Monday, September 30, 2013

Kerrville 125 years ago this week -- oops, 126.

Over the past few weeks I've researched old newspapers to report what was happening in our community years ago.  The first week I studied the newspapers of 1963, to report what was happening here 50 years ago; the next week, 1938, to report the news of 75 years ago; last week, 1913, to see what was happening here a century ago.
This began as an experiment: how far back can we go?
This week I've researched the newspapers from 1888, or 125 years ago.
For information about getting
a digital copy of this newspaper,
see note at end of story.
There was a newspaper in Kerrville 125 years ago, the wonderfully named Kerrville Eye, and I have a copy of the September 29, 1887 edition.
Some of you will likely notice that date is 126 years ago, not 125.  I hope you'll let me nudge the date back by  one year, because that issue of the newspaper is special.
Though the issue is dated September 29, it was actually published on October 6, 1887, the date the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad came to Kerrville for the very first time. It was a really, really big deal.
I found this in my files:
Until that time all freight came to Kerrville by wagons. Every nail, piece of paper, shoe, piano, and most of the cloth and lumber was hauled by oxen over the hills, mostly from San Antonio. In 1887, no other community in the hill country was served by a railroad. Fredericksburg didn't get her railroad until November 1, 1913, twenty-six years after Kerrville, and that line was never really profitable. Other nearby communities never saw a train arrive. Kerrville's trains ran until the 1970s.
I have a copy of the October 6, 1887 Kerrville Eye, a newspaper of the era. The publisher printed 2,000 copies of the edition -- a huge number, considering Kerrville probably had less than 400 residents.
In the issue several other newspapers' reports of the railway's arrival in Kerrville was reprinted. "Plucky little Kerrville," the San Angelo Standard reported, "has obtained her railroad, and if ever a town and county deserve the iron horse, Kerrville and Kerr County did. A bonus of $50,000 was raised in the middle of the drought and $46,000 of that bonus has been raised in cash; a few more thousand had to be raised to buy the right of way over land belonging to fossils of the tertiary period, a few of which are settled in that county. We hope the boon for which Kerr County has worked so strenuously will prove an even greater blessing than they anticipate."
The Burnet Hero declared "The Aransas Pass Road has reached Kerrville. The 'Eye' therefore excusable for being jubilant and winking many triumphant winks, as it worked hard to bring that town and section to the front of the railroad men. We know how it is ourselves and don't blame the 'Eye' for feeling proud. The 'Hero' got out an extra to celebrate the completion of the Dallas, Granite and Gulf road to Burnet, as it was the first air line to the point from the north -- but alas it was an air line with a vengeance. It was built of air, by air, through air."
According to the Texas Transportation Museum website, “at 11:45 a.m. on October 6, 1887, the first train arrived in Kerrville. On board the six Pullmans were 502 passengers, 200 from San Antonio, 131 from Boerne, 141 from Comfort and 30 from Center Point. Altogether this was 200 more people than actually lived in Kerrville. It was a banner day for the town, with parades and speeches.”
There were more than speeches and parades that day: there was also business to be transacted.
According to the 'Eye,' "A large lot sale will take place here about the 22nd of October. The magnificent ground near the depot has been laid off in lots by Capt. Schreiner, and will be sold that day. This is going to be a town. Don't miss the sale. Come and bid on a few lots."
Then later, a few inches down, the 'Eye' continues: "Visitors to Kerrville, did you ever see a prettier site for a town? Kerrville has the prettiest depot grounds of any town on the Aransas Pass [railway]. Capt Schreiner has cut this fine plot of ground up into lots... You will regret to the end of your days if you fail to attend the sale, and purchase a lot."
As for the confusion of publication dates, the editor of the Kerrville Eye, Robert Guthrie, was practical:
"It will be noticed that the outside of this issue of the Eye is dated one week later than the other.  This resulted from the postponement of the barbecue, the outside was printed and off the press before this occurred. As this issue was 2000 [copies] we considered it too much paper to waste and time and labor to loose [sic] to print 2000 more to correct so slight an error."
Robert Guthrie must have been quite a businessman.  He started the Eye in April, 1884.  A notice in the May 2, 1884 Galveston Daily News reported its beginning: "The Kerrville Eye opened its career in journalism April 26 and casts a discriminating glance over its field of labor. It is not an 'evil eye,' but says 'The old saying is an 'eye for an eye' but our saying is $2 for an Eye.'  The Eye clearly sees its proper position as a collector and disseminator of local news -- the most important duty of a country paper.  It gives valuable information in regard to Kerr County."
On November 13, 1888, a little less than 125 years ago, the Galveston Daily News reported "Mr. Robert Guthrie has sold the Kerrville Eye to Mr. Ed Smallwood, late of the city of Houston, a life-long printer, a man of means, and a democrat. Years ago he edited and owned the Houston Daily Telegram....  Mr. Guthrie thanks the friends who sustained him, but clouds his valedictory with complaints against those who have opposed him.  He should be satisfied with his success.  He says he sold his property for $5000, but intimates he has debts to pay.  He began four years ago with $150. Many have done worse."
For many of those first years every piece of equipment, every sheet of paper, every barrel of ink, and every piece of lead type had to be hauled to Kerrville by ox team.  It's boggling to imagine making a living in the printing and publishing business under those conditions.
The Guthrie Building, on the corner of Main and Earl Garrett Streets, is named for Mr. Guthrie.  Mr. Smallwood, who purchased the newspaper, served on the very first Kerrville city council.  He also changed the name of the newspaper to the Kerrville Paper, taking the ornate masthead, and merely removing the drawing of the Eye, replacing it with the word "Paper."
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has had a longtime interest in both printing and publishing here in Kerrville.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 28, 2013.

1 comment:

  1. I have a number of comments about this article.

    . I greatly enjoyed reading the ads, that were in the included newspaper.

    . One ad mentioned Ed Steves. His San Antonio home is open for tours, (complete with guide), and an enjoyable tour it is. His home is located in the King William District.

    . The Leroux & Cosgrove ad states that they sell "Herring Safes." Did your ancestors build safes, Joe? :)

    . I can't imagine going to the office supply store and asking for a barrel, or cask of ink. For some reason, that makes me laugh.

    Joe, thank you for printing this article. As always you are informative and entertaining.

    Great job! Well Done!


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