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Sunday, January 23, 2022

Saying goodbye to Helen Eisaman

Helen Loree Dew Eisaman, 1940-2022

Helen Eisaman, who taught English at Tivy High School for over 30 years, passed away this week. 
I was a student in her class during the 1976-77 school year, when she was new to the campus. Both of my children also had her as an English teacher, some twenty-five years later. They both agreed: as a teacher, Eisaman was tough, but good.
Attending her funeral service Thursday, I observed the people gathered at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. There were former teaching colleagues, current teachers, folks from her church family, and friends. There was another group there, too: many of her former students. The groups were not mutually exclusive, since many of her former students were also her friends.
I was in her English class my sophomore year. My freshman year at Tivy had not been spectacular; during my first six weeks there, my parents were informed I was failing two classes, English (Mrs. Syers) and Math (Mrs. Guess). My parents were not amused. While I brought those grades up, it was not a great start to my high school career.
My sophomore year was just as wobbly. I was awkward, immature, and had the attention span of a distracted gnat. I doodled on paper when I should have been listening. I was sloppy and unorganized. In short, I was a teenager.
A notebook of my
classwork
Regardless of my many shortcomings, Mrs. Eisaman believed in me when few outside of my family did. And she expressed her belief in me frequently, often when I missed the mark; she expected better work from me.
Mrs. Eisaman focused on three things when I was in her class: reading, writing, and grammar. When she started diagramming sentences on the blackboard those first weeks, well, the gears in my brain locked up. I don’t think I could diagram a sentence today, even if you offered me a huge cash prize. (Gentle Reader, you already know grammar remains a problem for me.)
The reading portion and the writing portion of her class, however, I loved. She introduced us to an English playwright that year, a fellow named Shakespeare. Once we got past his antique phrases, and his use of obscure words, most of us thought the plays were amazingly good, with concurrent stories all bundled up together, presented as entertainment. Somehow, Mrs. Eisaman got a class of teenagers to enjoy Shakespeare.
A note from Mrs. Eisaman
Even after I’d graduated from Tivy, Mrs. Eisaman continued to take an interest in my progress. She’d stop by the print shop to visit, and one time she brought me the folder of my schoolwork from her class.
I read some of my old papers. They are so awful, it’s embarrassing.
When I started writing this column, back in 1994, she visited more frequently, at least for the first few years. Often, she brought a copy of my column with her. My mistakes, mostly grammar mistakes, were marked in red pencil. 
Once, when she was especially exasperated by something I’d written, she told me “I taught you better than this.” We both laughed, because it was both funny and true.
The last time I saw Helen Eisaman was in the waiting room of a local doctor. She was there for something serious; I was there for something minor. She showed such concern for me – and none for herself. I’m not sure I ever convinced her I was on the mend.
I am grateful for the many teachers who guided me through my years as a student in Kerrville’s public schools. A few, like Helen Eisaman, changed my life for the better, not for the subjects they taught, but for the way they encouraged me, seeing ability where others, including myself, saw none.
Judging from the many former students gathered at Mrs. Eisaman’s funeral service Thursday, I was not the only one she helped.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who still loves to read, though it’s been a few years since he tackled Shakespeare. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 22, 2022.

Though this newsletter is free, it isn't cheap. You can help by sharing it 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!)




Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Shopping at Kerrville's 'Charles Schreiner Company,' around 1900

Charles Schreiner Company, around 1900
This store stood at the corner of Water and Earl Garrett Streets.
Click on any image to enlarge

