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Sunday, June 4, 2023

A Museum for the Texas Hill Country -- in a historic Kerrville home

529 Water Street, Kerrville, in 2018.
Built as the home of A. C. and Myrta Schreiner in 1909.
Click on any image to enlarge.

For several years, the City of Kerrville and the non-profit Heart of the Hills Heritage Center have been working to create a history museum in the old mansion at 529 Water Street. This museum will tell the story of our community. Kerr County is one of the very few counties in Texas which does not have a history museum.

It’s my belief a community is stronger if it knows its story. For almost 30 years I’ve been writing our local history on these pages; I’m very thankful to the Kerrville Daily Times for allowing me a place in their pages each week.

What’s the story on the old mansion at 529 Water Street?

It was built as the home of Aime and Myrta Schreiner.

A. C. Schreiner Sr.
Aime Charles Schreiner was the eldest son of Charles and Magdalena Schreiner. He was born in 1862 in San Antonio; In 1885, he married Myrta Zoe Scott, and together they had a daughter, Hester, and two sons, Aime Charles Jr., and Whitfield Scott.

A. C. Schreiner was very involved in our community, serving on the very first Kerrville City Council in 1889. A. C. was a member of Kerrville's volunteer fire department, and he was a mason with the Kerrville Masonic Lodge.

He was also active in his family's business, serving as president of the Charles Schreiner Company, which was the Schreiner store; president of the Schreiner Wool Commission Company; organizer and president of the Kerrville Telephone Company; president of the board of trustees of Schreiner Institute, which is now Schreiner University. 

He and other members of his family gave the land for Kerrville's post office, which now is the site of the Kerr Arts and Cultural Center; gave the land for what is now the V. A. Medical Center; and he and his wife Myrta built and donated the First Presbyterian Church building, the portion which is now called the 'Schreiner Chapel.'

His business interests included ownership of the Blue Bonnet Hotel. In addition, he served as president of the Kerrville Amusement Company, which operated the Cascade Swimming Pool and the Arcadia Movie Theater.

Myrta Zoe Scott Schreiner
Myrta Scott Schreiner was born in 1865 in Bosqueville, Texas. She moved to Kerrville around 1880, when her father, Captain Whitfield Scott, purchased the St. Charles Hotel.

She was a deeply religious woman and was among those who organized the First Presbyterian Church of Kerrville. She served her community in many ways, including as chairman of various committees of the local chapter of the American Red Cross. She was a charter member of the Kerrville Women's Club, serving as president several times. She directed the choir at the Presbyterian church, and was a soprano soloist there. 

It is said she influenced Captain Charles Schreiner to establish what is now Schreiner University, and also convinced him to associate the new school with the Presbyterian faith.

The house at 529 Water Street was not the first home of A. C. and Myrta Schreiner on that property.

According to one source, originally there was a small frame home there, built on property purchased from the Quinlan family. 

Later, a much larger frame home was built was built there, which faced down Water Street toward the Schreiner store. I have not found out exactly what happened to this building, but I can see it in photographs as early as 1896.

The building standing at 529 Water Street today was completed in 1909. One source says it designed by James Flood Walker, who had an architecture practice in San Antonio. One project designed by Walker was the St. Anthony Hotel in downtown San Antonio. Another source says the home was designed by Atlee B. Ayres, who served as the State Architect of Texas from 1914 to 1917. Ayres is known to have worked with other members of the Schreiner family on other projects, so it's possible he designed 529 Water Street.

529 Water Street, 1973
An interesting change happened between the 1896 home and the 1909 home: the current home doesn't face down Water Street, but rather the porches and front door face toward the rising sun, roughly toward the east.

A. C. Schreiner died at this home in 1935, at the age of 73. His widow, Myrta Scott Schreiner, also died at home in 1958, at the age of 93.

The house has had many owners since Myrta Scott Schreiner passed away there, including a couple, the Herman Beckers, who were Christian missionaries in China; A. P. Allison, who purchased it in 1959; the Harold Saunders family purchased it in the early 1960s and lived there; L. D. Brinkman purchased it in 1980; the last couple to live there, Walter and Barbara Schellhase, purchased the home in 1992.

