New Kerr County History Book Available!

Sunday, December 10, 2023

The many changes of Kerrville's Louise Hays Park

Water skiers performing at Kerrville's Louise Hays Park.
Click on any image to enlarge.

When the Louise Hays Park was built in a day, back in April 1950, it had several features which no longer exist.

Pontoon bridge
One was the old mill dam, made of wood, which crossed the river at an angle, funneling water into the mill race, where the flow of the Guadalupe River was used to turn an “under water iron turbine.” The power it produced was used to saw lumber, mill grains, make shingles, and even run a small electric generator.

Evidence of that mill dam can still be seen, in the form of square holes in the riverbed, lined with concrete, which dot across river below the current concrete dam. These can be seen from the pavilion at the end of Earl Garrett Street, but also near the footbridge below the concrete dam. As recently as last week, a friend asked me about those square holes in the riverbed.

The other feature is long gone, washed away in a flood, probably in the 1950s.

On the day the park was built, a bridge was built across the river, connecting the new park with the downtown area, near the present-day pavilion and steep stairway beside it. 

It was a “pontoon” bridge, made of small floating connected sections sitting directly on the surface of the water. It had a deck for pedestrians to use in crossing the river, but since it floated, and was on top of the river, the sections were hinged at their joints, meaning, as you traveled across the bridge it would bend slightly as you approached the joints between the sections.

This must have added to the fun of crossing the river, walking on a bridge with a slight wobble.

The bridge was not very practical for a river prone to flooding, and it did not last very long.

Another interesting feature was the donation, by Harry Dietert, of a millstone once used in the previously mentioned mill, which was built by his ancestor, Christian Dietert. The stone, which was a “French burr millstone,” was made into a table for use at the park. A 1971 news story in this newspaper reported the stone and table had ‘gone missing’ during an expansion of the park. My own theory is this: some pranksters rolled it over to the river and pushed it in. Whenever the river is low, as it was last summer, I scan the banks to see if the old millstone shows up.

Another feature, though not present when the park was built in 1950, was a Navy jet on display near the children’s playground. It was a F9F-5 Panther, and it was placed in the park in 1959. I’m not sure when it was removed, but the story I’ve heard about its removal suggests it was heavily vandalized and was no longer safe for kids to climb on.

Another interesting attraction at the park was the water ski shows produced in the late 1950s. It’s hard to believe, but ski boats and very acrobatic and athletic skiers once raced past a crowd of spectators – performing tricks and jumps – and then somehow safely making a 180 degree turn before flying off of the dam there in the park.

Up in the higher part of the park, behind the current Park Street apartments, there used to be a collection of picnic tables and a covered barbecue pit. I remember these, since they were often the site of community gatherings – usually when a local service club had a fundraiser, serving delicious smoked barbecue and mountains of sides.

I have a vague memory of another park feature – on the hillside below the picnic area, there used to be a miniature golf course. Sadly, I don’t have any photographs of this concession. If you have one, I’d love to make a copy of it.

The park has seen many renovations and expansions since it was built, reflecting the changing needs of our community. It’s still a jewel in the middle of town – and I’m thankful the Hays family who donated the first 35 acres to start the park, as well as the hundreds of folks since then who have worked to make it the beautiful park it is today.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has many happy memories of times spent with family at Louise Hays Park.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times December 9, 2023.

Thanks for reading. This newsletter is free, but not cheap to send. To show your support, forward it to someone who’d like it, or buy one of my books.  Thanks so much. (And thanks to all of you who bought books this week!)

Sunday, November 26, 2023

What could you buy at Charles Schreiner's store in downtown Kerrville in 1872?

A fanciful illustration by Harold Bugbee of the interior of Faltin & Schreiner,
the store opened by Charles Schreiner in downtown Kerrville in 1869.
Click on any image to enlarge.

Recently I was given a small bookkeeping book from 1872, called a Day Book, where the bookkeeper would record each transaction throughout the business day, transferring the items later to each customer’s ledger card. After some sleuthing, I discovered the bookkeeper was none other than Charles Schreiner.

Charles Schreiner, who is remembered today as the philanthropist who founded what is now Schreiner University, suffered through years of poverty. In his early days, he was in numerous dangerous situations where his living or dying seemed to dangle from a single thread.

