New Kerr County History Book Available!

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Remembering Lee Wallace, who led Kerr County

Lee Wallace, Kerr County Judge in the early years of the 20th century, at the
Kerr County Courthouse, January, 1929.
Image courtesy of the Hearne Family.
Click on any image to enlarge
Today there are few people in Kerr County who would recognize Lee Wallace's name, though at one time Judge Wallace was one of the most influential persons in our community.
Lee Wallace, around 1915.
Photo from Hearne family
Recently, the Hearne family shared some Lee Wallace items with me, including some photos, and a 1937 draft of a collection of stories written by Wallace about Kerr County and its characters. These stories have been fascinating to read, and I hope to share a few of them with you here later.
Beyond these stories and photographs, Lee Wallace left behind a monument most of us would recognize, even though his connection to it has been forgotten: Lee Wallace was county judge here when the front part of our current courthouse was built, back in 1926.
Our current brick courthouse replaced a lovely stone building constructed forty years earlier, in 1886, which was designed by Alfred Giles.
It's been reported here the 1886 courthouse was replaced because it burned down. That is not accurate. The 1886 courthouse was in use until the 1926 courthouse was completed, and in the spring of 1927, the county offices moved from one building to the other.
The voters approved a bond issue to build the new 1926 courthouse in December, 1925, in the amount of $110,000.
Kerr County Courthouse, built in 1886
The former 1886 courthouse had several problems. First, it was argued, the old building was too crowded. "County officers long ago outgrew the present quarters," the Kerrville Mountain Sun reported in early November, 1925. "The building is overcrowded all the way through, especially the offices of sheriff, county and district clerk, and county judge, the latter official being compelled to store part of his school supplies out in the hallway." In those days the county judge was also the chief officer of the public school system.
A news clipping of the
1926 Kerr County Courthouse
"In addition to being crowded," the article continues, "the present court house is unsafe. For several years the walls of the building have been cracking and spreading, this of course gradually, but nevertheless steadily, and the time is not far distant when the walls of the structure are going to collapse. In fact, engineers who have been keeping a close check on the condition of the building have already considered condemning it for public use."
Merrill Doyle, in his little memoir published in 1975, mentions the old 1886 courthouse, and some of its residents: bats. "...the tower room...had been taken over by a colony of bats. Their occupancy had left an unforgettable air about the place and it was said that on a still, damp night, the aroma could be scented a half-mile away."
1886 Kerr County Courthouse
The original court order calling for the bond election included this wording: "Kerr County, Texas, is in need of a new Court House and Jail, and that the safety and permanency of the records of said County, and the safety of its citizens, requires a new and adequately constructed Court House (with fire-proof vaults)...." Perhaps the emphasis on 'fire-proof vaults' in the order led some to believe the old courthouse had burned down.
The bond issue passed handily, with 590 votes for and 363 votes against.
1926 Kerr County Courthouse
The 1926 Kerr County courthouse was designed by Adams & Adams, architects with offices in San Antonio, a firm which designed several other buildings in our community.
I'm thankful to the Hearne family for sharing so many historically significant items by and about Lee Wallace with me. The short vignettes Judge Wallace wrote provide a new look at Kerr County as it was in the early 20th century, and I look forward to sharing them with you here.
Until next week, all the best.

For free shipping, click HERE.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who appreciates the generosity of so many people who share historic items with him.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times July 6, 2019.

If you enjoyed this column, you'll enjoy my two books, which are collections of my columns from 1994 to 2018.  Both books are available at Wolfmueller's BooksHerring Printing Company, and online by clicking HERE.


  1. It is certainly true that the part of Kerrville where the courthouse resides has some bad soil conditions, and any poorly constructed foundation could result in structural problems. What a shame. I never knew we had one of Giles's courthouses. I think that was one of his specialties.

  2. This was a special and honorable post, and certainly cherished by our entire family. Joe, we greatly appreciate the history and wonderful memories of Kerrville that you share to all!


Please remember this is a rated "family" blog. Anything worse than a "PG" rated comment will not be posted. Grandmas and their grandkids read this, so please, be considerate.



Related Posts with Thumbnails