New items!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Kerr County was jubilant 100 years ago today. And yet....

Company D marching on Main Street in front of the courthouse, September 1917.
heading to the train depot to leave Kerrville for the last time.
Francisco Lemos and Sidney Baker are in this photograph.

Ruth Hamilton remembered how cold and clear it was in Kerr County on the morning of Monday, November 11, 1918. She lived a little over a mile from Kerrville, and when she and her family heard the downtown fire bell ringing, they thought a house was burning. The sound of the bell carried so well on the cold air, she recalled.
It was only after the church bells all over town began ringing did the Hamiltons realize something unusual was going on, but it wasn't until the telephone rang that they understood what had happened. Germany had surrendered, and the First World War was over.
Years later Walter R. Moses wrote an account of that day:
"When the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, telephone operators spread the word, especially to families that they knew had sons or husbands in France. Up on Johnson Creek the word spread, but the wait seemed endless before Dr. Luther Fawler received his San Antonio Light and we could see the news in print."
Roster poster, Company D,
from Camp Bowie, Texas.
The newspapers from San Antonio arrived in Kerrville by train, and then had to be carried on to the subscribers' houses, often delivered by horse-drawn wagons, even in 1918.
As the news quickly spread through Kerr County, people gathered together, many of them in downtown Kerrville.
Bob Bennett, in his history of our county, wrote this about November 11, 1918:
"The glad news that the gigantic armies facing each other on the long battle front in France had agreed to an armistice reached Kerrville early in the morning of November 11, 1918. Soon after dawn the noise of celebrating began and the din brought people into town by the hundreds. Before noon downtown sidewalks and streets were packed with people and automobiles driving up and down the thoroughfares. Everybody was wildly hilarious with joy.
"Guns were fired, whistles were blown and bells were rung. Schools were suspended for the day. The old town fire bell ... played its part in the noisemaking. Men and boys climbed up the tower after breaking the rope used for ringing, and with hammers kept the bell clanging for hours."
And yet, for all of the joy the community celebrated, there were three families for whom dark news was still to be delivered, news coming to them slowly from France.
"When Kerrville was celebrating the first Armistice Day," Bennett writes, "the citizens were unaware that three of the city's noble youths who had volunteered for their country's service had given their all. Mrs. E. W. Baker [the mother of Sidney Baker] received the news of her son's death the very next day, November 12. Later in the month, Judge and Mrs. W. G. Garrett received the information from the War Department that their son, Earl, had lost his life. Relatives of Francisco Lemos also received the news of his death in late November."
There are 19 Kerr County men listed on the war memorial on the courthouse lawn. Of those listed, three died in battle in France: Francisco Lemos, Earl Garrett, and Sidney Baker. Many of the other soldiers listed there died in Texas and in France during the influenza pandemic of 1918, which killed at least 50 million people worldwide.
On this day 100 years ago the guns were finally silent and celebrations began, even among families who thought their boy had survived and was coming home. The sacrifices of our soldiers and their families in that war can seem dim to us after the passing of so many years, but to them those sacrifices were tragic and heartbreaking.
We remember three of those heroes because major downtown Kerrville streets were renamed in their honor. The other 16 we do not easily remember, though their bravery and willingness to serve our country was just as great, and the loss their families suffered was just as deep.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who finds some columns more difficult to write than others.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times November 10, 2018.