In 1872, the store he ran in partnership with Comfort’s August Faltin was less than three years old. While the bookkeeping book in my collection shows the store was experiencing some success, it does not portray an enterprise destined for financial greatness. It certainly does not forecast a businessman who would have such an oversized impact on the early economy of Kerrville and Kerr County.

Pages from the 1872 Day Book
The little book’s importance, at least to me, is the story it tells about the customers of Faltin & Schreiner; the items they bought, and what was available at the small country store; and the various transactions beyond selling items to a customer.

Last week I indicated the most frequent sales entry: drinks by the glass at 10 cents each. My best guess from other entries is the ‘drink’ was whiskey. Last week, I also hinted one frequent customer of this product was Joseph A. Tivy, the first mayor of Kerrville, and the man for whom our high school is named.

One entry shows Tivy purchasing eight drinks. While there is no evidence all of the libations were for him individually – he could have bought a round for his friends – I’m certainly glad Tivy wasn’t driving home. The distance from Faltin & Schreiner in 1872 to the site of the Tivy Hotel is only 3 blocks. 

Perhaps Tivy gave Schreiner the keys to his horse and walked home.

Aside from whiskey, what could you buy at Faltin & Schreiner in 1872?

First, some of the easiest to guess items:

Many customers bought coffee, tobacco, ‘ceegars,’ tea, flour, rice, soap, cheese, jelly, sugar, needles and thread, matches, candy, table salt, and crackers.

Produce was available, too. Many times, an accounting entry where Schreiner purchased local produce from a customer was followed by entries where the same produce was sold to other customers. For example, peaches. Other produce available included potatoes, apples, corn, and onions. Most of the fresh produce was grown locally, I’m guessing.

The store sold an impressive amount of fabric, ranging from calico to chambray. In addition, there are many entries of sales of ribbon, buttons, and other sewing items.

The inventory included items useful on the frontier: balls of lead, caps, and various knives. Axes and axe handles were available. Axle grease and wagon parts were sold. Some horse tack and equipment was available in the store. Shovels, saws, hammers, saws, and hardware including nails, screws, hinges, doorknobs, and grinding stones are among the recorded sales.

Charles Schreiner
Now, what were some of the unexpected things you could buy at this little store in a tiny village in the frontier of Texas? Remember, too, each item in the store’s inventory was hauled here by oxcart and wagon by freighters. There was no train, and certainly no automobiles.

I was surprised by the number of clothes, shoes, and hats available in the little store. Shirt collars and corsets were also sold. Stocking a variety of sizes of clothing would have been difficult – especially when the sizes ranged from children to adults. This clothing inventory would have been more difficult in such a small building – the first store only measured only 16 x 18 feet.

Another item frequently purchased at the store was textbooks. Though the period covered by this particular accounting book is June and July, 1872, school must have been either in session, or would begin soon. The books were ‘Reader’ and ‘Mathematics’ books. There are also several notations of what looks like ‘tuition’ paid by customers; perhaps the store made payments to the teacher from these ‘tuition’ payments.

The biggest customer (though not the most frequent) in this particular Day Book was Creed Taylor, though most of his transactions were made by others and charged to Taylor’s account. 

In 1872, Taylor was establishing a ranch in Kimble County, along the James River, near Noxville.

Creed Taylor arrived in Texas in 1824, as a four-year-old boy. His served Texas in many ways, both as a soldier in the Texas Revolution, and later as a Texas Ranger. 

According to the book on Charles Schreiner’s store written by J. Evetts Haley, in 1872 and 1873, Creed Taylor owed the store $5565.37 for supplies, which, in 1873, was settled “for cattle --.”  It is obvious, looking at the Day Book in my collection, Taylor was buying a lot of merchandise on credit with Schreiner.  He paid off his debt with cattle.

The payment of cattle, which settled Taylor’s account with Schreiner, may have been the start of Schreiner’s cattle enterprises, which became an important foundation of Schreiner’s wealth during the 1870s.

It’s amazing to me what you can learn from looking over a bookkeeping book from 1872.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects Kerrville and Kerr County historical items. 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 November 25, 2023.

Thanks for reading. This newsletter is free, but not cheap to send. To show your support, forward it to someone who’d like it, or buy one of my books.  Thanks so much. (And thanks to all of you who bought books this week!)

