Monday, January 23, 2012

A Tin Box full of Treasure

Because my parents' print shop was in the downtown area, I grew up exploring the buildings, passageways, and rooftops of the business district. One of the things we town kids hoped for, as we visited spots we probably should not have done, was to find a secret box filled with treasures.
One was actually found in 1927, years before I arrived on the scene, at the Barlemann building, the two-story stone building at the corner of Water and Earl Garrett streets. The building is often called the Weston Building, after another of its owners, because of the metal grate at the foot of the stairway going to the upper floor, but it was Mr. Chalres Barlemann and his wife Jennie who had the building built. Today it houses Francisco's Restaurant, but it's seen many tenants, including the City of Kerrville (upstairs), a saloon, a combination taxidermy/confectionery (Cheney's), and a shoe store (the Booterie).
I found the story about the secret box on the front page of the May 19, 1927 issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun: "Contents of Box taken from Weston Building Cornerstone Stir Memory of Old-Timers."
While the building was being remodeled, workers came across a small tin box, sealed with solder.
"By a very odd co-incidence, the man who lifted the box from its resting place in the cornerstone was Bruno Schott, the man who placed it there 37 years ago."
Methinks he knew where to look.
"When the building was constructed in August, 1890, for Charles Barlemann to house his Ranch Saloon, Bruno Schott was one of the contractors, his partner being B. A. Davey. Schott is one of the contractors remodeling the building, which, through force of legislation now houses the confectionery of R. H. Chaney."
The legislation in question was Prohibition.
The box itself contained "photographs of Charles Barlemann, his wife and two babies, a communication signed by many of the county officials and leading citizens of that day, a list of persons who were employed in the construction work on the building, a letter written by Barlemann telling of the death of his wife a few months before, and a copy of the Kerrville News dated April 12, 1890."
Mrs. Barlemann, Jennie, was the daughter of Joshua Brown, the founder of Kerrville.
One of the letters found in the box read: "Texas Indivisible, now and forever. A. McFarland, Co. Clerk, Kerr County, Texas. August 13, 1890: F. M. Moore, Sheriff; Charles Barlemann; H. C. Greven; Otto Boerner, best beer drinker and blacksmith; Wm Schildknecht; W. E. Stewart, druggist; S. R. Craven, pill roller; B. A. Davey, Bruno Schott.
Another letter read: "This building was built by Davey & Schott, contractors. Men that worked on the building are Gottleib Schwope, Bill Archer, Tom Farmer, Herman Meimann, Bonificio, Ad. Webber, Otto Webber, Charley Henkle, Fred Roth, Fritz Volmering, Sam Haught, Tim Benson, E. Smith, Eg. Jarinsky, Joe Babb, Alfred March, Harp Bruff, Sam Glenn, Old Man Pettie, W. B. Schott, Ben A. Davey, Arch. and Builders."
The cornerstone was laid on Barlemann's 27th birthday, so that old landmark building was built for a young man and his business.
And what became of the box and its contents?  It was sent to one of the Barlemann's daughters, Mrs. E. L. Johnson, in Gonzales, the only member of the Barlemann family living at that time. In the photo of the Barlemann family found in the box, she was just a little 6 mos. old baby.
I sure would like to see the box and its contents. And, of course, I'd like to find the other boxes still waiting, sealed behind stones and soldered tightly shut, hidden in downtown Kerrville.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native whose imagination is too active.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 21, 2012.

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