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Monday, October 25, 2010

The Mystery of the Unknown Church and School

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Detail, August 1898 Sanborn-Perris Map of Kerrville.
Mystery building is in blue, indicating stone construction.
Small mysteries intrigue me.
Take, for instance, an article a friend sent me about Potter Brown, Joshua Brown's youngest son. You may remember that Joshua Brown founded Kerrville, and gave the land for the courthouse square.
Potter Brown was born in Kerrville on April 17, 1870, and died here in 1964, making him not only the son of the community's founder, but also one of the earliest natives of our community. Kerrville wasn't incorporated as a city until 1889; by then Potter Brown was already 19.
One of my predecessors here at the newspaper, Tex McCord, had a column about local history (and other subjects) called "Guadalupe Gossipel."  In the December 18, 1955 issue of the Kerrville Times, McCord interviewed Potter Brown about Christmas in the hill country back in the earliest days of our community. I'll try to tell Brown's story about Christmas here closer to that holiday.
There was a line in the story that intrigued me, though. A small mystery, if you will.
Talking about his childhood, Brown remembered staying busy. "A boy of 10 in those days had precious little time for toys," McCord writes, "according to Brown. There were chores to do, firewood to cut from Spanish oak, cows to milk, hogs to feed, water to tote from the big spring in the river bank."
McCord quotes Brown: "And we had to go three miles to church and school."
According to the story "The combination church and school house was a rock building that stood where the Barker Building now stands."
Barker Building, Kerrville, around 1955.
This was the old Secor Hospital,
later called the Kellogg Building
I happen to have in my collection a photo of the "Barker Building," though when I was young they called it the Kellogg Building. Before then it was called the Secor Hospital. It was on the corner of Sidney Baker (then Tchoupitoulas Street) and Main Street. National Car Sales is there today, across from the Kerr County Courthouse.
Potter Brown would have attended school through about the eleventh grade (there being no twelfth grade in those days), meaning he would have attended until he was about 17, or until 1887 approximately.
Third Kerr County Courthouse
Just to left of man is the
"Mystery" building
Looking at my old Sanborn-Perris maps of Kerrville, there was indeed a rock building on the corner of those streets, though it was on the very edge of the lot; if you leaned out the south window, you'd impede traffic on Main Street. I even have some photos that imply the old building's existence: in one, the building can be seen over a man's shoulder; in another, it's attached to what would later be the Secor Hospital.
But that's not the mystery.

Potter Brown said the "combination church and school house was a rock building...."
The Union Church, we've believed, was the first church in our community, built in 1885, with its first service on Christmas Eve 1885. Four different denominations met there, taking turns throughout the month.
The Union Church wasn't on Main and Sidney Baker, it was near the intersection of Clay and Main, where a service station's car wash stands today. The Union Church faced toward the courthouse -- but a block away.
And by 1885, when the Union Church was built, Potter Brown was 15, and had been attending a school and church at a structure about a block east of the new Union Church.
Here's the mystery: what was that church and school?
Until next week, all the best.
Originally published in the Kerrville Daily Times, October 23, 2010

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