There are some folks too young to remember shopping in a general store, younger folks who may assume browsing on a retailer’s website, or flipping through its catalog, is similar to that old experience. Though I remember shopping in general stores, even I cannot imagine what it was like to shop in a store like Schreiner’s was at the turn of the last century. The nearest modern-day store which compares to that type of shopping, in my opinion, is probably Gibson’s.
Recently, among the items given to me by Sandy and Jon Wolfmueller, I found two photographs of the interior of the Schreiner department store, taken around 1900. These are two photographs I had never seen before, and they’re fascinating.
Schreiner’s was a department store on the corner of Water and Earl Garrett streets. It started as Faltin & Schreiner on Christmas Eve, 1869, in a small 16 x 18 foot frame building which stood about where the Charles and Magdalena Schreiner home stands today. 
Dry goods department, Schreiner's, circa 1900
J. Evetts Haley, in his book "Charles Schreiner, General Merchandise," describes the original building as having double front doors, two front windows, another door, and a stovepipe "which elled out the side of the building." In back there was a lean-to shed, used as a "storehouse and as sleeping quarters for the clerks. But at first there were no clerks."
At the back of the shed was a cellar, used to store "barrels of coal oil, beer, whiskey and molasses." 
There was a long counter running the length of the building which "described an L at the back to cut off a small space that served as an office, and to shelter, at its base, barrels of sugar, coffee, rice, lard, and dried fruit."
Haley continues: "On the back wall was a stock of groceries, while the long counter to the side cut off the dry goods that lay in assorted bolts of calico, jeans and hickory on rough shelves along the wall. On the opposite side, harness and saddles hung on hooks at the front, and wooden ware -- buckets, kegs, and tubs -- hung on the wall behind the stove."
The merchant of this store also stocked "an assortment of patent medicines -- Jane's Tonic, Pain-Killer, Ayer's Pills, Hostetter's Bitters, Vermifuge and other concoctions." Most customers usually got well in spite of these remedies.
Whiskey was a big seller, and was stocked in three or four grades, some selling for as low as fifty and seventy-five cents a quart; others as high as a dollar. I'm not completely sure all "grades" of whiskey were not drawn from the same barrel.
The store grew from that little frame building, moving to a new stone building to which additions were made over the next 75 years. It was as if the first building grew like a living thing, not with a long-range plan, but adding space as it was needed.
Housewares department,
Schreiner's, circa 1900
The two photographs recently discovered show the store as it appeared, around 1900. One is of the dry goods department, the other appears to be of the housewares department.
The dry goods department photograph shows customers in fancy hats, shopping at a counter on the left, lined with fabrics of many different colors. Hat boxes line the wall above the display. Little stools attached to the long counter are there for the convenience of the shoppers.
In the rear of the building a little mezzanine can be seen, with a stairway on the left. Sunlight brightens the faces of the shoppers and clerk; bright sunshine can be seen above and below the mezzanine at the rear of the store. In the foreground a display case is filled with what appears to be scarves and handkerchiefs, and fancy pitchers, glasses, and serving trays are shown above.
All along the right wall are boxes of shoes, from floor to ceiling. A ladder/stair, attached to a rail, can be rolled up and down the inventory of shoes. Just to the right of the post in the center of the image is a display of ribbons.
The other photograph, of the housewares department, I see everything from galvanized pails to lamp chimneys. A selection of fishing poles appears to be dangling from the ceiling. There are brooms, large ceramic crocks, boxes of ‘Silk Soap,’ alarm clocks, and cleaning supplies. A doorway can be seen at the rear of the room, and, from the ceiling, a row of kerosene lamps are shown; I think those lamps were not on sales display, but used for lighting the room.
I can almost imagine shopping there. I think one of those fishing poles is calling my name.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who should go fishing more often. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 8, 2022.

Though this newsletter is free, it isn't cheap. You can help by sharing it 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!)




Sunday, January 16, 2022

A Kerrville mystery solved by Orbicular and Pepper Box

Group photo, West Texas Fairgrounds, date -- well, that was a mystery.
Click on any image to enlarge.

