Sunday, October 29, 2017

A glimpse of Kerrville from 1896

Downtown Kerrville, 1896.  Looking up Earl Garrett from the Star.
Saengerfest parade, September 2-3, offering a good glimpse of life here then.
Click any image to enlarge
Old newspapers often offer subtle clues about how different life was here in Kerrville only a few generations ago. But there are also items which reflect how little things have changed.
I have a copy of the April 2, 1896, Kerrville News which demonstrates this point, especially when paired with a series of photographs that were taken in downtown Kerrville in September, 1896.
The newspaper tells the story of what was happening in town, and the photographs show how downtown looked in 1896, and how Kerrville folk dressed in those days. A few landmarks from that era remain.
Saengerfest parade, September 2-3, 1896
Taken of Water Street from Star toward library
The photographs were taken at the intersection of Earl Garrett and Water streets, where the Heritage Star is embedded in the pavement today. One photo looks down Water Street toward today's Notre Dame Catholic Church; another looks up Water Street toward today's Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library; the last looks up Earl Garrett Street toward the Kerr County courthouse. The event in the photographs was a Saengerfest, or festival of choirs, held in downtown Kerrville September 2-3, 1896.
The single-sheet 1896 newspaper was filled with interesting ads. “Beware of traveling dentists,” one ad cautions, “They are incompetent or would be busy at home.” The advertiser, the Chicago Dental Parlor, was on Houston Street in San Antonio.
There is a large advertisement for the Junction City Stage Line. “Leaves every morning, arrives at Junction City the same day.” Junction City later changed its name to Junction, and is the county seat of Kimble County; today it's about a 50 minute drive down I-10.
And an entire column was devoted to excursions available on the San Antonio and Aransas Pass railway. The list shows the interests of Kerrville residents 121 years ago:
“On account of the Y.P.S.C.P. meeting at Gonzales Mch 27 to 29, tickets will be sold on the certificate plan….”
“On account of the Texas Baptist Foreign Mission Convention, to be held at Bastrop….”
“To the International Sunday School Convention at Hillsboro….”
“To the Re-Union of Hunts Brigade, Huntsville, June 22, round trip tickets at one and one third fare….”
“To the Annual Convention of Lumbermen’s Association, Austin….”
“To the Battle of Flowers at San Antonio April 21 at $1.50….”
“To the Southern Baptist Convention Chattanooga Tenn., at one fare for round trip….”
“To Christian Endeavor Convention, San Antonio….”
“To Annual Meeting of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Galveston, at $9.35 round trip….”
“To the Baptist State Missionary Educational Mass Meeting at Waco, round trip tickets at $7.15….”
Saengerfest parade, September 2-3, 1896
Taken of Water Street from Star toward Notre Dame
Catholic Church area.
“To the Annual Convention Texas Division T. P. A. at Dallas….”
And, between the large space taken for ads, there is an occasional news story:
“Large Cattle Shipment. Capt. Schreiner has made the largest shipment of cattle this week that has ever been made from Kerrville. He is shipping out the cattle he sold while at Ft. Worth, which amounted to some forty-five hundred head. There were nine train loads of them, three trains going out each day, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.”
Or, news stories that might also be considered advertisements: “We are reliably informed that arrangements have been made to furnish ice for the town this summer at a very low figure.”
“Mr. Pampell now has his business house extended in width eight feet, which gives him much more room. He will put in a much larger stock in his line and thus be much better prepared to supply the demands of the trade.”
“Your reporter stepped into Mrs. Russell’s Millinery Establishment this week and was pleased to see the large and varied stock of beautiful goods on exhibition. Her tastily arranged display of fine hats of every description, and flowers that are unquestionably the finest variety brought to this market, are to be seen as you enter her doors. Then you can see on shelf and in showcase everything a lady can desire to finish her utmost millinery desire. Her assortment of ribbons has no competition in the west. Price will be found in the reach of all and below the merit of the goods.”
But reading through the big sheet, one also finds clues that some things have not really changed at all:
“Kerrville is assuming her usual business aspect. One of the loveliest towns you can find. And that is not all, secrets are being whispered out that something is going to happen in the near future – developments that may be. But Kerrville has a grand future and you need not be surprised at anything. Just get yourselves ready and be in the swim when the time comes.…”
Sound familiar? I keep hearing “secrets” about developments in the Kerrville downtown area – don’t you? Never mind that most of those “secrets” never actually happen.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects items relating to the history of Kerrville and Kerr County. Please share your items with him! This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times October 28, 2017.

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