Monday, January 26, 2015

Why did you move to Kerr County?

If you look back at the reason you moved to our community, you might find similarities to the reasons people have been coming here for thousands of years.
Some came for opportunity; others for health; some to be near family; some to escape the city; some to escape family, or the law, or bad luck. Those are the same reasons many of us came here.
It's hard to guess what motivated the earliest visitors to our area. Given some of the archaeological finds here, it's safe to say people have been in the area since the last ice age, or for about 12,000 years. The hills we now call home must have looked much different then. There is evidence the weather was also much different, much wetter than today, and with harsher extremes in temperature. The animals were different, too: mammoths and huge bison may have been plentiful.
Those early people were probably nomadic, following herds of game, taking advantage of the various edible plants in season, and quarrying flint for their tools. They moved from place to place and probably never established a village here.
But when the settlers came here, starting in the mid-1840s, many of their stories were similar to the reasons so many of today's families came to Kerr County.
Some came for opportunity. There was a job here, or an investment, or land available. Many of the earliest settlers to our community came because of the availability of inexpensive land. Others made their own opportunities: Captain Charles Schreiner comes to mind. He arrived here, along with his brother-in-law Caspar Real, to raise livestock along Turtle Creek, between Kerrville and Camp Verde. Later, they operated a small store near the fort. That store was not terribly successful, but it was a start.
Some came for health. For many years our area attracted people stricken with tuberculosis; it was thought our dry climate helped as the patient recuperated. Families lived in screened cottages, or in tents, and rested. Among those who found their way here seeking health, either for themselves, or for a family member: Dr. G. R. Parsons; Father Henry Kemper; C. C. Butt and his wife, Florence; J. E. Grinstead, a pioneer newspaperman; Starr Bryden, a pioneer photographer; Henry and Annie Doyle, pioneer educators; and even some folks who are still with us, like Joe Lewis.
But tuberculosis was not the only reason people came here for health: many of the summer camps along our beautiful river were built to provide children a healthy place to spend the summer.
Many came to be near family. One of the earliest families to come this way, the Lowrances, arrived here looking for family already here; the Starkeys arrived when James Monroe Starkey came here to reunite with his young daughter, who was being raised by her grandparents, the Ridleys.
You'd be surprised how many came to escape big cities: then, as now, life was a little simpler, and the pace a little slower here. Hundreds of families have moved to our community because, after a career spent in a busy city, remembered the place where they came to summer camp, or where they visited a beloved relative.
As for those who came to escape family, or the law, or bad luck -- well, I won't give examples of those. Let's just say folks in this category are more numerous than one would imagine, and I can think of several pioneer families who came here for some of these reasons.
Those of us who were born here -- natives -- also made a decision to live here. Some went away for a time, but many chose to come back.
Here's my point: if you think of the reason you decided to live here, and consider the reasons those in your circle chose to live here, you already know a lot of the history of this place. The reasons which motivated us are the same which have motivated people to live here for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
History is the telling of a few similar stories; it's the names of the players which change over time.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native whose parents moved here because of his dad's job with Evans Foodway.

This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 24, 2015.

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