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Sunday, July 4, 2021

July 4, 1936: A busy day in Kerr County, eighty-five years ago

Advertisement, Kerrville Times, July 2, 1936.
Don't judge: typos happen.
Click on any image to enlarge.

For many years Kerr County celebrated July Fourth with a big parade and a rodeo. The rodeo, which was sponsored by the Junior Chamber of Commerce (the Jaycees), was first mentioned in Kerrville newspapers in 1936, and continued for several decades. 
The Charles Schreiner Bridge, Kerrville
That first Jaycees-sponsored rodeo was part of an event-filled weekend. July 4th fell on a Saturday in 1936, and Kerr County had plenty to celebrate. Not only was it Independence Day, but in 1936, Texas was celebrating its centennial.
Here are the events the Jaycees planned for Kerr County residents on July 4, 1936:
At ten that morning, the big parade stepped off from the corner of Clay and Jefferson, today the home of Pint & Plow Brewery, and headed to Water, turned left on Water, continued to Washington, took another left, and then turned left again on Main, making a spiral, ending at Main and Sidney Baker streets. I have no idea how they dispersed the parade floats and all of the rodeo folks on horseback from that point. I was pleased to read the parade chairman’s name: Graydon Mayfield. I have fond memories of him.
U. S. Post Office, Kerrville
Then at 11 o’clock, the Charles Schreiner Bridge was dedicated by the then-speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Coke Stevenson. Stevenson would later serve as governor of Texas. Don’t be confused by the name of the bridge; though you might not recognize the name, we’ve all used it many times, though it’s now much wider than in 1936. It’s the high-water bridge by which Sidney Baker Street connects downtown Kerrville with points south of the river, passing over parts of Louise Hays Park. On the far end of the bridge an old, broken plaque still reminds pedestrians the bridge was dedicated to the memory of Schreiner. He had given more than $100,000 to build local roads and highways during his lifetime. Other speakers at the event were Harry Hines, chairman of the State Highway Commission, and former county judge Lee Wallace. Newspapers noted a unique feature of the bridge, sodium-vapor lights. “Sodium vapor lights, the newest in illumination, are to be used on the Golden Gate bridge at San Francisco. These lamps produce a yellow glow, totally without glare….” The lights brightened the pedestrian walkway, which was bolted to the side of the bridge.
Kerrville State Park, late 1930s
At noon, the entire community was invited to a barbecue at the Kerrville State Park (now Kerrville-Schreiner Municipal Park)
Then, that same afternoon, starting at 1 pm, at the State Park, W. H. Crider, from nearby Hunt, produced a July Fourth rodeo, with goat roping, calf roping, wild cow milking, riding contest and a ‘county contest.’ Johnny Reagan, the “English Cowboy,” would perform a trick-roping act. Prizes would be awarded at 6:15 pm that evening.
At 8 pm, in downtown Kerrville, Congressman Charles L. Smith was the principal speaker at the dedication of the brand-new United States Post Office, at the corner of Earl Garrett and Main streets. Today that building is the home of the excellent Kerr Arts and Cultural Center.
Blue Bonnet Hotel, Kerrville
I’d understand if you thought the Jaycees had outdone themselves with the lineup of events that day. However, there was still one additional event to attend.
“Following the dedication ceremonies Saturday, there will be a street dance in front of the building, part of the entertainment planned by the Junior Chamber of Commerce for Kerrville’s Fourth of July Centennial event.”
Well, there was actually more. The street dance began at 9 pm. Yet another dance, held at the Riverside Terrace of the Blue Bonnet Hotel, began at 9:30 pm. The Blue Bonnet Hotel, all eight stories of it, once stood at the intersection of Water and Earl Garrett streets, opposite Water from today’s Francisco’s Restaurant.
The weather that day was not cooperative: it rained, and the barbecue and rodeo had to be canceled. The following year the rodeo was held at the Tivy football field, which in those days was near Tivy and 3rd streets.
I have a feeling the Jaycees were a very tired bunch by the late evening of July 4, 1936.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has fond memories of the Texas Cowboy Reunion, a rodeo held every July 4th, at his mother’s hometown, Stamford, Texas. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times July 3, 2021.