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Time travel to Kerrville in 1872

Two pages from the June - July 1872 'Day Book' of  Faltin & Schreiner.
Click on any image to enlarge.

Would you care to time travel with me this week?

Recently, I was given an historical item which offers a very rare glimpse of life in Kerrville in 1872. It’s not a photo, however. I don’t have many photos of Kerrville or Kerr County that I can confirm to be that old.

It’s actually an old bookkeeping book.

It’s tall and narrow, measuring about 11.75 inches tall, by 5.125 inches wide. It has a pasteboard cover and pages which time has turned the color of coffee with lots of cream. The pages are ruled with blue and red lines for bookkeeping. Its binding has cracked, though the pages are still collected in signatures bound with string. It looks common, and was probably not very expensive when first purchased.

It has on its title page, in ornate handwritten script “Day Book No. 3, 1872.”  It has entries from parts of June and July, 1872.

Gentle Reader, though I graduated many (many) years ago from the school of business at the University, I’d never heard of a Day Book. I had to look it up, because this type of bookkeeping predated me by almost a century.

Charles Schreiner,
probably 1880s
After some detective work – involving deciphering the accounting ‘codes’ in the book – I determined which merchant kept his records in this book: it was Charles Schreiner.

In the summer of 1872, Schreiner’s downtown Kerrville store was less than three years old, and still went by its original name: Faltin & Schreiner. While the store was showing promise, Schreiner had yet to experience the phenomenal success which would be part of his life later.

Remember, Kerrville was a very small village in 1872. There were no paved roads. The railroad, which provided economic growth to our county, did not arrive until 1887. There was no city government until 1889. None of oldest buildings in downtown Kerrville had been built, not Schreiner’s store or mansion; not the Masonic Building (now home to Turtle Creek Olives and Vines); not the Weston Building (now home to Francisco’s Restaurant); not the Guthrie Building (now home to the Community Foundation of the Texas Hill Country).

The oldest building in downtown Kerrville is the Favorite Saloon Building (now home to Busted Sandal Brewing Company), and it was built in 1874.

The site of Faltin & Schreiner was about where the Charles and Magdalena Schreiner Mansion stands today. It was a small wooden building measuring 16x18 feet. Faltin & Schreiner opened their store on Christmas Eve, 1869, but purchased the land on which the store stood on February 12, 1870. The business partners did not own the land on which that first store stood -- at least for 49 days.

So, you may be asking, what can some scribbled notes about daily transactions at a small country store tell us about life in Kerrville in 1872?

The book records some very important details about life here: What Faltin & Schreiner had in their store; who their customers were; what they bought; and, in conjunction with the Federal census of 1870, the occupations of those customers.

Faltin & Schreiner, by Harold Bugbee
Joseph Tivy was a frequent customer. He was Kerrville’s first mayor, and Tivy High School is named in his honor. I recognize the names of other customers: Christian Dietert; B. F. Denton; Caspar Real; Joshua Brown; Jones Glenn; R. H. Burney; William Wharton; George Hollimon; James Monroe Starkey; Dominique Michon; and many others. 

There were lots of names in the book which were new to me. These are interesting, too, because they reveal new stories I’ve never heard – especially when compared to the 1870 census.

I’ll write a column later which will give more detail about the items sold at Faltin & Schreiner. The variety of items is fascinating.

I will, however, tell you the item most mentioned in the sales record. While it was not a big ticket item, it was very popular with the customers of Faltin & Schreiner.

Over and over again I see this sale recorded: “1 drink. 10 cents.” Looking at you, Captain Tivy. (Though he seldom only bought one.)

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects historical items from Kerrville and Kerr County. 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 November 18, 2023.

Thanks for reading. This newsletter is free, but not cheap to send. To show your support, forward it to someone who’d like it, or buy one of my books.  Thanks so much. (And thanks to all of you who bought books this week!)

Sunday, November 12, 2023

A Noble Company: Kerrville's Company D, in 1917

Company D, at Camp Bowie, 1917.
Click on any image to enlarge.

As we celebrate Veterans Day this weekend, I thought it might be interesting to tell the story of a company of infantry formed here in 1917.

On September 5, 1917, Company D of the First Texas Infantry marched to the Kerrville depot of the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad, boarded the train, and headed to Camp Bowie near Fort Worth. The depot was in the building which is now the home of Rails, a Café at the Depot.

