Monday, August 24, 2015

Kerr County's British Immigrants

For the past several weeks, I've been sharing portions of a paper written by Anna Belle Council Roland, an aunt of my friend Lanza Teague. Lanza and I share an interest in local history, and Anna Belle's short history of our community, entitled "The Growing Pains of a Shingle Camp: the story of a town," tells me Lanza's interest in local history runs in her family.
The 84-page document is filled with anecdotes I haven't seen elsewhere, including stories about the period from about 1887 until 1910 when British immigrants began arriving in our area. Many of those immigrants had last names you'd recognize, and have many descendents still living in the area.
"With the arrival of the railroad," Ms. Roland writes, "Englishmen began arriving. Many were second and third sons of wealthy families in England, and since by English custom and law they could not inherit the family land, they were sent to the United States to buy land suitable for raising sheep. These men were unaccustomed to the rough manners of the frontiersmen, and the frontiersmen were just as surprised by the refined manners and speech of the Englishmen. Because of this, the Englishmen were often the brunt of practical jokes, and sometimes of unscrupulous schemes.
"A story is told of one Englishman who bought and paid cash for the same flock of sheep over and over as they were driven past him repeatedly.
"They were often forced to write back home for more money, or another 'bounty' as they expressed it. One who was the brunt of such schemes, and of bad luck, died in poverty...and was buried by the county.
"Fortunately, most were successful and became outstanding citizens of the community."
Of course, not all of the English immigrants fell for such schemes, and many were indeed successful. Some came here for other reasons than to raise sheep.
Bob Bennett, in his excellent history of our community, also notes the British immigrants of our community.
"Although a few of their intrepid countrymen arrived in the Guadalupe valley earlier," Bennett writes, "a distinct migration of British colonists began to be felt in the decade beginning in 1879, and all these resolved people left a distinct impress on the rapidly developing ranching country."
The earliest British settler here was a Scot: J. D. Ramsey, a native of Edinburgh, who arrived in Kerr County in 1870.
In 1871, Ben Davey, a native of Yorkshire, England, arrived in Kerrville. Davey was a builder, and while his name might not be familiar to you, some of his work will be, because several of the buildings he built still stand. Davey was the contractor, often with a partner named Schott, for the following buildings: the Weston Building, which is now the home of Francisco's Restaurant; the old Tivy School, which is now the administrative offices of the Kerrville Independent School District; and, among others, the home of Captain Charles Schreiner on Earl Garrett Street.
In 1879, James Spicer, an English artist, arrived here "seeking health." A year later, his health improved, he was joined by his wife, and two children. The Spicers settled on Turtle Creek, and among their many descendents are members of the Mosty families.
Other Britons who settled here in the late 19th century include Nat Atchson, Capt. B. C. Bunbury, Robert Burns, Maj. McDonald and his three sons-in-law, Page, Davis, and Brewer, "who were instrumental in founding St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Kerrville," Alex and William Auld, the Rev. J. E. Hole, Jim Taylor, L. E. King, Ernest Roper, Guy Taylor, Howard Lacey, Charles and Herbert Brent, John Blackett, Jack Thompson, Percy Lawrance, P. W. Drew, C. Stanley Coppock, Willoughby and Dick Montgomery, Richard and Tom Holdsworth, George Peterson, Adam Wilson, Thomas Frayne, T. B. Hamlyn, A. MacFarland, Dr. Edward Galbraith, among others.
Dick Montgomery, one of those listed above, returned to England and became Sir Richard Montgomery.
Howard George Lacey, born at Wareham, Dorset, England, was educated for the ministry at Cains College, Cambridge. He gave up that calling for life here in the Texas Hill Country, "and spent the greater part of his life as a ranchman and in pursuing scientific research. He worked in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institute, the British Museum of Natural History, the Audubon Society of America, and the National Geographic Society. The Lacey oak (Quercus laceyi), was named in his honor, as were three small mammals (Peromysus pectoralis laceianus, P. boylie laceyi, and Reithrodontomys laceyi).
The British immigrants here made great contributions to our community.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects Kerrville and Kerr County historical photographs. If you have any you'd like to share with him, please bring them by 615 Water Street.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times August 22, 2015.

1 comment:

  1. Happy birthday, Joe. Sorry I'm a little late.


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