New Kerr County History Book Available!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Integrating Kerrville public schools

Doyle School students, May 1, 1947
Click on any image below to enlarge
I was reminded this week the stories we tell about a community's past and the actual history of a community are often different from each other. I'm not sure one has more value than the other, especially when each provide a way to better understand the forces that shaped today's community. Eyewitness accounts can vary, and stories can morph as they pass from teller to listener.
Tivy Jr. High 8th grade students, 1947
When I can find written, contemporary accounts of an event, often from the pages of local newspapers, I rely on them more than trying to remember events from decades ago. Many of the stories I tell happened well before I was born, in the early 1960s. Researching those stories requires me to find old newspapers, letters, and diaries.
Recently I found an old letter in my files, mailed in March, 1956, and signed by the president of the Kerrville Independent School Board. The letter hopes to explain the board’s stand on its“Integration Policy.”
“In the spring of 1954,” the letter begins, “the Supreme Court of the United States ruled unanimously that segregation in the public schools was illegal, and commissioned the various school boards in the nation to progress toward integration during the next few years.”
No timeline was established and no set method of integration was ordered; the requirement was for school boards to “act in good faith.”
Doyle School, 1960s
The Kerrville school board decided in the spring of 1955 that students from Doyle School (which served African-American students) would be admitted “upon special approval” to attend a few classes at Tivy High School.
However, in Big Spring, Texas, a similar decision there resulted in confusion “whereby State funds might be held in jeopardy if integration was accomplished.” Kerrville quickly changed course, pending a Texas Supreme Court decision in the matter, which came in September 1955. That court ruled “State funds would not be jeopardized because of integration.”
A study in Kerrville by the University of Texas found “that the educational program at Doyle School was inadequate and recommended some type of integration be accomplished to remedy the situation.”
Part of the problem, the study found, that “an adequate educational program at Doyle School could not be accomplished with five teachers teaching twelve grades.” The school’s continued accreditation depended upon “more facilities must be added and more teachers must be employed.”
Tivy High School, 1950s
The Kerrville school board quickly realized hiring twelve teachers at Doyle would be required, one for each grade. Buildings would have to be erected “to adequately house the additional teachers. Science laboratories and vocational facilities must be provided to maintain a first class high school.”
Making these changes would have meant a change in student/teacher ratios: at Doyle, after making these changes, the student to teacher ratio would be 8 students per teacher. “In the Kerrville white schools, the ratio is approximately 28 to 1.”
The local school taxes collected in 1956 was around $165,000. The needed buildings at Doyle would cost close to $80,000; the additional operational costs would be around $25,000. To meet these new expenses, the Kerrville school board realized they’d need to raise the tax rate to the legal limit ($1.50) and to further increase property valuations by 15%.
Continuing segregation in Kerrville was going to be very expensive.  It was an immoral practice which was also economically unsound.
Even with this dire financial information, full integration was not chosen as a remedy. Instead, the board decided the program at Doyle would be “under the supervision of the Tivy Junior-Senior High School principals, and that Doyle students in those grades would participate in the same academic curriculum as Tivy students as far as facilities and teaching staff would permit…Upon special approval, those students at the Doyle School who wish to participate in courses not offered there will be permitted to enroll for those courses in Tivy High School for one period per day only.”
Even this timid approach to school fairness was met with open opposition from those in the community who did not favor integration of any kind. In April, 1956 – the same month our county celebrated its centennial with a great amount of pomp and ceremony – a Kerrville school board election was held.
Several local school board candidates openly campaigned for segregation – “Vote for Segregation” their newspaper ads stated. Those candidates won election.
The very next week the new school board voted to rescind the earlier weak “integration program” outlined above.
Over the next few years the Kerrville board took baby steps forward and several big steps backward on the issue of integration. These were the biggest decisions the school boards of that era tackled, and getting to the right answer took a long time.
Doyle School finally closed in 1966, after all students were integrated into one school system. Integration began for older students in 1964.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who started first grade at Kerrville's Starkey Elementary in 1967. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times February 16, 2019.