Sunday, November 4, 2018

How to make cypress shingles like Kerrville's settlers

Demonstration of making cypress shingles Kerrville Texas
Using a maul and froe to make shingles.
Click on any image to enlarge.
In 1940, when he was a student at the University of Texas at Austin, Forrest Salter wrote a story about the shingle makers who founded Kerr County. The story was for an English class, "Life and Literature of the Southwest," taught by J. Frank Dobie.  This story was in a booklet given to me by my friends Sandy and Jon Wolfmueller at Wolfmueller's Books.
The Salter family published the Kerrville Mountain Sun for three generations, and Forrest Salter placed an ad in his family's newspaper seeking "information on shingle making and the names of any pioneer resident of this section who has seen shingles made in the camps along the Guadalupe River. Please send name or information to The Mountain Sun office."
The resulting story is fascinating and provides details about shingle making I've never seen anywhere else.
Demonstration of making cypress shingles Kerrville Texas
One of the individuals Salter interviewed was A. P. "Potter" Brown, the youngest son of Joshua and Sarah Brown. Joshua Brown is the founder of Kerrville, and gave the land for the first county seat in 1856. He came to Kerr County in the late 1840s to harvest the cypress trees along the river and make shingles from them.
Potter Brown described how shingles were made:
"One of the first things the men had to have was a good shingle knife, which was hand-made of iron. The blade was about one quarter inch thick and about twelve inches long. You see, the width of the shingle depended upon the length of the shingle knife. At one end was a loop or ring in the iron, and in this was put a round handle, smoothed down so the palm of the hand would not blister. The handle was about six to nine inches long, and about an inch through, just big enough for a man to get a good 'hand holt' as he used it. The knife was held in the left hand while a wooden mallet, used to hammer the knife down on the block of wood, was wielded with the right.
Demonstration of making cypress shingles Kerrville Texas"Groups of two men would use a big cross-cut saw, or sometimes a good sharp axe, to cut the cypress trees, and then when the logs had been trimmed, they would be cut into convenient sized chunks and hauled or dragged to the camp. The trees were so big that sometimes men could work a whole season on the timber in their neighborhood, and feel free, because the Indians did not come around so often when a settlement had been established.
"Some of the men had shingle horses, a contraption made of a few poles and slabs. It had a mouth where the shingle slab fitted, and when the slab had been placed in the mouth, the 'draw knife' was pulled across the length, giving the shingle the sloping sides which made it possible for them to overlap on a roof. These 'draw knives' were kept razor-sharp, and unlucky was the inquisitive visitor whose hand happened to touch one of their sharp blades. Mud, leaves, or sometimes sawdust was used to stop the blood when such a hand was badly cut.
Demonstration of making cypress shingles Kerrville Texas"The camp was usually under a brush arbor, where the limbs from the Spanish oak, the sycamore, or some other brushy-topped tree was used as protection from the sun. The shingles were put in bundles and tied together with rawhide most of the time, as nails for crating were too precious for use.
"You know, son," Potter Brown concluded, "some of these old abandoned farm houses in the Turtle Creek section still have these hand-made shingles on their roofs."
Forrest Salter interviewed others, too, in addition to Potter Brown. His story includes quotes from Mollie Goss, Mrs. L. C. Watkins, Mr. and Mrs. Dan Rees, Mrs. Fritz Schmidt, and Sarah Surber. Each contributed interesting facts to Salter's story.  Click here to download and read Forrest Salter's story in full.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who thinks shingle making would be a lot of hard work. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times November 3, 2018.






Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Shingle Makers who founded Kerr County

