Monday, December 12, 2011

Kerr County finally builds a courthouse.

Over the past few weeks, I've been telling the story of the Kerr County courthouses, starting with the first one, a log building, which was on Jefferson Street, opposite the present courthouse, about in the middle of the block.
It was to be temporary, but because politics reared its nefarious head, that little log courthouse had to serve much longer than planned.
The conflict in those days was between Kerrville and Comfort. Both wanted to be the county seat. The "Chief Justice" of Kerr County, an office I assume was similar to today's county judge, seems to have played one faction against the other, going so far as to throw out votes from Kerrville when the election was held to determine which town was to be the seat of government.
During this conflict in Kerr County, another greater conflict was consuming the nation: the Civil War. Most of the German immigrants living in Comfort and Fredericksburg opposed secession; most of the citizens of Kerrville supported it.
"There were attempts made to erect permanent court houses, 'California Style' courthouse in Kerrville in 1859, and in 1861 at Comfort," according to J. J. Starkey's "Pioneer History" columns which appeared in this paper in the early 1930s.
This conflict might have continued indefinitely had Kendall County not been formed in 1862. Comfort found herself just over the county line, in Kendall instead of Kerr County. And so the county seat returned to Kerrville.
Court was held during the war and during Reconstruction at several buildings, including a church building which was on the corner of Water and Sidney Baker streets, where until recently the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital stood, and later at John Ochse's building on the corner of Washington and Main streets, where the old Notre Dame Church building still stands.
It wasn't until 1875 that Kerr County finally built a more permanent courthouse on the courthouse square.
This second courthouse was built by Hamer & Faltin, the only bidder the project, for $4,460. It was to be made of stone and have a single story.
However, a petition "from a majority of the taxpayers of the county" was presented to the court "asking for a modification of the contract to admit of  a second story," which raised the price by $2,000.
This courthouse was accepted by the commissioners court in August, 1876.
I have photographs showing this second courthouse, though only in relation to its successor, the third courthouse. Even though it had taken Kerr County twenty years to construct a stone courthouse, the newly built structure only served as the courthouse for about ten years.
But our frugal pioneers didn't tear down the 1876 courthouse, they recycled it: it became the Kerr County jail. I'll tell that story next week.
Until then, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who finally sighted the flannel-breasted blanket snatcher this week, arriving here a little later than normal. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times December 10, 2011.

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