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Sunday, January 16, 2022

A Kerrville mystery solved by Orbicular and Pepper Box

Group photo, West Texas Fairgrounds, date -- well, that was a mystery.
Click on any image to enlarge.

I stumbled upon a clue this week which solved a mystery involving a photograph in my collection, a clue given by two separate names: “Orbicular” and “Pepper Box.”
That photograph, still in its original frame, is a panoramic image of a group of people. They’re standing on a racetrack, looking up at the grandstand, where the photographer is standing. The photographer was ‘Brack,’ from San Antonio.
Boy on goat
I knew a lot about the photograph – the who and where. I had a guess about the why. I had no idea about the when.
Dr. William Rector has a similar photograph, probably taken the same day, though his photograph shows a procession of some sort.
What was going on in the image, and when was it taken?
It is a photograph taken at Kerrville’s West Texas Fairgrounds, an image of several "camps" of the Woodmen of the World. The West Texas Fairgrounds were west of Town Creek, somewhere in the neighborhood of Hugo, Starkey, and Guadalupe streets. The photo includes around 100 people, grouped for a portrait, in period dress.
It is a wonderful image of a time and place, showing a crowd of folks looking solemnly at the camera. Smiles are few. These folks were serious. Most of the women are wearing straw hats -- most of the men are wearing felt hats, so I wasn’t not exactly sure what time of year it is. Now I know exactly when the photograph was taken.
'Centre' Point
The banners of two camps can be plainly seen; one from Kerrville and one from "Centre" Point. 
The Woodmen of the World, as far as I can tell, was founded 1890 in Omaha, Nebraska by Joseph Cullen Root, as a fraternal and life insurance organization. It was designed to help protect families from the financial distress caused by the loss of a loved one.
It didn't take long for the organization to reach Kerrville; the "Cypress Camp No. 58" is mentioned in a front-page story in the Kerrville Paper on January 26, 1895.
While looking for something else, I ran across an article on page 3 of the August 21, 1908 issue of the San Antonio Daily Express: “Woodmen Drill Chief Feature of Kerrville Fair.”
45-star flag
It describes in detail the first day of the fair, August 20, 1908. About the Woodmen, it reported “there were in the procession nine camps of the Woodmen and five Circle groves.” Camps from San Antonio, Fredericksburg, Morris Ranch, and ‘Centre’ Point joined the Kerrville ‘camp.’
“The beautiful Circle drill was the work of Myrtle Grove No. 1. The drill, in point of intricate detail, perfect execution and rhythmic beauty was magnificently executed by beautiful women, elegantly costumed and perfectly trained.”
Though the participation of the Woodmen organization in the 1908 fair is interesting, it was not the clue that confirmed the date, though it was a supporting clue. The Woodmen might have participated in several fairs over the years in Kerrville – who knew?
Plus, there is a clue which led me astray a decade ago. One gentleman is holding a 45-star U. S. flag, which was in official use between July 4, 1896 and July 3, 1908. The 46th star was added when Oklahoma became a state in 1907. I thought the photo had to have been taken between July, 1896 and July, 1908. I was wrong, though by only one month.
The reason I’m sure the photograph was taken on August 20, 1908 is written in chalk on a blackboard which is shown in the image.
Horse race results: Orbicular, 1st; Pepper Box, 2nd; Dr. Allen, 3rd

One of the big attractions of Kerrville’s West Texas Fair was horse races, and the 1908 news article reports the results of the first race that day, covering four and a half furlongs: Orbicular won. Pepper Box second. Doc Allen third. Orbicular finished the course in 57 seconds.
There, behind the crowd in the photograph, you can see those three names. Most of the folks in the photograph – well, their names have been forgotten, though I recognize a few of the faces. Those fleet horses, though: we know their names.
I have noticed, while visiting the Glen Rest cemetery, which is next to Schreiner University, several grave monuments that look like sculptures of tree stumps, with the Woodmen of the World seal and a motto in Latin, Dum Tacet Clamat, which roughly translates to "though silent he speaks.”
Some of those buried there were no doubt in the photograph taken that August day.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who spends way too much time studying obscure clues on historic Kerr County photographs. At least it keeps him (somewhat) out of trouble. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 15, 2022.