Company D was made up of local young men, mostly from Kerr County, but also a few from neighboring counties. Among the men were Sidney Baker and Francisco Lemos, who died in battle in France, and Leonard Denton, who died from influenza.

Two photographs in my collection show Company D marching on Kerrville's Main Street, and are labeled "Kerrville boys leaving for 1st World War," and "Boys leaving Kerrville WWI - 1917."

In one photo, the troops are marching west in the 600 block of Main Street, just past where Broadway Bank is today. In the other, they are marching in front of the courthouse square, in the 700 block of Main Street.

In that photo you can see Kerr County's second and third courthouses, two cut limestone buildings that were torn down in the 1920s. Both of those structures stood near Main Street on the courthouse square; the current courthouse would be behind these old stone buildings.

I have a roster of Company D which was published in October, 1917, a month after the young men left Kerrville. It lists 77 privates in the company, 2 mechanics, 2 musicians, 12 corporals, 9 sergeants, including a first sergeant and mess sergeant, and three lieutenants. Company D was recruited and organized by Capt. Charles J. Seeber. 

The roster shows the company at Camp Bowie, which was near Fort Worth, Texas.

106 names are on the roster; three of those names are listed on the Kerr County War Memorial, a solemn structure on today's courthouse lawn; those three are among the 19 other Kerr County men who died in World War I.

The three men of Company D listed on the Kerr County War Memorial are Francisco Lemos, Sidney Baker, and Leonard Denton -- and those three are in the group pictured in the two photographs. 

Leonard Denton never left Camp Bowie; he died from influenza in April, 1918, and is buried in the Turtle Creek Cemetery.

Sidney Baker and Francisco Lemos are also in the photograph; both would die in combat in France. Baker died in October 1918; Lemos, September 1918. Both were killed in the last few weeks of the war.

Baker is buried in France and Lemos is buried in Kerrville at the Mountain View Cemetery, near Tivy Stadium.

If the photographs are of Company D marching to the train station, as labeled, one of the photographs records Sidney Baker turning for the last time to walk on Tchoupitoulas Street, a street which would be renamed in his honor a few years after the photograph was taken.

I noticed several things about these two photographs of the young men marching along Main Street.

First, they appear to be taken around noon. Secondly, a horse drawn carriage travels with them, carrying about four women, and boys walk with the troops. Third, in one of the photographs a dog is tagging along.

Rev. S. W. Kemerer, the pastor of the Kerrville Methodist Church, wrote about the men's departure from the Kerrville train depot back in 1917:

"Probably the largest number of people that ever assembled at the Aransas Pass depot in Kerrville gathered Wednesday afternoon to bid farewell to Company D, which departed for new training quarters at Camp Bowie, Fort Worth.

"As Company D goes forth from our midst to fight for country and humanity, the heart of Kerrville and entire surroundings is with them.

"That was a memorable sight at the station," Rev. Kemerer writes, "when Kerrville gathered to tell the boys good-bye, and bid them God-speed on their first lap to the front -- to Somewhere in France.

"The train was making up, and the engine puffed and rang its bell sharply while performing its indispensable part in this gigantic tragedy of all time. A great throng was grouped about the station and lined up along the tracks. There were fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sweethearts and loved ones, friends and neighbors... We heard kindly greetings and brief jokes and repartee, but somehow they sounded a little forced and lacked spontaneity. There were no loud calls or shouts. A deeper note was sweeping the hearts of both the soldiers and the gathered throng. But there was the warm handclasp and low spoken well wishes, and sometimes only a look of blessing and farewell. God knew that many mothers' hearts were torn, that many fathers' hearts were too full for words, and that tears streamed from many eyes, so God also wept in the tender rain that fell, for He looked on and understood and loved.

"Then the bugle sounded, and the boys lined up. Captain Seeber uttered brief short orders. Each line became straight, every form erect. An orderly called the names crisply. What a response! It sounded short and sharp like the crack of a gun -- 'Here,' 'Here,' 'Here,' -- until every man had made answer....

"They were a noble company. They answered like men who had measured the task and were eager to engage in its accomplishment.

"So the train moved away, the engine with two flags fluttering at its headlight, the bell sounding ceaselessly, the soldier boys leaning far from the windows waving farewell. And the great throng waved farewell, and the lovely hills of Kerrville threw farewell kisses, and the clouds wept farewell."