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, June 20, 2021

What Lies Beneath (an update on a Kerr County history mystery)

Original Nimitz Lake dam, under construction, circa 1980.
Click on any image to enlarge.

Often, as I travel home from work on these hot days, I’ll see folks playing in the Guadalupe River at the dam impounding Nimitz Lake. For those who don’t know, Nimitz Lake is the body of water roughly parallel to Junction Highway; the dam is below and next to Guadalupe Street, near Plaza Drive. The lake stretches from that point all the way past the Spur 98/ Thompson Drive bridge, which is beside the Lakehouse Restaurant. 
Not long ago the lake was named for Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, a World War II hero, and also a Tivy High School graduate. For many years it was called Upper Guadalupe River Authority (UGRA) Lake, and the dam was called the UGRA dam.
The missing mill, photographed by
Gussie Mae Brown, circa 1913
This past March I wrote a story called “The Case of the Missing Kerr County Mill,” which was built by Miles Lowrance, in partnership with Alonzo Rees and James M. Starkey. It was later owned by T. A. Saner, and most references to the water mill call it by his name. Even later, the mill was owned by Charles Schreiner. 
In 1924, J. E. Grinstead mentioned the ruins of the mill, suggesting it was destroyed by a flood. In 1910, the mill dam was being used as part of the city of Kerrville’s water works. Gussie Mae Brown took a photo of the mill around 1913, and it looked in pretty good shape; several of the wooden doors and shutters were still intact.
Here’s the mystery about the mill: no one is sure where it once stood.
The area now covered by Nimitz Lake,
taken from the old entrance to
Arcadia Loop, circa 1980
Though a season has passed since I wrote about the ‘missing mill,’ I have continued to search for it. Because James M. Starkey was involved in its construction, I’m pretty sure it was built on land his family owned, which was roughly from Harper Road to Methodist Encampment Road, with river frontage between those two roads. Starkey and several members of his family are buried on that tract in a private family cemetery between today’s Wal-Mart parking lot and Discount Tires on Junction Highway.
If the missing mill was on Starkey family property, that means its ruins might be found on the riverbank between Harper Road and Methodist Encampment. The problem with proving this theory is simple: the ruins would likely be at the bottom of Nimitz Lake.
If only there was a way to see under the lake.
I contacted a friend at the UGRA – to ask if they had any photographs or surveys in their archives of the land now beneath Nimitz Lake. She was kind enough to look, but the information she found didn’t solve the mystery of the missing mill.
This week, though, a new clue was found. While cleaning out a cluttered part of my office, I found a small box of photographs I’d forgotten were even in my collection. The box was a gift from my friend Susan Sander, and she gave them to many years ago.
Among the photos were two aerial photographs of the area now covered by Nimitz Lake, and one aerial photograph of the Nimitz Lake dam under construction.
Another view, looking upstream.
Knapp Crossing is in the middle
of the photograph.

The aerials provided a more definite possible location of the missing mill, especially if the assumption about the site being on Starkey family property is correct.
In one of the photos, taken looking upstream, you can see the old Knapp Road bridge. Today this is a city park behind Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers fast food restaurant in the 1200 block of Junction Highway, across from the traffic light at Wal-Mart. At the top of the photo you can see Foxworth-Galbaith Lumber. Between those two points, the Knapp crossing and the lumber yard, the terrain on the Junction Highway side of the river looks similar to the bluff and terrain in the old photographs of the mill.
In the other aerial of the river, looking downstream from the old entrance to Arcadia Loop, that area is shown, as well. I think this is the place to look for the old mill. I’ll keep you posted.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who enjoys a nice history mystery. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 19, 2021.

