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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The mystery photograph of Nelson’s Store -- where was it?

Nelson's Store -- where and when was this photograph taken?
Last week some kind folks at Wells-Fargo came across some old historic Kerr County photographs and they were nice enough to share them with me – and I’m happy to share some of them here with you.
One was of an old store. I’d never seen the photograph before, and I had no idea where the photograph was taken. Fortunately there were several clues on the building in the photograph.
The biggest clue, of course, was the big sign near the top of the façade – “Nelson’s” it proudly reads. I started looking through old newspapers, hoping to find a reference to the store in a local newspaper, but I couldn’t. The oldest Kerr County newspapers in the online service I use start around 1900, and they’re often very faint and hard to read.
Not to worry, the photo held other clues. The building is covered with advertisements: Butterick Patterns, Moline Plow Goods, Plano Manufacturing Company, and Ellwood Fences.
Butterick Patterns is still around, but it started in 1867. So the photo has to date later than 1867.
Likewise, the Moline Plow Goods company started in the 1870s, so the date of the photo has to be later than then, but it closed in 1923, and the company emerged later, but with a different name.
Ellwood Fences manufactured many types of wire fencing, from woven fences for chickens and livestock, to two-strand barbed wire.
The Plano Manufacturing Company also made farming implements, mainly horse-drawn harvesters. However, it only operated under that name from about 1891-1902. Of the advertising signs, this seems to be the narrowest range, meaning the photograph probably dates from that time period.
The biggest clue, however, is not one of the advertising signs, but a meeting-place sign below the “Nelson’s” sign – it’s faint, but I can barely read “W W Camp 435.” This sign, I believe, signified the meeting place of Camp 435 of Woodmen of the World, a fraternal order. Finding the location of that ‘camp’ was relatively easy: it was in Center Point, Texas. (That same exact sign would also be placed on the Woolls Building, sometime after 1902.)
San Antonio Street, Center Point, Texas, around 1905
I have an old postcard showing San Antonio Street in Center Point, published around the turn of the last century by “Chas. Apelt, Comfort, Texas.” He published a wide assortment of hill country postcards, most from 1905-1910, though it’s hard to get an exact date of publication. These were printed in Germany, which caused a Kerrville printer, J. E. Grinstead, to publish a line of postcards with the cutline “NOT printed in Germany. Printed in Kerrville, Texas.” Grinstead was quite a character. He was also the publisher of the Kerrville Mountain Sun, starting around 1900. Later he retired from the newspaper business, published a small magazine, and wrote pulp Westerns.
In Apelt’s postcard of Center Point, I think I’ve located Nelson’s store, or at least the building which once housed the store. It’s the second building on the left side of the postcard; that building has the same balcony/awning and the same number of windows.
If that’s the old Nelson’s Store building, I’m sad to report the building is no longer there. I think it once stood on San Antonio Street in Center Point, between Kelly and Skyline streets. The building between Nelson’s and Kelly Street is still there, on the corner.
Judging from the farming equipment sold there, plus the Butterick’s Patterns sign, and noticing the china on display in the store’s window, I imagine Nelson’s catered to farmers and the families of farmers.
There’s a chance the store was owned by Frank C. Nelson, who came to Center Point as a young man of 20 in 1891. The Kerrville Mountain Sun wrote in his obituary, “He was at one time one of the leading merchants of the community and was a charter member of the Woodmen of the World.” Frank Nelson died in 1952, and is buried in Center Point.
If you know more of the history of the store, I would enjoy learning more about it.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who likes solving mysteries about Kerr County photographs. If you have an old photo of our county, I’d certainly like to see it. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 20, 2020.

I have two hardcover books available with tons of historic Kerr County photographs and selected history columns.  Click HERE for more information.  Free shipping to U.S. addresses.

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