Monday, July 30, 2012

Starkey's promise to his hunting partner

James Monroe Starkey
Until a few weeks ago I didn't realize a history of our community was published in 1931 as part of Kerr County's 75th birthday celebration. The booklet was published by the Kerrville Mountain Sun, back when the Salter brothers were the owners and publishers of that newspaper. Several years ago I read an old column of Forrest Salter's, from the same newspaper, which mentioned being part of the junior high history class which gathered Kerr County historical items, but somehow I missed the part about a booklet being published.

The copy I saw is part of the Meeker family's collection. Their collection includes many rare Kerr County photographs, many by Starr Bryden, who was an early photographer here.
The booklet is about 8.5x11 inches, printed on a fine rag paper, with gloss pages for the photographs. There are 52 pages plus the cover. I mention the printing details only because it's obvious the booklet was made with pride and using the finest available materials. It was meant to be a keepsake, and it has aged well in the 81 years since it was first produced.
Written by junior high students, the stories each have a neat voice -- earnest and fresh. Since the students interviewed some of the folks who were actually here when Kerrville and Kerr County were first settled, there are tales in the booklet I've never seen anywhere else.
Take for instance the story of James Monroe Starkey and the bear.
Starkey was an early settler here and held several public offices around the time of the Civil War, including serving as county judge.
Before he came to Texas, however, he went to California during the gold rush. While there he and a man named Jones went for a bear hunt.
"One of Mr. Starkey's remarkable adventures while in California was a fight with a grizzly bear," the booklet reports. During the hunt, the pair wounded a grizzly bear.
"Later, following the trail, they suddenly came upon the wounded animal. The bear sprung at them, grappled with Starkey, and both rolled down the hill. In the fight the man was scratched and bitten on the arm; he carried these scars the rest of his life. His partner, in the meantime, shot the bear again. Having no more ammunition, he stood between the wounded man and the bear, knife in hand, ready for another attack. The bear made no further attempt to harm the men and soon died."
If you've ever noticed the little cemetery off of Junction Highway, now surrounded by the parking lot for Wal-Mart; it's the Starkey Cemetery, and it's the final resting place of James Monroe Starkey and members of his family.
If you look through the side of the fence farthest from the highway, you'll notice a tombstone which reads "Jones Starkey, son of Martha Ann and Jas. M. Starkey, born September 9, 1862, died September 9, 1868."
You see, after the fight with the grizzly, where Starkey was injured, and his friend Jones stepped between him and the bear, armed only with a knife, Starkey promised if he ever had a son, he'd name him Jones. And so when the Starkeys had their first son, that's exactly what the couple named him.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native. You can connect with him on Facebook at column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times July 28, 2012

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