Many of the smallest houses are gone, but a lot of the other houses can still be found in Kerrville. You will probably recognize a house or two from the photographs.
Pint and Plow is located at 332 Clay Street, in downtown Kerrville It is open daily from 7:30am - 9pm, closed Tuesdays.  The pop up museum display is in the coffee bar area, in the old historic Dietert home.
This display is temporary and will be taken down soon. You're invited to stop by and check it out!  There is no charge to see the display, but while you're there, you really ought to try their coffee (or their beer, brewed on site).
Tell 'em Joe sent you.



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