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, June 13, 2021

A Kerrville love story, written in stone, in the form of a cottage

The Nellie Holdsworth Memorial Cottage, 
once part of the Westminster Encampment, Kerrville.
Click on any image to enlarge.

The small cottage stands on the western edge of the Schreiner University campus, in the area which was once Westminster Encampment. Today all that remains of Kerrville’s first summer camp are three buildings: the Barbara Dullnig Building, the Westminster Auditorium, and this little stone cottage.
As my friends Maia and Jeremy Walther, along with partners Schreiner University and the City of Kerrville, prepare for the big grand opening of the Trailhead Beer Garden today, June 12th, I wanted to tell the story about the stone cottage next to the Trailhead building.
The story of that cottage is the story of one couple – it’s a love story.
I first knew the cottage as the offices of the Texas Arts and Crafts Fair Educational Foundation, and often delivered printing there, in the late 1970s and later. Next the cottage was the home of the Texas Heritage Music Foundation, which Dr. Kathleen Hudson led for many years. I understand Schreiner University plans to house a campus visitor center in the building soon.
What I’d never noticed before was a large plaque by the front door: “Erected to the Memory of Nellie Holdsworth 1937”
Who was Nellie Holdsworth?
Since the Trailhead building was originally built as the Barbara Dullnig Building in 1920 to commemorate a Presbyterian woman who led women’s church programs all across Texas, I assumed Nellie Holdsworth served in a similar capacity. I learned she was very active in Kerrville’s First Presbyterian Church, serving as president of their women’s auxiliary. She was also involved in the work of Westminster Encampment.
Richard and Nellie Holdsworth.
He blossomed under her care.
However, this church work was not the reason the cottage was built; it was built by her grieving husband, Richard Holdsworth.
According to an account written by Rosita Holdsworth Hollar, a niece of Richard and Nellie Holdsworth, the couple was a very happy one.
“Nellie Jensen Holdsworth,” Hollar writes, “was a small, plump woman five years her husband’s junior with excellent business training and a life attitude that made her able to make and keep worthwhile friends in every walk of life.” The couple married on Richard’s birthday, April 14, 1912, in San Antonio.
Hollar writes a poignant sentence about their life together: “Richard, who had grown up almost a recluse, blossomed under her care.”
The recluse became a Mason and joined Kerrville’s Rotary Club. His circle of friends grew. “He was known as a reserved person, a good, but fair trader, and not a social mixer.” His judgment and excellent credit helped as he invested in local real estate; his hard work helped as he raised cattle on the couple’s several ranches.
Later, the reclusive Richard Holdsworth became involved in local politics, and on April 12, 1933, he became the mayor of Kerrville. He held this office with distinction until June, 1936, when he resigned, ostensibly to go on an extended visit to his home country, England, with his wife.
But there is more to the story.
Wedding announcement
Hollar writes: “Mrs. Holdsworth began planning a trip to England ‘to see where you lived when you were small.’ Her husband had no keen desire to travel, but now conceded and began plans. Then the family doctor told him that her current illness was to become worse – incurable. The medico deemed it best that she not be told. Of all the bitter things life had brought him, this was the ultimate. He confided in family members who said ‘Go! You can give her every care; she would feel no better at home.’”
And so the Holdsworths went on that big trip to England. “Mrs. Holdsworth, as was her want, gave glowing accounts of the voyage, the sights, ‘although [Richard] would only explore for short days.’ One can only imagine what this fa├žade cost him,” Hollar writes.
They left on June 6, 1936, traveling by train to New York City, and crossing the Atlantic on the steamship President Roosevelt, according to a front-page story in the Kerrville Mountain Sun. “Mayor Holdsworth will visit his birthplace. He was born near the Yorkshire village of Rippenden, but left England at the age of seven.”
They returned after 46 days – and, once again, in a front-page story, the highlights of their last trip together were reported. Not only did they visit his birthplace, they ‘motored’ in Scotland all the way to Edinburgh. They explored the Lake District. They hit many of the required tourist spots. They returned to America aboard the steamship California.
Nellie’s health continued to decline, and she passed away at home in Kerrville on November 17, 1936. 
The cottage Richard built to honor his late wife was completed in about seven months, during the following June, and dedicated in August, 1937. The rock work on the exterior of the building includes fossils, crystals, and other rare materials. It was lovingly designed and constructed.
Somehow the building has survived when few in Westminster are still here. Perhaps the memory of Nellie Holdsworth is strong in that place.
Richard Holdsworth died on January 5, 1950 a little over 13 years after Nellie’s passing. The couple had no children; Richard never remarried.
If you head out to Trailhead Beer Garden this weekend for their grand opening, take a moment to look at the little rock cottage, and remember the couple it represents, and their last big trip together.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has definitely blossomed under the care of the lovely Ms. Carolyn. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 12, 2021.

