New Kerr County History Book Available!

Sunday, January 22, 2023

A handmade book by Kerrville students, from 1937

Fifth Graders at Kerrville Elementary, History Pageant, March 2, 1937

This week, a kind reader brought me a handmade book, which was created right here in Kerrville, back in 1937. If an old book can be sweet, this one certainly is.

The book

It’s a hardcover book measuring a little over 8.5 inches wide, and 11.5 inches tall. It is bound to the covers with string and pasted end sheets. There are about 150 pages in the book, yellowed with time, but still marked with the brilliant colors of crayons and map pencils. The cover is made using binder board and blue book cloth. The students did a fine job binding the book.

It was created by the students of Mabel Deering’s “high” fifth grade Texas history class, and has pages of hand-drawn maps, hand-drawn scenes from Texas history, poetry written by the students, postcards and other printed materials pasted on the pages, and in the back, in a kraft envelope pasted to the back cover of the book, a series of photographs showing a history pageant performed by the class on March 2, 1937, in the school’s auditorium. These photographs were taken by a local photographer, Cleveland Wheelus.

Each page was signed by the student who created it.

Miss Deering taught at Kerrville Elementary. That elementary school campus was later called Tivy Elementary School, back in the 1960s when I was an elementary school student at Starkey Elementary, and then Tivy Upper Elementary School in the 1990s, when my children were students on the same campus.

The campus was at the intersection of Tivy and Barnett Streets. In 1937, the campuses of Kerrville Elementary, Franklin Junior High School, and Tivy High School were all on Tivy Street, on either side of Barnett.

I recognize the names of many of the students, and perhaps you will, too: Louis Burton, Trilby Mosty, Mary Busby, Dorothy Lou Stiffler, Joyce Short, Ida Soto, Maltida Bonn, Edgar Russell, Eldon Raymond Riley, Edgar Russel, Elaine Oehler, Joe Henry Mills, Allen Steves, Trilby Corbin, Aaron Robertson, Richard Flenniken, Dennis Parker, Nina Burnett, Anna Bell Reynolds, Ethel Lee Ellis, Geraldine McDonald, Dorothy Jen Randle, Louise Nichaus, and many others.

There are several things about the book which stand out for me:

The penmanship is very good. These fifth graders had good handwriting skills.

Many of the pages look like homework assignments. Perhaps Miss Deering chose from among the homework she received back from students, choosing the best work to be included in the class book. I think this would have motivated me as a fifth grader to do my best work!

The pages are also very neat, often marked with a layout guide in red pencil, so the pages would be uniform when bound together.

Mabel Deering taught elementary school in Kerrville for 31 years, and for 26 of those years she taught fifth grade. In 1937, she lived with her widowed mother, Mary Deering, at 1120 Third Street, which was within walking distance to the elementary school. When she began her teaching career, all that was required was a teaching certificate, often obtained at a Summer Normal school almost immediately after graduation from high school. Because she was ill with the measles when it came to graduate from Tivy High School, she never got her high school diploma. She later applied for a teaching certificate, which she received – even without her diploma.

Her first teaching job was at the Turtle Creek School.  It's likely Clarabelle Barton Snodgrass was one of her students.

Kerrville Elementary
5th Grade students, 1937

Mabel Deering, “through determination and courage,” managed to obtain her college degree 15 years into her teaching career, by attending Schreiner Institute, and then Southwest Texas in San Marcos, during the summers. She received her bachelor’s degree in 1937, the same year as the creation of this book. Deering was one of the first women to attend Schreiner Institute “when the institute voted to accept female students during the summer sessions.

She and her parents came to Kerrville from Georgia, when she was in the fifth grade – a grade she would teach here for 26 years.

She retired from teaching in 1958, and died in 1966, when she was 72. She is buried at Glen Rest Cemetery, along with her parents.

I’m thankful to the kind reader who brought this book to me.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who enjoys collecting items from Kerr County’s history. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 21, 2023.

Though this newsletter is free, it isn't cheap. You can help by sharing it with someone, by forwarding it by email, or sharing it on Facebook. Sharing is certainly caring. (I also have two Kerr County history books available online, with free shipping!)