Sarah, Joshua and Alonzo Potter Brown in 1873. Note: they're holding hands.
Photo courtesy of Jan Wilkinson
Last week my friends Sandy and Jon Wolfmueller, of Wolfmueller's Books, gave me a booklet which included a story by Kerrville's Forest Salter called "The Saga of the Shingle Camp."
Forest Salter's family published the Kerrville Mountain Sun for three generations, and the shingle camp story was written in 1940 when Salter was a student in J. Frank Dobie's English 342 class at the University of Texas at Austin. The booklet is a collection of student writing from that course, and is titled "Lazy E 342."
Shingle making was the first industry in what is now Kerrville, begun in the mid-1840s when Joshua Brown and a group of men came here to harvest cypress trees and use them to make shingles.
I've written elsewhere about the shingle makers and the process used to make shingles, relying mostly on Bob Bennett's thorough history of Kerr County. What makes Forest Salter's story unique are the interviews with local people who actually remembered shingles being made here. He placed an ad in his family's newspaper, asking to interview people with firsthand knowledge of shingle making.
Finding those people in 1940, when he wrote the story, was difficult, I'm sure. Today it would be impossible, because too much time has passed.
The first interview in the story was with A. P. "Potter" Brown, the youngest son of Kerrville's founder, Joshua D. Brown.
"My father," Brown told Salter, "was one of the first settlers of this country, and he came here to go into the shingle making business.
"A small colony of soldiers of fortune from Tennessee and Mississippi had traveld through this section of the west and had been amazed at the huge trees and dense growth of cypress along the banks of the Guadalupe River and its tributary creeks. They returned to the fort in San Antonio and reported this veritable find. They realized the scarcity of building material in the land of the mesquite, and planned to colonize the river banks for the purpose of making shingles.
"Some of the German immigrants, eager for a sight of crystal waters and fertile valleys, a few Tennesseans in search of adventure, and some businessmen of San Antonio came to Kerrville and pitched their tents near one of the larger springs on the river. One spring is where the ice plant now stands in the city of Kerrville, and the Dietert homestead is the site of the first mill."
Gentle reader, the old ice plant is no longer there, but a remnant remains. It stood behind today's One Schreiner Center, in the 800 block of Water Street in downtown Kerrville, and its basement is still there, its old brick walls jutting from the bluff over the river. Ed Hamilton has made the top of the old basement a nice place to view the river below.
"The land was at that time owned by my father," continued A. P. Brown, "who had come from Virginia to Texas and settled in Gonzales County, or DeWitt's Colony as was then called, and over which James Kerr was the overseer. My father moved to this section in 1846, and named the settlement 'Brownsboro.' Later he called it 'Kerrsville' in honor of James Kerr.
"In the party half of the men were put to making shingles, and the other half were on the lookout for Indians. When the shingles were finished, they were taken to San Antonio by oxcart, and traded for supplies. It was a perilous journey, taking five or six days, and as money was scarce, the shingles were bartered for supplies for the camp."
Next week we'll hear again from A. P. "Potter" Brown, as he describes how shingles were made.
Until then, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who thinks making shingles would be a tough way to make a living. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times October 27, 2018.

Have you heard about the Farm-to-Table chef-prepared dinner, called the TRAILBLAZER being planned for downtown Kerrville?  Information and tickets available by clicking HERE, or by visiting https://kerrvilleurbantrailsystem.org/


https://kerrvilleurbantrailsystem.org/The Trailblazer is a fundraising event on Friday, November 2, 2018 at the Plant Haus 2 on Jefferson Street, from 5:30pm to 9pm.  Tickets are $100, and will be limited to 150 people.  The event will include a chef-prepared pig roast, beer and wine, live music, a series of PechaKucha presentations, an introduction to the KUTS concept, and a silent auction.  Proceeds will fund the design of the overall KUTS concept, as well as the KUTS-Clay South trail. 






