New Kerr County History Book Available!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

By wagon, cart, on horseback, or by foot

A freight wagon train leaving Kerrville in 1905, crossing Town Creek
below today's Riverside Nature Center.

Click on any image to enlarge.
This week I traveled to San Antonio on Interstate 10, and there seem to be a lot more big trucks on that route than in years past. As I drove I considered how freight used to travel in the days before interstate highways and big rigs.
Kerr County wagon pulled by oxen
In the earliest days of our community, all freight came here by wagon, pulled by oxen, mules, donkeys, or horses. From the photographs in my collection I can see there were many different types of wagons hauling freight. Some were attached together in trains, with two wagons or even three joined together.
Every bolt of cloth, every piece of glass, every sheet of paper was carried here over dusty roads, either by hand, or in a saddlebag, or on a wagon pulled by animals until 1887, when the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway brought the railroad to Kerrville.
Consider the problem of filling merchants' shelves if your only way to transport goods to a store involved a wagon and mules or oxen. The trip would have been terribly hot in the summer, and frighteningly cold in the winter. And there were dangers along the way, from natural hazards to roving bands of armed men intent on diverting goods to their own use.
Wool wagons on postcard,
700 block of Water, around 1910
“It was a real accomplishment for a freighter to haul a load of several thousand pounds on two or three wagons trailing one behind the other for a distance of a hundred miles or more,” writes Bob Bennett in his excellent history of our county. “During rainy seasons it was a real problem to keep Junction, Rocksprings and other towns supplied with the necessities of life. These inland communities often ran short of flour and other staple food items because the freight caravan was marooned somewhere on a muddy road en route from Kerrville.”
Kerrville, because it was connected to markets by a railroad in 1887, became the supplier of most of the outlying towns nearby, a role it continues to play even now that the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad is long gone. When the interstate highway came through town in the 1970s it helped our community retain this niche.
Wagons in the camp yard,
700 block of Water Street,
near today's Arcadia Theater
Before the railroad came to Kerrville, freighters hauled goods to Kerrville from San Antonio and even from “old Indianola” on the Texas coast.
Again, from Bennett: “In the early days the wagons were pulled by ox teams, often several yokes to the wagon. Later mules and horses supplanted the plodding oxen. Teams of horses and mules ranged from two to twelve. That was before the day of highways and it required expert teamsters to handle a team over the rough and steep hill roads.
“L. F. Pope was a colorful teamster of the pre-railroad era. He started in the days of freighting from San Antonio and continued westward when the railway terminus reached Kerrville. Old timers said Pope could hitch a team of several horses by the time others less versed in the vocation could hitch two horses.
Freight wagon on Earl Garrett,
beside today's Francisco's
“Bells were often used on the lead horses in the teams and the wheel horse – the one that knew his business – helped to hold back the heavy load on steep downgrades. The team, or the gentle animals in the team, were hobbled out to graze on the countryside at night.”
Many familiar names were involved in the early days of freighting goods to our community.
“J. D. Leavell began freighting in the 1870s for August Faltin from San Antonio to Comfort, and on to Kerrville for Capt. Charles Schreiner. When the rail line reached Kerrville he switched his operations westward.
Another set of wool wagons,
700 block of Water, around 1904
“Robert C. Saner began freighting with ox teams, going sometimes to old Indianola on the coast. He continued freighting with ox teams in the later years of his business, frequently making the long haul to San Angelo.
“Other early freighters were Wade Richardson, Lee Williamson, Wiley Wyatt, Bill and Alfred Stone, Jim, Walter, and Sanford Dickey, Tom Hearn, Matt Tomberlin, Creed Taylor, Jr., Landy and Bill Howell, Louis Leinweber, John Kountz, John F. Nichols, Theo Hyde, Mark Caddell, Simon Ayala, Jim and George Holloman, John Billings, John Crane, and E. J. Rose.
“The old-time freighter braved all kinds of weather and other obstacles, but he overcame them all. He was a picturesque character who served his day and generation well.”
I cannot even imagine the hardships they endured, but it was through their efforts Kerrville and towns west were able to grow and thrive.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who, as of next Tuesday, has been married 36 years to the lovely Ms. Carolyn, his college sweetheart. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times July 28, 2018.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoy reading and seeing Kerrville History. Thank you


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