Indeed, they were a noble company. In these photographs, we can see them as they march together, leaving Kerrville, some for the last time.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects items from Kerrville and Kerr County's history. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times November 11, 2023.  

Thanks for reading. This newsletter is free, but not cheap to send. To show your support, forward it to someone who’d like it, or buy one of my books.  Thanks so much. (And thanks to all of you who bought books this week!)

Sunday, November 5, 2023

An adorable book of children's life stories: Kerrville's Room 13, in 1958

Some of the students of Room 13, and their 
teacher, Sybil Bennett Sutherland -- 1958-1959.
Click on any image to enlarge.

I receive a lot of historical items from our community’s past. Most are very interesting, and some are quite rare. However, it’s very seldom I receive an item which is adorable.

This week, the Fitch family gave me a class project, made by a 6th grade class in Kerrville in the 1958-1959 school year. It is very adorable.

It’s a book, measuring about 14x20 inches, made of school “construction” paper, bound at the top with brads. On the front cover is this title: “Our Class/ Room 13.”


The teacher in Room 13 that year was Sybil Bennett Sutherland. (Mrs. Sutherland also taught me, in her 7th grade English class, about 16 years later.) Mrs. Sutherland is the daughter of Bob Bennett, who wrote the definitive history of our community: “Kerr County Texas 1856-1956.” Her son, Stacy Sutherland, played guitar in the psychedelic rock band, the 13th Floor Elevators.

On the front of each sheet in the book is a small school photograph, followed by an assigned topic: “My Life Story.” Mrs. Sutherland was a teacher from the age of 18 until her retirement; almost all of her career was with Kerrville public schools.

The book is a collection of autobiographical stories told by 12-year-olds – and each features an cute school photo. Some of the stories are real tear-jerkers, stories of losing a parent, losing a pet, or how their family was torn apart by divorce.

Bonnie Bauer's story

For the most part, however, the stories are quite fun.

Occasionally, the story and photograph pages omit a crucial piece of information: the name of the student. I suppose that information was not required; after all, it was a small class, where everyone already knew each other’s name. The name would have been helpful to me, though.


Here is the absolute best opening sentence in the book of stories, written by Frank Leroy “Mickey” Speakmon, Jr.:

“A few seconds before I was born, the hospital caught on fire.”

He was born at the Kerrville General Hospital on March 6, 1947. That hospital stood on the corner of Main and Sidney Baker streets; the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital opened later, in 1949.

“They had gas heaters,” young Mr. Speakmon wrote, “and someone tried to light one and the connection was bad, causing the wall of the room to catch on fire. As the fire trucks arrived, I was born….”


Other stories, while scary, had humorous touches. Young Lydell Roberts told of her encounter with a dog which bit her. “The dog was put to death because it had a light case of rabies. The doctor gave me some shots.”

Many of the children reported accidents they’d endured. Broken bones, dog bites, accidents around the home. For the 12-year-old set, those are a big part of their story so far.

Many of the children wrote about their life’s ambition. One wanted to be a florist; another wanted to be a nurse.


Billy Ray Smith had an extraordinary ambition: “I hope to travel to the Moon and Mars and all over the world.” Given that we were supposed to have flying cars several decades ago, this does not seem like an impossible ambition in 1958. He also had a nice set of skills: he was a hunter, could drive a tractor, and great with dogs. “I may marry or not marry. Maybe I’ll just stay in Texas and be a highway patrolman.


Joe Arredondo, who grew up to become a local golfing legend, was especially pleased with one of Mrs. Sutherland’s classroom rules: “Mrs. the best teacher in the whole school. She lets us chew gum. She tells us about what she did when she was a teenager, and she tells us poems.” He also was a new Boy Scout, and was looking forward to shooting a bow and arrow; a 22 gun; hiking and swimming.

I wish I could share each child’s story here. They’re quite wonderful.

I’m very thankful to the Fitches for giving this book to me, and sharing it with our entire community.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who doesn’t remember Mrs. Sutherland allowing chewing gum in her 7th grade English class. Pity. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times November 4, 2023.

Thanks for reading. This newsletter is free, but not cheap to send. To show your support, forward it to someone who’d like it, or buy one of my books.  Thanks so much. (And thanks to all of you who bought books this week!)



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