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Sunday, September 24, 2023

The Kerr County Cabin of a Daughter of the Alamo

The Morriss cabin, between Ingram and Hunt,
as shown on an old postcard.

As I collect Kerr County photographs and historical items, I occasionally run across images which create more questions than answers, photographs which require a little digging to get to the root of the mystery.

One such photograph is of a one-room log cabin. It slopes a little to the right, has a stone fireplace on the left, is chinked with mud and stones, and has vines growing in the space between the fireplace and the cabin wall.

I know of three images of cabins from the early days of Kerr County: the Holloman cabin, the Real Cabin, and this little cabin. Each shows a small cabin made of logs. The Holloman cabin sports a porch, but the other two are plainer. All of them were photographed well after they were occupied as homes, in my opinion; the Real cabin has its chimney fallen on the ground.

But the mystery cabin is different: not only was it a photograph, but it the photograph was made into a postcard. I find what looks to be the same cabin in an illustration in Bob Bennett's history of Kerr County, and at least one reference in J. E. Grinstead's magazine, in the June, 1940 edition.

"Carving out a new county, and a place to make homes, out of this wild mountain country," Grinstead wrote, "was not all beer and skittles for the pioneers. They had to keep a gun at hand when they chopped the logs for their cabins. There were still bands of marauding Indians in the country. Shown in these pages is one of those cabins. It stands on the banks of the Guadalupe. Here, 'a daughter of the Alamo' known as Grandma Morriss lived."

The cabin, of course, interested me, because the photograph shows clearly how difficult life here must have been for the early settlers.

But I was also intrigued by the reference to the Alamo. What could that mean?

Well, as is often the case, I stumbled upon the solution by accident, and well after most other local historians already knew the story. In fact, there is an historical marker about the woman who lived in that cabin, the "daughter of the Alamo."

Mary Ann Kent was born in Missouri in 1827, the seventh child of Andrew and Elizabeth Zumwalt Kent. The family came to Texas in 1830, and lived in Gonzales. It is likely the Kent family knew James Kerr, for whom Kerr County is named, and also Joshua D. Brown, the founder of Kerrville, since Gonzales was frequented by both.

Andrew Kent rode to the relief of the besieged Alamo with a group from the Gonzales Ranging Company of Mounted Volunteers, and arrived at the old mission on March 1, 1836. He died during the Battle of the Alamo on March 6, 1836. (Kent County, established in 1876, was named for him. It is about halfway between Lubbock and Abilene.)

And so Mary Kent, along with her brothers and sisters, was the child of a defender of the Alamo, and hence the term "daughter of the Alamo."

In 1845, Mary Ann Kent married William Byas, a freighter. William Byas enlisted in the Confederate Army in 1862, became ill, and died in 1865. Now a widow, Mary Ann Kent Byas lived in several places, but eventually arrived in Kerr County in 1869, to be near her sister, Louisa Kent Billings, on Johnson Creek above Ingram. While there Mary Ann Kent Byas lost four of her children to fever in a single day.

There is still a stream that feeds Johnson Creek that bears the name Byas Branch.

In 1879 Mary Ann Kent Byas married a blacksmith and farmer named Robert Chambers; he passed away only a year later. In 1881 she married her third husband, John G. Morriss, who was 15 years her senior, and had been a widower for many years. About the same time, they moved to the little cabin which was shown in the photographs I've seen. Their marriage was a happy one, ending when he died in 1897.

Now widowed three times, Mary Ann Kent Byas Chambers Morriss lived in the little cabin another 20 years, dying in 1917. At the time, local newspapers considered her possibly the last "daughter of the Alamo" to pass away.

The little cabin was preserved for many years, but was reportedly destroyed in the big flood of 1932. A Texas Historical Marker honoring Mary Ann Kent's life can be found at the Nichols Cemetery between Kerrville and Ingram.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who would not last a week in Kerr County during the 1850s. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 23, 2023

Thanks for reading. This newsletter is free, but not cheap to send. To show your support, forward it to someone who’d like it, or buy one of my books.  Thanks so much. (And thanks to all of you who bought books this week!)

Sunday, September 17, 2023

A century of learning at Kerrville's Schreiner University

Schreiner Institute, as it appeared in 1923, 100 years ago.
Click on any image to enlarge.

On December 31, 1917, our community received a remarkable gift.

In the early days of Kerr County, just before the Civil War, a young immigrant moved here. His life was not an easy one: he lost his parents when he was young, and was on his own at 16. There were many years of hardship and even poverty for the immigrant and his family and some traces of his homeland never went away. Even late in his life he spoke with a slight accent, a faint echo of his first language, French. Some of his manners were a bit foreign, too. 

