Thursday, April 7, 2011

Making Shingles -- How Kerrville got its start in 1846

When I ran across these images, I thought they might be useful to those interested in learning more about Kerrville's history.  You see, Kerrville got its start because a young man named Joshua D. Brown established a shingle making camp here in the late 1840s.  Their idea was to harvest the cypress trees to make shingles.  Cypress has certain oils in it which help it repel water, and so they were good for roofing.
Still, it's hard to envision what the process was like.  Perhaps these photos will help. I believe they were taken near Stonewall, Texas, at the Danz Cabin, which was restored as part of the Lyndon B. Johnson State and National Park.
Click on any photo to enlarge
A section of cypress is cut from a tree.

Slabs were cut by hand from the tree.

The sections were split.
The split sections were cut into shingles using a froe and mallet.
The rough shingles were then shaped into final form with a draw knife.
For more information about Joe's book, please click here.


  1. About ten years ago, I was working on a cabin over in Bandera. The roof had several layers of shingles and someone had layed a tin roof over that. The owner wanted all the past roof torn off and a metal roof installed. We had the old tin roof torn off along with a layer of composition shingles when I discovered a prize. The wood shingles were cypress singles layed with hand cut nails. I felt like I was violating something sacredness by tearing them off, but to preserve the cabin itself demanded this be done. The old cypress shingles had dried completely out and some were turning to dust in pulling them off. I still have some of the hand cut nails as they would be about a 4 penny nail now days.

  2. On hwy 16, headed towards San Antonio, there is a pass you go thru called Slide Off Pass. It's a step grade right past Barrel House by Pipe Creek. The story I was told was that when they used to make shingles over in Bandera, they would stack the wagons high and send them To San Antonio. The problem was, when they would climb that pass, the top layers of shingles would "slide off".
    Keep a watch out as along the way right there by the pass, are several large Madrona trees. These trees are often easy to spot as during certain times of the year, their bark turns almost blood red.


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