Monday, November 29, 2010

History Detective: why are there two channels leaving the old mill? Part 2.

Click on any image to enlarge
Detail from April 1910 Sanborn-Perris Map of Kerrville, showing mill site.
Last week I wrote about the old mill below the 800 block of Water Street, and the remnants remaining there today. In the riverbed you can still spot where the old wooden posts formed the mill dam. You can still see some of the rock work for the old mill, and even a bit of the old mill race.
The mill itself was originally built by Christian Dietert in the 1850s, but over time it was changed and reconfigured. Water power was used by the settlers of our community to cut lumber, mill grains, and even gin cotton.
During work on my book of historic photos, I discovered two photos of discharge channels which I had originally believed showed the same channel. But on closer inspection I found they were of two separate channels.
Why, I wondered, did the mill have two channels for water being discharged from the mill's turbines?
I went to the site and checked out what I saw in the old photographs, and, sure enough, there were two channels cut into the chalky riverbed there. They ran parallel to each other, at an angle to the flow of the river, about 100 feet apart. They're visible, too, from the little observation platform Ed Hamilton has had built at the top of the bluff, right behind the fountain in the entryway to One Schreiner Center at the end of Washington Street.
I'll admit I spent some time down there trying to figure it out. I walked from one to the other several times, making sure what I saw in the historic photos was what I saw on the ground. It was true: there were two channels.
How the mills appeared in 1898, Kerville.
It took some research to figure it out, but here's my theory. There were two mills.
A close inspection of photographs taken between 1900 and 1920 definitely show two "water power shafts" rising from the mill dam to buildings built on the Water Street bluff.
The map shows the two "water power shafts" going to two separate buildings: one is labeled a "Gin," and the other a "Flour Mill."  The power shaft going to the gin also went to a "Dynamo Room," where, in 1910, electric power for Kerrville was generated.
The "gin" building is long gone, but I believe the basement of the "flour mill" building might still be here, and it's what Mr. Hamilton has built his observation point upon. Later it was an ice plant, and when I was a youngster, we explored the tunnels leading from the old ice plant toward Water Street.
If my research is correct, the two discharge channels served two separate turbines, meaning the settlers of our area "double-dipped" into the Guadalupe for power -- about 100 feet from each point -- and utilized that power in many different ways.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is working on a book. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times, November 27, 2010


  1. The older channel of the old mill, may be the the old Burney Mill.

  2. I have never heard of the Burney Mill. Is there a website that tells about it?

    I tried, but didn't find anything.

    This is an interesting topic.


  3. While looking at the two Sanborn-Perris maps of the old mill, I began to wonder about the water powered shaft that went to the flour mill.

    That building is the same as what was later referred to as the red brick building.

    The maps show conveyer belts carrying the flour from the mill (red brick building) to a silo (grain elevator).

    Is there any way of determining if those conveyer belts were above ground, or in the tunnels below ground?

    Also, were the corn meal storage room and the wheat storage room above or below ground?

    This is curious.


  4. In my previous post, I mentioned the red brick building that was part of the old ice plant.

    Does anyone have photos that were taken during the demolition of the old ice plant and the red brick building?

    If so, I would love it if they were posted somewhere on the internet.



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