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Monday, February 7, 2011

Starr Bryden: pioneer Kerrville Photographer

While I was working on my book of Kerrville photographs, I got a very interesting email about Starr Bryden, an early photographer in our area.
Starr Bryden, Kerrville, around 1920
One paragraph in particular caught my attention: "Starr [Bryden] was a very interesting man. He and his father had come to Texas from Tennessee. Starr had tuberculosis and was very ill. Like many others, he had heard that the climate in the hill country of Texas would be beneficial in helping him recover from his illness. I believe he was about 16 years old when he came to Kerr County. My great-grandfather (Harry Williams) discovered Starr and his dad camped in a primitive shelter on a neighbor's ranch near Turtle Creek. He went home that evening and told my great-grandmother about having found a very sick boy and his dad camped out in the woods. My great-grandmother (Ella Denton Williams) insisted that they bring the boy to their home. They enclosed a corner of their front porch and made a room for Starr. My great grandmother fed him, nursed him back to health, and even taught him to walk again. Starr remained in the Kerrville area the rest of his life. He rode a bicycle most of his early years, and rode a motor scooter as he got older"

I knew Starr Bryden's name, because I'd seen it on several of the photographs in my collection. But I didn't know his story.
The shelter where the Williams family
found Starr Bryden
Raymond Starr Bryden came to Texas in 1912, suffering from what doctors then called "Galloping Consumption."  He spent a year and a half in San Antonio, then moved to Kerrville in 1913, "just a jump and a skip ahead of Father Time with the scythe."
"He made quite a few passes at me," Bryden wrote in 1956, "but I jumped and the scythe went under my feet."
After he'd been here awhile and had been nursed back to health by the Williams family, he decided to go visit his family in Chattanooga, Tennessee. On his bicycle.
"All the money I had was $10.00 and my bike, and the distance to go was about 1500 miles. The late Dr. Jackson said 'Starr, it will kill you.'  Maybe so, I replied, but I want to go home. I made the ride in twenty-one days and when I got home I had exactly 25 cents, and paid for everything I ate on the way."
When he arrived in Chattanooga, he sent a telegram to the Kerrville Mountain Sun, which the paper published. (I think the town was worried about him.)
"Arrived in Chattanooga September 29th. Traveled over 1500 miles and was in six different states. It was a great trip.
"Paid out ten cents on repairs on wheel. This trip was made by bicycle and truck.
"I say it was going some for a lunger. Will be back sometime this month."
Later, Starr wrote: "When I got back to Kerrville, I saw Dr. Jackson and said 'Well, Doctor, it didn't kill me.'
The doctor, according to Bryden, replied "H--- no, but it should have."
Starr Bryden, later in life.
Despite his bout with tuberculosis, he was drafted and called for service June 25, 1918 for what he called the "Big War."  He wrote he "went in when the Cap busted, and came out before the gun fired, so to speak."
Starr became a beloved member of the Kerr County community. "Yes, folks," Bryden wrote, late in life, "my hat is off to the Hill Country, and especially my friends, and the great outdoors, and the beautiful hills. Truly the good Lord has been good to this community."
A collection of his photographs is at the Kerr History Center, near the library, on Water Street.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects photographs of Kerrville and Kerr County. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times on February 5, 2010.

1 comment:

  1. Back in the late 1950's my Dad was the active duty representative for the National Guard in Kerrville. Starr Bryden would stop by almost every day to visit with my Dad. He lived a couple of blocks up the street from us in tiny little house. We have many family picture courtesy of Starr Bryden. I don't remember a lot about him but I do remember that he was very good to us.


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