In 2015, an anonymous donor purchased 529 Water Street from the Schellhases and donated the property to the City of Kerrville.

I’m thankful for the leadership of several folks in getting this museum project to this point, including Dr. Bill Rector, president of the museum board; E. A. Hoppe, Kerrville city manager; the museum's executive director, Angela Kennedy; two other members of the museum board, Linda Stone and Toni Box; and Scott Schellhase, the original architect on the project.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who wishes his sweet wife and also his smart son a very happy birthday this week. (They share a birthday!) This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 3, 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!)

Monday, May 29, 2023

Photos of 19 Kerr County heroes from World War II - for Memorial Day

Third Battalion, HQ Co, Kerr County, December 1, 1940
Click on any image to enlarge.

A long-time friend loaned me two interesting scrapbooks kept by her mother-in-law, with pages of information spanning several decades. In the books she kept a running journal of events in her family, in our community, and even in the world beyond Kerr County.

There were newspaper clippings of young brides and weddings, some projects of our local Lions Club, a series of centennial news stories published in the 1960s about the American Civil War, plus much more. The scrapbooks are comprehensive and fun to read through – and it was obvious they took a lot of work to compile.

A few of the pages were especially poignant. These were pages of newspaper clippings from the early to mid-1940s – the war years.

On the grounds of the Kerr County courthouse stands a memorial to those local men who’ve given their life in the service of their country. It was unveiled on May 23, 1992 after years of planning and discussion, and additional panels were dedicated later, on July 4, 2015. 

Starting with World War I and continuing through the recent (and ongoing) conflicts in the Middle East, the handsome memorial is a quiet tribute to those who paid such a dear price for our many freedoms.

I often stop by the memorial when I have business in the courthouse and read through the names. The war with the most names is World War II, of course. There are 48 names listed there for that war (though one, Dempsey Ballard, was placed there by mistake; he spoke at the dedication in 1992.)

The scrapbooks loaned to me have a valuable gift to our community safely recorded in their pages: the newspaper photos of 19 of the World War II servicemen listed on the war memorial. It’s one thing to solemnly read the names carved in stone, and to honor them in that way, but it is quite another to see their faces.

They were all so young.

The aging clippings were pasted on several pages, and many of them have turned dark, like leaves in autumn. Despite the age of the clippings you can still see the young men’s warm smiles and their sharp military uniforms. Some of the portraits capture serious expressions, but many show relaxed soldiers at peace in front of the camera.

Here are the names of the soldiers for whom I found photographs in the scrapbooks: Jimmy Beddingfield; Willis Carlisle; Pete Castillo; Dale Crider; L. T. Davis, Jr.; Charles Foster; Paul Grona; John Harris; John Heard; Kenneth Lowrance; Howard Marlar; Cyrus Miller; Charles Nichols; Emmett Rhoden; Eugene Ridgaway; Charles Rose; Frank Sheffield, Jr.; Alfredo Villareal; and Ben Zumwalt.

Perhaps the best tribute to these fallen World War II soldiers came from the man whose name was accidently placed on the memorial. Dempsey Ballard spoke at the May, 1992 unveiling ceremony. He knew many of the men listed on the memorial.

It was fortunate his name was on the memorial, he said, because “these heroes have a messenger to tell their story.”

I was there the day Ballard spoke. When he spoke, the audience was very quiet, and seemed to lean in closer to hear what he had to say. He told how these men loved their country, how they loved the Texas hill country. He was their messenger.

And now we can see some of their faces.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is certainly enjoying this cooler weather. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times October 3, 2020.

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, May 28, 2023

One of the oldest buildings in downtown Kerrville is getting a facelift -- the Guthrie Building

The Guthrie Building, May 2023.
Click on any image to enlarge.

In the 29 years I’ve been writing this column, I’ve never written about the Guthrie Building, which stands on the corner of Earl Garrett and Main Streets, opposite the Kerr Arts and Cultural Center.

Parade on Mountain Street, 1896
Today I’ll make up for that oversight, because it’s a lovely building, and one of the oldest buildings in downtown Kerrville.

Today we call it the Guthrie Building, largely from the time when it was restored back in the 1980s by Tom Syfan. It went by other names before that reconstruction, mostly taking the name of the whatever tenant occupied the building.

Here’s the building’s story:

The very first recorded builders and mechanics lien in Kerr County, dated 1887, Volume 1, Page 1, recorded the cost of the building at $2,600. It was built for Robert Guthrie, as the office for his newspaper, the “Kerrville Eye.”

The historical marker on the building describes the structure like this: “The Guthrie Building is a two-story Italianate style commercial structure. Walls are 15-inch thick limestone from a quarry just east of Kerrville. Ashlar stones are laid in irregular courses, and prominent architectural features include belt courses, smooth dressed window lintels and sills, quoins, and a two-story full-length gallery porch with decorative cornice and dentils.”

Kerrville Eye, Sep. 29, 1887
Guthrie started his newspaper in April, 1884, so he must have had offices elsewhere before the building was built. Building this two-story rock building suggests his business was prospering – even though Kerrville was still a tiny village.

In 1884, there was no railroad in Kerrville – that came in 1887, the year Guthrie built his office. There was no municipal government – Kerrville didn’t incorporate until 1889. 

Earl Garrett Street looked a lot different in 1884, as well. While Charles Schreiner had his home on Earl Garrett Street, in 1884 it didn’t look like what we see there today. The big porch, with the stone archways, wasn’t constructed until 1897, and the house itself was likely half the width it is today, before a different addition doubled its presence along Earl Garrett Street.

The Masonic Building (211 Earl Garrett Street, now home to Turtle Creek Olives and Vines) didn’t arrive until 1890; and the Weston Building (201 Earl Garrett Street, now home to Francisco’s Restaurant) was also built in 1890. The Charles Schreiner Company was on the corner of Water and Earl Garrett, but it looked a lot different than it does today.

Kerrville Mountain Sun
clipping from June 1982
Not only did most of the landmark buildings along Earl Garrett Street not exist in 1887, the street itself had a different name: Mountain Street. It was renamed in 1918, honoring a local man who died on the battlefield in France during World War I: Victor Earl Garrett.

Robert Guthrie was born in Scotland, to a newspaper publishing family. His father, John Guthrie, published papers in Bandera and Boerne, and also published the “Kerrville News” in 1882. Robert Guthrie moved to Kerrville from Bandera to publish the “Kerrville Eye.”

The Guthrie Building was built by W. B. Davies, and completed in the fall of 1887. Downstairs housed the newspaper operation, with printing presses in a now-closed basement; upstairs offered rooms and was sometimes called the Guthrie Hotel.

Guthrie sold the “Kerrville Eye” and its building to Edward Smallwood in 1888; Smallwood renamed the newspaper the “Kerrville Paper,” and published it from the Guthrie Building until 1899. Ed Smallwood was on the very first Kerrville city council in 1889. 

In 1899, Smallwood sold the “Kerrville Paper” to J. E. Grinstead, who renamed the newspaper the “Kerrville Mountain Sun.” Grinstead moved the offices of his newspaper to the 600 block of Water Street. Grinstead served Kerrville as mayor from 1902 to 1904; in the Texas Legislature for a single term; and as president of the Kerrville school board.

Other tenants in the building included Kerrville’s city hall, on the 2nd floor, from 1910 to 1937, the Wheelus Photography Studio, on the first floor, from 1921 to 1960, and the Swayze Photography Studio from around 1960 to the early 1980s.

The building was restored in the early 1980s, and since then it housed a retail establishment and later a law office.

Today it is the home of the Community Foundation of the Texas Hill Country. The building is currently undergoing some renovation work to help keep this early Kerrville landmark safe and usable for many years to come.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who wishes his sweet wife and his smart son a very happy birthday this week. (They share a birthday!)  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times May 27, 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, May 21, 2023

Masked riders threatened to hang her husband in 1862. What did this Kerr County woman do?

The 1856 Faltin Homestead, Comfort, as seen in May 2023.
Click on any image to enlarge.

