Monday, August 6, 2012

One of Kerrville's earliest citizens

"Grandma, what was here when you came to Kerrville?"
So begins a short narrative of the Christian Dietert family which was included in a history booklet published in 1931 to celebrate Kerr County's diamond year.
"Nothing, my child, but a cluster of five small log huts, of one or two rooms, a wilderness of trees, and grass as high as a man, with Indians skulking through," replied Rosalie Hess Dietert, the wife of Christian Dietert, answering her great-granddaughter.
When this interview took place, Mrs. Dietert was 93 years old.
"Your grandfather built the sixth house. It had three rooms and was built of cypress timbers cut on the saw mill he set up at the place where the ice plant now stands."
This remarkable story is part of the booklet written by middle school students at Kerrville's Franklin Middle School. Their teacher, Mrs. Kate Franklin encouraged her students to interview early settlers of our area. The students even collected items for a small museum, which for many years was housed in the school building. I didn't realize the booklet existed until Steven Meeker loaned me his family's copy. It is filled with information about our earliest settlers which I've never seen before.
The Dietert's house stood near today's fountain in the driveway of One Schreiner Center, there at the end of Washington Street, on the river side of Water Street. From the story, this "sixth house" in Kerrville was quite extraordinary.
Both Dieterts were immigrants from Germany.
"What ever made you leave your home, brave the sea and throw your lot in an unknown land?" asked her great-granddaughter.
"With me it was the spirit of adventure," Dietert replied, "All of the papers were full of the new world and of Texas. With the men it was for the most part a question of political freedom."
Her trip to Texas in the mid-1850s was not easy. "After a hard and perilous journey of eight weeks they landed at Galveston, from where they were transported to Indianola, long since destroyed by a tropical storm, in a two-masted sailboat. From there they made a journey to New Braunfels in wagon transports. This was even more tiring than the ocean voyage, as the land was for the most part covered with water from six to 12 inches in depth. It was the popular belief that the southern part of Texas was a swamp, but was later found to be caused by a period of much rainfall. There were no roads, or dry camping places, and danger of Indian raids was ever present. The guides and teamsters brought them safely to the settlement of New Braunfels in July, 1854, five months after leaving their homeland."
Mrs. Dietert only stayed in New Braunfels a short time, moving near where Comfort stands today. There she met Christian Dietert, a millwright; they married in 1855.
The couple moved to Kerrville in 1857, purchased land, and built the house described above. It was a very social home; Mrs. Dietert taught many of the young people in the community how to dance. It was also the home which had the first Christmas tree in Kerrville. "Hardly a day passed without its visitor or overnight guest, or a meal partaken that was not shared by some chance traveler. Thus in the companionship of neighbors and friends, they spent many happy evenings."
Until next week, all the best.Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects Kerrville and Kerr County items. You can connect with him on Facebook at

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