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Sunday, January 2, 2022

Top Ten Kerr County History Stories of 2021

Ingram Dam, 1968.  Click on any image below to enlarge.

2021, what a year. It was the first year since I began writing this column, back in 1994, that I missed a deadline. Two, in fact, both while I was in the hospital back in March. All mended, now.
It’s fun to look back over some of the history we discovered together during the last 12 months, and count up the number of times each of my columns was read online, determining which of these proved the most popular with my readers. Click on any link below to read the stories.

Here are the top 10 columns of 2021:

Number 10:
New details revealed about Kerrville’s Union Church,” published in February. 
According to an article published in the Kerrville Times in March, 1928, two volunteers, “Mrs. Scott and Miss Gill, drove from house to house, not only in Kerrville, but throughout the county soliciting funds. It was hard work. People were poor, some did not believe in churches.”
The original church cost $190 to build, which was the low bid presented by A. Allen & Co. The building was completed just before Christmas, 1885. It was located on Clay Street, on a lot donated by Charles Schreiner, between Main and Jefferson streets. Today the Union Church stands on the campus of Schreiner University.

Number 9:
The Mosty Family of Kerr County: Generations of Service,” published in January. Leroy Mosty, of Mosty’s Garage, at the corner of Water and Lemos streets in downtown Kerrville, loaned me a nice book the other day. It’s called ‘Mosty: From There … To Here.’
It’s a brief history of the Mosty family, as remembered by Harvey Mosty.
This family has had a great impact on the history of our community. Harvey Mosty was a nurseryman, and, with his brother Lee, of Center Point, was credited as offering the “first soft-shell pecans on native stock.”  Generations of Mostys have added to the story of Kerr County.

Number 8:
Amazing Aerial Photos from 1972,” published in May. When it comes to old photographs of Kerr County, I have a pretty good mental inventory of what images I have in my collection. I was surprised, however, when I was moving a box of photographs into a new container and found a bulky sleeve of negatives I’d never seen before. The sleeve is marked 1972, and it contains aerial images of several hill country towns, including Hunt, Ingram, Center Point and Kerrville.

Number 7:
Our part of the Guadalupe River,” published in June. According to the Handbook of Texas, the river got its name from Alonso De Leon in 1689, when he named it the Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe. De Leon was familiar with the lower stretches of the river. It was called other names by the Spaniards, including the San Augustin and the San Ybon. The earliest reference to our part of the river, at least above the mouth of the Comal, was in 1727, when Pedro de Rivera y Villalon wrote about it.

Number 6:
Solved: The Case of Kerrville's Missing Mill,” published in October. There was once a water-powered mill near Starbucks, back in the 1860s. I could never find it on a map. The mystery has been solved, thanks to Gary Saner and Bryant Saner. Gary pointed to an article his brother Bryant published about the mill in 2005. I found a few of the original, hand-cut limestone blocks after reading Bryant’s article.






Number 5:
The 1968 Grand Opening of Gibson's Discount Center in Kerrville,” published in April. Who doesn’t love Gibson’s? I found some photographs of its grand opening in my files.






Number 4:
Five Million for Kerr County History,” published in November. Many of us have dreamed of a history museum for our area. Several local private foundations provided the funds for the construction to begin. The new museum will be housed in the home of A. C. and Myrta Schreiner, between the library and our print shop, and is owned by the City of Kerrville.





Number 3:
A Kerrville love story, written in stone, in the form of a cottage,” published in June. When Nellie Jensen married Richard Holdsworth, Richard was described as ‘not a social mixer’ by one of his nieces. That niece also wrote “Richard, who had grown up almost a recluse, blossomed under [Nellie’s] care.” He made so many friends he was mayor of Kerrville in 1933.
When Nellie died, in 1936, Richard had a building built at Westminster Encampment in Nellie’s memory. That building still stands, and is on the campus of Schreiner University.

