New Kerr County History Book Available!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Pop Up Museum Display: Kerrville 1934

An economic map of Kerrville, as it was in 1934, during the Great Depression,
complete with 72 historic photographs of Kerrville homes, taken in 1934.

Click on any image to enlarge.
My patient friends at Pint and Plow have waited for months for me to complete the fabrication of an idea I had for a display there -- another of my "Pop Up" museum displays.
As you know, Kerr County lacks a history museum.  There is no one place that tells the story of our community's history.
The Walther family allows me, from time to time, to display historic photographs on the walls of their coffee shop (in the historic Dietert home, which is connected to their brewery and restaurant).  It's a kindness, actually, and I'm very thankful for their support.
Here's what's on display:
In 1934 the city government in Kerrville hired a contractor to take a photograph of every house on every street in the city limits.  While most of the photographs no longer exist, a little over 300 are still available today.  The Kerrville Genealogical Society has the best and most complete collection of these images.
The "yellow," or middle-value houses.
Decades later our family lived in
number 29.
Going through the photographs is like hopping into a time machine.  You feel as if you're walking down Kerrville streets in 1934, as one house after another is photographed.  In one, a mother is playing with her child on a blanket in the front yard.  In several, a group of children, including a boy with a baseball bat, follow the photographer from house to house.  In another set of photographs, a group of children, including one on horseback, follow the photographer as he makes his photographs.
These photographs were taken during the Great Depression.  Franklin Roosevelt had been president for about a year, and many programs of the New Deal had not yet taken effect.  It's a grim time for our nation -- and for our community.
To make the display, I selected 72 photographs that were representative of the entire collection.  I divided them by the value of the house in the photograph -- starting with one-room houses and progressing to mansions.   Each group of 12 photographs each is divided by the value of the house in the photograph.
Kerrville map, 1934.
The numbered dots indicate locations
of the houses in the photographs.
Then I color coded them.  Red was for the smallest houses; yellow for the middle-sized; green for the largest houses.  Then I numbered each of the photographs, from 1 to 72, and assigned the same color code to the number.
Next, I placed markers on a 1934 map of Kerrville -- a map drawn the same year the photographs were taken.   It quickly became obvious that the red (or smallest) houses were grouped together in several neighborhoods, while the green (or largest) houses were also grouped together in several areas.
In this way I could display a rudimentary economic map of Kerrville as it appeared in 1934.
The 72 photographs on display show the differences between the poorest of Kerrville and the richest of Kerrville, and the images are interesting to study.  I selected photographs which showed people whenever possible, because people are a great part of the story.
I've also selected many photographs of houses which are still in use today.  Many of the smallest houses are gone, but a lot of the other houses can still be found in Kerrville. You will probably recognize a house or two from the photographs.
Pint and Plow is located at 332 Clay Street, in downtown Kerrville It is open daily from 7:30am - 9pm, closed Tuesdays.  The pop up museum display is in the coffee bar area, in the old historic Dietert home.
This display is temporary and will be taken down soon. You're invited to stop by and check it out!  There is no charge to see the display, but while you're there, you really ought to try their coffee (or their beer, brewed on site).
Tell 'em Joe sent you.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Hershey Bars and Washed-Out Bridges

A tasty cake made by my sweet bride,
from a 1950s-era Kerrville recipe

What if you could taste history?
This past Easter, as Ms. Carolyn was planning our family's celebration, she noticed something in one of her cookbooks. The book, "American Cake," by Anne Byrn, features recipes from colonial times to the present day, each for something I love: cake.
While going through the cookbook she noticed a chocolate cake recipe called "Hershey Bar Cake." Its name alone recommends it for a try -- both in the oven and on the plate.
But that's not why she selected that particular cake for our family gathering. The recipe was first published by Ruth Harrison, of Kerrville, Texas, in 1958.
Of course, I did a little research about the recipe and its author.
Ruth Allen Harrison was married to Tom Harrison. They lived on the corner of West Main and Jackson, diagonally across from the Jimmie Rodgers house. Ruth was active in bridge clubs, while Tom loved to go to the coast with friends to fish. They were members of Saint Peter's Episcopal Church.
Her recipe for "Hershey Bar Cake" appears in the June 26, 1958 issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun. How that recipe (in modified form) ended up in the "American Cake" book, I have no idea.
But I'm glad it did, because Ms. Carolyn made it, and it was delicious!
Here's the old original recipe, as originally published in Kerrville:

Hershey Bar Cake
Cream 1 stick of oleo and 1 stick of butter. Add gradually 2 cups of sugar. Melt six (eight makes a better flavor 5¢ Hershey bars over hot (not boiling) water. Add to mixture.
Add one at a time -- 4 eggs, beating well after each. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla and a pinch of salt.
Sift 2 ½ cups flour and 1 teaspoon of baking powder together. Alternate with 1 cup of buttermilk to which ½ teaspoon of soda has been added. Add 1 cup chopped nuts.
Bake at 320 degrees about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Let set 5 minutes longer after turning off heat. Bake in well-greased tube pan. Put wax paper in bottom and grease.