Yet he loved Kerrville and Kerr County and his actions proved his feelings for our community.

The immigrant was a hard worker, and he was smart. His business acumen was phenomenal. He was not trained in business; his father had not been a businessperson; he was never an apprentice, learning from a mentor. He had little formal education. 

However, he was a gifted businessman, with an eye for value, and he was an excellent merchant. He built a great fortune. 

His customers liked him, and his community trusted him: they elected him to several public offices, including county treasurer, an office he held for decades. 

Late in his life, after providing for his large family, he gave a lot of his wealth away, in gifts large and small, mostly benefiting the community of Kerrville and our neck of the Texas Hill Country.

The gift which has touched the most lives was his gift of a school on the outskirts of Kerrville, a preparatory school for boys.

The immigrant had the idea for the school before World War I. He announced his plan: On December 31, 1917, he would donate $250,000 to establish the school, along with 140.25 acres of land in Kerrville, with the provision work on it could not begin until the war was over and at least a year had passed from the signing of the peace treaties.

In the years after the announcement about the school, the immigrant added to his gift; the total he gave for the school eventually added up to a little over $550,000.

1923 Schreiner Football Team
It wasn't until 1922 that construction on the school began. Three buildings were erected: a three-story main building, a dormitory, and a headmaster's house. The architectural style of the buildings was described in the Kerrville Mountain Sun as "English Colonial," a style "which is specially adapted to the rugged surroundings and has the further advantage of being very homelike." 

When the cornerstone was dedicated, the immigrant was there.

In September, 1923, 100 years ago, the school opened its doors to students. Again, the immigrant was there for the festivities.

That immigrant, of course, was Charles Schreiner; the school he founded was Schreiner Institute, which is today known as Schreiner University.

In its 100-year history, Schreiner University has only had six presidents: Dr. James Delaney; Dr. Andrew Edington; Dr. Sam Junkin; Dr. Thompson Biggers; Dr. Tim Summerlin; and Dr. Charlie McCormick. I’ve been fortunate to have known five of the six leaders of the school.

As the university celebrates its 100 years of serving students, it’s important to remember the immigrant merchant who founded the school and the hundreds of men and women who have taught there since 1923. The gift of the school, along with the many lessons taught there by dedicated instructors, have made our world a better place.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is especially proud of one Schreiner graduate: his lovely wife, Ms. Carolyn, who graduated from Schreiner College with a teaching degree, which she used as a first-grade teacher in Kerrville for several decades. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 16, 2023.

Thanks for reading. This newsletter is free, but not cheap to send. To show your support, forward it to someone who’d like it, or buy one of my books.  Thanks so much. (And thanks to all of you who bought books this week!)

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Wait. Is this story correct? Where exactly did the Kerrville City Council meet in 1909?

Is this the Newman Building?
Click on any image to enlarge.

In Kerrville, in 1909, a civic club was often in the news. It was called the “Kerrville Business Men’s Club,” and its mission was to promote Kerrville and sponsor projects which helped Kerrville grow.

While reading about the club, I ran across an interesting story which I had to double-check because it didn’t seem plausible. Turns out the story was true.

The club itself had an impressive membership list. Kerr County’s premier businessman, Captain Charles Schreiner was a member – as were three of his sons: A. C., Louis, and Charles. Five ministers were also members, though I don’t know what classification of businesses they represented. Several future mayors of Kerrville were also members: H. Remschel; George Morris; W. H. Rawson; A. T. Adkins; and W. A. Fawcett. And there were members’ names still recognizable today: J. L. Pampell; Charles Real; D. H. Comparette; and J. E. Grinstead.

In 1909, the men in this club represented the ‘movers and shakers’ of our community.
The club supported ‘good roads,’ community clean up days, published maps and souvenir booklets, which told of the beauty of Kerr County and the charms of her people.

They even had guest speakers. In 1910, they heard from T. S. Brackenridge, of St. Louis, who was spending time in Ingram. While in Ingram, Mr. Brackenridge invented an ‘aeroplane’ which he claimed ‘would excel all others.’ During his talk, he showed the club a model of the airplane. (A quick Google search did not find anything of Mr. Brackenridge, or of his aeroplane.)

The article about the Kerrville Business Men’s Club which intrigued me was published in the Kerrville Mountain Sun on April 24, 1909.

“New Club Room,” was the title of the short article. “City Council and Business Men’s Club jointly, have leased Second Story of the Newman Building.