Yes, it's true: I have published a new book about Kerrville and Kerr County.  All of my books are available at Wolfmueller's Books, Herring Printing, and online by clicking HERE






Sunday, February 10, 2019

A Kerrville hospital dedicated to serving African-American TB patients

Handbook, Kerrville State Sanatorium, late 1930s
Click on any image below to enlarge.
Here’s a story from my files, first published in 2007, which appears below in an edited and updated form:
I should not be surprised by the sheer amount of local history I do not know. Someone will occasionally bring me something and I’ll think to myself, “Hmm. I had no idea.”
A few months ago a friend emailed me a simple question: was the Kerrville State Hospital ever a tuberculosis sanatorium exclusively for African-American patients?
Many local families can trace their arrival in Kerr County to some family member who was ill with tuberculosis. The J. E. Grinstead family, or the Charles Butt family, for example, back in the early part of the last century, moved to Kerrville because a family member was ill. Father Henry Kemper also came here to find health, as did Kerrville’s third mayor, George R. Parsons.
Turns out Mr. Joe Lewis’s family can also trace its arrival here due to the illness: Joe Lewis himself was a victim of the disease, arriving here as a lad of six.
Dr. and Mrs. H Y Swayze
What is now the Kerrville State Hospital started out as a dude ranch called “My Ranch.” After the dude ranch closed, around 1915 a sanatorium opened on the site called “Mountain Park Sanatorium.” Dr. Sam E. Thompson purchased the property in 1917, and renamed it “Thompson Sanatorium.”
"My Ranch" dude ranch
You might notice an old relic of the early days of the dude ranch and sanatoriums when you’re crossing the Guadalupe River on the Francisco Lemos Street Bridge. Look just downstream, and in one of the cypress trees you’ll see an old power line arm, dotted with insulators, the remnants of the power line which served the dude ranch; in the riverbed you’ll see the hints of an old low-water crossing, which I believe was built by the owners of My Ranch for its guests.
Mt View Sanatorium
Dr. Thompson operated the facility until 1936, when the property was acquired by the State of Texas for $80,000. In her entry on the hospital’s history in the Handbook of Texas, Sue Low writes “the previous year the Forty-fourth Texas Legislature had appropriated $200,000 for the establishment of a tuberculosis hospital for black patients. On June 1, 1937, the facility opened as the ‘Kerrville State Sanatorium;’ it was under the direction of Dr. H. Y. Swayze. In 1949 the sanatorium was closed and all of its patients transferred to the East Texas State Tuberculosis Hospital in Tyler.”
Thompson's Sanatorium
Mr. Lewis has a small booklet given to him when he was a patient there – the cover reads “Kerrville State Sanatorium, an institution located at Kerrville, Kerr County, Texas, for the Treatment of [African-American] Citizens of Texas.” The front page adds the blurb “Located in the hills of Kerr County, facing the Guadalupe River.”
The booklet has 20 pages, complete with photographs. There are photos of the hospital facility and staff and there are photos of patients, including a very touching photo of children patients.
Nurses, Kerrville
State Sanatorium
The booklet says that “the primary purpose of the institution is to provide six months’ treatment for all early cases of tuberculosis among the [African-American] citizens of the State of Texas, and also to train all patients so that they may return home at the expiration of their allotted time to complete their treatment. During their stay at the institution, they are taught how to keep from spreading the infection among others with whom they may come in contact after their return home.”
Young patients, Kerrville
State Sanatorium
A note from the Superintendent and Medical Director, Dr. H. Y. Swayze, says “the State of Texas … has erected a large modern sanatorium for the treatment of its tuberculous citizens…. This hospital was built and is operated for the purpose of alleviating sickness and suffering. Every effort will be made to fulfill this great responsibility and trust.
According to Sue Low’s piece in the Handbook of Texas, “The facility was reopened by the state in May 1951 as a branch of the San Antonio State Hospital, serving 119 geriatric women with mental illness. On September 1, 1952, it became a separate entity, known as Kerrville State Home. By 1959 the hospital had grown to serve 1,200 resident patients; it had buildings located on 41 acres with an adjacent 258 acres that included a small lake. That same year the Texas legislature changed the name to Kerrville State Hospital.”
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is aware how little he really knows about local history. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times February 9, 2019.

