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Sunday, March 29, 2020

What you can do to help. (Even from home.)

Lehmann's Luncheonette, downtown Kerrville, 1960s
Trying times demand creative responses, and this pandemic is providing opportunities for all of us to be thoughtful, kind, and generous. As of Thursday evening, no cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Kerr County, yet many here are very stressed, worrying about their loved ones, their own health, their jobs, childcare, and how to pay their bills.
The new normal is very stressful.
Nurses, Kerrville
State Sanatorium,
1950s
Healthcare professionals – doctors and nurses, ambulance crews, all of the support crew at healthcare facilities – face special problems I cannot even imagine. Others are facing economic uncertainty because their once-crowded workplaces have been ordered closed by public health authorities. Some, like those working at grocery stores or pharmacies, are facing unprecedented workloads. Hard-working parents are scrambling to arrange childcare now that all local schools are closed. Beloved community events are being canceled or postponed.
In the midst of all of this turmoil, what can we do – other than lock the doors, lower the blinds, and turn on the television? There are ways to help – some without even leaving home. Here are some ideas:
The easiest way to help your neighbors during this time is to simply ask them how you can help. Be willing to help, and let them know. Most of us would never ask a neighbor for help, but having a neighbor ask us how they can help is different.
Nurse, Salvation Army,
Kerrville, 1960s
If things go poorly over the next few weeks, health care workers will work very long hours without rest. Ask them how you can help. Perhaps you can run errands, walk their dog, mow their lawn, or make them a casserole, even if you have to leave it on their porch.  The key point: ask how you can help.
Many local small businesses, especially restaurants, are being closed by decree, which means they are shouldering unexpected economic losses in a statewide effort to help keep the rest of us healthy. Their forced closure supports a healthy community; our community should likewise support them.
Grocery worker, Evans Foodway,
Kerrville, 1960s
If you have a place you like to eat, consider buying a gift certificate from the restaurant, to be redeemed later this summer, when (hopefully) things are back to normal. In effect you are offering an interest-free loan to the restaurant which might help it stay in business. And if you’re hungry right now, and don’t want to wait until summer, many restaurants are now scrambling to offer curbside and to-go food, and many have started taking orders online. (I’ve checked, and several will allow you to order a gift certificate online, as well.)
Likewise, the wait staff at any restaurant relies on your tips to pay their bills. If you can, now is the time to be extra generous when tipping. Tip more than usual, if you can afford to do so. Every little bit will help.
Others who rely on large groups are also facing money problems. Musicians have had their gigs canceled; event photographers have no events to photograph. If there are local musicians you like, perhaps you can find their music online – and you can purchase their album for your collection. Some local photographers also sell prints of their work online. Seek out a way to support these people, too. I’m sure a lot of them would be happy to accept a donation. Our community will be diminished if we no longer have artists.
Children at the newly-built
Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library,
1967
At the grocery store there are several ways to help. The most obvious way: only buy what you need. Crazy unexpected demand means empty shelves; the supply chain is strong and should self-correct if we don’t panic. But there’s an even easier way to help grocers: be nice. Tell the employees thank you. If you can’t find your favorite brand of an item, either be patient or be brave and try something new. Or both.
Lastly some ideas about children at home because schools are closed. If you’ve ever had children in your home, it’s possible you still have some of the books they’ve left behind. Students, especially young students who are early readers, need books to read during this prolonged school holiday. I’m not suggesting you loan the books – I’m suggesting you give the books away. That means not sharing heirlooms or books that have special meaning to your family. Likewise, old magazines (I’m looking at you, stacks of National Geographic magazines) could be used for all sorts of “school at home” projects. Don’t lend them. Give them away. Photos can be cut from the magazines and used for all sorts of learning projects. As with any of the above ideas, it is always best just to ask the parents how you can help.
These few ideas are meant to inspire you to create your own ways to help. I’ve been amazed by some of the stories of community you’ve shared with me during this time. We’ll get past these hard days, and we’ll get through them together.
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is proud to be a part of this community. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times March 28, 2020.

