Monday, June 4, 2012

Kerrville's oldest thoroughfare

There is a road in Kerrville that might be the very oldest, if what I read recently is correct. Oddly enough, the road itself no longer exists, though it might in the near future.
The old Town Creek crossing, 1899

My long-time friend Dr. Joseph Luther, who, like me, is a student of local history, recently published a book about Camp Verde. I found it very interesting, and copies are available at Wolfmueller's Books on Earl Garrett Street.
Dr. Luther gives a good account of the fort famous for its camels, but goes a step further and describes the history of the spot well before its brief connection with those ships of the desert.
Since the fort was located so close to Bandera Pass, the site has a long history. Bandera Pass has several archeology sites nearby, and a friend tells me the pass was "known" at least 5,000 years ago, judging from some of the artifacts found near there.
Bandera Pass, then, as now, was a road. For at least 200 generations people and goods have moved through that notch in the hills, and a good number of them, in their travels, continued through what is now Kerrville.
But where was their road?
Dr. Luther talks about these "roads" and "trails" in his book, and he points out many of the ancient paths became, over time, our highways. The progression was something like this: prehistoric people traveled along the same trails again and again; when the first European explorers arrived, they often followed these same paths; when this area was under Spanish rule, those roads often connected remote colonies and presidios; later, when the Texians arrived, the same routes connected early settlements; and finally, during our time, these settlements were connected by highways. It's interesting to think ancient people, traveling by foot before Europeans introduced the horse to North America, plodded along the same routes you and I zip through in our air-conditioned horseless carriages.
Thinking about this, there is some speculation where the people 5,000 years ago passed through what is now Kerrville.
I tend to favor the idea the earliest "road" in Kerrville extended from what is now Guadalupe Street toward the Lemos Street bridge, at the confluence of Town Creek and the Guadalupe River.
Freighters, Kerrville, 1905
I have an old photograph of a wagon descending from what is now Lemos Street heading to the crossing toward Guadalupe Street. This was the crossing nearest to downtown Kerrville connecting it to the area west of Town Creek until the bridges on Water and Main streets were completed. You can still make out the cut in the riverbank on the Riverside Nature Center property, and a corresponding cut still exists at the sharp bend Guadalupe Street makes as it joins Lowry.
As a child, I remember an archeology site being excavated along Water Street not far from Lemos, where apartments stand today. That such a well-used campsite existed so near a known crossing suggests the little link between Guadalupe Street and the Lemos Street bridge might be the oldest thoroughfare in our community.
Today, of course, no road exists there. Soon, though, if the City continues with its planned River Trail, a walkway might connect the two in the form of pedestrian bridge. If so, the trail would come full circle -- it started as a path traveled by walking nomads thousands of years ago, and it would once again be a path for walkers.
It's funny how often things we consider modern rest upon traces of the past.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who once again has a summer wife. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 2, 2012.


  1. The second photo shows a wagon train and a man riding one of the "wagon" horses, and I know why he is riding that horse.

    I've ridden horses and I've ridden in wagons and I can assure you that riding in a wagon is one of the most uncomfortable rides you will ever take.

    Even the soreness from riding a horse (if you haven't ridden in a while) is nothing compared to being bounced around in a wagon.

    Great article!

  2. All the east-west roads through Kerrville followed the river for logical reasons... topography. The mouth of Town Creek was the only area of Town Creek near the river that didn't have a "high bluff" on the east side of the Creek. Guadalupe Street, Arcadia Loop at the west end and Water Street, Riverside Drive and portions of Memorial on the east still follow the old route through Kerrville. Floods in 1900 and 1932 changed the main routes by moving them away from the river.


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