Number 2:
A letter returns to Kerrville -- over 100 years after it was mailed,” published in April. Gentle Reader, this was one of the saddest columns I’ve ever written. The letter, dated November 11, 1918, the day World War I ended, was from Elizabeth Baker to her son, Sidney Baker, who was a soldier fighting in France. 
“Dear Son,” she wrote, “I write to you to let you know we have received the news we have peace and I never was as happy in my life. Oh if I could just be with you all to rejoice, but have the pleasure of thinking you won’t be killed now, and … you will be home in honors someday.”
Elizabeth Baker did not know her son Sidney had been killed in France on October 15, only a few weeks before the end of the war. A downtown street is named in Sidney Baker’s honor, along with a street named for Francisco Lemos, and one for Earl Garrett.

And the most popular column of 2021:
The Case of the Missing Kerr County Mill,” published in March. Yep, it’s about the same 1860s mill which I was having a hard time locating. Publishing this story inspired Gary Saner to send me the clues which solved the case.
Thanks for reading – and for allowing me to have a place in our community’s newspaper.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects items from the history of Kerr County and Kerrville. If you have something you’d care to share with him, it would certainly make he’d certainly like it. Happy New Year! This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times

My coffee-table history books on Kerr County make great gifts. Free shipping. Click here for more information. Each book filled with over 100 historic photos.




January 1, 2022.


Sunday, December 12, 2021

Kerrville's Tivy Class of 1914 -- in their own words


The Tivy High School Class of 1914.
Click on either image to enlarge.

As much as I love old Kerr County photographs, I have a particular fondness for other historical items – especially printed ephemera like newspapers and local booklets which help tell the story of our community.
Among the treasures recently given to me by my friends Sandy and Jon Wolfmueller was an old school newspaper, “The Tivy High School Record,” dated May 29, 1914. The masthead reads “Vol 1., No. 8 … Graduation Number.”
The pages measure 8 x 12 inches; the newspaper has 4 pages total, a single sheet folded in half.
The news items cover the graduation week ceremonies, from the ‘Baccalaureate Sermon,’ to the senior class play, ‘A Rustic Romeo.’
In 1914, students graduated from Tivy after completing the 10th grade, and that year Tivy graduated 20 students. That was a big improvement from the class of 1895, when three graduated; no more graduated until 1898, when another three graduated. The names of all the graduates from 1895 until 1914 are listed in this little newspaper, taking up just over 1 column. The class of 1914 was not the largest class in the school’s history, but it was second, losing out to the class of 1913, which had 21 graduates.
I recognize three of the names among the graduates of 1914: Gussie Mae Brown, whose grandfather, Joshua Brown, founded Kerrville; Harry Dietert, who was a gifted engineer in the automobile industry; and Howard Butt, who later lent his initials to a grocery company, H-E-B.
The editorial masthead lists Gerald Walther as the Editor in Chief, with three assistant editors: Howard Butt, Walter Saenger, and Louis Comparette.
Gerald Walther also came from an interesting family. His father, George Walther, opened a Sunshine Library on Water Street. That library wasn’t part of local government, and it wasn’t built by a non-profit corporation. It was built by a married couple, George and Geraldena Walther, who ran the library as part of their business, and who advocated for a public library for our community for many decades. Gerald trained as a pharmacist and worked on Water Street; he died fairly young.
Walter Saenger, I believe, became the manager of the Kerrville Chamber of Commerce, back when its offices were in the 100 block of Earl Garrett, in the old fire station; today the site is a parking lot. He had a habit of visiting every business in the downtown area before 10 a.m., and few knew the pulse of the community better than he.
Tivy High School, 1914
Louis Comparette’s father, D. H. Comparette, started the first telephone company in Kerrville.
Another of the 1914 graduates, Annie Mae Morriss, wrote history articles for this newspaper in the 1950s. She went to the University of Texas, and later taught at Kerrville’s Scofield School. She was considered an expert on local history.
Oscar Strackbein was the youngest graduate that year, completing Tivy at the age of 13. He also went to the University of Texas, and pursued a life in economics and government policy. He was a Fellow in the Royal Economic Society of London, England, and made quite a name for himself. His papers can be found in the Eisenhower Presidential Library.
Several of the women in the class of 1914 stayed in Kerrville. Lucille Williamson married Gober Gibson, who was Kerrville’s postmaster for many years. Winona Moore, daughter of Tom Moore, ranched with her husband, Henry Priour, on the Divide. I remember their daughter, Marie Priour Hurt, who was a columnist for this newspaper.
The superintendent of the Kerrville schools in 1914 was Alvin Dilley. One of his notable accomplishments was the introduction of the game of football to Tivy students a few years earlier.
Elsewhere I found this story about Alvin Dilley and the Tivy class of 1914:
“For a long time, we were ashamed to tell this, but we were the class who played ‘hookey,’ with the exception of Oscar Strackbein, and went to Lake Side Park for the day. Most of the ninth graders went along. We went swimming and had lots of fun. We felt differently the next day when Professor Dilley called us on the carpet and expelled, so he said, all of us. The ninth graders did not suffer this punishment, as we were supposed to have led them into it.
“We were to be out of school for 10 days and then were to stay in after school and at recess to make up the lost time. He got as tired of this as we did and, after a week, relented and said perhaps we were not so bad after all.”
I noticed one other small bit of information in the “Tivy High School Record” of May 29, 1914. “Earl Garrett, Tivy ’12, did all the typewriting on the first seven numbers of The Record and was one of the prime factors in making this newspaper a success.” Earl Garrett would later serve in World War I in the Army; after he died in battle, our community renamed one of its downtown streets in his honor.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who enjoys discovering items from Kerr County’s past. If you have something you’d care to share with him, it would make him happy. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times December 11, 2021

My coffee-table history books on Kerr County make great Christmas gifts.  Free shipping. Click here for more information. Each book filled with over 100 historic photos.




Sunday, December 5, 2021

Kerr County, 1893: sleuthing for a decade

Vacation photo album, 1893,
which includes images of Kerrville.
Photos courtesy of Yale University Libraries.
These pages are on display in full size at my POP UP MUSEUM
display at Pint and Plow until mid-January.

In the summer of 2010, my long-time friend Lanza Teague sent me an email about an interesting eBay auction of glass negatives, which included images from Kerrville. The negatives were shown in low-resolution images, but it was possible to extract a grainy image from the auction, convert it from negative to positive, and see the image on the negatives.
The auction price of the negatives was too rich for me, and Lanza passed on the auction as well. The grainy images were intriguing, and I think we both regretted letting them slip away. The auction ended without a sale.
Not long after this, the owner of the negatives got in touch with Lanza and me via email, and provided better scans of the images. He eventually offered the glass negatives to me, at a price which was even higher than the original eBay auction price. He said he had a buyer for the negatives, at that new price, but wanted to offer them to me first. I declined, and the other collector ended up with the priceless negatives. 
Sometimes the fish gets away.
Back in 2010, I determined the images were taken before 1898, since one of them shows the original St. Peter’s Episcopal Church without a bell tower. An entry about that church can be found in the Kerr County Album: "The bell in the church tower bears these words, 'Placed in St. Peter's Church through the efforts of the Ladies' Guild, 1898.'"
At the time, those photographs would have been the oldest in my collection -- for which I could confirm a date.
Until this week, the oldest images of Kerr County in my collection for which I can confirm a date, are of a parade in the downtown area – a Saengerfest parade – from September, 1896.
It turns out the images from that old eBay auction are older. They were taken in late January and early February, 1893, by a family on a cross-country vacation, traveling by rail.
How do I know this?
Last week I received an email from a kind person in Boston. She found my blog online, after searching for “Tivy House,” realized I had an interest in old Kerr County images, and gave me the link for a vacation photo album which is in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University. The images are free to use, as long as they’re credited to the Yale University Library. The scans are clear and provide details I’ve never seen in these images.
They’re the same photographs Lanza Teague found over a decade ago.
The album starts with photographs of the Capitol in Washington, DC, and ends with photographs of California. Kerrville was just one of the many places the family visited. Each page has two photographs, pasted one above the other, and beneath the images are descriptions, written in ink, by a person with good handwriting.
One photograph has this description: “Limestone Quarry, Kerrville, February 1st 1893.”
I looked through each page of the album, hoping to find the name of the travelers. Yale doesn’t know who took the photos, either, labeling it “unknown photographer.” Only two or three images have a name, and it’s the name of a boy: Alfred. No last name is given, though the eBay seller thought the last name might be Page.
We know the what, the when, and the why. We don’t know, for sure, the who.
I’m thankful for Lanza’s sharp eyes back in 2010, and for the kind person in Boston who sent over the link. Chasing history can be quite fun, and it’s best done in packs.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects items from Kerr County’s past. If you have something you’d share with him, it would make him happy.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times December 4, 2021.