Sunday, January 15, 2023

An historic school and church at Jefferson and Francisco Lemos streets in Kerrville

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Kerrville, around 1920.

I’m old enough to remember an old school and church at the north corner of Francisco Lemos and Jefferson streets. In my childhood – the 1960s – the old building was in poor repair, and had a fence around it, to keep folks out.

What I most remember most, though, was a bell which hung in one of the twin belfries. Even as a child I knew the building was probably doomed for the wrecking ball, but I was very concerned the bell would be lost in the demolition. I often wondered how I could save that bell, and how I could enlist my friends to help. I had no idea church bells were so heavy, and well beyond my ability to carry – even with friends helping. 

The school was called Our Lady of Guadalupe, and it was opened on October 4, 1915 with 150 pupils. It was one of the many projects of Father Henry Kemper, who guided the Notre Dame Catholic Church parish and schools from his arrival in Kerrville in February, 1911.

Contributors to the founding of the school, in addition to the Kemper family, included Capt. Charles Schreiner, L. A. Schreiner, Dr. Sam Thompson, and Robert Real.

The school was run by the Sisters of Charity, according to an article from June, 1915.

Though I think the building started life as a school, it wasn’t long until worship services were also held there. A mention of services at Our Lady of Guadalupe is in a June, 1917 issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun, and other notices can be found in later issues.

The school also served as a makeshift hospital during the influenza epidemic of 1918.

The site today, January 2023
According to the October 11, 1918 edition of the Kerrville Mountain Sun, a young man serving in the Navy was sent home to Kerrville because his ship had an "epidemic" of Spanish Influenza, "and a number of the boys were sent home, hoping they would escape it." The young man "is thought to be in no immediate danger and will likely soon be up. This is the first case of influenza reported here." The young man survived.

By October 25, 1918, the Mountain Sun reported the first death in the epidemic; the victim was a young man working for the government in Kentucky, who fell ill and was sent home to Kerrville. He died just three days after arriving home.

By November, when the community was celebrating the signing of the Armistice, it was also "in the throes of the most malignant epidemic of Spanish Influenza," according to an article by Father Kemper, which was published years later, in the Kerrville Times of September 28, 1933.

"Within a few days, and sub-freezing snowy days at that, Father Kemper buried from Our Lady of Guadalupe parish" six victims of the disease. Dr. Palmer identified three dozen additional cases in the parish.

"At once the Guadalupe School was converted into a free hospital regardless of sex or creed. A rigid quarantine was established, with paid police at all street entrances in to the [neighborhood]. Father Kemper stripped the Rectory of beds and linens; used his Buick as an ambulance; contributed several hundred dollars to furnish groceries for a thousand isolated parishioners in the danger zone; and despite the shortage of nurses in that never-to-be forgotten month, he secured two skilled nurses from Santa Rosa Hospital [in San Antonio], Sisters Irma and Ladislaus, who as by miracle at once turned the tide of one of the greatest dangers that threatened our city in the last quarter of a century. 

"The thirty-three men, women and children whose life seemed doomed in the Guadalupe School at once showed signs of recovery. No new cases arose in the neighborhood. After ten days and nights of anxious watching, the two Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word were able to dismiss the last flu patients, and to let their fellow-nuns resume class work as soon as the public schools were permitted to open."

Others praised in Kemper’s 1933 article were Dr. E. E. Palmer, who "will probably remember this as one of his busiest weeks in half a century of medical practice," and Mrs. Louis A. [Mae] Schreiner, “an angel of mercy ministering among the lowliest of God's stricken children,” and "who has since joined the choir invisible….”

The school was ‘abandoned’ during the Great Depression, ‘due to the lack of funds,’ according to the Kerrville Daily Times of February 28, 1971. The last pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church was Rev. Cayetano Romero; church services ended there in 1955.

The building was home to a ‘youth center’ until the mid-1960s. Its last use was as a storeroom for clothes and other items donated to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and members of the society met in the building.

The structure was condemned as a fire hazard in the summer of 1970, and finally came down in 1971.

And what happened to the bell I remembered from the old school? I’ve been told it was saved and now graces the bell tower beside Notre Dame Catholic church on Water Street.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects items from Kerrville’s past. If you have something which you’d care to share with him, it would make him very happy. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 14, 2023.

