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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.

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.
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.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

For Rosalie, coming to Texas was an adventure

Sampler, Rosalie Dietert, possibly 1840s.
Click on any image to enlarge.

Almost all of us here descend from immigrants; even with Native American ancestors, if you go back in time far enough, the theory suggests they immigrated to the New World, too.
Last month, a kind person shared several large boxes of historic items with me – and among the heirlooms was a simple piece of cloth, embroidered with letters, numbers, and two first names. It is an embroidery sampler, made by a young woman in Germany who would come to Texas in the 1850s. Her name was Rosalie Hess, and she was born in Jena, Germany, on January 17, 1833, and immigrated to Texas in 1854. She married Christian Dietert in 1855. 
Rosalie Dietert
One of the earliest families to settle in Kerrville was the Dietert family, and it was one of their descendants who shared the items with me, for placement in the Heart of the Hills Heritage Center. 
When Rosalie and Christian Dietert arrived in Kerrville in 1857, there were only five one-room huts in the entire town. The Dieterts built a home on Spring Street, which is near the intersection of today's Washington and Water Streets, opposite the front doors to the sanctuary of Notre Dame Catholic Church, overlooking the river. Dietert was a millwright, and he built a mill on his property along the river.
His first mill here was powered by horses, and was designed to make shingles. He later built a mill powered by the river, which he used to saw lumber. 
Here's how Rosalie Dietert described Kerrville as it was 1857, in an interview with her great-granddaughter which was published in 1931, who was writing a report for her history class in school.
“What was in Kerrville when you came here?” the granddaughter asked. "Nothing, my child, but a cluster of five small log huts, of one or two rooms, a wilderness of trees, and grass as high as a man, with Indians skulking through." 
When this 1931 interview took place, Rosalie Dietert was 93 years old. 
"Your grandfather built the sixth house," Mrs. Dietert said. "It had three rooms and was built of cypress timbers cut on the saw mill he set up at the place where the ice plant now stands."
Cooking, too, was difficult.
Detail: "Rosalie"
Rosalie Dietert started housekeeping with a skillet and a small Dutch oven, "which was a small round iron pot with three legs and a dented-in lid to hold live coals." She also had a brass kettle holding about one gallon, for cooking utensils.
"Meat there was always plenty, venison, wild turkey, fish, occasionally bear, and later beef. In the beginning there were practically no vegetables. They made a salad of wild parsley and tea from a variety of the small prairie sage, and greens from the 'lamb's quarters' or 'land squatters.'"
However, "in about 1870 some cook stoves were brought west as far as San Antonio, one of which [Rosalie Dietert] became the proud possessor. No more out-door cooking in all sorts of weather -- a stove and a real oven to bake bread and cakes! Her recipes were gotten out, and all sorts of good things were made for holidays and birthdays. The favorites were stollen (loaf cake), pfeffer-nusse (spice cookies), and schnecken (a sweet dough rolled out flat and covered with brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins, currants and pecan meats. This was all rolled up, cut into slices, and baked.)"
The recipe became very popular in early Kerrville, and many early local families enjoyed making schnecken, though many early families called them a different name: "Dietert Cookies."
"Whatever made you leave your home, brave the sea and throw your lot in an unknown land?" asked her great-granddaughter.
Detail: "Emil"
"With me it was the spirit of adventure," Dietert replied, "All of the papers were full of the new world and of Texas. With the men it was for the most part a question of political freedom."
Her trip to Texas in the mid-1850s was not easy. "After a hard and perilous journey of eight weeks they landed at Galveston, from where they were transported to Indianola, long since destroyed by a tropical storm, in a two-masted sailboat. From there they made a journey to New Braunfels in wagon transports. This was even more tiring than the ocean voyage, as the land was for the most part covered with water from six to 12 inches in depth. It was the popular belief that the southeastern part of Texas was a swamp, but was later found to be caused by a period of much rainfall. There were no roads, or dry camping places, and danger of Indian raids was ever present. The guides and teamsters brought them safely to the settlement of New Braunfels in July, 1854, five months after leaving their homeland."
Among the things Rosalie Hess Dietert brought with her was a small cloth on which she’d embroidered letters, numbers, and two names, and embroidery ‘sampler.’ It measures 14 by 12 inches. The cloth has yellowed over time, and the threads used were coral and white, which have probably faded.
In white thread, at the top left of the cloth, is the name “Rosalie.” On the bottom right, and in coral thread, beneath a horn of leaves, is the name “Emil.” I have no idea who Emil was, but he was important enough to be included in the sampler – and kept by a young immigrant, carried with her as she crossed the sea to a new land.
Seeing this keepsake helped me imagine a young German woman who came to Texas in the “spirit of adventure
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects Kerr County and Kerrville historical items, especially photographs. If you have something to share with him, it would make him happy. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times  November 20, 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 14, 2021

