Monday, March 6, 2017

A young Charles Schreiner

Charles Schreiner, sometime in the 1880s.
This past February 22nd was the birthday of the man who has been called the Father of the Texas Hill Country, Charles Armand Schreiner; he was born 179 years ago. Passing by his residence this week, I thought about Schreiner and his family. It's hard to remember the old structure was once a family's home.  Theirs was a large family: Schreiner and his wife Lena had eight children.
Years ago I researched Schreiner's life, focusing on his early adult years here in Kerr County, and I'm happy to share that with you again. Here's the story, from my files:
There are few in our community's history who rose to such prominence, wealth, and power, and so you'd think finding (and reporting) the facts about Capt. Schreiner would be elementary.
But the veil of years, even for the most prominent member of a community, can be thick and coarse. There are so many things lost since even the short interval separating us and the early pioneers: those that lived during the time have passed; those who remember the ones who lived in those days are few. And though the research tools available today are the most powerful ever granted to us (we curious few), there are whole continents of information simply...missing.
The images we have of Charles Schreiner almost always show him as an older man. But what about the time when Schreiner was a young man?
In the past few weeks I've learned some new things about Captain Schreiner, from the period when he was a young man.
For instance, he was elected district clerk in 1865, some 4 years before opening his Kerrville store, showing he was already held in high esteem in our community before his commercial success. In fact, in 1868, a year before he opened his store here, he was elected treasurer of Kerr County, a post he held for thirty consecutive years.
It was during this time, as District Clerk, Schreiner began dropping the "s" from Kerrsville. His editing stuck, thankfully.
I learned where his first store stood, too, and it wasn't where I thought it was.
In an interview with J. E. Grinstead, Schreiner is quoted as saying, "Yes, it was a small beginning: just a little cypress shack that stood where my residence now stands."
That little store was only 16x18 feet, made of cypress, and stood in the middle of the block, facing Earl Garrett street (then called Mountain Street). I'd always assumed it stood on the corner of Water and Earl Garrett. I was wrong.
And what of Schreiner -- what did he look like?
"Captain Schreiner was not so large a man as his photographs make him appear," Gene Hollon wrote in 1944 for the Southwestern Historical Quarterly. "His height was only around five feet and eight inches, and his weight never reached more than 17 0 pounds."
Meaning he was about my height and my weight -- by modern standards short, but back in those days Schreiner was probably about average in height among his neighbors.
"In his prime he was trim and fleet of foot," Hollon wrote. "It was said he could outrun any man in town in a foot race, and he often proved it...he did participate in foot racing down Main Street, a stunt not exactly considered dignified for a middle-aged man today, but quite proper then."
Well, that was a surprise: Captain Schreiner was a sprinter.
Schreiner's 179th birthday was February 22nd. I wonder what type of cake he liked.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who prefers dark chocolate birthday cakes, if anyone asks. With vanilla ice cream, please.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times March 4, 2017.

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