Monday, December 26, 2011

The voters have a say.

Over the past several weeks, I have been telling the story of the various courthouses which have served Kerr County since its founding in 1856. I've taken (quite liberally) from the wonderful columns written by J. J. Starkey for the "Kerrville Times" in the 1930s. These columns, by the way, were the basis for Bob Bennett's "Kerr County," the definitive history of our community. (Copies of Bennett's book are available at Wolfmueller's Books.)
The present brick courthouse (not counting the addition which juts toward Jefferson Street) was built in the 1920s. It was preceded by a log building which served as our courthouse from 1856-1876, quite a long time for a structure meant to be temporary; then a small stone building, which was our courthouse from 1876 until 1886; and then, from 1886 until 1926, our community was served by a pretty two story stone structure with a three-story tower, all made of stone.
Since the current courthouse was built in 1926 and still functions as at least part of our courthouse campus, it has the distinction of being the longest-serving courthouse in Kerr County.
In November 1925 the commissioners court, by a unanimous vote, decided it was time to build a new courthouse for "the safety and permanency of the records of [Kerr] county and the safety of its citizens requires a new and adequately constructed courthouse (with fireproof vaults) and jail."
The 1925 court, unlike previous courts or current city councils, put the matter to a vote of the citizens, rather quickly, calling the election the following month, on the 22nd of December. 953 votes were cast, and, by a majority of 227 votes, the county proceeded in January 1926 to issue $110,000 in bonds for the construction of the courthouse.  For those suffering from current the current bond market I'll report these Kerr County bonds paid 5%.
The new courthouse was designed by Adams & Adams, architects out of San Antonio. Bidding on the construction was held in July, and of the nine firms bidding, W. C. Thrailkill of San Antonio won the general contract. A local plumber, W. B. Brown won the plumbing contract, and a local electrician, Roberts Electric Shop, the electrical contract.
The old stone courthouse and jail buildings and furnishings were offered for sale in March, 1927. Various stories are told about what happened to the old stones of these buildings, so I'm thankful the "Kerrville Times" published an account in March 1928. The largest purchaser was Schreiner Institute (now University), who used a lot of the stone to build a fence along "the San Antonio highway," or today's Highway 27. All told 15 individuals bought stone from the old courthouse; 12 lumber. Various hardware and fixtures were also sold. I'm guessing parts of the old courthouse are still in use around the county.
The new courthouse was finished in early 1927, with its use beginning in the spring. It has since been added on to, and the addition recently remodeled.
Until next week Merry Christmas and all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who wants a pony for Christmas. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times December 24, 2011.


  1. My mom worked in the County Clerks from the 50s through the 80s. They had the coolest spiral staircase that led down to the basement. I understand it is gone now.

  2. My Great Step-Grandfather Judge Lee Wallace was the last County Judge of the 1886 Courthouse, and first County Judge to the 1926 Courthouse. His name appears on the plaque on the front of the building. He had no children, however, married my Grandmother Winnie Davis Hearne, a widow, with a son, my Grandfather George Bickham Hearne. Currently I am doing some research on him, the Joys of Hunt, Tx and Kerrville. Your work is wonderful, enlightening and interesting. Thank you for all your work. I look forward to purchasing 5 of your books for our family. Thank you, J. D. Hearne


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