I stumbled upon a clue this week which solved a mystery involving a photograph in my collection, a clue given by two separate names: “Orbicular” and “Pepper Box.”
That photograph, still in its original frame, is a panoramic image of a group of people. They’re standing on a racetrack, looking up at the grandstand, where the photographer is standing. The photographer was ‘Brack,’ from San Antonio.
Boy on goat
I knew a lot about the photograph – the who and where. I had a guess about the why. I had no idea about the when.
Dr. William Rector has a similar photograph, probably taken the same day, though his photograph shows a procession of some sort.
What was going on in the image, and when was it taken?
It is a photograph taken at Kerrville’s West Texas Fairgrounds, an image of several "camps" of the Woodmen of the World. The West Texas Fairgrounds were west of Town Creek, somewhere in the neighborhood of Hugo, Starkey, and Guadalupe streets. The photo includes around 100 people, grouped for a portrait, in period dress.
It is a wonderful image of a time and place, showing a crowd of folks looking solemnly at the camera. Smiles are few. These folks were serious. Most of the women are wearing straw hats -- most of the men are wearing felt hats, so I wasn’t not exactly sure what time of year it is. Now I know exactly when the photograph was taken.
'Centre' Point
The banners of two camps can be plainly seen; one from Kerrville and one from "Centre" Point. 
The Woodmen of the World, as far as I can tell, was founded 1890 in Omaha, Nebraska by Joseph Cullen Root, as a fraternal and life insurance organization. It was designed to help protect families from the financial distress caused by the loss of a loved one.
It didn't take long for the organization to reach Kerrville; the "Cypress Camp No. 58" is mentioned in a front-page story in the Kerrville Paper on January 26, 1895.
While looking for something else, I ran across an article on page 3 of the August 21, 1908 issue of the San Antonio Daily Express: “Woodmen Drill Chief Feature of Kerrville Fair.”
45-star flag
It describes in detail the first day of the fair, August 20, 1908. About the Woodmen, it reported “there were in the procession nine camps of the Woodmen and five Circle groves.” Camps from San Antonio, Fredericksburg, Morris Ranch, and ‘Centre’ Point joined the Kerrville ‘camp.’
“The beautiful Circle drill was the work of Myrtle Grove No. 1. The drill, in point of intricate detail, perfect execution and rhythmic beauty was magnificently executed by beautiful women, elegantly costumed and perfectly trained.”
Though the participation of the Woodmen organization in the 1908 fair is interesting, it was not the clue that confirmed the date, though it was a supporting clue. The Woodmen might have participated in several fairs over the years in Kerrville – who knew?
Plus, there is a clue which led me astray a decade ago. One gentleman is holding a 45-star U. S. flag, which was in official use between July 4, 1896 and July 3, 1908. The 46th star was added when Oklahoma became a state in 1907. I thought the photo had to have been taken between July, 1896 and July, 1908. I was wrong, though by only one month.
The reason I’m sure the photograph was taken on August 20, 1908 is written in chalk on a blackboard which is shown in the image.
Horse race results: Orbicular, 1st; Pepper Box, 2nd; Dr. Allen, 3rd

One of the big attractions of Kerrville’s West Texas Fair was horse races, and the 1908 news article reports the results of the first race that day, covering four and a half furlongs: Orbicular won. Pepper Box second. Doc Allen third. Orbicular finished the course in 57 seconds.
There, behind the crowd in the photograph, you can see those three names. Most of the folks in the photograph – well, their names have been forgotten, though I recognize a few of the faces. Those fleet horses, though: we know their names.
I have noticed, while visiting the Glen Rest cemetery, which is next to Schreiner University, several grave monuments that look like sculptures of tree stumps, with the Woodmen of the World seal and a motto in Latin, Dum Tacet Clamat, which roughly translates to "though silent he speaks.”
Some of those buried there were no doubt in the photograph taken that August day.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who spends way too much time studying obscure clues on historic Kerr County photographs. At least it keeps him (somewhat) out of trouble. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 15, 2022.

Though this newsletter is free, it isn't cheap. You can help by sharing it 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!)




Sunday, January 2, 2022

Top Ten Kerr County History Stories of 2021

Ingram Dam, 1968.  Click on any image below to enlarge.

2021, what a year. It was the first year since I began writing this column, back in 1994, that I missed a deadline. Two, in fact, both while I was in the hospital back in March. All mended, now.
It’s fun to look back over some of the history we discovered together during the last 12 months, and count up the number of times each of my columns was read online, determining which of these proved the most popular with my readers. Click on any link below to read the stories.

Here are the top 10 columns of 2021:

Number 10:
New details revealed about Kerrville’s Union Church,” published in February. 
According to an article published in the Kerrville Times in March, 1928, two volunteers, “Mrs. Scott and Miss Gill, drove from house to house, not only in Kerrville, but throughout the county soliciting funds. It was hard work. People were poor, some did not believe in churches.”
The original church cost $190 to build, which was the low bid presented by A. Allen & Co. The building was completed just before Christmas, 1885. It was located on Clay Street, on a lot donated by Charles Schreiner, between Main and Jefferson streets. Today the Union Church stands on the campus of Schreiner University.

