Thursday, December 22, 2011

History Repeats Itself

History has a way of repeating itself, I find. Especially Kerrville and Kerr County history.
Over the past few weeks I have been telling the story of our Kerr County courthouses. The first, built of logs, was meant to be temporary, and was completed in late 1856. Yet it served the county for twenty long years until a stone courthouse was built in 1876, the delay coming from the turmoil of politics as the rivalry between the towns of Kerrville and Comfort played itself out.
That 1876 stone courthouse was planned as a one-story building, but the voters requested the plans changed to include a second floor, and so one was added.
In 1885 an even larger stone courthouse was ordered, designed by Alfred Giles. The old courthouse was not to be torn down; it was going to be recycled as the new Kerr County Jail.
See if this part of the story sounds familiar, given current events in Kerrville:
"On July 16, 1885, at a meeting of the court, a petition was presented from the taxpayers' Precincts Nos. 2 and 3, asking that 'the proposition to build a court house and jail for Kerr County may be submitted to a vote of the taxpayers,'" according to one of the "Pioneer History" columns written by J. J. Starkey for this newspaper back in the 1930s.
Something similar recently occurred here, both with Kerrville's proposed river trail, and also with the proposed new city hall. As you recall, neither project was put to a vote.
What then did our forefathers do when presented with the same demand from the voters?
I think theirs was a clever response: "The court decided it had no authority for ordering an election for that purpose."  Meaning, I suppose, the commissioners could support the idea of putting a new courthouse to a vote and wishing they had the authority to do so, but going forward with the project full steam ahead.
Gentle reader, please note: when the voters asked for a change in plans which increased the size of a courthouse project (1876), the commissioners agreed; when the voters asked to vote whether to build a new courthouse at all (1885), the commissioners declined. Some things don't change.
Kerr County Courthouse, built around 1886
The 1886 courthouse was a pretty thing, and I have three good photographs of the building. Most of the building was two stories, but it also had a three-story tower. The building faced Main Street, and, like the courthouse it replaced (which was recycled into a jail), it was not in the center of the courthouse square. Both buildings were close to Main Street, with a lot of room behind them on the square.
This courthouse was completed in 1886 at a cost of $19,545. A total of $25,000 in bonds were sold by the county for the project; $3,000 of which went for the jail "cages," and $500 for the court house furniture. $100 was paid to Mrs. Jane Brown, widow of Kerrville founder Joshua Brown, for the stone used in the construction of the courthouse; it came from the Brown's quarry, which was near where the V. A. Hospital stands today.  I'm not sure what the commissioners found to spend the remaining funds upon.
This third courthouse served our community for forty years, until 1926, when the present courthouse was built. More on that next week.
My long-time friend Phil Houseal has finished his first book, a walking tour of Fredericksburg. For those who like weekend adventures, Phil's book "Finding Fredericksburg" should be a lot of fun, because it includes photos and history and would make an afternoon in Frederickburg even more enjoyable. The book is available at Wolfmueller's Books here in Kerrville.
Until next week, all the best.
This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times December 17, 2011.

1 comment:

  1. I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas! I look forward to another year of reading your blog. Take care.


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