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






Sunday, March 22, 2020

Gray skies are going to clear up

Community gathered together: dedication of the 
Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, Kerrville, 1967.
 To hear Joe read a portion of this column and see a slide show, click here.
Click on any image below to enlarge.
Over the past week, as continual news updates about the COVID-19 pandemic flooded into my brain, I got nostalgic for something I generally avoid: crowds.
Community Picnic,
Louise Hays Park, 1960s.
We won’t see crowds here for some time. Gathering together is being discouraged not only by our government, but also in the glances of folks met in the aisles of grocery stores, along sidewalks, in our neighborhoods. I understand the science behind this “social distancing” – an attempt to slow the transmission of the virus, in hopes the number of new cases doesn’t overwhelm our health care system – but in the days ahead, standing strong together means shutting ourselves away in isolation. Being apart seems the opposite of being united.
Kerrville Chalk Festival, 2015
The steady announcements of emergencies from our city, state, and nation are like a flood warning, where heavy rains have fallen on the Divide above Hunt and Mountain Home. We’ve been warned: we can see the dark clouds in the distance, even though it’s not raining in town, yet.
Nimitz Day in Kerrville, 1945
The difference is this flood warning came weeks and weeks ago. We know the flood is coming, but we don’t know how high the water might be, or who among us might be stuck on a low-water crossing at the wrong time.
Kerrville Urban Trail System
dinner, November 2018
This week, for solace, I turned to my collection of historic Kerrville and Kerr County photographs, asking to see “crowds.” It helped to see our community gathered together in days past, because it reminded me we will gather together again in days to come.
One thing our town loves is a good parade, and taking photographs of that parade. I have almost 100 photos of the big 1956 Kerr County centennial parade, a bright event in the history of our community.
Saengerfest, 1896, Kerrville
The earliest downtown Kerrville parade for which I have photographs happened in 1896, when three groups of singers slowly marched toward the intersection of Water and Earl Garrett streets, in a regional event called a Saengerfest. Only a few of the buildings in the photographs are still here.
Louise Hays Park
dedication, 1950
I’m lucky enough to have in my collection photographs of downtown pep rallies held by Tivy students – many different rallies from many different decades. They show young people, marching in the band, or part of the Golden Girls, Antlerettes, cheerleaders and twirlers, gathered together at that same intersection of Earl Garrett and Water Streets. I was a part of this during my time at Tivy, as were thousands before and after me. Sometimes history is like a circle that follows itself around the days of the year, repeating events with new faces each year.
Pep Rally, downtown Kerrville
When World War II ended, Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz visited Kerrville, the town where he was raised and went through public school. Huge crowds came out to greet him, some remembering him as a boy whose nickname was “Cotton,” because of his light-colored hair.
Then there are photographs of community events, like the dedication of the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library in 1967 – that was a big day in Kerrville’s story. Hundreds of folks showed up for the celebration, even though it was a blisteringly hot day. Lady Bird Johnson, who was First Lady then, spoke at the dedication, and a big reception was held inside after the speeches. I noticed a common element in the faces of those in the photographs – they are so excited, so happy to be part of the event.
Fish Rodeo, Kerrville, 1970s
Other community events are represented by photographs in my collection. I have several of the dedication of Louise Hays Park. I have a few photographs of a charming dinner held under the night sky among the plants of the Plant Haus II, a fundraising dinner for the Kerrville Urban Trail System. I have photographs of sports events, of fishing rodeos, of school classes, of graduations.
Looking through these helped me. I know our community has faced hardships and pandemics in the past. We will again in the future.
After the current crisis, there will come a day when we can join together again, to be in community together again, and when we do, I want someone there to take a lot of photographs.
Until next week, all the best.

Filled with photos.
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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects historic photographs of the Texas Hill Country. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times March 21, 2020.