Number 9:
The Mosty Family of Kerr County: Generations of Service,” published in January. Leroy Mosty, of Mosty’s Garage, at the corner of Water and Lemos streets in downtown Kerrville, loaned me a nice book the other day. It’s called ‘Mosty: From There … To Here.’
It’s a brief history of the Mosty family, as remembered by Harvey Mosty.
This family has had a great impact on the history of our community. Harvey Mosty was a nurseryman, and, with his brother Lee, of Center Point, was credited as offering the “first soft-shell pecans on native stock.”  Generations of Mostys have added to the story of Kerr County.

Number 8:
Amazing Aerial Photos from 1972,” published in May. When it comes to old photographs of Kerr County, I have a pretty good mental inventory of what images I have in my collection. I was surprised, however, when I was moving a box of photographs into a new container and found a bulky sleeve of negatives I’d never seen before. The sleeve is marked 1972, and it contains aerial images of several hill country towns, including Hunt, Ingram, Center Point and Kerrville.

Number 7:
Our part of the Guadalupe River,” published in June. According to the Handbook of Texas, the river got its name from Alonso De Leon in 1689, when he named it the Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe. De Leon was familiar with the lower stretches of the river. It was called other names by the Spaniards, including the San Augustin and the San Ybon. The earliest reference to our part of the river, at least above the mouth of the Comal, was in 1727, when Pedro de Rivera y Villalon wrote about it.

Number 6:
Solved: The Case of Kerrville's Missing Mill,” published in October. There was once a water-powered mill near Starbucks, back in the 1860s. I could never find it on a map. The mystery has been solved, thanks to Gary Saner and Bryant Saner. Gary pointed to an article his brother Bryant published about the mill in 2005. I found a few of the original, hand-cut limestone blocks after reading Bryant’s article.






Number 5:
The 1968 Grand Opening of Gibson's Discount Center in Kerrville,” published in April. Who doesn’t love Gibson’s? I found some photographs of its grand opening in my files.






Number 4:
Five Million for Kerr County History,” published in November. Many of us have dreamed of a history museum for our area. Several local private foundations provided the funds for the construction to begin. The new museum will be housed in the home of A. C. and Myrta Schreiner, between the library and our print shop, and is owned by the City of Kerrville.





Number 3:
A Kerrville love story, written in stone, in the form of a cottage,” published in June. When Nellie Jensen married Richard Holdsworth, Richard was described as ‘not a social mixer’ by one of his nieces. That niece also wrote “Richard, who had grown up almost a recluse, blossomed under [Nellie’s] care.” He made so many friends he was mayor of Kerrville in 1933.
When Nellie died, in 1936, Richard had a building built at Westminster Encampment in Nellie’s memory. That building still stands, and is on the campus of Schreiner University.

Number 2:
A letter returns to Kerrville -- over 100 years after it was mailed,” published in April. Gentle Reader, this was one of the saddest columns I’ve ever written. The letter, dated November 11, 1918, the day World War I ended, was from Elizabeth Baker to her son, Sidney Baker, who was a soldier fighting in France. 
“Dear Son,” she wrote, “I write to you to let you know we have received the news we have peace and I never was as happy in my life. Oh if I could just be with you all to rejoice, but have the pleasure of thinking you won’t be killed now, and … you will be home in honors someday.”
Elizabeth Baker did not know her son Sidney had been killed in France on October 15, only a few weeks before the end of the war. A downtown street is named in Sidney Baker’s honor, along with a street named for Francisco Lemos, and one for Earl Garrett.

And the most popular column of 2021:
The Case of the Missing Kerr County Mill,” published in March. Yep, it’s about the same 1860s mill which I was having a hard time locating. Publishing this story inspired Gary Saner to send me the clues which solved the case.
Thanks for reading – and for allowing me to have a place in our community’s newspaper.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects items from the history of Kerr County and Kerrville. If you have something you’d care to share with him, it would certainly make he’d certainly like it. Happy New Year! This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times

My coffee-table history books on Kerr County make great gifts. Free shipping. Click here for more information. Each book filled with over 100 historic photos.




January 1, 2022.


Sunday, December 12, 2021

Kerrville's Tivy Class of 1914 -- in their own words


The Tivy High School Class of 1914.
Click on either image to enlarge.