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. (Did you know I have Kerr County history books available online, with free shipping?)




Sunday, June 6, 2021

Our part of the Guadalupe River

Ingram Dam, 1968
Click on any image to enlarge

The story of Kerr County starts with the Guadalupe River.
Postcard, 1910s
The first settlers to our area were attracted to land beside the river; in fact, early maps of our county show tracts surveyed along the river, but land away from the river had no surveys. It was as if land away from the river had no boundaries, in part because it had less value.
Prehistoric people camped along the river, often at the second ledge or rise above the water, knowing well how often the Guadalupe floods. There are several archeological sites near the river which are in the downtown area. Every now and then I find an arrowhead (or, rather, a part of one) in the middle of downtown Kerrville. We are not the first ones who lived beside the river here.
Here's the story of the Guadalupe, gathered from my files:
The Guadalupe River begins here in Kerr County. Two forks of the river join in Hunt, with the North Fork surging from the ground just upstream from Mo-Ranch above Hunt, and the South Fork beginning near State Highway 41, four miles shy of the Real-Kerr county line. 
Launch, 1925
In fact, at the headwaters of the north fork you can see water rushing from a limestone ledge on state land at a little access point which is part of the Kerr County Wildlife Management area, almost directly across from the entrance gate to the area. For many years I have taken friends and visitors to see these powerful springs, though in recent years they were dry.
From these small beginnings the river travels southeast from Hunt for about 230 miles, emptying into San Antonio Bay. Its two major tributaries are the San Marcos and Comal rivers, and its drainage area is about 6,100 square miles.
I have traveled in search of the mouth of the Guadalupe, down in the muggy flats of Refugio and Calhoun counties, and it’s quite a different river down there: slow moving and filled with large creatures that would certainly scare this swimmer. We saw “slides” on the banks of the river there where alligators sled on their bellies to get into the water. The air is heavy there, and my memories of our search include the droning sounds of a million hidden insects and the bright bleaching sun.
Ski Show, 1950s
Louise Hays Park
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.
Kerrville was established on the river in the mid-1800’s, when Joshua Brown and company came here to harvest the cypress trees to make shingles.
Children, Dietert
Mill Dam, 1910s
A wide variety of commercial enterprises have depended upon the river since that first shingle makers’ camp. Several mills were constructed along the river, one far upstream, between Ingram and Hunt, the Sherman mill. In downtown Kerrville, Christian Dietert built a mill, the ruins of which are still visible today. Center Point had several mills over the years.
Swimming and recreational day camps sprung up in Kerrville, but upriver from Ingram on, summer overnight camps for boys and girls have been an important local industry for 100 years.
Despite a long history of businesses facing away from the river (including my family’s printing company), more and more newly constructed businesses are making use of the river as a feature. The construction of the City of Kerrville’s River Trail system opened up much of the river area to walkers and cyclists. Areas once closed to the public now have hundreds of visitors every day, especially when the weather is pleasant.
We live in a good place here, and I’m thankful the river has been such an important part of our county’s story.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who learned to swim, very long ago, in the Guadalupe River at Camp Stewart. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 5, 2021.

