New Kerr County History Book Available!

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Kerr County Schools Remembered

Inside the one-room Turtle Creek School, Kerr County, taken many years ago.
Click on any image to enlarge.
This past week I attended a briefing about the progress being made in the construction of the new Hal Peterson Middle School being built on Loop 534 across from Tivy High School. This new middle school campus is going to be fantastic. Kerrville Independent School District voters overwhelmingly supported a recent school bond election, and the new middle school campus is one of the major building projects underway for Kerrville students.
Seeing plans for the modern, new school made me think about my own time on Kerrville Independent School District campuses, starting at Starkey Elementary School over 50 years ago. Quite a few things have changed since those days, and most for the best. (Air-conditioning, for one thing. I attended all twelve years of public school in classrooms lacking air-conditioning. I almost froze to death in classrooms during my first week at the University.)
Although some readers may not believe it, I did not attend the first schools in Kerr County.  Those were built slightly before my time.
First Kerr County Schoolhouse,
now at the Y.O. Ranch
Many believe the oldest building in Kerr County is a former school building which originally stood in Center Point. Its historical medallion reads “First Schoolhouse. Built in 1852 by J. L. O'Conner at Center Point with cypress logs (12 by 14 inches) cut from nearby Guadalupe River. Mortar was a hand-mixed mixture of baked lime and sand dug from local shallow pits. The making of cypress shakes for roofing was first industry along Guadalupe in Kerr County. Cabin served as first school for pioneer Texas children in Center Point community in 1858. Moved to Y. O. Ranch; Restored.”
‘Restored’ might be better written ‘renovated,’ as the old cabin has been put to service as a guest cabin at the Y.O. Ranch under the name ‘Sam Houston.’
I visited the renovated schoolhouse at the Y.O. a few years ago. Even in its current form (with indoor plumbing!) it’s a far cry from modern school campuses.
Cypress Creek School
Our county was dotted with schools at the turn of the last century, and a few of the old schoolhouses still remain. I have happy memories of visits to the Cypress Creek School building, and the Turtle Creek School building, both of which serve as community centers today.
The Kerr County Album, published in 1986 by the Kerr County Historical Commission, lists a lot of rural schools I’ve never heard of, each serving a group of young students living far from town. There were schools at Pebble, the Auld Ranch, the Haby Ranch, the Reservation, Lane Valley, Buzzard Roost and Grape Creek.
Students at Lowrance School.
Note boys in the oak tree.
Herbert Oehler, one of my predecessors on these pages, wrote extensively about his time at the Sunset School, which was between Ingram and Mountain Home. He was a student there in the 1910s. I know about the Lowrance School because I have a photograph of students playing outside the schoolhouse.
Most of these schools were small and constructed of lumber; the Cypress Creek School is an exception, sturdily built from cut limestone. Most only had one room – the classroom. Many of the old schoolhouses have long since disappeared.
Of these rural Kerr County schools, only one survives as an actual school: the Divide School, which continues to serve students in western Kerr County, between Mountain Home and Garven Store, near the Y.O. Ranch.
Divide School, around 1999
My long-time friend Bill Bacon is superintendent of the Divide Independent School District, and he wears many hats in the operation of the school. Bill is not only one of the teachers there, but also the transportation director, and maintenance director, as well as “other duties as assigned.”
The Divide School has students from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade; the Texas Education Agency website says there were 17 students there last year, though I think there might be 18 this year.
The Divide School can trace its history back to 1882, when classes were held in the home of a teacher; in 1893 a one-room wooden schoolhouse was built near the intersection of Highways 41 and 83. The current building was built in 1936 on land donated by F. B. Klein family.
Educating young people is a noble calling, and students in each of Kerr County’s school districts are blessed with dedicated professionals. Schools and classrooms may have changed over the years, but the miracle of learning is the same today as it was in our county’s earliest days.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is married to one of those miracle-working educators, the lovely Ms. Carolyn. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 18, 2020. 

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.

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