As much as I love old Kerr County photographs, I have a particular fondness for other historical items – especially printed ephemera like newspapers and local booklets which help tell the story of our community.
Among the treasures recently given to me by my friends Sandy and Jon Wolfmueller was an old school newspaper, “The Tivy High School Record,” dated May 29, 1914. The masthead reads “Vol 1., No. 8 … Graduation Number.”
The pages measure 8 x 12 inches; the newspaper has 4 pages total, a single sheet folded in half.
The news items cover the graduation week ceremonies, from the ‘Baccalaureate Sermon,’ to the senior class play, ‘A Rustic Romeo.’
In 1914, students graduated from Tivy after completing the 10th grade, and that year Tivy graduated 20 students. That was a big improvement from the class of 1895, when three graduated; no more graduated until 1898, when another three graduated. The names of all the graduates from 1895 until 1914 are listed in this little newspaper, taking up just over 1 column. The class of 1914 was not the largest class in the school’s history, but it was second, losing out to the class of 1913, which had 21 graduates.
I recognize three of the names among the graduates of 1914: Gussie Mae Brown, whose grandfather, Joshua Brown, founded Kerrville; Harry Dietert, who was a gifted engineer in the automobile industry; and Howard Butt, who later lent his initials to a grocery company, H-E-B.
The editorial masthead lists Gerald Walther as the Editor in Chief, with three assistant editors: Howard Butt, Walter Saenger, and Louis Comparette.
Gerald Walther also came from an interesting family. His father, George Walther, opened a Sunshine Library on Water Street. That library wasn’t part of local government, and it wasn’t built by a non-profit corporation. It was built by a married couple, George and Geraldena Walther, who ran the library as part of their business, and who advocated for a public library for our community for many decades. Gerald trained as a pharmacist and worked on Water Street; he died fairly young.
Walter Saenger, I believe, became the manager of the Kerrville Chamber of Commerce, back when its offices were in the 100 block of Earl Garrett, in the old fire station; today the site is a parking lot. He had a habit of visiting every business in the downtown area before 10 a.m., and few knew the pulse of the community better than he.
Tivy High School, 1914
Louis Comparette’s father, D. H. Comparette, started the first telephone company in Kerrville.
Another of the 1914 graduates, Annie Mae Morriss, wrote history articles for this newspaper in the 1950s. She went to the University of Texas, and later taught at Kerrville’s Scofield School. She was considered an expert on local history.
Oscar Strackbein was the youngest graduate that year, completing Tivy at the age of 13. He also went to the University of Texas, and pursued a life in economics and government policy. He was a Fellow in the Royal Economic Society of London, England, and made quite a name for himself. His papers can be found in the Eisenhower Presidential Library.
Several of the women in the class of 1914 stayed in Kerrville. Lucille Williamson married Gober Gibson, who was Kerrville’s postmaster for many years. Winona Moore, daughter of Tom Moore, ranched with her husband, Henry Priour, on the Divide. I remember their daughter, Marie Priour Hurt, who was a columnist for this newspaper.
The superintendent of the Kerrville schools in 1914 was Alvin Dilley. One of his notable accomplishments was the introduction of the game of football to Tivy students a few years earlier.
Elsewhere I found this story about Alvin Dilley and the Tivy class of 1914:
“For a long time, we were ashamed to tell this, but we were the class who played ‘hookey,’ with the exception of Oscar Strackbein, and went to Lake Side Park for the day. Most of the ninth graders went along. We went swimming and had lots of fun. We felt differently the next day when Professor Dilley called us on the carpet and expelled, so he said, all of us. The ninth graders did not suffer this punishment, as we were supposed to have led them into it.
“We were to be out of school for 10 days and then were to stay in after school and at recess to make up the lost time. He got as tired of this as we did and, after a week, relented and said perhaps we were not so bad after all.”
I noticed one other small bit of information in the “Tivy High School Record” of May 29, 1914. “Earl Garrett, Tivy ’12, did all the typewriting on the first seven numbers of The Record and was one of the prime factors in making this newspaper a success.” Earl Garrett would later serve in World War I in the Army; after he died in battle, our community renamed one of its downtown streets in his honor.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who enjoys discovering items from Kerr County’s past. If you have something you’d care to share with him, it would make him happy. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times December 11, 2021

My coffee-table history books on Kerr County make great Christmas gifts.  Free shipping. Click here for more information. Each book filled with over 100 historic photos.




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