The recipe has been changed, of course, in Anne Byrne's book. Carolyn did not use oleo, and, sadly, the grocery store no longer sells 5¢ Hershey bars. The modernized recipe was quite tasty, though!

* * *

Detail, 1934 Kerrville Street Number Map
Many of you have noticed something while walking on Kerrville's river trail: the remnants of a bridge over the Guadalupe River, roughly between Schreiner University and the Riverhill Country Club mansion. (It's below the little shelter structure beside the trail, between G Street and the Kerrville-Schreiner Park.)
I was pretty sure I knew what the old bridge once was, but a recent discovery confirmed my hunch.
A kind friend shared a 1934 Kerrville House Number Map with me which shows all of the neighborhoods of Kerrville at that time, along with the house numbers for each lot. This is very useful, especially since house numbers sometimes change.
The rest of the map
That map has a little road and bridge drawn in the lower right hand corner: "Guss Schreiner Private Road." The mapmaker misspelled Gus Schreiner's name, but it shows this road crossing the Guadalupe and heading up toward Gus Schreiner's house, which is now the Riverhill Country Club mansion.
Gus Schreiner's bridge was probably destroyed by the big flood in 1935, a year after the map was drawn.  Not long after that flood the Sidney Baker Street bridge over the Guadalupe was completed, so there was no need to rebuild Mr. Schreiner's bridge.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who likes it when little history mysteries get solved. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times May 4, 2019.
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If you enjoyed this column, you'll enjoy my two books, which are collections of my columns from 1994 to 2018.  Both books are available at Wolfmueller's Books, Herring Printing Company, and online by clicking HERE.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Wolfmuellers: Supporting Writers of the Texas Hill Country

Marc Hess, with Sandy Wolfmueller, in front of
Wolfmueller's Books on Earl Garrett Street, in downtown Kerrville
(photograph by Jon Wolfmueller)

Here's the thing about small towns: we know each other and try to help each other.
My friend Marc Hess has written a new novel, "Gillespie County Fair," which is being released this week. Most authors would want to launch the book at a big-box bookstore in a major Texas city.
But Marc understands the benefits of our small town and the connections it offers.
His book is set in nearby Gillespie County, and is the tale of one family's struggle to keep ownership of family properties, properties passed down from one generation to the next, from Fredericksburg pioneers to the present day. Let's just say mistakes were made by the fictional family and complications arise; keeping the property out of the hands of out-of-town investors is going to be almost impossible.
While launching the book in a major Texas market might appeal to some authors, Marc wants to focus on those readers who want to shop local.
Enter my friends Jon and Sandy Wolfmueller, owners of Wolfmueller's Books on Earl Garrett Street in beautiful downtown Kerrville. The Wolfmuellers do a lot more than sell books; they encourage local authors and help celebrate books about our part of Texas.
The late Clarabelle Snodgrass wrote many books about local history, and the Wolfmuellers featured her books in both displays and with book signings. When an Austin author with local connections, Elizabeth Crook, published a novel set in nearby Camp Verde, the Wolfmuellers hosted a well-attended book signing. The late Joseph Luther enjoyed the support of the Wolfmuellers, both with book signing events and other help for each of his many well-researched books on the Texas Hill Country.
I've published three books on Kerr County history and would not have done so without the support and guidance of Jon and Sandy Wolfmueller.
The Wolfmuellers are hosting a book signing event for Marc Hess and his new novel this coming Friday, May 3, from 4 to 6 pm.
Marc Hess's new novel
"Gillespie County Fair" is set in present-day Fredericksburg. The main characters are struggling to keep up with the changes in their little town, where long-time merchants are finding their buildings are worth much more to out-of-town retailers focused on tourists than on the local trades once represented up and down Fredericksburg's Main Street.
I'm old enough to remember that street sporting two bakeries, a hardware store, at least one pharmacy, a grocery store, and several small-town jewelry companies. When I was young, in the late 1960s, the old "Sunday Houses" dotting the downtown area could be purchased for very little money -- no one wanted the old things.
Let's just say things have changed. A walk down the sidewalks of Main Street in Fredericksburg on any sunny Saturday suggests the town is hitching its wagon to a very different horse these days.
Marc Hess let me read "Gillespie County Fair" before it was published and I enjoyed the book. I'm happy to recommend it to you.
I'm thankful we have a locally-owned book store in downtown Kerrville that encourages and supports local writers. I hope you'll join me at Wolfmueller's Books this Friday, May 3, from 4 to 6 p.m. to launch Marc Hess's new novel, "Gillespie County Fair."
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who likes to read, and hopes to encourage local writers. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times April 27, 2019.

