Monday, June 18, 2012

A brave but forgotten Kerrville family

There are parts of our local history that almost break my old heart.
Take, for example, the story of Henry and Annie.
Like many families, they came to Kerrville because a family member, Henry, suffered from tuberculosis. For those who do not know, many families in Kerrville can trace their family's arrival in Kerrville back to a relative who was ill with this disease. In those days our dry climate was thought to help those who suffered from tuberculosis.
Henry was like so many who came, seeking health: a few years after he arrived, the disease finally killed him, in 1913.
The couple had four sons. One died young before they arrived in Kerrville. Another son, an infantry captain, died in France. One lived most of his life here in Kerrville, and yet another got his PhD and became a university professor and author.
Henry and Annie were well-educated themselves -- Henry had a doctorate; Annie had studied at a very famous school.
Henry made quite a name for himself as a young pastor in another state. He found a political cause, Populism, for which he was willing to risk his life. Though he received constant threats he traveled his home state and gave speeches. Once someone in the crowd took a shot at him, but the bullet struck a man standing nearby. Another time the threats became so serious that the candidate for whom Henry was making speeches asked his supporters for help. 2,000 people showed up to protect Henry.
A famous writer, one whose name you'd recognize, wrote about Henry's bravery and ideals -- and dedicated an entire chapter in one of his books to Henry's beliefs and politics.
And yet despite these accomplishments it's almost impossible to find out anything about this couple (or their sons) if you limit your research to local sources, such as old Kerrville newspapers.
You can be a prominent leader in another state; you can be well spoken and well educated; you can have a child die for his country; you can have a child live most of his adult life here; you can have a child earn his doctorate from the University of Chicago and become a respected author, professor, and pastor. Just don't expect the Kerrville newspapers from the early 20th century to write a single thing about you.
In fact, only one small monument still stands in Kerrville as a memorial to Henry and Annie's family, and it was named for her, not him.
You see, Henry and Annie were black. God made them with dark skin. Back in those days, in a part of our community's history I cannot understand, that was enough, enough to prevent you from being prominent in Kerrville.
Henry Sebastian Doyle and his wife Annie Walker Doyle came to Kerrville because he was very sick. He died in 1913; she stayed on.
In her obituary, the Kerrville Mountain Sun noted Mrs. Doyle was "always among her people she has been an inspiration and a leader."  Her people. Not the whole community, because she was different from the majority.
When she got here she saw the great need for education of the black children of our community. "Soon after her arrival here she found the education among her race was sadly neglected...she collected money and purchased three lots...and persuaded the members of the school board to donate an old school building for the purpose of establishing a school. She was the only teacher there for many years, and had served as principal for more than 25 years."
As an early graduate of the Tuskegee Institute, founded by Booker T. Washington, she was described as "the best educated [African American] to have ever lived here," though her pastor husband had more education.
She was paid $85 per month to be the sole teacher at the school, which, I noticed, was considerably less than other teachers in the district made at the time.
When she died in 1937, two dozen years after her husband, there was a small push to name the school after her, but even this took a few years. The name change only occurred after B. T. and Itasco Wilson arrived here as teachers at the school, in 1940.
The Doyle School served our community as the separate school for African American students until the district was integrated in 1964. In recent years a non-profit organization has operated the facility as the Doyle School Community Center.
Few Kerrville families have had the impact upon the larger world as had the Doyles. Both father and son wanted to bring understanding between the races; one son died for his country; and Mrs. Annie Doyle dedicated her life to educating children. I think that's impressive, even if few here know anything about their story.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who still hasn't found time to take a swim in the Guadalupe this summer. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 16, 2012.

1 comment:

  1. Thank-you so much for writing this informative article about my great-great-great grandparents and their contributions and dedication to the education of African Americans at a time when the education of Black children was neglected. Thank-you for not forgetting- Genie Sloan-Pena


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