“In accordance with instruction given him at the last regular meeting of the Kerrville Business Men’s Club, President Carpenter, of the club, called upon the [Kerrville] City Council with a proposition to join in securing new quarters for the two organizations. At a regular meeting of the City Council held Tuesday night, the Council instructed Mayor Remschel to act in cooperation with Mr. Carpenter in an effort to secure desirable quarters.

“The result of this action was that on Wednesday a deal was put through by which the second story of the Newman Building becomes the Business Men’s Club and Council chamber.

“The School Board is cordially invited to make the new Club Room headquarters and their meeting place.”

This presented a problem. I had no idea where the Newman Building was in downtown Kerrville. It took a bit to find it.

In 1909, there was a retail store called R. S. Newman’s which advertised in the Kerrville Mountain Sun. It sold women’s clothing items and sewing notions. “Dress goods: we have not heretofore carried this line, but now have in a strictly new and in every way worthwhile stock of Women’s Wearables,” one such ad read, continuing, “including all the newest and neatest things in dress fabrics, trimmings. RUNCHINGS. RIBBONS. Laces, Embroideries, White Goods.”

I looked up ‘runchings,’ and learned they are ‘a gathered overlay of fabric strips that are pleated, fluted, or gathered together to create a ripple-like effect.’

Newman’s store took up the bottom floor of the Newman Building, and the Kerrville Business Men’s Club and the Kerrville City Council shared the upper floor with one other tenant, Dr. A. F. Thigpen, a dentist.

And where was the Newman Building? It was on the corner of Main and Mountain streets. (Today Mountain Street is called Earl Garrett Street.)

Today, that same building is known as the Guthrie Building, and is currently the home of the Community Foundation of the Texas Hill Country.

I double-checked an old map, and it’s true: the Guthrie Building was labeled “City Hall” on maps from the 1910s until the 1930s.

If you think today’s Kerrville city council chambers are small, consider the chambers in 1909: Upstairs, without access for handicapped citizens, in a space shared with a civic club and a dentist’s office. Those council chambers were, quite possibly, an actual smoke-filled room.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has served on the city council in two separate city council chambers. The current chamber is the best so far.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 2, 2023.

Thanks for reading. This newsletter is free, but not cheap to send. To show your support, forward it to someone who’d like it, or buy one of my books.  Thanks so much. (And thanks to all of you who bought books this week!)

Saturday, September 9, 2023

A mystery photo of Kerrville's Water Street -- when was it taken?

Water Street, Kerrville Texas.
When was this photo taken?  Who took the photo?

One of the challenges in identifying old photographs is determining when they were taken. There are old tricks I often use, such as looking at the year models of any automobiles in the photo, or looking at what was showing at various movie theaters, since the release dates of movies are now easily searchable on the Internet.

But what clues are available when there are no automobiles or movie theaters are in the photograph?

Last week, a kind reader sent in an old photograph of Water Street. It’s an image which I don’t remember seeing before. It was taken on Water Street, looking toward what is now called Earl Garrett Street. If you went to the north corner of today’s One Schreiner Center, and looked toward Francisco’s and the Schreiner Building, you’d be standing about where the photographer stood when taking the photo.

An 1893 photo -- without wool warehouse
In the photograph, the Water Street is not paved. There are several horses and buggies in the image. There’s no direct hint as to who took the photograph.

Still, there are several clues in the image, and I can pull information from other photographs in my collection to narrow down the date when the photograph was taken.

If you look at the largest buildings in the photo, which line the right side of the street in the image, there are three prominent structures. Going from left to right, the first is the Schreiner Wool Warehouse, which was later the home of Lehmann’s and later still, Winn’s; the next is the Schreiner Company building; and the third is the Weston Building, which is now home to Francisco’s Restaurant.

On the left side of the street is an advertising sign, which is partly obscured by leaves and shadows.

I have a photograph of the Schreiner Company store which was taken in 1893; the Schreiner Wool Warehouse is not in that photograph. Since the wool building was constructed in 1894 by Bruno Schott for Charles Schreiner, the mystery photo has to be taken after 1894.

The other clue is an advertising sign seen on the left-hand edge of the photograph. It is obscured by shadows and leaves, but it has a distinct supporting column, a pole which stands at an angle, and not perpendicular to the ground.

After a bit of guesswork, I finally figured out two words on that sign: in large letters is the word “Photographer;” and in smaller letters, on the far right side of the sign, “Cabinet.”

Cabinet photographs were a style of photograph which was widely used for photographic portraiture after 1870. They consisted of a thin photograph mounted on a card. These were often portraits of people, and most every family today has one of these cabinet photographs of an ancestor stuck in a drawer somewhere in their house.