One night in 1862, a “band of masked riders” rode up to a small store in Comfort, and threatened to hang the shopkeeper. The man was a German immigrant, and was suspected of not supporting the Confederacy during the Civil War. Such views were dangerous in those days.

His young wife saved his life. 

August and Clara Faltin
In a quick and daring move, she rushed up to the leader of the masked riders and ripped the mask off of his face. She was a small woman, and the man was on horseback; it was if she flew across the yard and was suddenly in his face. 

When his mask was removed, both she and her husband recognized the man.

Once their identities were known, the masked men “changed their minds and rode away,” sparing the life of the shopkeeper.

In 1862, in Comfort, Texas, when a group of masked men rode up and announced they were going to hang someone – someone usually died dangling from a tree limb, with a rope around their neck. This happened repeatedly in our area during the Civil War. The groups of men chastising the German immigrants were called the Haengerbande – or “hanging bandits.”

The woman’s name was Clara von Below Faltin (1835-1930); she was married to August Friedrich Faltin (1830-1905). They met and married in 1856 in Leipzig, Germany – back when Leipzig was part of Prussia.

August had trained as a merchant under his father in Danzig, Prussia, and continued his training in Leipzig. He and Clara began their journey to Texas almost immediately after their wedding.

1879 Faltin Store
They sailed from Bremerhaven on the Auguste, and landed in New Orleans, and then went to Galveston, traveling on to New Braunfels, and finally Comfort, Texas. In 1856, Comfort was a small settlement of German immigrants, in what was then considered the western frontier of Texas. It was here that the young couple decided to make their home. 

Very soon after they arrived, the Faltins purchased the general merchandise business of Theodor Goldbeck in Comfort. This was the beginning of a diversified business empire which included retail stores, ranches, farms, investments and banking.

After the Civil War, in 1869, Faltin entered into a business partnership with a young Kerrville businessman named Charles Schreiner, providing $5,000 in capital to start a company called Faltin & Schreiner. Their small store was in the 200 block of Earl Garrett, about where the Charles Schreiner Mansion stands today. Faltin family lore suggests it was Clara, not August, who approved the $5,000 investment.

Capital was extremely scarce in Kerr County in the late 1860s. It’s likely had the Faltins not invested in Schreiner’s enterprise, no other local investor would have been found.

Their partnership was profitable. Though Charles Schreiner bought out August Faltin’s interest in the Kerrville store in 1879, the two men were partners in a similar store in Junction, also called Faltin & Schreiner, from about 1880 to 1890. They had other business interests together, as well.

The Faltin family
Years later, Charles Schreiner found himself in a tough financial spot, when Schreiner and several partners were trailing tens of thousands of cattle to northern markets. Through a series of unfortunate events, including cattle disease and a dispute over grazing rights, one of the large herds they were taking to markets was decimated, with thousands of cattle dead or missing. Most of Charles Schreiner’s partners in the enterprise were wiped out.

Schreiner survived financially because his old partner, August Faltin, arranged a long-term and low-interest loan – just when Schreiner really needed the help.

No small part of Charles Schreiner’s financial success was founded on the capital, experience, and advice of August Faltin. It was Charles Schreiner’s capable allocation of capital locally, and for many decades, which was responsible for the early growth and prosperity of our community.

The names of those in the photo
When that young wife, Clara von Below Faltin, boldly saved her husband, she not only secured her happiness and the lives of their future children – she also saved a critical player in the history of Kerrville, Kerr County, and the Texas Hill Country, August Faltin. Without the Faltins, our community’s history would be vastly different.

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 anything you’d care to share with him, it would make him very happy. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times May 20, 2023.

You can help by sharing this story with someone, by forwarding it by email, or sharing it on Facebook. Sharing is certainly caring. (I also have two Kerr County history books available online, with free shipping!)

Monday, May 15, 2023

The Seven Graves on the Campus of Kerrville's Schreiner University

An aerial photo of the campus of Schreiner Institute, around 1935.
Click on any image to enlarge.

It’s no secret there are seven graves on the Schreiner University campus, though you really need to know where to look if you want to spot them. The gravestones are flat, and flush to the ground, between the entrance to a parking lot and the bluff above Quinlan Creek.

