New Kerr County History Book Available!

Sunday, February 16, 2020

One of Kerrville's communities within the community

The Famous Door Cafe historical marker; approved 2012, dedicated in 2015.
Click on any image to enlarge.
Kerrville, like most rural towns in the Texas Hill Country, is a collection of communities, subsets which each add to the depth, strength and diversity of the whole town. Sometimes neighborhoods become little communities within the larger town.
One such Kerrville community is located in the blocks surrounding what is now the Doyle School Community Center, a neighborhood which was originally home to many of Kerrville’s African-American families. Although these families were unfairly segregated from most areas of Kerrville life, including housing, certain businesses, and even hospitals, they built a solid community within those few blocks, complete with churches, a school, and businesses.
Years ago I wrote about a conversation I had with Clifton Fifer, a retired Kerrville educator, about his memories of growing up in Kerrville.
Fifer was born in the early 1950s, and was a student at Doyle before integration of all students; when integration took place, he was transferred from Doyle and graduated from Tivy High School, followed by college.
According to Fifer, there were four especially great things about growing up in Kerrville's black community: the people, the churches, the school, and the businesses in the neighborhood.
The people were "a friendly parental community," Fifer said. Everyone knew each other, and visited frequently as people walked in the neighborhood, leaning over fences to talk. Fifer remembers his childhood as one of safety and love from his neighbors.
The churches, too, played a role: both Mt. Olive Baptist and Barnett Chapel Methodist were actively involved in the community, especially with the young people of the neighborhood.
Kelley's Cafe, around 1934, which preceded the
Famous Door at 215 West Barnett.
And, of course, the Doyle School was so important, too. Besides the Wilsons, Fifer fondly remembered teachers such as Mr. Theodore Martin, Mrs. Walker (who later became Mrs. Griffin), Mrs. Nellie Crayton, and Lou Ella Cheeks (who had a doctorate).
Fifer remembered times when B.T. Wilson, who was the principal at the Doyle School, would come by Fifer's own classroom when Fifer was a teacher. "He'd ask what I was teaching my students, and I'd go into a long presentation of the lessons I was giving. When I finished, he'd simply say 'You've got to teach them how to learn!'"
And then there were the social places in the community -- the six or so "jute" joints which provided entertainment there, all in two-block area. They included the Famous Door, the Cabin, the Dream, Ella Phelps' place, the Green Door (which catered to kids), and the Pleasure Garden.
The Green Door served no alcohol, and attracted not only the neighborhood youth, but also families. The Pleasure Garden was famous for its barbecue.
Big acts came to these venues, including Gatemouth Brown, Big Momma Thornton, and the Ink Spots. Because some of these artists played at venues where Fifer's parents forbade him to go, sometimes Fifer and his friends would climb the chinaberry trees which were outside the surrounding fence, just to see the shows. "I only did it once -- that was off-limits to all kids."
In 2015, an historical marker was dedicated at one of these venues: The Famous Door, at 215 West Barnett Street. The marker reads:
The Famous Door, February 2020.
“The Famous Door served the African American community in Kerrville for seventy years as a café, grocery store, and most prominently, as a dance hall. Henry Kelley established his café and grocery in the 1920s, at a time when Jim Crow laws segregated and restricted all aspects of life. The café became an important part of the African American community, hosting a 1938 dance for Emancipation Day and a 1942 dance to benefit the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (later the March of Dimes). Edward Bratcher, Sr., a prominent African American chef at the Bluebonnet Hotel, became manager and changed the name to Bratcher's Place. In 1944, property owner A. L. Lewis sold Bratcher and his wife, Cordellia Mills Bratcher, the restaurant and other adjacent property.
“With segregation excluding African Americans from music venues, entrepreneurs created an alternative known as the Chitlin' Circuit. Tour stops hosted local performers and nationally-known jazz, rock and rhythm and blues musicians. During this time, the restaurant began hosting musical acts and changed its name to the Famous Door Café, advertising as being "famous for friends, food and fun." As new musical trends developed, The Famous Door integrated its lineup, including groups from Kerrville and San Antonio often credited as early developers of psychedelic rock in the 1960s. Patrons later recalled The Famous Door as the first integrated business in Kerrville that welcomed all customers before it closed in 1996. Music provided a common language that helped bridge cultural and generational gaps.”
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is thankful for the diversity of our community. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times February 15, 2020.

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






Sunday, February 9, 2020

Captured by a band of Comanche raiders near Center Point around 1870

One of the history resources I’ve really enjoyed exploring are the oral histories recorded and preserved by members of the Kerr County Historical Commission. (An oral history is basically a structured interview of a person, where they tell about their life, their community, or of a specific event.)
The KCHC has conducted many, many of these interviews, and a lot of them are now available online at the Portal to Texas History (texashistory.unt.edu), which is curated by the University of North Texas. Contributors from all over the state of Texas provide invaluable historical items, including many from our own community.
Over the past few weeks I’ve enjoyed reading several of these histories, often focusing on folks I know. It’s fascinating learning about people you’ve known for decades, and discovering something new about them.
Take, for instance, Raymond Hardee. I feel like I’ve known Mr. Hardee all of my life. I remember he was in Kiwanis with my father. His late wife, Billie, worked alongside my wife at Starkey Elementary years ago. I went through 12 years of Kerrville Independent School District classes with one of his sons, Todd; we graduated from Tivy together in 1979.
So I was delighted when I found the interview Mr. Hardee gave in 2016 to Francelle Collins and Bonnie Florie.
Mr. Hardee was born in Kerrville in 1938 at home. The authors write: “He was born at home because blacks were not allowed in hospitals at the time.”
Likewise, because of his race, he was not allowed to attend public schools with white children; he attended the Doyle School, a separate campus for African-American children, at the corner of Paschal and West Barnett. Though the school, through the leadership of its teachers, including Mr. and Mrs. B. T. Wilson, provided an excellent education – the very fact of segregation and its unequal facilities was shamefully wrong. Despite these obstacles, students at Doyle received a firm educational and social foundation, and still have a strong attachment to their school.
For many years Mr. Hardee was a local Allstate insurance agent, and later worked for the Kerrville Independent School District. He’s retired, now.
There is one story in the interview I found particularly interesting: the story of Raymond Hardee’s great-grandfather, Jack Hardy. (The spelling of the last name Hardy was later changed to Hardee.)
As Mr. Hardee told the story, “There was one Saturday around noontime, they had a sawmill down in Center Point, and [Jack Hardy] was walking home, and these Indians came by and captured him and took him with them as they raided ranches and homes. They also got a little white girl, he stayed with them for a while and he freed that little white girl, and they went around counties here robbing and killing and everything and he stayed with them so long, he learned the language.”
Jack Hardy’s story is recorded in several other places, too. It is featured in Andrew Jackson Sowell’s book “Early Settlers and Indian Fighters of Southwest Texas,” which was published in 1900.
“After the Civil War, when all the slaves were freed, Jack lived near Comfort, below Center Point. On one occasion, when he was about 12 or 13 years of age, he was sent to the mill with a turn of corn, and it was then the Indians got him.”
(I think this took place around 1870; at the time of the publication of Sowell’s book, Jack Hardy was 42.)
Because some of the Indian riders wore hats, Hardy thought they were settlers, and he continued on his way home from the mill unconcerned. “Up to this time he had never seen Indians,” Sowell reports. There were around 15 riders, with long hair, shields, bows and arrows. They captured Hardy, and initiated him to captivity among the Comanche “with a severe whipping with a live oak stick, the scars of which are still to be seen on Jack’s head.”
He was taken with the party on many raids, including one on the Terry family, along a tributary to Verde Creek. It was from this family the young girl, about 8 years old, was captured; her father was murdered by the Indians in the raid.
During his time with the Indians, Hardy saw many violent scenes. The raiding party seemed to be unconcerned with their own capture or even of being pursued.
Hardy eventually escaped through a brave act of deception while most of the raiders were involved in stealing a herd of cattle; he was saved by a kind rancher, John Dickson, who took the boy to his house, gave him warm clothes and plenty to eat, and saw to it he returned home safely.
Jack Hardy survived because he kept calm and avoided the ire of the warriors, and was very brave each time the Indians threatened him. And because he survived, he went on to found an important Kerr County family, the Hardees, who have made our community a better place.
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has enjoyed the many oral histories recorded and shared online by the Kerr County Historical Commission. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times February 8, 2020.

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






Monday, February 3, 2020

Living the History of the Doyle School

Kerrville's Doyle School, May 1947
Click on any image to enlarge

Last Saturday, February 1, at 5 p.m., a unique celebration took place at the Doyle School Community Center, 110 West Barnett in Kerrville. The event was called “Living the History,” and featured a guest speaker, Sylvia Doyle, who is a descendent of the woman for whom the Doyle School is named.
The Doyle School Community Center is housed in the former Doyle School, which, until the mid-1960s, was a segregated school for Kerrville’s African-American students.
In working on the printed program for the event, I learned some new things about Annie Walker Doyle, for whom the school is named, and about her husband, Henry Sebastian Doyle.
The Doyle family came to Kerrville around 1910 because Henry was ill with tuberculosis. In those days many came to Kerrville seeking health. It was thought the dry climate here was helpful for tuberculosis patients.
The Doyle family,
Shreveport, 1903
She was a teacher, and he was a pastor, and they both were well-educated; Henry had a doctorate and Annie was a graduate of the Tuskegee Institute.
Soon after their arrival here, "she collected money and purchased three lots...and persuaded the members of the school board to donate an old school building for the purpose of establishing a school. She was the only teacher at the school, and served as principal for more than 25 years," according to the Kerrville Mountain Sun.
After Henry Doyle died in 1913, Annie Doyle stayed on and continued to teach. She was paid $85 per month to be the sole teacher at the school, which was considerably less than other teachers in the Kerrville school district made at the time.
She passed away in 1937, and in 1940 a married couple, B. T. and Itasco Wilson arrived in Kerrville to teach at the "Kerrville Colored School." One of the first things the Wilsons did was change the name to the Doyle School, in honor of Annie Doyle.
Here are some things I learned while working on the program for the celebration planned for February 1st:
Henry Doyle, back row, 2nd from left,
in London, 1901
Henry Doyle was very active in Georgia politics; in 1892 he made speeches all over the state for Tom Watson, a white candidate for Congress, running on the People’s Party ticket. At issue was the price of cotton, which many believed was held artificially low by brokers and middlemen, to the detriment of those actually growing cotton – the cotton farmers. That issue affected all cotton farmers, regardless of race, and having Henry Doyle, a black preacher, speak in support of Tom Watson, who supported reforms which would have helped all cotton farmers, proved to be dangerous.
More than once shots were fired at Henry Doyle as he spoke at political events. In one case the shot missed Doyle, but struck and killed a person standing nearby. Doyle received death threats, and, in one incredible event, Doyle was guarded by crowds of armed farmers – white farmers. In 1892 Georgia, that was remarkable. Tom Watson lost the election, and there is evidence the election was stolen from him by illegal means.
Annie Doyle, Teacher
However, Henry Doyle’s calling was not politics, though he remained active in that field. He was called to be a pastor, serving churches in several states.
In 1901, Henry Doyle was a delegate to the “Great Ecumenical Conference of Methodism,” held in London, England. A photo from that conference is about the only image of Henry Doyle I’ve found.
In 1895, in Alabama, Henry Doyle married Annie Magnolia Walker. Together they had four children; one son, Levi, died as an infant. When the Doyle family moved to Kerrville, they came here with their three surviving sons: Albion, Bertram, and Henry.
The couple lived in several places before coming to Kerrville, including Washington, DC; Augusta, George; and Shreveport, Louisiana. In each city, Henry Doyle served as a pastor. In 1908, he was a “candidate for the episcopacy;” I believe that means he was ordained as a bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church that same year.
Sometime in this period, Henry Doyle contracted tuberculosis, and he and his family moved to Jefferson Street, here in Kerrville. Henry Doyle passed away in Kerrville in 1913.
Annie Doyle lived in Kerrville the rest of her life, passing away in 1937. She had a long life, living until the age of 68. She was a teacher most of her years in Kerrville.
Henry and Annie Doyle are buried in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is fascinated by the stories of families who moved here because of tuberculosis, and how those families changed our community. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times February 1, 2020.

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








Sunday, January 26, 2020

A Museum for the Texas Hill Country

The home of Aime Charles and Myrta Zoe Schreiner, as it appeared in August, 2018.
Click on any image below to enlarge.
This week, with some fanfare, the City of Kerrville, in a joint workshop with the board of the Heart of the Hills Heritage Center, announced their partnership in housing and creating a new history museum to tell the story of the Texas Hill Country. The museum will be housed in the house at 529 Water Street, which was built in 1909 for A. C. and Myrta Schreiner. It’s the old mansion between the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library and our print shop, at the intersection of Water and Clay streets.
At that meeting, I was asked about the history of the old house. Here’s what I found:
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, Sr., at his desk,
Schreiner Company, Kerrville
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.
The Schreiner home before
the current house -- 1899.
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 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.
529 Water, in 1973
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, today
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 announced, including Dr. Bill Rector, president of the museum board; Mark McDaniel, city manager; two other members of the museum board, Linda Stone and Toni Box; and Scott Schellhase, the architect on the project.
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has fond memories of playing at 529 Water with his childhood friend Kay Ann Saunders. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 25, 2020.

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





Sunday, January 19, 2020

Kerr County Schools Remembered

Inside the one-room Turtle Creek School, Kerr County, taken many years ago.
Click on any image to enlarge.
This past week I attended a briefing about the progress being made in the construction of the new Hal Peterson Middle School being built on Loop 534 across from Tivy High School. This new middle school campus is going to be fantastic. Kerrville Independent School District voters overwhelmingly supported a recent school bond election, and the new middle school campus is one of the major building projects underway for Kerrville students.
Seeing plans for the modern, new school made me think about my own time on Kerrville Independent School District campuses, starting at Starkey Elementary School over 50 years ago. Quite a few things have changed since those days, and most for the best. (Air-conditioning, for one thing. I attended all twelve years of public school in classrooms lacking air-conditioning. I almost froze to death in classrooms during my first week at the University.)
Although some readers may not believe it, I did not attend the first schools in Kerr County.  Those were built slightly before my time.
First Kerr County Schoolhouse,
now at the Y.O. Ranch
Many believe the oldest building in Kerr County is a former school building which originally stood in Center Point. Its historical medallion reads “First Schoolhouse. Built in 1852 by J. L. O'Conner at Center Point with cypress logs (12 by 14 inches) cut from nearby Guadalupe River. Mortar was a hand-mixed mixture of baked lime and sand dug from local shallow pits. The making of cypress shakes for roofing was first industry along Guadalupe in Kerr County. Cabin served as first school for pioneer Texas children in Center Point community in 1858. Moved to Y. O. Ranch; Restored.”
‘Restored’ might be better written ‘renovated,’ as the old cabin has been put to service as a guest cabin at the Y.O. Ranch under the name ‘Sam Houston.’
I visited the renovated schoolhouse at the Y.O. a few years ago. Even in its current form (with indoor plumbing!) it’s a far cry from modern school campuses.
Cypress Creek School
Our county was dotted with schools at the turn of the last century, and a few of the old schoolhouses still remain. I have happy memories of visits to the Cypress Creek School building, and the Turtle Creek School building, both of which serve as community centers today.
The Kerr County Album, published in 1986 by the Kerr County Historical Commission, lists a lot of rural schools I’ve never heard of, each serving a group of young students living far from town. There were schools at Pebble, the Auld Ranch, the Haby Ranch, the Reservation, Lane Valley, Buzzard Roost and Grape Creek.
Students at Lowrance School.
Note boys in the oak tree.
Herbert Oehler, one of my predecessors on these pages, wrote extensively about his time at the Sunset School, which was between Ingram and Mountain Home. He was a student there in the 1910s. I know about the Lowrance School because I have a photograph of students playing outside the schoolhouse.
Most of these schools were small and constructed of lumber; the Cypress Creek School is an exception, sturdily built from cut limestone. Most only had one room – the classroom. Many of the old schoolhouses have long since disappeared.
Of these rural Kerr County schools, only one survives as an actual school: the Divide School, which continues to serve students in western Kerr County, between Mountain Home and Garven Store, near the Y.O. Ranch.
Divide School, around 1999
My long-time friend Bill Bacon is superintendent of the Divide Independent School District, and he wears many hats in the operation of the school. Bill is not only one of the teachers there, but also the transportation director, and maintenance director, as well as “other duties as assigned.”
The Divide School has students from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade; the Texas Education Agency website says there were 17 students there last year, though I think there might be 18 this year.
The Divide School can trace its history back to 1882, when classes were held in the home of a teacher; in 1893 a one-room wooden schoolhouse was built near the intersection of Highways 41 and 83. The current building was built in 1936 on land donated by F. B. Klein family.
Educating young people is a noble calling, and students in each of Kerr County’s school districts are blessed with dedicated professionals. Schools and classrooms may have changed over the years, but the miracle of learning is the same today as it was in our county’s earliest days.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is married to one of those miracle-working educators, the lovely Ms. Carolyn. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 18, 2020. 

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






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