Monday, November 14, 2011

Calling all history detectives!!!

Every now and then I have to ask for help from the readers of this column, and this week is one of those weeks.
Gentle Reader, I am in search of something elusive and difficult to determine. However, with your help I think we can solve this mystery.
Susan Sander, a long-time friend and a former columnist for this newspaper, who has more ideas per hour than I have per year, asked me a seemingly simple question: "What is the oldest man-made structure in Kerr County?"
Here I am, a fellow who studies the history of this place, who thinks he knows the answers to most of life's difficult questions, and I had to tell her (with some chagrin) that I don't know.
I have no idea, really, what the oldest structure in Kerr County could be.
Take, for instance, the Schreiner Building currently under renovation in downtown Kerrville. Sure, Captain Schreiner started his store in 1869 -- but certainly not in the structure we see today. His first store was a small thing -- a frame structure, I believe -- and not made of stone.
The Masonic Building, which is now the home of Sheftall's jewelers, shows a date of 1890. The Guthrie Building, on the corner of Earl Garrett and Main street, which now houses a law office, was built in 1887. Pampell's was originally a hotel, and was built around 1895; the stone building owned by the Rectors, which houses Hill Country Living, was probably built in the 1870s. The Weston Building, the home of my classmate Paco Espinoza's restaurant Francisco's, was built around 1890.
Captain Schreiner's home, on Earl Garrett Street, was built, like his store, in stages. The earliest part of the rock house was built in 1879, though Schreiner lived in a "lumber" house there in 1869.
St. Peter's Episcopal had its start in a frame chapel built in the mid-1880s, but the present building was built in the late 1920s.
This question was posed to another columnist, probably Mrs. W. A. Salter or her son, Forrest, in their weekly column "It Happened Here."  This particular column, written in March 1973, suggested the oldest home was the Christian Dietert home on Water Street, behind the Weiss home. The Weiss home became what was known as the Girl Scout House which was later moved to Hunt and is now owned by my friends Mr. and Mrs. Harry Parrish. But the house the Salters describe was behind that Girl Scout house, and I remember seeing it once long ago.
According to the Salters, Christian Dietert "built a small house at the top of the high bank of the river, using hand-hewn timber and cypress shingles. It was in this house that Mrs. Dietert operated the Kerrville post office from 1867 for almost 20 years."  I have no idea what happened to that old house.
The Salters continued with this:  "Possibly the oldest house in continuous residence is the home of Charles Reinhard, also on Water Street."  This was the old home of Whitfield Scott, and was built in 1868. Vagrants camping in the old place set it ablaze years ago, and it was bulldozed down.
So both of the places listed by the Salters are now gone.
Camp Verde was established in 1855, and the Camp Verde Store not long afterwards, in 1857. I'm not sure when the structures themselves were built, but at least one building remains of the old camp.
If you have an idea what could be the oldest standing man-made structure, I'd certainly like to hear about it. I need to give Susan Sander an accurate answer.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who sometimes feels he is the oldest thing in Kerr County. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times November 12, 2011.


  1. I've got a few paleo-Indian middens - does that count? Some 10,000 years old.

    Joe L

  2. how old is the rails building? do grave sites count as structures?

  3. The Lowrance home, located at 605 Earl Garrett Street was built by former City Alderman
    B. B. Lowrance, in the 1890's.

    It isn't the oldest structure, but it deserves to be mentioned.

    When were the underground, concrete chambers and tunnels constructed for the Dietert Mill?

    They were later utilized by the Kerrville Ice Plant, and still exist.

    Can Tivy Mountain Cemetery be considered?

  4. This may not be exactly what you are looking for, but it is a structure that was built during the wooden dam era. It is a concrete berm.

    It is almost directly across the river from where Dietert's Mill once existed.

    There is a formation in the river bed, similar to what would remain if a small or temporary dam had existed and was later removed.

    It isn't the known path of the former wooden dam. Rather, it is a straight line across the river.

    At the end of the formation (line), on the opposite side of the river, you will see the concrete berm.

  5. Does the Wharton home still exist on what was Wharton Ranch?

    If so, I believe it was built in the 1800's.

  6. Many years ago, there was a mill somewhere out by Thompson Road.

    I believe that one of the Starkey's was part owner.

    If Thompson Road still exists, then remnants of the mill might exist.

  7. The old Comfort, TX railroad trestle that was built in the 1800's can still be seen.

  8. When was the old Tivy High School building erected?

    Prior to the old Tivy Street building, I believe the original high school was on Jefferson Street (a wooden building). However, that building no longer exists; at least I wouldn't think that it does.

  9. Speaking of the old wooden dam, some of the wooden foundation posts still exist. At least, their bases can be seen.

    When was the wooden dam built? To be more precise, I should say, when were the wooden dams built, because a number of the dams washed away.

  10. Does anyone know the construction dates for the Tivy Hotel and Union Church?

  11. Is there anything left at Camp Verde? If so, that dates to the 1850s.

  12. Once, there was a large wooden house on the corners of Jefferson Street and Tivy Street. It was just up the road from the old Tivy Hotel.

    In addition to being a residence, I believe that it has also served as a restaurant.

    Does the house still exist, and if so, when was it built?

  13. Does any of the five-foot wide mill sluice still exist behind the old Dietert Mill?

  14. Although the beautiful old Blue Bonnet Hotel was transformed into a parking lot, does the Blue Bonnet Hotel Basement still exist?

  15. When the old railroad tracks were pulled up, was any of the concrete drainage ditch left intact?

    If so, I am uncertain as to when the
    concrete-lined ditch was constructed.

    Its construction may have been later than the 1800's.

  16. When was the rock wall in front of Glen Rest Cemetery constructed?

    Also, there was a concrete channel that went from the Ice Plant to the river.

    The 300 pound blocks of ice were created when metal cans/tanks, filled with clear water, were lowered into a large tank of refrigerated brine.

    When the brine had to be replaced, it was discharged down the concrete channel to the river.

    While I know that the Ice Plant utilized the channel, I wonder if Dietert's Mill also had a use for it.

    The concrete channel, at least part of it, can still be seen behind the foundation of the old red brick building. The red brick building was utilized by both Dietert's Mill and the Ice Plant.


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