Monday, November 21, 2011

History detectives hard at work

Last week I asked for help -- I had a question from a long-time friend that I couldn't answer.
Susan Sander, the self-professed nature nerd and former columnist for the Kerrville Daily Times, asked me a simple question: what is the oldest man-made structure in Kerrville and Kerr County?
That's a good question, but awfully hard to answer.
First off, what exactly is a man-made structure?
Dr. Joseph Luther, who, like me, is a Kerrville native with a keen interest in local history offered this comment: "I've got a few paleo-Indian middens - does that count?  Some [are] 10,000 years old."
Well, he's got a point, no pun intended. Even if middens were a trash pile, or a stack of rocks used in cooking, they are a man-made structure. Let's assume, though, Ms. Sander meant something else. I think she meant the oldest building or home.
Even then there's a problem. In far west Kerr County a prehistoric shelter exists in the hollowed-out part of a limestone bluff, what's usually called a rock shelter. Of course, prehistoric man didn't construct the limestone bluff, but they did decorate it with pictographs. Does that count as a man-made shelter?  It was definitely someone's home, hundreds of years ago.
Still, I don't think that's what Ms. Sander was asking.
Kay Schill suggested I look at my copy of "Hunt, Texas: the Early Years," recently published by the Hunt Centennial Book Committee. On page 19 the book talks about Sherman's Mill: "In 1885 John Sherman bought 160 acres on the south side of the Guadalupe where Kelly Creek joins the river. Here he constructed Sherman's Mill and built a home from logs he milled into lumber...Today portions of the original home remain. It is the oldest known continuously occupied home in the Hunt area."
First Schoolhouse
I had wondered if parts of Camp Verde would qualify as the oldest man-made structure in Kerr County; the fort was established in 1856. The old officers' quarters still stand. Given that Kerr County wasn't organized as a Texas county until 1856, that would be a very old building for our community, and also one which still  stands in its original location.
Many other places were mentioned by readers, from the Tivy School (built in 1890), the B. B. Lowrance House at 605 Earl Garrett (probably around 1889), the Union Church (originally built around 1885).
The Starkey family came to mind, too. The family first arrived here in 1854, two years before Kerr County was organized. Curg Starkey has told me about the log home they've restored, which was moved beside his parents' house years ago. I'm guessing that old home is older than 1860.
But the oldest building anyone's mentioned is a school house. Deborah Gaudier reminded me of a historical marker with the title "First Schoolhouse."
Renovated First Schoolhouse, YO Ranch
"Built in 1852 by J. L. O'Conner at Center Point with cypress logs (12 by 14 inches) cut from nearby Guadalupe River. Mortar was a hand-mixed mixture of baked lime and sand dug from local shallow pits.
"The making of cypress shakes for roofing was first industry along Guadalupe in Kerr County.
"Cabin served as first school for pioneer Texas children in Center Point community in 1858.
"Moved to Y. O. Ranch; Restored."
That might be the oldest building in Kerr County. If anyone knows of an older one, I'd surely like to hear about it.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who sometimes feels as if he is the oldest thing in Kerr County.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times November 19, 2011.


  1. This was a fun adventure.

  2. In reference to the B.B. Lowrance House on Earl Garrett Street, Banks B. Lowrance was a business owner and a member of the Kerrville City Council (Alderman).

    His service to the City of Kerrville was sometime between the years 1898 and 1905 (I'm not exactly certain).

    Does anyone know Banks B. Lowrance's middle name? Do City Council records exist for the early 1900's? If so, would those records, or other records, list his middle name?


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