Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Mystery: In Search of a Photograph

Schreiner's first store, as imagined by Harold Bugbee in 1969

Recently, while reading an old Kerrville newspaper, I ran across a story which intrigued me. The story, on the front page of the Kerrville Mountain Sun's July 21, 1927 edition, ran under this headline: "Schreiner's first store to be razed for new warehouse." The story started me on a search for something in my collection -- something which should not exist.
For those who don't remember, Charles Schreiner was a local merchant who enjoyed some success. From his small store he built a financial empire which included the store, a bank, land, cattle, sheep, goats, wool, and many other business enterprises.
On Christmas Eve, 1869, in partnership with August Faltin, he opened a small store in downtown Kerrville, in a 16x18 foot frame building made of cypress lumber. That first store was about where the Charles Schreiner mansion stands today.
J. Evetts Haley, in his book "Charles Schreiner, General Merchandise," published in 1969 by the Charles Schreiner Company for its centennial, describes the little building as having double front doors, two front windows, another door, and a stovepipe "which elled out the side of the building." In back there was a lean-to shed, used as a "storehouse and as sleeping quarters for the clerks. But at first there were no clerks."
At the back of the shed was a cellar, used to store "barrels of coal oil, beer, whiskey and molasses."
There was a long counter running the length of the building which "described an L at the back to cut off a small space that served as an office, and to shelter, at its base, barrels of sugar, coffee, rice, lard, and dried fruit."
Haley continues: "On the back wall was a stock of groceries, while the long counter to the side cut off the dry goods that lay in assorted bolts of calico, jeans and hickory on rough shelves along the wall. On the opposite side, harness and saddles hung on hooks at the front, and wooden ware -- buckets, kegs, and tubs -- hung on the wall behind the stove."
The merchant of this store also stocked "an assortment of patent medicines -- Jane's Tonic, Pain-Killer, Ayer's Pills, Hostetter's Bitters, Vermifuge and other concoctions." Most customers usually got well in spite of these remedies.
Whiskey was a big seller, and was stocked in three or four grades, some selling for as low as fifty and seventy-five cents a quart; others as high as a dollar. I'm not completely sure all "grades" of whiskey were not drawn from the same barrel.
This little store, in that tiny cypress building, was known as Faltin & Schreiner, and it opened on Christmas Eve, 1869.
The 1927 news story interested me for two reasons. First, Charles Schreiner's sons did not tear down the old store while the old Captain was still alive; Charles Schreiner died in February, 1927; his heirs didn't tear down the old building until July, 1927. But secondly, if the building stood until 1927, is there even a small chance I have a photograph of the structure somewhere in my collection of historic Kerrville photographs?
The 1927 article describes the building thus: "The original Schreiner store ... has been moved several times, and for several years has been used as a storage place for feed. Built of native cypress, the old store is still in good condition. It bears bullet marks, giving mute evidence of frontier conflicts during the early days."
Surely, in the many photos I have of old Kerrville, there is at least a glimpse of this old building. I'll keep you posted.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who enjoys a good mystery.

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