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






Sunday, March 15, 2020

Autumn 1918 Pandemic, and five forgotten Kerrville heroes

Our Lady of Guadalupe School, at the intersection of
Jefferson and Lemos Streets in downtown Kerrville.
Click on any image to enlarge.
Today's news, with the constant stories of the Covid-19 pandemic, remind me this is not the first pandemic our community has faced. The story of that earlier time, in 1918, is a story of heroism, kindness, and charity. Even in calamity our community has deep reserves of hope.
All during the late summer and early autumn of 1918, Kerr County received news about the Spanish Influenza epidemic, dispatches which mainly brought the sad news that another of its sons, fighting in World War I, had died of the disease. In fact, of the men listed on the Kerr County War Memorial as lost in World War I, most succumbed to illnesses, mainly complications due to influenza, which swept through the military forces all over the world.
In 1918 the epidemic, which seemed so far away, finally arrived here, in Kerr County.
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.
The front page of the same newspaper offered this advice about the "Spanish Influenza," from the National Red Cross: "Wash your hands frequently. Consult the family physician at the first onset of symptoms...." This sounds very familiar.
A large portion of the second page was devoted to "Uncle Sam's Advice on the Flu," which concluded with a couplet: "Cover up each cough and sneeze/ If you don't you'll spread disease."
In the next issue, October 18, 1918, the president of the Kerrville school board, T. C. Johnston, informed readers there was "no intention of closing the public schools as yet on account of the few cases of influenza in the community. Mr. Johnson stated that the board would leave the matter entirely in the hands of the City Health Officer, Dr. Palmer, and when Dr. Palmer advised that the Schools be closed, his wishes would be promptly complied with."
"With proper precaution on the part of the affected," the story continued, "and due consideration given the rules laid down for the prevention of the ailment, it is not thought we will be seriously affected. At least we may hope for the best."
Dr. E. E. Palmer
The schools would later close.
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 Henry Kemper, priest of Kerrville's Notre Dame Catholic Church, 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.
Dr. Palmer's office,
623 Water Street, Kerrville
"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."
The mayor of Kerrville at the time, H.C. Geddie, wrote a letter to the Reverend Mother General of the order:
"I share the belief of the health officer, Dr Ernest E. Palmer, that the Sisters by their self-sacrificing and painstaking devotion to the sick, both night and day, saved many a patient from death, and helped to safeguard our vicinity from an imminent and grave peril.
"For this assistance in our hour of need, permit me to express the debt of gratitude that the City of Kerrville owes to the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word."
Others praised in the 1933 article were Dr. 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 and has heard the assurance "What thou has done for the least of My little ones thou has done for Me."
In today's pandemic, may we hope for the best, and remember to be kind, generous, and helpful.
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who believes in prayer -- and also in carefully washing one's hands.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times March 14, 2020.

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







Sunday, March 8, 2020

Florence Butt and Kerrville's new H-E-B store

Florence Butt and an unidentified customer, Kerrville, around 1910 or so.
"Mrs. F. T. Butt, Staples and Fancy Groceries" opened in Kerrville in November, 1905.
Today the company is known as the H. E. Butt Grocery Company, or H-E-B.
Click on any image to enlarge.
I had a telephone call a few weeks ago from a kind person at H-E-B corporate offices, inviting me to a groundbreaking ceremony here for the new Kerrville store, to be held on March 6.
I was flattered, but confused. “Are you in San Antonio?” I teased. “The ground for the store here has been broken for quite a while.” At the time, a large hole had been dug, roughly where Hays Street once was, while a small mountain of dirt had grown on a portion of the store’s parking lot. Large equipment was working, rain or shine, and the project looked well underway.
The site of Florence Butt's
first grocery store, 

800 block of Main Street, 
Kerrville
Like many here, I am a loyal customer of H-E-B, in part because of the people who work at our local store. There’s another reason, though: H-E-B has been loyal to Kerrville, too. Few companies have been as generous to Kerrville as has the little grocery store which started here in 1905. It’s a loyalty that flows both ways.
Through this first part of construction, with the closing of a block of Hays Street, improvements to infrastructure on lower Hays, the demolition of the H-E-B gas station, making room for more parking, and the general chaos a large project like this engenders – through all of this, I’ve wondered several times what Florence Butt might make of the store building under construction.
Her first store was tiny, taking up the bottom floor of a 20 x 38 foot building, around 760 square feet of commercial space. The family lived upstairs, over the store. Florence Butt’s husband, Charles C. Butt, was ill with tuberculosis. The rent on that building was 9 dollars per month, and I’m sure even that rent was a stretch for the Butt family’s budget.
Florence Butt, her sons, and
early employees of her
grocery store, around 1915;
from the Richeson collection.
From what I’ve read in this newspaper, the new store building will be 106,000 square feet in size, or almost 140 times larger than Florence Butt’s first store. It’s possible almost every commercial establishment in Kerrville in 1905 – every saddle shop, confectionary, bank, and clothing store – might fit inside the new store building currently under construction.
The size of the building alone would boggle anyone from 1905 Kerrville.
And then there are all of the choices within the new store building. While Florence Butt was proud of her little store’s inventory, calling her store “Mrs. F. T. Butt, Staples & Fancy Groceries,” customers had few choices. There was probably only one brand of canned green beans, for instance, and only a very few brands of coffee or flour. Fitting a great variety of each product in a 760 square foot building would have been impossible.
Today almost every item presents the shopper with options. Sometimes, too many options. This old shopper clogs up the aisles looking at the labels of cans, trying to find the exact item requested by Ms. Carolyn on her shopping list.
Lastly, I wonder what Florence Butt might think of the volume of business the new store will produce.
Florence Butt, 
around 1936
In 1936, Florence Butt wrote about her first store’s sales. “The first month we sold $56 worth. One day, not a penny's worth was sold. Several days, only 5 and 10 cents worth of merchandise was sold. But the responsibility was there, and it had to make good. You can see the stock $60 would place on your shelves, but I had such good friends to advise and help me out.”
I cannot imagine the volume of business the entire chain of H-E-B stores must do on a monthly basis; I have no idea what the local H-E-B stores produce. However, I can safely bet it’s a little more than the $56 sold that very first month, in November 1905.
There are two parts of Florence Butt’s story that have been forgotten or overlooked. She opened her store because her family was in dire financial straits. Her husband could not work; he was too ill. They had three young sons at home. A few years after her store opened, her husband died. Not too long after this her eldest son also died, also from tuberculosis. She suffered losses which few remember today.
The second part of Florence Butt’s story which has been overlooked is her faith. She was a woman of faith, and she acted on her faith with generosity and charity.
In her 1936 article, she wrote “In preparing the little grocery store, a small Bible was found on a shelf. A good omen, it was kept there. So, on the morning of November 26, 1905, the store opened. Before the front door was opened, the little Bible was read. Then a prayer for the Great Father and Giver of all things to be the Partner to lead and guide: then the front door was opened.”
I’m sure, if Florence Butt could attend the opening of the new store here in a few months, that part of the story would be exactly the same. The little Bible would be read; a prayer would be whispered, and the front door would be opened.
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who admires Florence Butt’s story. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times March 7, 2020.

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







Sunday, March 1, 2020

A lonely Kerr County cemetery in the middle of a plowed field. Who's buried there?