Joe's latest book is available at Wolfmueller's Books, 229 Earl Garrett, in downtown Kerrville.  His books are also available at Herring Printing Company and online, by clicking HERE.





Sunday, February 3, 2019

The men who built Kerrville State Park

The men of Company 1823, Civilian Conservation Corps.
Click on any image to enlarge.
The Civilian Conservation Corps made a lasting impression on Texas with its construction of parks all over the state. Notable nearby examples are Garner State Park and Blanco State Park, while the cabins at Bastrop State Park or Indian Lodge at Fort Davis State Park are great examples of buildings constructed by the corps. The giant swimming pool at Balmorhea was another wonderful CCC project.
The CCC also changed lives, providing work for unemployed men, as well as housing, food, and education. Over 50,000 Texans enrolled in the program, and constructed parks from the ground up, creating the Texas State Park system.
Few realize the CCC also worked here in Kerrville.
Plan, Kerrville State Park, 1936
As early as 1934 the Kerrville Mountain Sun reported the Kerrville Chamber of Commerce "has been working in conjunction with city officials for the past several weeks in an effort to have a state park located in the vicinity of Kerrville."
A committee comprised of Kerrville mayor Richard Holdsworth, W. A. Fawcett, Hal Peterson, E. H. Prescott and J. L. Pampell met with D. E. Colp, chairman of the State Parks Board in the summer of 1934.
The committee was tasked with finding a tract of 500 acres or more, lying on both sides of a stream, and easily accessible to a state highway. A site was found and accepted by representatives of the State and Federal governments, but there was a hitch: the committee was "unable to come to an agreement with the property owner for the purchase of the property, which is located near Kerrville and has one-half mile of Guadalupe River frontage."
By October, 1934, those difficulties had been overcome, though the details are not clear. The site, which was the James Holloman homestead, was located across the river from the Veterans Administration hospital, and its purchase was funded by public subscription, with a campaign goal of $8,000. In addition, the City of Kerrville donated $2,500 in cash, while Kerr County issued $5,000 in bonds.
Photos of Company 1823 at Kerrville
By December, 1934, survey work began at the park, with plans to be sent to Washington for approval, "in order to have a company of 200 Civilian Conservation Corps men assigned here to do the work."
By April, 1935, Kerrville had lined up the support of both Texas senators and its congressman.
All of the politicking must have worked, because in December, 1935, the Kerrville Times reported 225 members of the CCC would arrive to start work on the park, staying in cabins and barracks constructed for them before they arrived.
Company 1823 of the CCC was organized June 28, 1933, at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. In December, the company was sent to Abilene, Texas, to construct Abilene State Park at Buffalo Gap on Lake Abilene. Around this time the company was reorganized and became an all African-American company, each member a veteran of World War I.
History of Company 1823
Company 1823 arrived in Kerrville on December 1, 1935.
"After a period of camp improvement...work on the park area began. The entire park area was cleared of undergrowth, details were assigned to moving and planting trees and shrubs, the entire park area was fenced, and a beautiful entrance to the park built of stone pillars and native wood logs was completed." The company also built a caretaker's dwelling, a stone water tower, a stone amphitheater, roadways, and other improvements.
Educational classes were offered to the company, and religious services were conducted each Sunday. Newspaper reports tell of activities in town, too, with performances offered to the public both in town and out at the camp.
A few of the projects completed by Company 1823 can still be found at the park, now called Kerrville Schreiner Municipal Park.  The park is still enjoyed by thousands of visitors each year.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has often visited the park with his son.  It’s a good place to walk. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times February 2, 2019.

Here's an idea for the least romantic Valentine's Day gift, ever: copies of my books, available by clicking HERE.







Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Mystery of the Old Courthouse in Comfort

Heuermann House, Comfort, Texas, January 2019
Heuermann House, Comfort, Texas, January 2019
Could this be the oldest surviving Kerr County Courthouse?
Click on any image to enlarge.
This past weekend I traveled to Comfort, hoping to solve a mystery.
Several friends there told me a building once used as Kerr County's second courthouse was still standing, though in bad repair.
If I could pull together enough evidence, it would be a great historic find, and provide a trick question for local historians.