Though this newsletter is free, it isn't cheap. You can help by sharing it with someone, by forwarding it by email, or sharing it on Facebook. Sharing is certainly caring. (I also have two Kerr County history books available online, with free shipping!)

Sunday, January 8, 2023

The story beneath a small parking lot on Water Street

The 600 Block of Water Street, possibly early 1930s.
Parsons Hall circled.
Click on any image to enlarge.

Sometimes even an empty parking lot has a story.

The parking lot next to our family’s print shop, between the print shop and Grape Juice, has a long story, though you couldn’t tell from looking at it.

I’m old enough to remember the Rialto Theater which once stood where the parking lot is today. That movie theater opened on February 10, 1938 – and the first movie shown there was “Hollywood Hotel,” starring Dick Powell and Frances Langford. Admission was 10, 20, or 25 cents, based, I guess on the seats you chose.

The Rialto Theater
A front-page story in the February 10, 1938 Kerrville Mountain Sun offered this schedule for the theater: "One-day runs will be shown on Saturdays, and the theatre will offer four bills each week, three of them on two-day schedules. The first of a regular series of Saturday night matinees is set for 11:30 pm Saturday."

I checked up on that late time -- 11:30 pm -- and it appears to be accurate. I thought Kerrville, in the late 1930s, would be all buttoned up and asleep at that time, but I was wrong.

The Rialto Theater was built by B . C. Parsons, at a cost of $40,000, and was leased to Hall Industries, headed up by Henry W. Hall of Beeville. Hall Industries also owned the Arcadia Theater a block away on Water Street, and the Rio Theater, one block farther. 

The new Rialto Theater featured many innovations: "hearing aids" for the hearing impaired, including a device using the "bone conductor principle" for the totally deaf. A "spacious lounge" above the lobby was available, "where patrons may rest or smoke."

The old theater was torn down in 1974, by the Charles Schreiner Bank, and the lot was turned into a parking lot.

Dr. George R. Parsons
But there’s an even older story that took place on the same parking lot.

A two-story frame building once stood there, which was called Parsons Hall, after the Parsons family.

Years ago, my friends Jon and Sandy Wolfmueller gave me an interesting book called "Kerrville, Texas: a social and economic history," which was written by Frank R. Gilliland of Center Point. It was Mr. Gilliland's master's thesis, and it was written in 1951.

In the manuscript, Mr. Gilliland talks about the Parsons building.

“In 1880 a daily stage service from Kerrville to Boerne was inaugurated by Dr. George Robins Parsons...he operated this line until completion of the railroad in 1887. At the same time, he operated a Comfort to Fredericksburg stagecoach, which continued in operation several years after the Kerrville to Boerne line was discontinued. The stage left Kerrville each morning at four o'clock, changed horses in Comfort, and transferred its passengers to the connecting line in Boerne. Travelers reached San Antonio after dark. A stage left San Antonio at about the same time in the morning, and passengers reached Kerrville at night. The round trip fare from Kerrville to San Antonio was twenty dollars. Dr. Parsons had four Concord stagecoaches of the two-horse size on the two lines. [Those stagecoaches were painted bright yellow.] The stagecoach office was in Parsons' Hall, a two-story building which stood on the location of the present Rialto Theater, the second story of which served as town hall for many years."

Parsons Hall
While I’m not sure Kerrville’s town hall was in the old Parsons building, I did find an article from the July 29, 1937 issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun, written as the old building was being torn down.

The article quotes Bert C. Parsons about the history of the building, who said the building was built in 1882 by his mother, the wife of Dr. George Parsons.

The frame building’s second story, Parsons recalled, was originally used as a skating rink, and later as a hall for dances and theatricals. The lower floor was for a number of years the location of the town’s railway express office. 

Receipt, Parsons' Livery
“The lower floor was occupied by the Kerrville Mountain Sun for a decade or more under the ownership of Col. J. E. Grinstead,” in the early 1900s.

“When the building was completed, the first occupant of the ground floor was the owner of a livery stable,” and the home of Dr. Parson’s stagecoach line.

There’s also a spiritual side to the parking lot site: The first Catholic mass was read there in 1889, and in its early days, the congregation met in Parson's Hall.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who enjoys studying our community’s history. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 7, 2023.