Because a college dorm is so near the graves, stories of ghosts and visitations ‘from the beyond’ are now a lasting part of Schreiner University lore. More on that later.

The seven people buried there are all members of the Harris family. What is now Schreiner University was once a part of their farm. The seven rest near Delaney Hall Dormitory, on a flat, grassy area between the bluff and the entrance to the dorm’s northwest parking lot.

The graves date from 1886 to 1911, and are the resting place of Benjamin Franklin Harris; his sister Catherine Harris; his wife Sarah Nall Harris; their son Edwin Lee Harris and his wife Sarah Manor Harris; their son John M. Harris; and their daughter-in-law Nannie Fitch Harris.

A different view -- the fence around the original graveyard can be seen in this photo.

The 1880 census reports Benjamin Franklin Harris was a farmer. He and his wife Sarah Nall Harris had eight children, though only two are buried on the Schreiner campus.

Benjamin Franklin Harris was active in community affairs, serving as a county commissioner during the 1881-82 term. The family arrived in Kerr County in 1873, and settled on their farm homestead that year.

His sister, Catherine, was the first family member buried on their farm, in 1886; his son, John, was the last person buried there, in 1911. One of the married couples buried there, Edwin and Sarah Manor Harris, died young; he was 27, and she was only 25.

This newspaper, in its September 12, 1990 issue, reported about the graves being moved to their present location.

The article quotes former Schreiner president Sam Junkin: “In the late 1950s, they were in a small plot that was surrounded by an iron fence on what is now the main loop of the college.”

The article continues: “When the road was widened and curb and guttering was put in, Junkin said college trustees decided to relocate the graves near the original plot. ‘I would guess the graves are within 100 feet of where they used to be,’ he added.

“Junkin recalls his father telling about the work that went into clearing the original family plot previous to the move. ‘Certainly it wasn’t under perpetual care an no family members were taking care of it,’ he said.

“Descendants of the Harris family visited the college about five years ago [in the mid-1980s] to view the graves. “‘They seemed very happy about the new location and they were also excited about seeing what happened to their farm.’”

Now, what about those ghost stories?

The dorm nearest the graves is Delaney Hall. In 1948, during their February board meeting, the trustees of the school awarded a contract for a new dorm, which would be “fireproof, modern, and will house 84 cadets,” at a cost exceeding $200,000. A year later, as construction was nearly completed, the trustees chose to honor Schreiner Institute’s founding president, Dr. James J. Delaney, by naming the dormitory in his honor.

Nannie Fitch Harris
In the years since, students and staff of the college have reported strange sightings in the dorm, often told with a misplaced fact: the dorm was built on top of the Harris family graves.

It was not. In fact, if the graves were moved in the late 1950s, and the dorm was opened in 1949, the original graves and dorm existed at the same time, though not in the same location.

Aerial photos of the campus show the site of the old graveyard, which, according to Junkin ‘was surrounded by an iron fence.’ In some photos you can see the old fence, nestled underneath some oak trees. Using old photographs, and using the Weir Building and Hoon Hall as reference points, one can plot out where Delaney Hall would later be built and the location of the iron fence.

So, the myth is busted -- Delaney Hall was not built on top of graves.

However, most accounts of the ghost in Delaney Hall suggest she appears to be a young woman. It’s true that a young woman was buried nearby, Sarah Manor Harris, who died at age 25. The ghost is also reported to be lonely, which points to Nannie Fitch Harris; her husband, Chap Harris, is buried elsewhere. Perhaps Nannie Harris searches for him.

It’s not my place to take the fun of college lore away from undergraduates. Let them see what they believe they see. Please tell Sarah or Nannie hello for me.

I’ve visited many lonely Kerr County cemeteries while writing this history column. The Harris family cemetery is exceptionally lonely. It is hidden in plain sight in the middle of a busy and happy place.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who thanks his friend Weir Labatt for this story idea. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times May 13, 2023.

You can help by sharing this story with someone, by forwarding it by email, or sharing it on Facebook. Sharing is certainly caring. (I also have two Kerr County history books available online, with free shipping!)



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