  • Question: Where is the oldest courthouse in Kerr County?
  • Answer: Not in Kerr County.
  • Question: What? Was the building moved?
  • Answer: No. The county moved.

Local tradition in Comfort says an old house at 424 Main Street, facing the park, once served as Kerr County's courthouse. I'm told the old house was once the home of William and Caroline Heuermann; in 1860, according to the census, they were a young couple with two toddlers.
1860 was a year of political upheaval in Kerr County. In March, 1860, by a vote of 78 to 21, some Kerr County voters chose to move the county offices to Comfort.
On May 21, 1860, the commissioners court met in Comfort and accepted a gift from Ernst Atlgelt of about 10 acres of land for use as a public square. Incidentally, William Heuermann was a commissioner on the Kerr County commissioners court, and was part of the court which accepted the land for the public square.
At that meeting, the commissioners considered building a new courthouse for Kerr County. "The matter to build a Court House was before the Court and after a fair consideration it is agreed to that a Court House be built in Comfort on the Public Square."
A contract for building the courthouse was granted at the same meeting to V. Pfeuffer, to be completed within 9 months, according to "A Hundred Years of Comfort in Texas" by Guido E. Ransleben. The total cost of the building would be $500.
Until a courthouse was built, commissioners met in a building owned by Christoph Humboldt on Lot 264 in Comfort. A bill for rent due was presented to the court for seven month's rent, from December 1, 1860 until July 1, 1861. The lease was renewed for an additional six months, until the end of 1861.
There is no mention in the July, 1861 session of the commissioners court of the courthouse building V. Pfeuffer was to have built in nine months, which should have been completed in February or March of 1861. Since Comfort was only briefly the county seat of Kerr County, from 1860 until 1862, no permanent courthouse may ever have been built.
Several friends in Comfort remember their parents telling them the Heuermann house was the courthouse; most remembered the added tidbit about the basement serving as the jail.
So last Saturday I went to see the house for myself.
Heuermann House, Comfort, January 2019
Heuermann House, Comfort, January 2019
What I saw was a very old building in need of some tender loving care. Here and there the stone foundation had cracks or had crumbled; the metal roof had peeled back in some places, exposing the frame to rain and damage. Several of the windows were gone. The building, however, did not look to be beyond repair. Despite its age, it has retained a lot of its original grace.
But was I looking at the oldest surviving courthouse in Kerr County? That was the mystery.
There is a gap in the timeline of the Kerr County courthouse in Comfort. The commissioners met in Comfort in late May, 1860. They ordered the building of a courthouse, to be completed in nine months. While waiting for the courthouse to be built, the court met in a building owned by Christoph Humbolt, with a lease starting in December 1860. The timeline gap, then, is from late May, 1860 until they started renting Humbolt's place in December, 1860, a gap of about six months.
Is it possible the commissioners court met in the home of one of its commissioners, Heuermann? Is there a kernel of truth in the old stories about the house on Comfort's Main Street having once served as the Kerr County courthouse?
It's certainly possible. The log courthouse built in Kerrville in 1856 was tiny and only had one door and one window. The Heuermann house on Main Street in Comfort would have been a definite improvement.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is thankful for the help of so many folks in Comfort, including the fine folks at the Comfort Heritage Foundation. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 26, 2019.

Do you have a copy of my third book, which has historical photographs and collected Kerr County history columns?  You can get more information by clicking HERE.