Five Million for Kerr County History

Big things are happening at the A. C. & Myrta Schreiner home
on Water Street in downtown Kerrville.

I’ve been about to bust – keeping a secret. Finally, the news is public, and I can share it here.
As you may remember, a group called the Heart of the Hills Heritage Center has been working to create a history museum for our community. 
Working in partnership with the City of Kerrville, the Heritage Center developed a plan to turn the historic 1908 home of A. C. and Myrta Schreiner into a history museum. The Schreiner home is located at 529 Water Street, just to the left of the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, and is part of the city’s library campus.
The purpose of the Heart of the Hills Heritage Center is “is to collect, preserve, interpret, and promote the cultural heritage and history of Kerr County and the Texas Hill Country through exhibits, educational activities and special events.”
A community is stronger if it knows its story. The Heritage Center is the place where our story will be told.
Renovating a 1908 house is expensive. Providing stable heating and cooling systems, as well as keeping the humidity inside the house within certain limits, is the only way historic artifacts can be displayed and preserved. In addition, the building needs to be made accessible to everyone, in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act; ramps must be built, and an elevator installed.
Display cabinets and exhibits need to be designed and fabricated. Other museum amenities, from a gift shop to public restrooms, need to be built. It’s a long list of expensive items.
In addition, it was decided the grounds of the library campus should be connected to the Kerrville River Trail.
Before construction and renovation could begin, $5 million needed to be raised. That goal was the first step in fundraising for the museum, and the checkpoint required before anything else could be begun.
Guess what? Last Tuesday evening, at the Kerrville City Council meeting, the board of directors of the Heritage Center announced $5,000.000 had been raised. The first part of fundraising is complete.
H-E-B Grocery Company, and the H. E. Butt Family Foundation, together donated $1 million. Funds donated to the City of Kerrville provided, roughly, another $3 million. That left $1 million to be funded, and the Heritage Center board was tasked with raising that money.
In addition to generous individual donors, the Heritage Center board is most grateful for the support of the Hal and Charlie Peterson Foundation, the Perry and Ruby Stevens Charitable Foundation, the Friends of the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, the Cailloux Foundation, the Community Foundation of the Texas Hill Country, and the Meadows Foundation of Dallas.
For my conservative friends, please note: these funds came from foundations and individuals.
While there are still many hurdles to clear – and much more fundraising to do – the idea for a local history museum is one step closer to reality.
I’m thankful for the leadership of Dr. William Rector, the tireless board chairman of the Heritage Center, as well as the other members of the board of directors: James E. Wright, PhD - Vice-Chair; Linda Karst Stone – Secretary; T. David Jones – Treasurer; Toni Box; Clifton Fifer; Donald S. Frazier, PhD; Charlie McIlvain; and Julius Neunhoffer. Former board members who also shaped the Heritage Center include Deborah Gaudier and Judge Tom Pollard. I also serve on the board of directors. 
City of Kerrville staff have been professional and helpful, and this project would not exist without the encouragement and support of the Kerrville City Council. Local architect Scott Schellhase has provided excellent design services. The success of this project will take the efforts of hundreds of people.
Gentle Reader, if you think I’m excited about this project, you just might be correct.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects Kerr County and Kerrville historical items. If you have an item (or photograph) you’d care to share with him, it would make him very happy. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times November 13, 2021.

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, October 31, 2021

Solved: The Case of Kerrville's Missing Mill

All that remains of the missing mill.

Twice this year, I’ve written here about my search for an 1860s water-powered mill which once stood beside the Guadalupe River “2 miles above Kerrville.” Though I spent a lot of time searching for the missing mill, I couldn’t find it. I have photographs of the mill in my collection of historic Kerrville and Kerr County images, but I wasn’t sure where they were taken.

I think the mystery has been solved, thanks to Gary Saner and Bryant Saner.

Gary, who is Bryant’s cousin, noticed some cut-stone rockwork on the edge of Lake Nimitz between the AT&T store and the old Fuddruckers Restaurant building.  Emailing Bryant about the site, he learned Bryant had written an article about the old mill for the Hill Country Archeology Association’s journal, “Ancient Echoes,” which was published in 2005.  The article was “Archeological Reconnaissance of the Starkey-Saner Mill (41KR130), Kerr County Texas.”

Since I last wrote about the mystery, several other history sleuths have sent in hints about the site of the old mill. Several noticed an unusual concrete wall below Guadalupe Street, just upstream from the dam impounding Nimitz Lake.  That wall is intriguing, and I haven’t figured out what purpose it once served, but it wasn’t on the correct parcel of land.  The Starkey-Saner mill almost certainly would have been built on land owned by James M. Starkey, and his land stretched, roughly, along the river between today’s Harper Road and Methodist Encampment Road.

Last June, one person pointed out some cut stone at the same location mentioned by Gary Saner, and I drove to the site and took some photographs, looking carefully into the deep water below to see if any additional structures were visible.  Other than some submerged cut stones, none were, and so I felt the hint was inconclusive.

However, Bryant Saner, in his 2005 article, confirms this was the site of the Starkey-Saner mill. In fact, in 1997 he and the late Bobby Rector photographed stonework at the site.

Why is this important?

Today we are accustomed to all sorts of devices that do work for us.  Some operate using electricity, and others using gasoline.  The ‘work’ they do includes mowing our lawns, or using an electric saw to cut lumber. 

In 1868, when the Starkey-Saner mill was constructed, a lot of work was done by harnessing water power.

If you have a mill, you can saw lumber. That means you can construct things with lumber, like houses and barns.  You can use water power to make shingles from the local cypress trees.  You can also process agricultural products, like grinding grain or ginning cotton.

In other words, you can harness the power of the river to help build a community. A water mill was more than a water wheel, a drive shaft, pulleys and belts: it was also an economic engine. It turned raw materials into valuable products.

That’s why noting the site of a mill is an important part of recording local history.

What happened to the old mill site, which is now below the water of Lake Nimitz?

According to the article written by Bryant Saner, “In the late 1970s, the Guadalupe River Authority (UGRA) built a dam on the river approximately 0.15 mile down from the old mill site creating a reservoir that impounds water far upstream. Prior to the building of the dam an archeological survey of the impoundment area was conducted by Grant Hall of the University of Texas at Austin, Balcones Center (now known as the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory). A letter, dated May 10, 1971, was written to Mr. B. W. Bruns, General Manager for the UGRA at the time, describing two archeological sites that were found. One was a prehistoric encampment, 41KR131, on the of the river approximately 0.2 upstream from the dam. Very little of this site remains due a gravel quarrying operation carried on long before the dam was planned.… The other site was the Starkey-Saner Mill Site (41KRJ30). It is described as being "two dressed limestone block walls recessed into terrace edge above the river. The foot of the walls are at the level of the flood plain below, at a depth of perhaps fifteen feet. No superstructure remains. Recommendations to the UGRA were to leave the rock walls, but clear the brush and trees around them on the flood plain and terrace face….”

“According to the present owner of the mill site [the Lester Overstreet family], the bulldozers took out everything, trees, brush and rock walls.”  That means the only thing left today of the Starkey-Saner mill are a few cut stones along the edge of Nimitz Lake. (Those cut stones are located at 30°03'43.5"N, 99°10'21.1"W.)

But at least we now know where it was, thanks to the Saner cousins.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who enjoys working on history mysteries. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times October 30, 2021.

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!)



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