Sunday, October 21, 2018

An Amazing Booklet with Kerr Connections: Lazy E 342

Young couples at Kerr County's Criders Dance Hall, 1940s
Young couples at Crider's, past Hunt, Texas, probably 1940s.
Forrest Salter is on the far right; I believe the woman next to him is his first wife, Jeanne.
Click on any image to enlarge.
This week my friends Sandy and Jon Wolfmueller, of Wolfmueller's Books, gave me a remarkable booklet.
Its cover is marked with a brand, printed in red ink: the letter 'E' on its side, its three bars facing up, lazily, over the numbers '342.' If you're a town kid like me, you might not know such a brand would be read as "Lazy E 342."
The booklet is made of mimeographed pages stapled together; it's printed on one side of letter-size sheets and has a manila cordwain cover on front and back.   This issue, No. 2, has fifty pages.
The title page indicates J. Frank Dobie was the "Boss of the outfit."
J. Frank Dobie was an American folklorist and university professor, probably best known for his books Coronado's Children, and The Longhorns.
Lazy E 342 Booklet, a collection of J Frank Dobie students' writing
Lazy E 342, No. 2
A little bit of research tells me the booklet was a collection of students' writing from Dobie's class at the University of Texas at Austin: English 342, 'Life and Literature of the Southwest.' That class, English 342, can be abbreviated E342; that abbreviation is the source of the brand on the front cover of the booklet.
Dobie has a Kerrville connection. His sister, Martha Dobie, along with Mary Lucy Marberry, was one of the early owners of the Main Book Shop, buying it in 1949 from the original owners, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Zumpf. Mary Lucy Marberry taught Spanish at Tivy High School. The two ladies owned the bookstore for nearly two decades.
Because his sister lived in Kerrville, J. Frank Dobie was a frequent visitor here. Martha Dobie and her mother were often summer residents of a cottage in Methodist Encampment as early as the 1930s.
However, in looking at this copy of the Lazy E 342, the thing that interested me was an article by Kerrville's Forrest Salter, written in the spring of 1941, when he was a student in J. Frank Dobie's class.
Forrest Salter is one of my heroes. For many years his family published the Kerrville Mountain Sun. When I was in high school I asked the Salters if I could write a weekly column for them, and to my astonishment, they said yes. Forrest Salter was a kind editor and often gave me suggestions about what might make an interesting topic for his readers. Those columns where I took his advice were much better than the others.
Salter's story in Volume 2 of the Lazy E 342 was titled "The Saga of a Shingle Camp," and it tells the story of Kerrville's earliest industry, making shingles from cypress trees.
"Living in the heart of the great Southwest section of Texas," young Forrest Salter wrote, "one is prone to forget, or perhaps take for granted, the spirit and industry of the pioneers who settled the country, and who made the prosperous and thriving communities in which we live possible."
Salter's story includes first-person accounts of shingle making in the earliest days of Kerr County, and I wondered how he found the wonderful sources for his story. Salter was writing in 1941; the first shingle-making camps in Kerr County started in the late 1840s.
I should have guessed: he placed an ad in his family's newspaper.
"WANTED: Information on shingle making and the names of any pioneer resident of this section who has seen shingles made in the camps along the Guadalupe River. Please send name or information to The Mountain Sun office."
Over the next few weeks I'll share what Forrest Salter learned about those early shingle makers here. His research is quite fascinating, and I've never seen the information he found anywhere else.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has been meeting newspaper deadlines for a long time. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times October 20, 2018.

Have you heard about the Farm-to-Table chef-prepared dinner, called the TRAILBLAZER being planned for downtown Kerrville?  Information and tickets available by clicking HERE, or by visiting https://kerrvilleurbantrailsystem.org/


https://kerrvilleurbantrailsystem.org/The Trailblazer is a fundraising event on Friday, November 2, 2018 at the Plant Haus 2 on Jefferson Street, from 5:30pm to 9pm.  Tickets are $100, and will be limited to 150 people.  The event will include a chef-prepared pig roast, beer and wine, live music, a series of PechaKucha presentations, an introduction to the KUTS concept, and a silent auction.  Proceeds will fund the design of the overall KUTS concept, as well as the KUTS-Clay South trail. 






Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Sad Story of Sidney Baker, who died 100 years ago this week

Sidney Baker, Kerrville, Texas, 1917
Sidney W. Baker, 1917, Kerrville.
Click on any image below to enlarge.

