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Sunday, July 1, 2018

A Kerrville mystery: who is the woman in this photo?

Woman and buggy Kerrville 1890s
A woman in a buggy, date unknown.
Click any image to enlarge.
The story of Captain Charles Schreiner is well known in our community, but the story of his wife, Lena, has been hidden by time.
I have several photographs of Charles Schreiner in my collection of Kerr County historical items. I have one that I know is a photograph of Lena, taken with her daughters, and another which Schreiner family tradition suggests is of Lena. This week, however, I may have confirmed another photograph of Lena Schreiner.
Lena Schreiner with her daughters Frances, Caroline, and Emilee
Lena Schreiner and her
daughters Frances,
Caroline, and Emilee
Charles Armand Schreiner was born February 22, 1838, in Alsace-Lorraine, the neither-land between France and Germany. Schreiner's family arrived in San Antonio in 1852, when he was 14. That was the year his father died, killed by a snakebite as he gathered firewood. His mother died four years later and was buried near Cibolo Creek. About this time Charles Schreiner joined the Texas Rangers for a year or so, scouting and serving in the defense of settlers in a hostile country. In 1857 Schreiner and his brother-in-law Caspar Real built a log cabin on Turtle Creek and 'settled down to ranching.'
It wasn't a very prosperous beginning, filled with isolation and danger, and seasoned with long, hard labor. The early grasses that tempted our area's first settlers had been the result of centuries of growth; they fell rather quickly away with intensive herding. There was seldom enough rain, never any money in the whole area. Life here was poor, it was hard, and it was lonely.
Charles Schreiner married Mary Magdalena Enderle October 15, 1861. Like her husband, "Lena" was an immigrant, moving to Texas with her parents from the Black Forest region of Germany. They made their first home on the ranch on Turtle Creek.
Then came the Civil War. Charles Schreiner marched off to fight, a private in the Confederate Army. He left in August, 1862, marching off to war three months before their first son, Aime Charles, was born. He left Lena to run their ranch, when she was pregnant and alone.
Lena Schreiner and child at Kerrville mill dam
Schreiner family tradition
says this is also a photo of Lena
and a child, taken at the mill dam
in Kerrville
Of course her brother- and sister-in-law were nearby, but in those days the dangers of frontier life were plenty. Various Native American tribes were hostile to settlers; there was always the danger of illness or infection; and she faced childbirth without modern medical help. In addition, with most of the able-bodied men away from the county, fighting in the war, the frontier was unprotected, and raids on farms and ranches increased.
She must have been a woman of firm resolve, brave and resourceful.
Charles Schreiner returned from the war in 1865.
In 1869, Charles Schreiner started a store in Kerrville. Once again, he left Lena behind at Turtle Creek to manage the ranch. This time she was left with two small sons. The dangers were still there, and once again, she faced them mostly alone, for over a year. The store was fifteen miles away, which was a great distance when travel in Kerr County was by foot, wagon, or horseback.
Finally Lena and the children moved to Kerrville, in a little house on Water Street, not far from Washington Street. The first store, a small wooden building made of cypress, stood about where the Schreiner Mansion stands today.
While looking among my photographs, I ran across an image given to me by James Partain years ago. It's of a woman in a carriage who looks a little like the photograph of Lena Schreiner with her daughters. The woman has many of the same features as Mrs. Schreiner: a fancy hat, glasses, and a determined facial expression.
Charles and Magdalena Schreiner home in Kerrville
Charles and Magdalena's home in Kerrville, on what
is now Earl Garrett Street.
Click to enlarge to see the horse and buggy.
By accident, the next photo displayed on my computer was of the Schreiner's home on Earl Garrett Street, the Schreiner Mansion. I've always called that image the "Black Horse" photo, because I think it shows the mansion in good detail, complete with the iron balconies facing Water Street, and also shows what I think is the building which housed the first Schreiner store, tucked away between the mansion and where the store stands today.
Because I saw one photo immediately after the other, I noticed something I'd never seen before. It looks like the horses match. And then, on closer inspection, it looks like the buggies match, too. The type of bench, the number of spokes in the wheels, the attachment for the buggy whip -- they seem to match in both photos.
Of course, I'm no expert on buggies. There might be differences I cannot see.
However, I'm confident enough to suggest the woman driving the buggy in the photo may well be Mary Magdalena Enderle Schreiner, of whom so few photographs exist.
For all of his success, Charles Schreiner would not have prospered without Lena. She kept things going when he was absent.
The Schreiners had 8 children; three daughters and five sons. They were married for almost 44 years. Lena Schreiner passed away on September 7, 1905; Charles Schreiner, February 9, 1927. After Lena's passing, Charles Schreiner never remarried.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who enjoys puzzles about Kerr County's history. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 30, 2018.

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