Though this newsletter is free, it isn't cheap. You can help by sharing it with someone, by forwarding it by email, or sharing it on Facebook. Sharing is certainly caring. (I also have two Kerr County history books available online, with free shipping!)

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Top 10 Most Popular History Columns of 2022 -- tons of links and photographs!

Guadalupe River near downtown Kerrville, Autumn 2022.
Click on any image to enlarge.

When we start the new year, you and I, we really have no idea what we might discover over the coming 12 months. So it is with this column. Though I know we’ll be looking at the history of our community together, I really don’t know what new stories we’ll uncover.

For me it’s important to keep track of what columns were the most popular over the last year. This information tells me what readers like you are interested in, and guides me as I plan future columns. Sometimes, a few of the columns’ popularity surprises me. (Likewise, some of the columns I think are really important, and offer new historical insights, are not as popular as I expected they would be.)

Here are the most-read of my history columns published in 2022:

No. 10: “The story behind two Kerrville streets,” published October 1, 2022. It’s the story of two young friends from Kerrville. One was a ranch hand, the other became a preacher. They were walking together in France during World War I when a German shell killed the ranch hand, and left the other man with a disability he carried for the rest of his life. Kerrville has two streets named in their honor: Francisco Lemos Street and Rodriguez Street.

No. 9: “Kerr County was an important part of Cattle Drives in the 1870s,” published February 5, 2022. The one industry which finally brought hard cash to Kerr County was cattle driving – taking herds of cattle from ranches to markets for a fee. We tend to forget that ranching, or the husbandry of raising cattle, was quite different from getting those cattle to distant markets. This work of driving cattle to market was a big business, and a few local men profited handsomely from this hard and dangerous work – but only for a few, brief decades.

No. 8: “A packet of Kerr County photographs from the 1950s,” published May 21, 2022. In the mid-twentieth century, it was popular to market small packets of photographs to tourists visiting Kerr County. This little packet was priced inexpensively, and was meant to be a memento of a visitor’s stay in our community.

No. 7: “The Texas Aggie's 12th man tradition and its connection to Schreiner University,” published November 19, 2022. My business neighbors, the Voelkel brothers, told me the 12th Man tradition had an unexpected link to Schreiner University: a man named W. C. Weir, for whom the Weir Building on Schreiner’s campus is named.

No. 6: “Saying goodbye to Helen Eisaman,” published January 22, 2022. Helen Eisaman, who taught English at Tivy High School for over 30 years, was remembered as tough, but fair. I have fond memories of Mrs. Eisaman, both from my time in her classroom, and from the many years after graduating from Tivy.

No. 5: “Another Kerrville 'castle,'” published August 13, 2022. When cedar and brush was cleared from around a mysterious house at the intersection of Harper and Jackson roads, people wanted to know its story. The home, called “Shady Acres,” was completed in 1927, and was originally built as a home for Scott and Josephine Schreiner.

No. 4: “A 1950s walkabout on Water Street in downtown Kerrville,” published March 12, 2022. Readers love old photographs almost as much as I do, and photographs of familiar streets and scenes are always popular.

No. 3: “A puzzling aerial photo of downtown Kerrville,” published March 5, 2022. Readers of this column know I like to try and figure out when a photograph was taken, by looking at the clues in the photograph. My best guess on this image was between 1930 and 1935.

No. 2: “Goodbye, Antler Gymnasium,” published July 16, 2022. When news came last summer that the Kerrville Independent School District sold the campus on Sidney Baker Street, and the buildings there would be demolished, it brought back many nostalgic memories. The campus was originally the home of Hal Peterson Junior High, then Tivy High School, and finally Hal Peterson Middle School. Demolition on the site continues today.

And, finally, the most popular story of 2022. 

No. 1: “The story of Kerrville's castle on the hill,” published July 30, 2022. The story of a mansion overlooking Kerrville and the Guadalupe River valley below is interesting. When we learned it was built by a twice-widowed heiress, the story became even more interesting. Montevista – built by Josephine Leckie in 1925 – was once alone on that hill. Now crowded by other homes, it still is a charming place, though slightly mysterious.

Thanks for joining me this year as we explored our community’s history together.

