New Kerr County History Book Available!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

"A small beginning," exactly 150 years ago this Tuesday

Charles Schreiner's original store in downtown Kerrville,
opened on Christmas Eve, 1869. Illustration by Harold B. Hugbee.
Click on any image to enlarge.
This coming Tuesday, Christmas Eve, will be exactly 150 years since Charles Schreiner opened his store in Kerrville.
“It was a small beginning,” he told J. E. Grinstead years later, “just a little cypress shack that stood where my residence now stands.” The “shack” was only 16x18 feet, made of cypress, and stood in the middle of the block, facing Earl Garrett Street (then called Mountain Street).
When we think of Charles Schreiner these days, we often picture an older man, wealthy beyond imagination. It is true, late in life, he was very rich, owning over 500,000 acres of the Texas Hill Country, along with banks, wool warehouses, shares in numerous businesses, buildings, hotels, ranches, herds, and even part of a railroad. There is no doubt the man had a genius for business.
None of that was evident 150 years ago, however. He was just a young veteran opening a store in a tiny town on the edge of the Texas frontier. There was no cash in the country, and most commerce was in bartered transactions. There was no transportation to or from major markets, except for freight wagons hauled by mules or oxen. Every item for sale in Schreiner’s store, except those raised or grown locally, was brought here by wagon: every nail, bolt of cloth, jar, pan, or piece of candy was brought here through incredible labor and effort.
It wasn’t his first mercantile venture. With his brother in law, Caspar Real, in 1857 he had operated a store serving Camp Verde, the Williams Community Store, which was about a mile south of the military post. Because of the sparse population around Verde Creek, Schreiner and Real only opened the store on army paydays. Running a profitable store on such a limited schedule was tough, and made worse when the soldiers stole from the store. Real and Schreiner supplemented the store’s income by securing contracts to supply Camp Verde with beef, wool, and wood.
Meanwhile Schreiner was ranching on a small scale on Turtle Creek, again with his brother in law Caspar Real.
Charles Schreiner, 1880s
There is some evidence all of this hard work was not resulting in enough income, and so Schreiner enlisted in the Texas Mounted Volunteers, which were later commissioned into the Texas Rangers. For this service, Schreiner was paid – in his last enlistment in 1859, for a service for around three months, he was paid $114.
In 1861, Charles Schreiner married Mary Magdalena Enderle in San Antonio. In 1862, he enlisted in the Confederate Army, reporting for duty just three weeks before their first son, Aime Charles, was born. He served in the Confederate Army until the end of the war, returning home in 1865.
He returned to a land devastated economically by the long Civil War. The store near Camp Verde lacked customers; the U. S. Army did not man the post again until 1866, and abandoned it in 1869. Having a store there did not seem prudent: there were no customers.
Still, Schreiner stayed busy. In addition to ranching, he was elected Kerr County district clerk in 1865, some four years before opening his store in Kerrville. In 1868, he was elected Kerr County treasurer, a post he held for 30 consecutive years. I think these elections demonstrated two things about Charles Schreiner: first, he was likable, and won votes in numerous elections; second, he was trustworthy.
And what of Schreiner -- what was he like?
Schreiner residence on Earl Garrett Street.
I believe the original store building can be seen
just to the left of the wool wagon.
"Captain Schreiner was not so large a man as his photographs make him appear," Gene Hollon wrote in 1944 for the Southwestern Historical Quarterly. "His height was only around five feet and eight inches, and his weight never reached more than 170 pounds."
Meaning he was about my height and my weight -- by modern standards short, but back in those days Schreiner was probably about average in height among his neighbors.
"In his prime he was trim and fleet of foot," Hollon wrote. "It was said he could outrun any man in town in a foot race, and he often proved it...he did participate in foot racing down Main Street, a stunt not exactly considered dignified for a middle-aged man today, but quite proper then."
And so, 150 years ago, on Christmas Eve 1869, a 31-year-old man opened a store in Kerrville in a cypress shack on a muddy street in a town with few people. Once again, he had a business partner, this time August Faltin of Comfort.
It was a small start, just like he said. But it was the start of something big.
Until next week, all the best.

2 coffee-table books
filled with historic
Kerrville photos
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who remembers shopping at Schreiner’s, starting when he was a boy, back in the 1960s. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times December 21, 2019.

I have two books available, both filled with historic photographs of Kerr County.  Both books are available at Wolfmueller's BooksHerring Printing Company, and online by clicking HERE.

1 comment:

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