Monday, May 23, 2016

The mystery of street names

Joseph Sidney Wheless, from
his time in the Texas Legislature, around 1900
Many street names around town were named in honor of someone.  Sidney Baker, Francisco Lemos, and Earl Garrett streets were all named for young men from Kerr County who died in battle at the very end of World War I.
Other streets come to mind, too: Rodriguez Street was named for a church pastor; Schreiner Street, for the family which developed the land; Lewis Street, for a family who had a dairy farm there.
Tivy Street was named for the man who gave Kerrville the land for its first public school; Captain Joseph Tivy also lent his name to our high school, and to a hilltop where he, his wife, his sister, and his wife's cat are buried.
Most of those names, however, are quite obvious.  Other street names are less so.
When Ms. Carolyn and I moved to Kerrville from Austin, in early 1983, we bought a small house on Wheless Avenue.  I've often wondered about the name of that street.
I noticed there was a local photographer with a similar name, Wheelus, but the spelling was wrong.  I'll admit I didn't pursue it further until recently, several decades after we'd moved away from Wheless Avenue to another part of town.
It turns out Wheless Avenue was named in honor of Joseph Sidney Wheless by the developers of the Hillcrest Addition, where the street is located.
Wheless was a native of Mississippi, and a graduate of the University of Kentucky.  He got his law degree from the University of Mississippi.
He married Miss Bertha Fishback in a ceremony at the governor's mansion in Little Rock, Arkansas.  The bride's father happened to be the governor of Arkansas at the time.
The young couple made their first home in Galveston, Texas, where Wheless practiced law and engaged in politics.  He was elected to the Legislature from the district which included Galveston.
Then came the storm of 1900 which just about wiped Galveston from the map.  Wheless prudently moved his family inland, to Beaumont, where they stayed until around 1918.
In 1918 his health 'failed,' and he and his family moved to Kerrville, to a house on Earl Garrett Street.  That word about his health may indicate Wheless suffered from tuberculosis, like many who moved here during the early years of the last century, when it was thought the climate of Kerr County was helpful in treating that disease.
In Wheless's case, it may have helped: he lived another 20 years here.
During that time he practiced law, played golf at the "Kerrville Country Club," which is now the Scott Schreiner municipal golf course (though reconfigured from its original layout).
"One of his favorite pastimes," according to his front-page obituary in January, 1939, "was listening to the World Series baseball games over the radio and staying with his favorite team, no matter what the score."
According to the same article, he was "interested for several years in real estate development and when the Hillcrest Addition to the city was opened for expansion of the city limits, one of the streets was named in his honor."
He was active in civic affairs, too.  He was a member of the Rotary Club of Kerrville in the early days of its history here, a member of the chamber of commerce, and served as mayor of Kerrville in 1920-21, only two years after his arrival.
Joseph Sidney Wheless died in Kerrville at the age of 76 years, which is remarkable considering his trials with tuberculosis. He was obviously well-liked, and he served in each of the communities in which he lived, trying to make each a better place.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who enjoys small little mysteries, especially when he figures out how to solve them.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times May 21, 2016.

1 comment:

  1. This is a very interesting article. I enjoy the history and appreciate your research. Perhaps an article on the name Starkey and Starkey manor and the historical ties to our old elementary school?


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