Until next year, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects historical photographs, memorabilia, and other items from Kerr County, Texas. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times December 31, 2022.

Though this newsletter is free, it isn't cheap. You can help by sharing it with someone, by forwarding it by email, or sharing it on Facebook. Sharing is certainly caring. (I also have two Kerr County history books available online, with free shipping!)

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Christmas in Kerr County in 1904

Pampell's, as it appeared in 1904.
This store, fountain, factory and opera house stood
on the corner of Water Street and what is now Sidney Baker Street.
Click on any image to enlarge.

I dug through the archives of old Kerrville newspapers this week, looking for clues about how our community used to observe the Christmas season. The most complete picture comes from the December 24, 1904 issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun.

118 years ago, in 1904, Christmas was on a Sunday, just like this year.

Even with the edition of the newspaper coming out on Christmas Eve, there were still lots of advertisements for Christmas gifts.  (Last minute Christmas shopping is not a new thing.)

“Nothing is more appropriate,” J. J. McElvy advertised, “than a nice piano or organ for a Christmas present.” He also promised “low prices and easy terms.”

Kerrville Hose Company No. 1
J. L. Pampell, who owned a candy factory next to his ‘opera house’ and soda fountain on Water Street, wanted readers to know his candies were made with quality ingredients. “If you see Pampell’s on the wrapper, it is pure.” In a separate ad, he offered fruit, nuts, and garnishments “for the Christmas feast.”

Mrs. Ellen O’Neal, a pioneer photographer here, offered portraits as Christmas presents. “Oh, what shall I give? It is so hard to decide. A good photo will be so appreciated by your friends. Why not have them made now of yourself and your children?” Her advertisement gives something I hadn’t seen before – the location of her photography studio – “at Huntington’s old gallery,” which meant it was at the corner of Water and what is now Sidney Baker Street, about where the City of Kerrville has its development services offices.

S. B. Huntington, who had previously owned the photography studio was also mentioned in this issue of the newspaper – he and “Uncle” N. B. Smith celebrated the holiday with their families after returning on the Thursday before Christmas, “from a six weeks’ hunt. They report fine luck.”

Several other hunting parties spent the weeks before Christmas out in the field. Ed Gerdes, B. A. Davey, and Bruno Schott hunted in Kimble County. Davey and Schott were prominent builders; they built such buildings as the old Tivy School (now the Kerrville Independent School District administrative offices), and the Weston Building (now the home of Francisco’s Restaurant). Mr. Gerdes owned a hotel, which once stood at the corner of Washington and Water streets, where the parking area of the Notre Dame Catholic Church is today.

Christmas 1904 at the Otto Below home.
Photo from the Neunhoffer collection.
Several merchants ran several paragraphs thanking customers for a prosperous year. These included the Schreiner Company; “The Famous” Store, owned by Oscar Rosenthal; Fawcett Furniture, owned by W. A. Fawcett. Mr. Rosenthal and Mr. Fawcett had their photograph included with their thank you message.

The big social event of the week would occur the day after Christmas. “The fifth anniversary ball and oyster supper, of Kerrville Hose Company No. 1, will take place at Pampell’s Opera House Monday night Dec. 26. Handsome invitations have been issued. The Mountain Sun Band will furnish an excellent program of music for the occasion. The annual entertainments of the fire boys are a great success, and an effort is being made to make the coming event the crowning of the season.”

Elsewhere, readers were told they could “get in” the event, even without an invitation.

And on yet another page, this notice could be found: “Notice is hereby given that all members of Kerrville Hose Company No. 1, attending the Firemen’s Ball…must appear in full uniform. L. A. Schreiner, Foreman.”

The following week, the newspaper reported the event was “the crowning social success of the holiday season,” and listed all of those who attended. It must have been crowded in that upstairs room at Pampell’s.

“A Quiet Christmas,” was also reported in the next week’s newspaper. “Christmas in Kerrville was marked by nothing of an unusual nature. There was probably not a home in the city where abundant good cheer did not abound. The people spent the day quietly at home, feasting in accordance with the usual custom.”

That’s my hope for this Christmas in Kerr County – a quiet holiday, filled with abundant good cheer.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who wishes each of you a very Merry Christmas.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times December 24, 2022.



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