My coffee-table history books on Kerr County make great Christmas gifts.  Free shipping. Click here for more information. Each book filled with over 100 historic photos.




Sunday, November 28, 2021

The airline flying out of Kerrville's Louis Schreiner Field, 1950s

Trans-Texas Airways plane, 1950s.
Click on any image to enlarge.

Among the many treasures recently given to me recently by Sandy and Jon Wolfmueller was a small printed program for the inauguration of a new service for Kerrville, when “scheduled airline service” began at Kerrville’s Louis Schreiner Field on January 2, 1954.
It’s true, Gentle Reader: an airline used to fly out of Kerrville’s airport.
Program,
January 2, 1954
“Throng expected for Trans-Texas Inauguration,” the Kerrville Times announced in a front-page story published December 31, 1953.
“Trans-Texas Airways will inaugurate service to Kerrville, Texas, located in the ‘Heart of the Hill Country’ on January 2, 1954.
“Airport ceremonies officially signalizing the city’s first scheduled airline passenger, mail, freight and express service will begin at 9:59 a.m. with TTA’s inaugural flight from Houston, Victoria, and San Antonio.”
The airline offered regular flights to San Antonio, Houston, and Fort Worth. Other destinations (after several connections) included Beaumont, Dallas, and Victoria.
The celebration on that January afternoon was led by Dr. Andrew Edington, president of Schreiner Institute, who was the event’s master of ceremonies. The Tivy High School band provided music, and there were speeches by Kerrville’s mayor, Dr. J. L. Bullard; the president of the Kerrville Chamber of Commerce, Joe Pacheck; and a principal address by O. C. Fisher, who represented Kerrville in the U. S. House of Representatives. Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker also attended; at the time he was chairman of the board at Eastern Airlines.
Guests and officials were offered four ‘special courtesy flights’ in the airline’s 26-seat DC-3 “Super Starliner’ at the conclusion of the program.
According to the Kerrville Times story, Kerrville was the 38th ‘station’ in the Trans-Texas system covering Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee. 
“The new Kerrville service completes a needed link in the TTA system, so that flights from Mission-McAllen-Edinberg, Harlingen and Corpus Christi will connect at San Antonio with the flight serving Kerrville.”
Ad from 12/31/53
Kerrville Times
The newspaper was a little giddy about the new airline service. 
“With the inauguration of scheduled air service into Kerrville…every major city in the nation will be less than 12 flying hours away. It is as easy to fly to Los Angeles as to Dallas.”
Fares listed in the event program offered flights from Kerrville to Dallas/Ft. Worth for $18.06; a round-trip would cost $34.39. Houston was a little more, with one-way priced at $18.75, and a round-trip at 35.65. San Antonio flights were very inexpensive: $4.03, one-way; $7.71 round-trip.
Children up to the age of 2 traveled free; between ages 2 and twelve, the fare was half-price. The program suggests inquiring about the “Family Fare Plan” to “Save Real Money.”
What started with such fanfare lasted until 1959, when the service was discontinued “because there were not sufficient enplanings to justify maintaining a stop here,” according to a January 3, 1960 editorial in this newspaper. The airline was still advertising flights as late as December 15, 1959.
Scheduled airline service lasted about 6 years in Kerrville. Loss of the service was a blow to the community’s self-confidence. Several transportation options were discussed in a series of local newspaper editorials, including the building of Interstate 10.
Around 1969, Trans-Texas Airways became Texas International Airlines. In 1982, Texas International merged with Continental Airlines.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who spent a lot of time at Kerrville’s Louis Schreiner Field when his mother, Pat Herring, had her pilot’s license. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times November 27, 2021.

My coffee-table history books on Kerr County make great Christmas gifts.  Free shipping. Click here for more information. Each book filled with over 100 historic photos.




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