Sidney Baker, for whom one of the principal streets in Kerrville is named, died in France on October 15, 1918, 100 years ago this coming Monday. He was only 22.
Pvt. Sidney W. Baker was killed in France during World War I, and shortly after that war three Kerrville streets were named after three Kerr County men who died in battle during that conflict: Sidney Baker, Earl Garrett, and Francisco Lemos.
Elsewhere I have told the stories of Earl Garrett and Francisco Lemos, publishing both near the 100th anniversary of their deaths. This week I'll tell the story of Sidney Baker.
Sidney Baker was born to Benjamin F. Baker and Elizabeth Peterson Baker on September 4, 1896, in Gonzales County, Texas, one of 11 children. His father was a carpenter and farmer, and helped build the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad line into Kerrville. The family moved to Kerrville in the 1880s, moved away to Gonzales County, where Sidney Baker was born, and then returned to Kerrville in 1904.
Ira Baker (seated) and Sidney Baker (standing) Kerrville, Texas 1917
Sidney Baker and
his brother, Ira.
Sidney Baker's mother, Elizabeth Peterson Baker, had a little brother named Sidney Clay Peterson, whose nickname was "Cap." Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital was named for him by his sons, Hal and Charlie Peterson. Hal and Charlie were Sidney Baker's first cousins.
Like Francisco Lemos, Sidney Baker enlisted in Company D, First Texas Infantry, a unit of the Texas National Guard.
Company D had been recruited by Captain Charles J. Seeber, and in the spring and summer of 1917, the company drilled on the grounds of Westminster Encampment, just east of town. The grounds of the encampment are now part of the campus of Schreiner University. The company also drilled on the West Texas Fairgrounds site, which was across Town Creek south of the Five Points area, between Junction Highway and the river. For the most part, the drills were practiced without weapons or equipment, and many of the men did not have regulation uniforms.
Company D, Kerrville, Texas, September 1917
Company D on Kerrville's
Main Street, 1917
Company D departed Kerrville by train on September 5, 1917, heading to Camp Bowie, near Fort Worth.
It was a sad day for everyone, but especially young Sidney Baker. He was saying goodbye to his steady girlfriend, a young woman named Daphne Williams.
Bill Sloan, a former editor of this newspaper, shared some research on Sidney Baker with me years ago. That research was based on Baker family correspondence, and offered a unique look into Sidney Baker's life.
Elizabeth Wright Peterson Baker, Kerrville, Texas around 1935
Elizabeth Baker,
late in life
Sidney Baker joined the National Guard unit on the advice of his older brothers, Frank and Ira. Having worked as a helper for his father, and also as a seasonal worker on the Peterson Ranch, Sidney was attracted to the prospect of a steady income.
According to Sloan's research, Sidney Baker was a reluctant soldier. After basic training at Camp Bowie, he was promoted to PFC, "but a few weeks later, after getting into an altercation with another recruit, he was busted back to buck private, and he never received another promotion."
A planned visit to Kerrville to see Daphne Williams was canceled when an "old sergeant wouldn't let me off, so there was nothing I could do."
Again, according to Sloan's research, Sidney Baker sought a hardship release to help his mother, who was in financial difficulties. "Please do everything you can to get me out of this Army life," Baker wrote his mother, "and tell all the Kerrville boys to take a d----d fool's advice and stay out of the Army."
Then, in March 1918, when Baker was in New York awaiting transport to Europe, Daphne Williams broke off their relationship.
On March 25, 1918, Sidney Baker wrote his mother, before leaving for France.
Kerrville Texas memorial park, 1938
At dedication of Memorial Park,
Kerrville, 1938.  Mrs. Baker is
woman on front row, far right.
"I guess we are leaving tomorrow for France, but we sure had lots of trouble trying to get started. Daph sure has gone back on me, and I had just as soon the whole German army shoot at me as for to do that. You tell Daph what I said when you see her and ask her to keep writing to me and I will fix things when the war is over."
Baker left the States on the Finland, on July 26, 1918. The Finland was the same ship which carried Francisco Lemos to Europe.
The war in Europe was a long way from Kerrville.
When the war was over, on the very first Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, Elizabeth Baker, Sidney Baker's mother, was so very happy. Kerrville was celebrating the end of the war. On that same day wrote to Sidney "I write to let you know we have received the news that we have peace, and I was never as happy in my life. Oh, if I could just be with you to rejoice, but I have the pleasure of thinking you won't be killed now."
Sidney W. Baker, from "Price of our Heritage,"
page 363.
Two days later, on November 13, 1918, she received a telegram informing her that Sidney Baker had been killed during the bloody fighting near Hill 288 in the Argonne, felled by machine gun fire. When Kerrville was celebrating on November 11, Elizabeth Baker did not know her son was gone.
That Sidney Baker was a reluctant soldier does not mean he was not brave. He was very brave and saw some of the worst fighting any American soldier saw. Of the three Kerr County men who died in battle in World War I, he survived the longest, living until the last weeks of the war. But of the three, he was the youngest to die.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who cannot imagine the horrors of war. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times October 13, 2018.






AddThis

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails