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Sunday, April 18, 2021

The 1968 Grand Opening of Gibson's Discount Center in Kerrville

Gibson's Discount Center, Kerrville, May 1968.
Click on any image to enlarge

This week I came across a few photographs of the grand opening of Gibson’s Discount Center, which were taken in May, 1968.
A free string of pearls
Gibson’s Discount Center, as everyone knows, has been an important part of Kerr County since it opened. A frequent quote here for the past five decades: “if you can’t find it at Gibson’s, you probably don’t need it.” Most of the time they have what you are looking for, even if what you’re looking for is not easy to find anywhere else. And there are plenty of people there to help you find that obscure item, even when you’re not sure what it’s called.
Walking into Gibson’s is like walking into the past – a general store filled with everything from plumbing supplies to toys, sporting goods to garden tools.
Shopping for bargains
The Kerrville Gibson’s franchise was originally owned by Morris and Gloria Harris, who also owned Gibson’s franchise stores in Fredericksburg, Brady, Junction and Pleasanton at one time, according to a 2018 news article in this newspaper. Today, the Kerrville store is owned by the Kemp and Wilks families, I believe.
I’m old enough to remember when the Gibson’s building was under construction, and I’m old enough to remember when the store opened.
First Ad
According to a “Grand Opening” advertisement in the May 1, 1968 issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun, a three-day celebration was planned for the weekend of May 2-4, at “our new store, 99 W. Main.”
The first 500 ladies to visit the store in 1968 received a “free string of pearls.”
Other specials included 9 cent hand lotion, $1.77 garden hoses, $4.88 Zebco Spin-Cast rod and reel, 44 cent cans of Aqua Net hair spray, and $1.33 men’s putter pants (“Girls like ‘em too”).
Many more grand-opening specials were offered. “Shop thru-out the store…you’ll find many special values that are not advertised. Look for new special values arriving daily. Many items that had not arrived in time for our opening ad are coming daily, and will be put on special.”
The familiar sign
Herbert “Herb” R. and Belva Gibson opened Gibson Novelty Company in Abilene, Texas in 1936. By 1978, when the Gibson’s Discount Centers chain was at its largest, 684 stores could be found across the country, including stores in Hawaii and Guam.
Changing times, and competition from other national discount chains eventually ended the Gibson’s national chain; today the Kerrville store and a “Gibson’s Ace Hardware” store in Weatherford, Texas still carry the Gibson’s name. Both are independently owned. 
My late father loved shopping at Gibson’s, in part because one of his best friends, the late David McCutchen, managed the Kerrville store for many years.
Gibson's as it appeared in 2018
One Saturday, years ago, I told Ms. Carolyn I needed to go grab something at Gibson’s.
“Tell your father hello,” she replied. We both laughed, and I headed to the store.
While there, of course, I ran into my dad.
“Carolyn says hi,” I told him, as I headed to the plumbing supplies aisle. He had a puzzled look on his face, but was happy to receive the greeting.
Even though Dad’s been gone since 2012, I still look around for him whenever I’m shopping at Gibson’s.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects historical items from Kerr County and Kerrville. If you have something you’d care to share with him, it would make him very happy. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times April 17, 2021

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Sunday, April 11, 2021

A carriage, a banner, and a crown: a puzzle on Kerrville's Main Street, around 1900

This photo, taken on Main Street in downtown Kerrville, contains several puzzles.
Click on any image to enlarge.

This week a treasure trove of historic photos of Kerrville and Kerr County crossed my desk, and I spent several happy hours studying them. While a good amount of reading is required for this column, my favorite part of this hobby is seeing old photographs of our home county – especially images I’ve never seen before.
While going through these photographs, I saw several hundred which were new to me. Gentle Reader: this makes me very happy. Each image adds to our understanding of local history, adding another tile to a grand mosaic.
The photos came from my friends Sandy and Jon Wolfmueller, of Wolfmueller’s Books on Earl Garrett Street, and were in a box of other historic items. I’m very grateful for their generosity.

Here are some of my favorites:
A woman, three children, and a driver in a fancy carriage are pictured in front of the second Kerr County Courthouse, which stood near the corner of Main and Sidney Baker streets. That courthouse was built in 1875, and served our community from 1876 until 1885, only 9 years. I don’t think this photograph was taken during that period. When the third Kerr County Courthouse was built, this building was ‘recycled,’ becoming the county jail. Both of those courthouses were torn down when the present courthouse was built in 1926. 
The entrance gate to 
Methodist Encampment
Automobiles weren’t common in Kerr County until around 1908, and I think the photo was taken before they arrived. My best guess is the photo was taken around the turn of the last century.
There are some interesting details in the photograph. One of the children is holding up a banner, though he has it facing backward, and we cannot read it. He only had one job to do! The driver is wearing a very nice set of clothes. The girls are well-dressed.
The biggest mystery in the photograph: the woman under the parasol is wearing a crown. Evidently this photograph commemorated some social event – though I have not been able to determine what that event might have been. There is one small clue on the back of the photograph: “H. Mosel, at the Depot” ordered a 5x7 print of the image, and was charged 50 cents.
A revival on Clay Street
Another of the photos shows the entrance to the Methodist Kerrville Assembly – which we know as Methodist Encampment. A pretty young woman and a Schreiner student are posing in front of a classic car – I’m guessing sometime in the 1930s. Someone who knows cars better than I will probably have a better guess.
I was interested in the sign hanging beneath entrance gate. It reads “Cottages for Rent/ No Sick/ Also Tourist Camp/ Water & Lights/ Prices O.K.”
Another image shows congregants of the First Christian Church attending a revival meeting. First Christian Church met in what was originally the Union Church; looking up the names of the evangelist and musician, Fox and Jackson, I learned this photograph was taken in September, 1929. The church building was on Clay Street at that time; today it’s been restored and stands on the edge of the Schreiner University campus.
A fly fisherman
Lastly, a fishing photograph, where a fellow in a Stetson and waders has just landed a nice bass. I notice he has his box of tied flies tucked in his back pocket, and his net is attached to a string looped over his shoulder. I chose this photograph because of his tackle – he caught that fish with a fly rod. I always thought I was one of the early fly fishermen in Kerr County, but this old photograph proves me wrong. Though I don’t know who this fisherman was, or when this photograph was taken, I’m pretty sure it predates me by many decades.
Thanks again to the Wolfmuellers for sharing this photograph with me, and with all of us.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who should go fly fishing more often. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times April 10, 2021. 

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Sunday, April 4, 2021

Newly discovered photographs: dedication of the new Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, August 1967

Dedication ceremonies, Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, Kerrville, August 1967.
Click on any image to enlarge.

I am always so thankful when people share Kerr County historical items and photographs with me. Almost every week I get to see items which tell a part of our community’s story, and many times it’s a part of our story I’ve never seen before.
This week, for instance, a kind person shared some pages her grandmother, Sara Given Rockey, wrote about the opening and dedication of Kerrville’s Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, which included some photographs taken by A. C. Jorns and John LaFleur.
While I’ve written several times about the library and its opening ceremony, the news story written by Ms. Rockey captures a lot of the excitement of that day, since it was written very close to the event. The gift of the library to our community was a very big deal, and Ms. Rockey’s story conveys its importance.
The ten photographs are important, too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of them. It’s like discovering new history.
Ms. Rockey called her news story “A Town’s Beatitude.” I looked up the word; beatitude means supreme blessing or happiness.
“Accompanied by Secret Service men, a cream car rolled into town,” she begins. “It went down streets festive with flags. When it stopped in front of a round building of white stone and glass, a smiling lady stepped out to be greeted by state dignitaries and town officials, the high school band, and 3,000 glad-hearted people – nearly a fourth of the population of Kerrville, Texas.
“Mrs. Lyndon Johnson came to give an address. It was dedication day, August 26, 1967, of an extraordinary library, the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library. The First Lady, in lime-green linen, talked from a high porch of the library to the celebrating people gathered below.
“‘This setting,’ she said, ‘with the handsome functional building overlooking the Guadalupe River below, is breathtaking. I thought I was prepared for it, but when I see the beauty of it, it takes my breath away.’”
For those of us who grew up with the library, and have visited it for decades, its setting, and the beauty of the spot on which it was built, can still be surprising. I remember my first visit to the library. It was with my father, and the building was not yet completely finished or open to the public. Merrill Doyle, who painted the mural on the 2nd floor, had invited us over to see his work in progress. I was almost six years old, but I remember it clearly. I thought the new library was wonderful, and I couldn’t wait for it to open.
Ms. Rockey wrote about Mary Holdsworth Butt, and her dedication to the library project.
“About once a week Mrs. Butt flew the 280 miles from Corpus Christi, where they now live, to Kerrville, once their hometown.
“Mary Holdsworth Butt wishes every town had a library. She wishes everyone read books. ‘My parents saw to it that I took the English poets for breakfast along with my oatmeal.’
“Especially did Mrs. Butt give loving care to particulars for the children’s area. If you have a four-year-old boy along with you when you come, he can lie on his stomach on a thick, soft carpet, the color of polished brass, and ‘read’ a picture-book. A little girl can curl up on a gold padded window seat and lean against a puffy pillow and read. The window seat is divided into four cozy sections by panels. Each panel is a decoupage beautifully made with illustrations from well-loved children’s books.”
Oh, the hours I spent there as a child! I walked down from the print shop and sat on those very window seats and read everything I could put my hands on in the children’s section. What happy memories.
I’m thankful to the kind person who shared these items with me – and with our entire community. And I’m very thankful to Howard and Mary Butt for building a library and giving our community – especially the children of our community – a wonderful place to read.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects Kerr County historical items. If you have something to share with him, it would make him very happy. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times April 3, 2021.

Yep -- you can help produce this free newsletter by sharing it with someone.  Sharing is certainly caring. (A special thanks to everyone who purchased my books last week.)

Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Puzzle of Kerrville's Tchoupitoulas Street

1910 Sanborn Map of Downtown Kerrville,
showing Tchoupitoulas and Mountain Streets.
Click on any image to enlarge.

I searched Google Maps for all of the Tchoupitoulas streets in the United States, and three results popped up: the original Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans; a four-block-long Tchoupitoulas Street in tiny Jewell, Kansas; and a one-block Tchoupitoulas Lane in Thousand Palms, California.
Only three in the whole country. However, there used to be four, and one of them used to be in downtown Kerrville.
Tchoupitoulas, by the way, is pronounced CHOP-ah-too-lus, at least in New Orleans. I have no idea how they try to pronounce it in Jewell, Kansas. In New Orleans, Tchoupitoulas is “the through street closest to the Mississippi River,” according to Wikipedia. The name of the street comes from the name of a Native American tribe, and might mean “‘those who live at the river’ in the Choctaw language.”
So how did we get a Tchoupitoulas Street in Kerrville?
In the spring of 1856 five men decided where the county seat of the newly-formed Kerr County would be located. They were the members of the very first Kerr County commissioners court: Chief Justice Jonathan Scott and commissioners George M. Ridley, Thomas A. Saner, William B. Hendrix, and E. A. McFaddin.
Meeting on May 20, 1856, at the ‘farm home’ of commissioner George M. Ridley, just across the Guadalupe River from present-day Center Point, the commissioners court had specific instructions from the Texas legislature: “Provided that if a site can be selected on the Guadalupe River and not more than five miles rom the geographical center of the county…the said county seat shall not be fixed at a greater distance than five miles from such center.”
The legislature even dictated the name of the county seat: it “shall be called Kerrsville unless the site selected shall already have a name.”
Joshua D. Brown, who first came to what is now Kerr County in the late 1840s, had a shingle-making camp on land he did not own in what is now downtown Kerrville. He remedied this on May 15, 1856, by purchasing the 640 acre ‘patent’ made to Benjamin F. Cage for his service in the Texas Army and participation in the Battle of San Jacinto.
Brown did not buy the land from Cage, who was assumed to be dead; he purchased the land from Cage’s stepfather. Cage’s mother, Rebecca Cage Beck, had remarried; her new husband was Abraham Beck, and they lived in Gonzales County, Texas. Rebecca Cage was declared the sole heir of the B. F. Cage.
Potter, Joshua and Sarah Brown,
around 1873.  Courtesy of
Jan Wilkinson
“The B. F. Cage tract was deeded to Joshua D. Brown by Abraham O. Beck on May 15, 1856,” according to Bob Bennet’s book “Kerr County.”
What sounds like a complicated real estate transaction is even more complicated by the fact that Benjamin F. Cage was actually alive in 1856, and living in Blanco, though Joshua D. Brown and Cage’s poor mother had no idea he was still around when the transaction was made.
That first commissioners court was offered a deal by Joshua D. Brown on May 20, 1856. Brown, the owner of the B. F. Cage grant for five whole days, offered a portion of the 640 acres to the court as the site of the county seat. The site met the legislature’s criteria, and the commissioners court accepted the offer – with conditions.
Brown was required to donate at least four acres of land for a public square; and all the streets laid out in the town plat, said streets leading out from the public square to be eighty feet wide, and all cross streets to be sixty feet wide; one choice good sized lot fronting on the public square for county use, one lot suitable for public church, one lot suitable for public school house, [and] one lot suitable for public jail.”
There were four streets ‘leading out from the public square:’ Jefferson, Main, Mountain (now 
Earl Garrett), and Tchoupitoulas (now Sidney Baker) streets.
When the plat was drawn up, and the ‘public square’ surveyed, the very first streets in Kerrville were shown on paper. I do not know who was tasked with naming those streets, but I’m guessing it was Brown.
When Joshua Brown came to Texas, most likely from Missouri, he could have passed through New Orleans. It would have been the largest, busiest place he’d ever seen. Tchoupitoulas Street would have been the busiest of all the streets, handling the business of Mississippi River traffic, commerce and freight.
Why wouldn’t Joshua Brown dream the little town being surveyed on his land would someday be a great, bustling city of commerce? After all, the name of another of those first streets was “Mountain,” and it stretched from the river to a minor hill. I think Brown gave his townsite aspirational names, aiming for greatness.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who feels much better this week. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times March 27, 2021.

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Sunday, March 21, 2021

The Case of the Missing Kerr County Mill

The mystery mill, as photographed by Gussie Mae Brown, around 1913.
Click on  any image below to enlarge.

There are photographs in my collection of historic Kerr County photos which are special puzzles. These are images of places where I think I know the subject of the photograph, but I have no certainty where the photograph was taken.
Take, for example three images of what appears to be an abandoned mill along the Guadalupe River.
In the days when the world was lit only by fire, finding a way to harness energy became crucial in the settlement of new areas. There is only so much work human or animal muscles can do. The force of water, though, could be used in many helpful ways: sawing lumber, grinding grain, and even, eventually, generating electricity.
Glass plate image,
around 1900.
One of the first families to arrive in Kerrville – back when there were only five ‘shacks’ here – was a young immigrant couple, Christian and Rosalie Dietert. Both were born in Germany, came to Texas separately, met in Comfort, Texas, and married. They moved to Kerrville in 1857.
Christian Dietert was a millwright. He’d built mills elsewhere, and most of them washed away in floods, often within months of their construction. The first mill he built that survived flooding was here, in downtown Kerrville. The ruins of that mill can still be seen, crumbling away beside the river, below the One Schreiner Center in the 800 block of Water Street.
The photographs I describe as ‘special puzzles’ do not show Dietert’s mill. They show a mystery mill elsewhere.
Between Ingram and Hunt there was once a mill called “Sherman’s Mill.” Some ruins of that old mill also remain, and I’ve photographed the site. Just as my ‘special puzzle’ photographs don’t show Dietert’s mill, they likewise do not show Sherman’s: while there is a bluff at the site, the river flows in the opposite direction from its flow in the ‘puzzle’ photographs.
There are three images of the mystery mill in my collection, each taken by different people and at different times.
The image published by Grinstead, 1924
The oldest was taken on a glass plate, which was found among the negatives in Starr Bryden’s foot locker, and shared with our community by the Meeker family. I don’t think Starr Bryden took that photo, though. I think S. H. Huntington took the image, probably around the turn of the last century.
The next was taken by a schoolgirl, Gussie Mae Brown. Miss Brown took a lot of photos during her teen years, and among them was a photo of an abandoned mill. I think her photograph was taken around 1913.  (Gussie Mae Brown was the granddaughter of the founder of Kerrville, Joshua Brown.)
Then, in 1924, J. E. Grinstead publishes a photo of the mill which is almost identical to the one taken by Miss Brown. The image appears in the May, 1924 issue of his “Grinstead’s Graphic.”
In that issue he hints the old mill was between Kerrville and Ingram, and was ‘marred’ by a mythic river god.
Water plant dam, published by Grinstead, 1910
Here’s the thing: there was a mill between Kerrville and Ingram. Miles Lowrance, along with Alonzo Rees and J. M. Starkey, built a mill on the Guadalupe somewhere near today's Starbucks on Junction Highway. (I'm guessing about this location, and I'm sure a reader can offer better evidence than that on which I've based this guess.) This mill was later owned by T. A. Saner, and later still by Capt. Charles Schreiner. The dam was wooden and served several purposes: first, of course, for the mill; later to supply water for Kerrville's earliest municipal water system; and later as a swimming hole for campers at Mount Wesley, the Methodist Encampment.
And so, Gentle Reader, one would think the mystery is solved. Yet there persists one nagging problem: I don’t know of a bluff along that stretch of the river which matches the one shown in the images. (Nor do I remember one from the time before the Nimitz Lake was created.)
If you have any ideas, I’d certainly like to hear them.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is thankful for the good work done each day at the Peterson Regional Medical Center.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times March 20. 2021.

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