The same sign, with a different business, 1896
A different photograph in my collection, which was taken in 1896, shows this same advertising sign – but in the 1896 photograph, it’s not an advertising sign for a photographer – it’s for a cobbler, H. H. Marshall.

Who was the photographer whose ‘shingle’ is shown in the mystery photograph? 

There was a photographer here from about 1894 - 1896 named Albert T. Glock, who specialized in 'cabinet' photographs. I believe the sign in the mystery photograph showed the location of his studio, in the 800 block of Water Street. I have two old newspapers from that period which contain advertisements for Mr. Glock’s studio, under the headline “A. Glock, The Photographer.”  It’s possible Mr. Glock took this photograph of Water Street.

Prior to his career in photography, Mr. Glock was a brewer, who pursued that craft in several places, including Fredericksburg.

So, based on these clues, I think this photograph was taken around 1895, making it one of the older photographs of downtown Kerrville in my collection. I’m very thankful to the kind reader who shared this photograph with me, and with our entire community.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects Kerrville and Kerr County historical items. If you have something you’d care to share with him, it would make him very happy. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times August 26, 2023.

Thanks for reading. This newsletter is free, but not cheap to send. To show your support, forward it to someone who’d like it, or buy one of my books.  Thanks so much. (And thanks to all of you who bought books this week!)

Saturday, August 12, 2023

The Railroad came to Kerrville in 1887

The Kerrville Depot of the
San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad.
Click on any image to enlarge.

The coming of the railroad in 1887 changed everything for Kerrville -- because it allowed commerce with the world beyond our hills.

Until that time all freight came to Kerrville by wagons. Every nail, piece of paper, shoe, piano, and most of the cloth and lumber was hauled over the hills by oxen, with most of the freight coming to us from San Antonio. 

In 1887, no other community in the hill country was served by a railroad other than the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad -- which served Boerne, Comfort, and Center Point before arriving in Kerrville. Fredericksburg didn't get her railroad until November 1, 1913, twenty-six years after Kerrville, and that line was never really profitable. Other nearby communities, like Junction or Rocksprings, never saw a train arrive. Kerrville's trains ran until the 1970s.

The Kerrville Eye
Sept 29, 1887
I have a copy of the October 6, 1887 "Kerrville Eye," a newspaper of the era. The publisher printed 2,000 copies of the edition -- a huge number, considering Kerrville probably had less than 400 residents.

In the issue several other newspapers' reports of the railway's arrival in Kerrville was reprinted. "Plucky little Kerrville," the San Angelo Standard reported, "has obtained her railroad, and if ever a town and county deserve the iron horse, Kerrville and Kerr County did. A bonus of $50,000 was raised in the middle of the drouth and $46,000 of that bonus has been raised in cash; a few more thousand had to be raised to buy the right of way over land belonging to fossils of the tertiary period, a few of which are settled in that county. We hope the boon for which Kerr County has worked so strenuously will prove an even greater blessing than they anticipate."

The Burnet Hero declared "The Aransas Pass Road has reached Kerrville. The 'Eye' therefore excusable for being jubilant and winking many triumphant winks, as it worked hard to bring that town and section to the front of the railroad men. We know how it is ourselves and don't blame the 'Eye' for feeling proud. The 'Hero' got out an extra to celebrate the completion of the Dallas, Granite and Gulf road to Burnet, as it was the first air line to the point from the north -- but alas it was an air line with a vengeance. It was built of air, by air, through air."

According to the Texas Transportation Museum website, “at 11:45 AM on October 6, 1887, the first train arrived in Kerrville. On board the six Pullmans were 502 passengers, 200 from San Antonio, 131 from Boerne, 141 from Comfort and 30 from Center Point. Altogether this was 200 more people than actually lived in Kerrville. It was a banner day for the town, with parades and speeches.” 

There were more than speeches and parades that day: there was also business to be transacted. 

According to the 'Eye,' "A large lot sale will take place here about the 22nd of October. The magnificent ground near the depot has been laid off in lots by Capt. Schreiner, and will be sold that day. This is going to be a town. Don't miss the sale. Come and bid on a few lots."

Then later, a few inches down, the 'Eye' continues: "Visitors to Kerrville, did you ever see a prettier site for a town? Kerrville has the prettiest depot grounds of any town on the Aransas Pass [railway]. Capt Schreiner has cut this fine plot of ground up into lots... You will regret to the end of your days if you fail to attend the sale, and purchase a lot."

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who remembers the freight train rolling into Kerrville when he was a boy. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times August 5, 2023.

Thanks for reading. This newsletter is free, but not cheap to send. To show your support, forward it to someone who’d like it, or buy one of my books.  Thanks so much. (And thanks to all of you who bought books this week!)



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