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. (Did you know I have Kerr County history books available online, with free shipping?)




Sunday, May 23, 2021

That time a bear got loose in downtown Kerrville -- 1898

Interior view, Henke Brothers Meat Market,
which was in the 800 block of Water Street.
Click on any image to enlarge.

This week, while researching a different mystery, I ran across a twice-told tale, a story told by two different storytellers.
The tale involves a bear roaming downtown Kerrville at the turn of the last century. This caused a general excitement among those present for the event, and none who were there that day forgot the story.
Henke's, probably early 1960s
Many people have very fond memories of Henke Brothers Meat Market, which was located in the 800 block of Water Street. People especially remember the good barbecue you could buy there, and eat behind the store. 
In 1898, the Henke Brothers purchased the City Meat Market from the Karger Brothers, who were ‘great bear hunters,’ and who kept a pet bear chained up behind the butcher shop. The sale of the butcher shop included the poor bear.
On the very day the Henkes took possession of the enterprise, according to the Kerr County Album, the bear “broke loose and started roaming up the alleyway and entered Schreiner’s store, causing much excitement. Store employees took ammunition and guns from the hardware department and the bear was killed….”
For years this was all I knew about the excitement caused by a bear lumbering along in downtown Kerrville. This week, however, I found an article which fills in a few more details.
Louis A. Schreiner was the third child of Charles and Magdalena Schreiner, and he was born in downtown Kerrville on New Year’s Eve, 1870. He was a banker, and worked at his father’s Schreiner Bank from the age of 19.
Louis A. Schreiner, and guests, around 1968
In early 1969, after “Mr. Louie” celebrated his 98th birthday a few months before, the imitable Nina Harwood interviewed him for this newspaper. Ms. Harwood certainly got several good stories from him, including the story of the rambling bear.
Mr. Schreiner describes the path the roaming bear took after it escaped its chains: from the meat market, which stood between Water Street Antiques and Francisco’s Restaurant in the 800 block of Water Street, the bear escaped down an alley which still exists today. The old Masonic Building, which today holds Turtle Creek Olives and Vines, has a little sidewalk between it and the Baehre Building, home today of Rita’s Famous Tacos and Pax Coffee and Goods. The bear walked down that little sidewalk and entered the Masonic Building.
Louis Schreiner remembered it this way:
After leaving the Masonic Building, the bear crossed the street – to the Schreiner Mansion.
“I was [around] 25 years old at the time, and was slowly recovering from typhoid fever.
“My brothers, Walter and Charlie, who were nursing me at the time, since my parents and two sisters were in Europe, had placed me in a bed on the front porch. When the bear came into the yard, I was unable to move. But fortunately, he went around the house and to the rear of my father’s store.”
Work was being done on the mansion at the time, with Italian stonemasons “installing some fancy rockwork on our fence.”
When the bear suddenly appeared in the backyard, the stonemasons climbed trees as fast as they could, not knowing bears are excellent climbers of trees.
Fortunately for the stonemasons, the bear decided to go shopping at Schreiner’s store.
John Grider, of Grona & Grider ‘Blackmiths and Wheelwrights,’ which stood roughly opposite Water Street from Francisco’s Restaurant, “grabbed a gun and took after the bear. Upon entering the store, Grider shot holes in a half-dozen pairs of shoes before he finally killed the animal,” Louis Schreiner told Nina Harwood with a chuckle.
The Kerr County Album tells what happened next.
“That being opening day for the market,” the Henkes offered “bear meat for 12 cents a pound.”
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has seen bears in the wild in Colorado, though his lovely wife, Ms. Carolyn, once saw a bear at the H. E. Butt Foundation Camps, near Leakey. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times May 22, 2021.

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. (Did you know I have Kerr County history books available online, with free shipping?)




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