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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Exploring Center Point

postcard from Center Point Texas
Center Point Postcard, probably from the turn of the last century.
Click on any image to enlarge.
Last weekend I hopped in my truck to explore parts of the county I don't get to visit very often, traveling along Wharton Road, crossing the Guadalupe, continuing on to Center Point, and then around several sites in that city.
It was a hot day, and when I stopped at the Wharton Cemetery I made sure I stayed in the shade.
Several of the tombstones there have been replaced with newer monuments, with the old crumbling headstones resting against a giant live oak. I looked specifically for the memorial for Thankful Wharton, who passed away in 1885.  She and her husband William came here by wagon in 1857 from Tennessee, with their three sons John, William, and David, to settle 640 acres. I've always thought Thankful was a good name, though I'm sure it wasn't always easy to live up to.  Nearby I found the grave of Thankful's granddaughter, Pherby Thankful, who was only an infant when she died in 1883.
Bill Wharton from Kerrville Texas
Bill Wharton portrait
The Whartons lived near the route taken by camels from Camp Verde to points west, and David Wharton was among the last to remember seeing them pass by his family's farm. A news story from 1936, published in the San Antonio Express told of his recollections of the camels. "Horses, according to the 90-year-old pioneer, could smell camels a long distance away, and frequently showed signs of alarm at the approach of the tawny, lumbering humpback animals." Standing at the cemetery, I tried to imagine camels passing by.
Farther downstream I crossed the Guadalupe at what's now called Monkey Island, which was crowded with bathers.  I remember shooting through the rapids there decades ago in a canoe with my friend David Scottow, the day we paddled from Hunt to Center Point.  In those days the spot was not a popular river access point.
Wharton Road and the River Road into Center Point have seen many changes since our river trip, with structures and fences sprouting up everywhere. I was surprised how many places offered lodging along the road, including several which appeared to be purpose-built to house paying guests.
Center Point Roller Mill
and Cotton Gin, 1920s
Pulling into Center Point, I found the low bridge just below the dam was closed for repairs, so I crossed the high-water bridge and backtracked to the park beside the dam.  It was as I remembered: a lovely and well-used park.
Although I'm not sure of the exact location, there was once a roller mill and cotton gin nearby, and I looked at the hillside for a long time trying to imagine if this was the site.
Center Point has a long and rich history. It was founded in November, 1859, by Dr. Charles de Ganahl, who named the place Zanzenburg. In 1872, Zanzenburg's postmaster, Dr. G. W. Harwell, moved the post office south of the river and renamed the community Centre Point. He chose the name, supposedly, because the town was midway between Kerrville and Comfort, and halfway between Bandera and Fredericksburg.
In the June 19, 1878, issue of the Centre Point Excelsior notes two water-powered flouring mills, run by Lowrance & Rees, which also pumped water to the various homes in town. "The people of Centre Point are a high toned, kind and intelligent class of people, they are not divided like in most towns on the frontier, but to the contrary they are united generally on points pertaining to the interest and welfare of the country."
In the late 1880s, Center Point found itself served by the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad; its old depot is behind the Methodist Church, in another park.
I traveled from the riverside park to Swayze Street, thinking about my friend Francis "Fuzzy" Swayze, who turned 100 years old recently, and wondered if his family had a connection to that street.
Center Point
Methodist Church
Next, I stopped by the impressive Center Point Methodist Church, on Church Street, which was built in 1911.  I had seen photographs of the building but had never visited. Its tall, square steeple, punctuated with crenels, looks like the battlements of a castle.  The arched doorway and stained glass windows add to this impression. I would have liked to see inside the sanctuary, but I'll have to make another trip during worship hours.
Lastly, I visited the Center Point Cemetery, and saw a lot of names I recognized, and the graves of many folks I remembered from years ago. I found the graves of two Kerrville men, an uncle and nephew, who died young from muscular dystrophy, and remembered how they both fought to retain their independence for as long as they could. I visited the grave of one of my former teachers, from my junior high days, and stopped by the grave of her son, a musician, which was nearby. Visitors to the musician's grave left guitar picks wedged between the plinth and column of the memorial, a testament to the young man's talents. Among the many members of the Mosty family buried there, I found the graves of several folks I remembered from their visits to our print shop, from when we printed items for their nursery business.
The Center Point cemetery is also the final resting place of over 30 Texas Rangers, including Andrew Jackson Sowell, who wrote "Early Settlers and Indian Fighters of Southwest Texas" and other books about the history of our area.
In all, it's good to get out and explore -- even if it's to see how much has changed.
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who needs to wander more, without getting lost. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 21, 2019.

Did you know I have two books about Kerr County history available?  Both books are available at Wolfmueller's BooksHerring Printing Company, and online by clicking HERE.

1 comment:

  1. Great story! I used to live there but didn't know the history. Thanks for sharing it.


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