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Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Christmas Edition, 1899: The very first issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun

Kerrville Tivy High School in 1899
Tivy High School, as it appeared in 1899.
Today the building houses the central office of the Kerrville Independent School District.
Click on any photo to enlarge.
119 years ago yesterday, on December 22, 1899, a remarkable news magazine was published in Kerrville by J. E. Grinstead. The Neunhoffer family kindly let me make a copy of the magazine years ago.
Kerrville Masonic Building in 1899
Kerrville's Masonic Building in 1899
To celebrate his purchase of the Kerrville Paper, and to announce its new name, Grinstead produced a twenty page booklet with the masthead Kerrville Mountain Sun, Vol. 1, No. 1; it was proudly printed by "Grinstead & Boyd, General Printers." Its glossy pages measure about 14 by 10.5 inches, which is quite large, and it has a sturdy ivory-colored cover. It is illustrated with many photographs of Kerrville and Kerr County
Such a publication would have required an enormous amount of work, especially when printed on a letterpress. There were no modern typesetting machines; the type was set by hand. The photographs had to be converted to metal "cuts," an expensive and time-consuming process. Folding and stitching the signatures into a booklet would have been done by hand, as well.
In the midst of this work, J. E. Grinstead was facing tragedy. He'd moved here with his wife, Sarah Frances Grinstead, and their two sons, Grady and Doyle. Sarah was ill with tuberculosis, and in those days Kerrville's climate was thought to help those afflicted with that illness.
Kerr County Courthouse, 1899
Kerr County Courthouse, 1899
Sadly, Sarah died just 5 days after the publication of the first issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun, on December 27, 1899.
The news magazine is remarkable because it offers a time-capsule glimpse of what Kerrville and Kerr County were like at the end of the nineteenth century.
Though Grinstead's writing is relentlessly positive about Kerr County in 1899, the picture he paints offers clues about life here then.
"The resources of Kerr County are varied and extensive. The chief agricultural products are corn, wheat, oats, rye, sorghum, sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes. The black soil of the Guadalupe valley is especially adapted to the production of wheat and rye. Oats and corn also grow well here, and a failure of Kerr County's cereal crop is almost unknown. Sorghum cane is raised here for forage for stock, and often yields ten to twelve tons per acre; it is also grown for syrup, and the product is of the highest quality, and the yield enormous."
Kerrville's Tivy Hotel, in 1899
Kerrville's Tivy Hotel, in 1899
Ranching here is also described:
"The entire country is a vast pasture for stock. There is not an acre of land in the county that cannot be utilized either for agricultural or grazing purposes. Even the tops of the highest mountains are valuable pastures for thousands of sheep and goats."
Both the Live Oak and Stoneleigh ranches are singled out as "the head of their class as producers of fine cattle and horses. For speed and endurance, the horses bred in this medium high altitude, where the climate is such that colts may be allowed to run in open pastureland the entire year, far excel stock of the same strain bred in low, cold climates."
Surprisingly, even though the front cover says "Christmas Edition," there is no mention of the holiday in the booklet.
Charles Schreiner Mansion, Kerrville, 1899
Home of Charles and Magdalena Schreiner, 1899
"Kerrville's first claim to the attention of the outside world," Grinstead writes, "is based on its reputation as a resort for those seeking health and pleasure at all seasons of the year."
Many families came to Kerrville seeking health, starting soon after the Civil War, and this continued for many decades into the 20th century. Many had at least one member of the family who suffered from tuberculosis.
Perhaps Kerr County's first claim 'to the attention of the outside world' was actually hope. Hope for health, hope for a family to be restored. Given this magazine's publication at Christmastime, perhaps that's its most important theme: hope.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who wishes all of you a Christmas that is holy, and a New Year that is healthy. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times December 22, 2018.

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