Sunday, January 20, 2019

A brief history of the Hill Country District Junior Livestock Show

James "Bucky" Evertson, Oak Park Farm, Kerrville, 1957,
with Champion Dairy Animal at the first Hill Country District Boys Livestock Show held
in what was then called the Ag Barn, but is now called
the Hill Country Youth Event Center.
The Hill Country Junior Livestock Show, which has been underway this week at the Hill Country Youth Event Center on Highway 27 past the V. A. Hospital, has a long history in our community.
While competitive showing of livestock and agricultural products had its start locally at the West Texas Fair, which was held annually around the turn of the century here in Kerrville, those contests were among adult ranchers and farmers.
In 1933, C. F. Freeman, who was the Tivy High School vocational agriculture teacher, organized an exhibit of "fat lambs" in downtown Kerrville on the site where the post office would later be built, at the intersection of Earl Garrett and Main streets.
The March 2, 1933 edition of the Kerrville Times reported the event on its front page:
Front-page story of
Williams and  Freeman's success at
the Houston Fat Stock Show, 1933.
Click to enlarge.
"The vocational class has been feeding lambs under the direction of Prof. C. F. Freeman, and Tuesday was the day set for judging as to the winners.
"Sid Peterson, Arthur Real, and Caspar Real acted as judges and made the following awards:
"Best Lamb: First Prize, $10, to John Robert Williams; Second Prize, $5, to Jim Grey Freeman. Best pen of two lambs, first prize, two ewe lambs, to John Robert Williams. Largest gain: first prize, 4 lambs, John Robert Williams. Jim Gray Freeman had on exhibition the largest lamb, weighing 121 pounds.
"The lambs were shipped by truck Wednesday to Houston, where they will be entered in the Fat Stock who in that city, and will be offered for sale at the close of the stock show.
"19 boys, members of the Tivy vocational class, made entries of fed lambs in the local showing were Martin Stehling, Tom Rogers, Jim Grey Freeman, Neil Gillies, Clifton Dickey, Elmer Earl Wren, Henry Allen, John Robert Williams, Rudolph Radeleff, Guy Kincaid, Leo Rodriguez, Leroy Grona, Doyle Nichols, Hollis McDonald, James Spicer, and J. E. Rose."
Other members of the class raised pigs; Edward (Happy) Granes started with a pig weighing 80 pounds, and after four months feeding the pig's gross weight was 385 pounds. Gerald Swearingen's pig grew from 80 pounds to a gross weight of 250 pounds.
The lambs shipped to Houston had some success there. John Robert Williams won two first prizes, a second, and a third prizes; Jim Grey Freeman a second, third, and fourth prizes; Tom Rogers won a fourth prize.
From this beginning, the livestock show grew. "In 1935," according to an article in the January 16, 1991 edition of the Kerrville Daily Times, "200 supporters attended the show and prize money of $55 was awarded to the winning exhibitors.
"The Jaycees took over the stock show in 1937. They moved the location to the old Schreiner warehouse, and encouraged even more local support."
By 1939, over 2000 spectators watched the exhibition of 250 animals. In 1940 the Greater Kerr County Boys Fat Stock Show was organized, with Pierce Hoggett as chairman. In 1941 a $7,500 livestock pavilion was opened, which was called "a new era in the development of blooded stock in this area" by the Kerrville Mountain Sun.
Bucky Evertson also had the
Champion Dressed Fryers
at the 1957 HCDBLS.
During the war years, from 1942-1944, prize money was paid in war stamps and savings bonds, and many of the buyers donated their animals to the American Red Cross.
The first Hill Country District Livestock Show and Auction was held in 1945, under the direction of the Kerr County Livestock Show Association, the Kerrville Kiwanis Club, the Kerrville Rotary Club, and both local chambers of commerce.
In 1948, 275 boys showed more than 1000 head of stock.
In 1953, the Kerr County commissioners court approved a $200,000 bond election to build an agricultural building; in 1954, the commissioners approved the purchase of 90 acres, the present site of the Hill Country Youth Event Center. The first livestock show held on this site was in 1957.
Since then the building has seen additions, renovations, and expansion. It's truly a remarkable event center today.
This year the Hill Country Junior Livestock Show is celebrating its 75th birthday. Over those 75 years young men and women have learned valuable lessons about hard work, grit, and determination. All of this has been made possible by countless hours of volunteer labor, support from our community, and clear-headed direction by several generations of leaders.
Until next week, all the best.
Looking Back by Joe Herring Jr
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is proud of the success of the Hill Country District Livestock Show. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 19, 2019.

Joe's new book is available by clicking HERE






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