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Monday, February 3, 2020

Living the History of the Doyle School

Kerrville's Doyle School, May 1947
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Last Saturday, February 1, at 5 p.m., a unique celebration took place at the Doyle School Community Center, 110 West Barnett in Kerrville. The event was called “Living the History,” and featured a guest speaker, Sylvia Doyle, who is a descendent of the woman for whom the Doyle School is named.
The Doyle School Community Center is housed in the former Doyle School, which, until the mid-1960s, was a segregated school for Kerrville’s African-American students.
In working on the printed program for the event, I learned some new things about Annie Walker Doyle, for whom the school is named, and about her husband, Henry Sebastian Doyle.
The Doyle family came to Kerrville around 1910 because Henry was ill with tuberculosis. In those days many came to Kerrville seeking health. It was thought the dry climate here was helpful for tuberculosis patients.
The Doyle family,
Shreveport, 1903
She was a teacher, and he was a pastor, and they both were well-educated; Henry had a doctorate and Annie was a graduate of the Tuskegee Institute.
Soon after their arrival here, "she collected money and purchased three lots...and persuaded the members of the school board to donate an old school building for the purpose of establishing a school. She was the only teacher at the school, and served as principal for more than 25 years," according to the Kerrville Mountain Sun.
After Henry Doyle died in 1913, Annie Doyle stayed on and continued to teach. She was paid $85 per month to be the sole teacher at the school, which was considerably less than other teachers in the Kerrville school district made at the time.
She passed away in 1937, and in 1940 a married couple, B. T. and Itasco Wilson arrived in Kerrville to teach at the "Kerrville Colored School." One of the first things the Wilsons did was change the name to the Doyle School, in honor of Annie Doyle.
Here are some things I learned while working on the program for the celebration planned for February 1st:
Henry Doyle, back row, 2nd from left,
in London, 1901
Henry Doyle was very active in Georgia politics; in 1892 he made speeches all over the state for Tom Watson, a white candidate for Congress, running on the People’s Party ticket. At issue was the price of cotton, which many believed was held artificially low by brokers and middlemen, to the detriment of those actually growing cotton – the cotton farmers. That issue affected all cotton farmers, regardless of race, and having Henry Doyle, a black preacher, speak in support of Tom Watson, who supported reforms which would have helped all cotton farmers, proved to be dangerous.
More than once shots were fired at Henry Doyle as he spoke at political events. In one case the shot missed Doyle, but struck and killed a person standing nearby. Doyle received death threats, and, in one incredible event, Doyle was guarded by crowds of armed farmers – white farmers. In 1892 Georgia, that was remarkable. Tom Watson lost the election, and there is evidence the election was stolen from him by illegal means.
Annie Doyle, Teacher
However, Henry Doyle’s calling was not politics, though he remained active in that field. He was called to be a pastor, serving churches in several states.
In 1901, Henry Doyle was a delegate to the “Great Ecumenical Conference of Methodism,” held in London, England. A photo from that conference is about the only image of Henry Doyle I’ve found.
In 1895, in Alabama, Henry Doyle married Annie Magnolia Walker. Together they had four children; one son, Levi, died as an infant. When the Doyle family moved to Kerrville, they came here with their three surviving sons: Albion, Bertram, and Henry.
The couple lived in several places before coming to Kerrville, including Washington, DC; Augusta, George; and Shreveport, Louisiana. In each city, Henry Doyle served as a pastor. In 1908, he was a “candidate for the episcopacy;” I believe that means he was ordained as a bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church that same year.
Sometime in this period, Henry Doyle contracted tuberculosis, and he and his family moved to Jefferson Street, here in Kerrville. Henry Doyle passed away in Kerrville in 1913.
Annie Doyle lived in Kerrville the rest of her life, passing away in 1937. She had a long life, living until the age of 68. She was a teacher most of her years in Kerrville.
Henry and Annie Doyle are buried in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is fascinated by the stories of families who moved here because of tuberculosis, and how those families changed our community. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times February 1, 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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