A lonely cemetery in the middle of a plowed field.
Click on any image below to enlarge.
It took me two trips to find the grave of Jack Hardy, and when I finally saw the pair of headstones in the middle of a plowed field, I wondered how I'd ever determine who was buried there. The headstones were visible from the road, but were too far away to read. I don't cross fences and trespass, even if I want to solve a mystery. 
The grave markers
ack Hardy is the African-American man who was captured by a Comanche raiding party in the early 1870s, when he was just a teenager, and lived to tell about it.
Jack Hardy’s story can be found in Andrew Jackson Sowell’s book “Early Settlers and Indian Fighters of Southwest Texas,” which was published in 1900.
“After the Civil War, when all the slaves were freed, Jack lived near Comfort, below Center Point. On one occasion, when he was about 12 or 13 years of age, he was sent to the mill with a turn of corn, and it was then the Indians got him.”
The grave of Jack Hardy
Because some of the Indian riders wore hats, Hardy thought they were settlers, and he continued on his way home from the mill unconcerned. “Up to this time he had never seen Indians,” Sowell reports. There were around 15 riders, with long hair, shields, bows and arrows. They captured Hardy, and initiated him to captivity among the Comanche “with a severe whipping with a live oak stick, the scars of which are still to be seen on Jack’s head.”
At night they'd stake young Hardy to the ground, and during one cold night it began to sleet. Hardy nudged his hat to cover his face, the only protection he had from the weather.
During his time with the Indians, Hardy saw many violent scenes. The raiding party seemed to be unconcerned with they'd be captured or even pursued. 
Hardy eventually escaped through a brave act of deception while most of the raiders were involved in stealing a herd of cattle; he was saved by a kind rancher, John Dickson, who took the young man to his house, gave him warm clothes and plenty to eat, and saw to it he returned home safely.
The grave of  Mary Jane Moore
Jack Hardy survived because he kept calm and avoided the ire of the warriors, and was exceptionally brave each time the Indians threatened to kill him.
I wanted to know more about Jack Hardy, especially what happened to him after his return home.
Jack Hardy married Hannah Edmonds in 1878, just a few years after his return. The 1900 Federal Census says they had 4 children together, though two had already died by the time of that census.
In 1900, Jack and Hannah Hardy owned their own place, free and clear, where they farmed, along with their eighteen-year-old son. They had an aunt who lived with them, Mary J. Moore, a woman who was 66 years old in 1900, much older than Jack or his wife Hannah. Mary Moore was born in 1833 in Kentucky; on the 1900 census she is listed as a widow. The Hardy's place was in Justice's Precinct 8 of Kerr County, and their immediate neighbors were all German immigrants. There were other black families nearby: the Edmunds, Hamiltons, and the Stokes families, who, like the Hardys, owned their own farms, free and clear.
The grave of James Wesley
According to the 1880 agricultural schedule, which was part of the census, Jack and Hannah farmed 160 acres, with 40 being tilled and 120 being unimproved woodland. They ran livestock, and did most of the work on the farm themselves as a family.
Their son, also named Jack, was born at 'Cherry Creek, Kerr County, Texas,' in 1882, according to an official document. Cherry Creek runs roughly parallel to Lane Valley Road at the spot where I spotted the grave markers, and borders the field where the grave markers stand.
I know there are two cemeteries on Lane Valley Road, which is in between Center Point and Comfort, off of Highway 27. I never did find the second cemetery, which is supposed to be about 3 miles farther down Lane Valley Road than the first. 
According to several sources these two cemeteries are the resting place of several pioneer African-American families in Kerr County, including Jack Hardy (later spelled Hardee), Martha and Sylvestor Edmonds, who were Jack Hardy's in-laws, a member of the Blanks family, a woman named Mary Jane Moore, and a man named James Wesley. 
The mystery of the lonely tombstones might never have been solved had it not been for Raymond Hardee, a descendent of Jack Hardy, and a long-time friend. He came by the print shop with some photographs he'd taken of the grave markers in that field.
Buried there in that plowed field are Jack Hardy, Mary Jane Moore, and James Wesley. I can find no information on Wesley, but Hardy and Aunt Mary both died in 1907, several months apart.
Jack's wife Hannah died much later, in 1945. Some sources say she is buried beside her parents in the second cemetery on Lane Valley Road, the cemetery I could not find.
I think Jack Hardy is buried on land he once owned and worked as a farmer. It's a beautiful spot, with rich soil and with lots of frontage on the Guadalupe River. All he built -- his house, his livestock pens, the fields he cared for -- is probably gone. What remains, though, is much more significant: his family continues to be an important part of our community.
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who wanders around trying to find things that others have forgotten. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times February 29, 2020.

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





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