If you liked this column, you'll like my books, which are collections of my columns from the past 24 years.  My books are available at Wolfmueller's Books, Herring Printing Company, and online by clicking HERE.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

1865 Petition: Comfort asks to return to Kerr County

Driving from Kerrville to Comfort takes about 25 minutes -- even if you hit a red light or two leaving Kerrville -- and both major routes, taking either IH 10 or State Highway 27, are smooth and easy drives.
It's hard to imagine, then, how far apart the two communities were in the early 1860s, during the Civil War era. The gap between them was not measured in miles; neither community has moved locations since those days. The gap between them then was measured by politics.
Recently I found a copy of an 1865 petition in my files, where the leaders of Comfort asked the provisional governor of Texas for help. The original petition is in the state archives in Austin.
When Kerr County was created by the Texas legislature in 1856, Comfort was in Kerr County. According to the 1860 census, there were actually more people living in Comfort than in Kerrville, though both communities were small. Comfort had a population of 91; Kerrville, 68. There were also more voters in Comfort than in Kerrville: In Comfort, there were 37 men of voting age, and in Kerrville, 15.
The two communities were very different from each other. Comfort was settled by German immigrants; Kerrville, by other groups, but mainly by folks born in the United States. Most Comfort citizens spoke German; most Kerrville citizens spoke English.
On the big political question of 1860 the two communities were polar opposites: Kerrville mostly supported secession from the United States; Comfort mostly supported staying in the Union.
When Kerr County voted whether Texas should secede, the vote was 76 to 57 in favor of secession. However, there is some evidence to suggest Kerr County would have voted not to secede had the votes of Precinct 2 (near Comfort, in the German-speaking portion of the county) been counted fully.
The other local political contest asked which community should be the county seat. Kerrville was initially chosen because it met the requirements of the 1856 legislation creating Kerr County: it was in the center of the new county. Comfort, however, had more people, was an older, more established community, and it had the votes. In 1860, the voters of Kerr County voted to move the county seat from Kerrville to Comfort, though not all of the votes of the county were counted; in this election some of the votes in Kerrville were thrown out on a technicality.
Comfort might yet be the county seat of Kerr County except for another act of the Texas legislature: in 1862, when Kendall County was created, Comfort found itself just over the Kendall County line. At that moment, the county seat moved back to Kerrville, since Comfort was no longer in Kerr County.
Kendall County was created during the Civil War and there were bigger problems for Comfort during those years. The county was created in January, 1862; in August, 1862, at the Battle of the Nueces, Confederate forces defeated a group of Unionists who were heading to the Mexican border. Many of the Unionists were German-speaking men from local communities, including Comfort, who did not want to join the Confederate army.
Theodore Wiedenfeld
Henry Schwethelm
Henry Heinen
After the Civil War ended, the leaders of Comfort made a new attempt to change the history of Kerr County when they petitioned the provisional governor of Texas, Andrew Jackson Hamilton. They wanted the legislation which created Kendall County altered where Comfort once again was part of Kerr County. If the old boundary lines of Kerr County would be valid, Comfort would have a chance to once again reclaim the county seat of Kerr County.
"...after a rebellious Convention and a party of men styling themselves a Legislature of this State had torn asunder our connections with the national Government, the said so-called Legislature in the year 1862 then in rebellion against and hostile to the only legitimate Goverment, made and created another County, 'the county of Kendall,' for no other purpose than to hold and keep down a strong Union sentiment prevailing in Kerr County...."
August Faltin
Heinrich Allerkamp
The new county line cutting Comfort from Kerr County ridded "Kerr of a strong but troublesome Union party."
The act creating Kendall County "was done by a rebel act to serve their rebel purposes."
The petition is signed by the prominent men of Comfort, with names still found in that community: Faltin, Schellhase, Schwethelm, Wiedenfeld, Heinen, Herbst.
A few signatures appear in pencil, and among them is a name I was surprised to find among the other petitioners: Charles Schreiner.
Andrew Jackson Hamilton was provisional governor of Texas from the summer of 1865 until the summer of 1866. During the Civil War he had been appointed military governor of Texas by Lincoln, though he never was able to enter Texas and govern; he spent most of the war in New Orleans.
Hamilton may have been sympathetic to the arguments of the petitioners from Comfort, but there is no evidence he ever acted upon their request.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who thinks local politics is a lot less divisive than it once was. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times April 20, 2019.
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If you liked this column, you'll like my two books of collected columns. You can get yours at Wolfmueller's BooksHerring Printing Company, and online by clicking HERE.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Found in a Garage: Hundreds of Historic Photographs

