Monday, April 13, 2015

A Peek at Kerrville in 1905

A booklet by J. E. Grinstead
Click on image to enlarge
J. E. Grinstead was a newspaperman who arrived in Kerrville in 1899, seeking health for his wife who suffered from tuberculosis. Though his wife died a few months after their arrival here, Grinstead stayed on. In 1900 he bought the Kerrville Paper (a descendent of the wonderfully-named Kerrville Eye) and changed its name to the Kerrville Mountain Sun. I’ve heard he named his newspaper for the sunrise over Tivy Mountain as viewed from his home on Jefferson Street.
He is given credit for coining the term Hill Country, and for tirelessly promoting the city and the region. He served as Kerrville’s mayor from 1902 to 1904, when the first streets in town were paved, later served in the Texas Legislature a single term, served during World War I as the chairman of the local draft board, served as president of the school board, and by 1917, mainly because of politics, retired from the news business and sold his newspaper to the Terrell Publishing Company.
After the sale of his business he wrote a number of pulp westerns, using a number of pen names. Two were made into movies: “Tumbling River,” 1927, starring Tom Mix, and “Sunset of Power,” 1936, starring Buck Jones and Dorothy Dix.
I’ve run across a little booklet Grinstead published in 1905, “Kerrville and Kerr County, Texas,” which begins:
“This little booklet is not offered to the public as a work of literary merit, nor do we wish it to be considered as what is commonly known as a ‘boom pamphlet.’ It is published as a valuable compilation of facts and useful information concerning one of the most favored sections of the great Lone Star State.”
Despite his introduction, the booklet is quite liberally sprinkled with superlatives:
“The Guadalupe River, from where it breaks out of its rockbound prison under the Texas Alps…
“There is not a town in Texas having 10,000 population or less that has better streets than those of Kerrville…
He writes about the city’s electric plant and its telephone exchange, which, in 1905, put Kerrville on the cutting edge of technology. He brags about the schools, mentions each of the church denominations here, and claims “the volume of business transacted at Kerrville is equal to – probably greater than – that of any town of like population in Texas, and far exceeds the transactions of many towns more than twice her size.” He mentions the railroad, “being the terminus of the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railway, and gate city to an extensive agricultural and stock growing country, all the supplies for the numerous ranches of several counties are distributed from this point.”
He describes the water-powered mill which once stood approximately where One Schreiner Center stands today on Water Street: “a modern roller flour mill, having a capacity of 140 barrels daily, and capacious elevator, which furnishes a market for much of the Kerr County wheat, and manufactures flour that ranks A1 with that made in other states.”
He describes the West Texas Fair, which was held near the present site of Wells Fargo Bank at Five Points: “whose home is in a delightful park adjoining the city limits, with the Guadalupe River upon one side and majestic oak-clad mountains on the other, is among the chief attractions of Kerrville, and is an enterprise which is the pride of the people of this entire section, and has and will continue to be a strong element in the development of our county and its resources. The exhibition of 1904 was a pronounced success from every viewpoint. And the importance of the work will increase as the country develops.”
“A well equipped opera house, which presents the best opera companies on the road and furnishes thereby entertainment for citizens and visitors is one of the city’s attractions.” I believe he was describing Pampell’s, as J. L. Pampell is listed as ‘Manager, Opera House’ in the back of the little booklet, though his name is misspelled.
The book is interesting to me for two reasons – it includes photos, with many views I’ve never seen before – and its publication date, 1905.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who encourages readers to share old Kerrville photos and publications such as the booklet described above with him – you can keep the original, all he wants is a good copy. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times April 11, 2015, on his sister's 50th birthday.

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