Starr Bryden's Foot Locker, found in Kerrville in 2012.
Click on any image to enlarge.
In late 2012 a young woman made an amazing discovery while visiting her family's place in Kerrville: a foot locker filled with historic Kerr County photographic negatives.
The photographs were taken between the 1890s until the late 1950s, and most of the photos were taken by one person, Starr Bryden.
Starr Bryden,
the "Kodak Chap."
Raymond Starr Bryden was a professional photographer in Kerr County from around 1915 until his death in 1959.
He arrived in Kerr County as a young man, fighting for his life: he was ill with tuberculosis.
Born in Illinois in 1892, he was the youngest of six children. Around 1912, while living in Tennessee, he was diagnosed with "galloping consumption," a term then used for an especially virulent form of tuberculosis.
In those days the climate of Kerrville and Kerr County were considered helpful to TB patients; many came here, starting in the 1860s. A surprising number of the patients recovered and went on to live long lives here.
In 1912 Starr Bryden's father, Elisha Porter Bryden, brought his son to San Antonio, where they lived for a year; Starr didn't improve. They moved to Kerr County in 1913.
They didn't move into a house or tent -- they built a small cabin, about the size of a chicken coop -- on the Tom Myers Ranch, which was about 12 miles south of Kerrville, near Medina Mountain.
Apelt Armadillo Farm, from
glass negative in foot locker
That's where Harry Williams found Starr and his father.
Harry and Ella Williams ranched on Turtle Creek, and in 1913 some of their goats escaped their pen. Harry went out in search of the missing goats.
At the Tom Myers Ranch, Harry was told about an old gentleman and his sick son, living out in the woods, and went out to meet them.
When he got home, he told his wife, Ella Denton Williams, about the sick young man, and she did something quite amazing: she told her husband to go back and get Starr and bring him to their home. She had a portion of their porch enclosed for a room for Starr, and she took care of him.
Workmen, Schreiner
Wool Warehouse
When he arrived, Starr Bryden was so sick he couldn't walk. Ella Williams nursed him back to life, making him walk back and forth across the porch, singing with him as they walked. After several weeks, Starr was strong enough he could walk on his own.
Eventually Starr's father returned to Tennessee while Starr stayed in Kerr County, where he lived until his death in early 1959, 46 years after being saved by the Williams family.
Louise Hays at the
cornerstone dedication of
the park named for her.
By 1922 Starr Bryden was strong enough to travel by bicycle to visit his family in Tennessee, a trip which made the newspaper, with updates about his progress along his route. I think many folks here were worried about him.
The foot locker found in 2012 has photographs taken by Starr over those years, but also includes photos of Kerr County taken before Starr Bryden was in Kerr County. Those photos are a mystery, but may have been taken by J. E. Grinstead or a local photographer named Huntington. Many of those earlier photos, some from the 1890s, are on glass negatives, which were pieces of glass coated with photosensitive materials; basically, film before film substrate was acetate or plastic.
Water Street, 1940s
Many of Starr Bryden's photographs are quite good, both technically and visually. He was a gifted photographer.
Since 2013 several of us here at the print shop have been scanning the photographs in the foot locker, both the negatives and the prints. Our earliest scans were not as good as recent scans; new technology and better techniques are getting some great images from those old negatives, many of which are browned with age.
Solving World Problems,
Pampell's, 1950s
It's been exciting being a part of the story of the foot locker and the treasures inside. So much of our local history is found in the same way: stored in a garage, found decades later, and then brought by the print shop. I'm thankful for the generosity of the Meeker family, and their kindness about the images in the old foot locker.
Our community needs a museum where items like the photographs in Starr Bryden's foot locker can be preserved, studied, and displayed for the public.
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects Kerrville and Kerr County photographs. If you have something you'd allow him to scan for his collection, please bring it by the print shop at 615 Water Street in beautiful downtown Kerrville.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times April 13, 2019.

If you liked this column, you'll like my two books of collected columns. You can get yours at Wolfmueller's BooksHerring Printing Company, and online by clicking HERE.



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