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Sunday, August 2, 2020

Early Public Schools in Kerrville

Tivy School, around 1910
Students at play, Tivy School, around 1910
Click on any image to enlarge

Years ago, my friend Lanza Teague, who shares my interest in local history, let me copy a manuscript written by her aunt Anna Belle Council Roland, entitled "The Growing Pains of a Shingle Camp: the Story of a Town." The handwritten document is full of interesting stories about our community's history.
Restored Tivy School, mid-1980s
Tivy School, restored
1984.  Compare with
image above
Since the question of whether to open public schools has been very much in the news lately, because of the pandemic, I thought it might be interesting to share some local school history gleaned from Ms. Roland's document.
Her earliest mention of a local school tells about the one started in 1857, a year after Kerr County was organized, and the small village of Kerrsville was named its county seat.
"In the fall or winter of 1857, William E. Pafford began teaching the children of [Kerrville] in the county courthouse. Those children whose parents were unable to pay were sent to school at the expense of the county. Pafford was paid $73.25 per indigent [student]."
Tivy School under restoration 1984
Tivy School being restored
That first courthouse, which served as Kerrville's first school, was tiny, made of logs, and stood on Jefferson Street opposite today's courthouse square, about where the Grimes Funeral Chapels stands today. The first commissioners court meeting issued the following order: ""that there be a contract made by the County Court for the building of a temporary Court House in Kerrville, to be built as follows: Of logs sixteen feet long, skelped down and to be eight feet high, the cracks to be boarded up, sawed rafters and good shingle roof with gable ends well done up, good batten door strongly hung and corners sawed down."
Other schools were mentioned which came after that first school.
Tivy School, around 1900
An early image of the
Tivy School
"For a time after the Civil War school was held at the corner of Water and Sidney Baker [about where the entrance to Peterson Plaza stands today]. It was later moved to John Ochse's store at the corner of Washington and Main [about where the old sanctuary of the Notre Dame Catholic Church stands today].
"In 1878 a rock school house was bought. It was known as the Masonic or Quinlan Building. The upper story was not occupied by the school. This building stood on the corner of Main and Sidney Baker [about where the new building for Broadway Bank is under construction today].
In 1883, “a two-room frame school building was constructed on Jefferson Street. Professor J. C. Lord and Miss Jennie Bayles were employed as teachers. Because the male students were organized into a military company and drilled, Lord called the school 'Guadalupe Institute.'"
That school building stood on ‘Block 9,’ facing Jefferson Street, on the eastern corner, placing it on the site of today’s Pint & Plow Brewing Company. The two-room school was enlarged with another room, and served as Kerrville’s schoolhouse from 1883 until 1891.
It wasn't until 1889 that the present school system had its beginnings.
"For over thirty years after the settlement of Kerrville, the school had no permanent home. Captain Joseph A. Tivy realized the need for a school, and expressed a wish to donate land for that purpose. Since it was necessary for the town to be incorporated to receive this gift, the town hastened to comply. Shortly afterwards, [Captain Tivy] made two deeds which he conveyed to the city: 16.23 acres out of tract 115 just east of tract 116, the original tract of the town in 1857. One of the deeds stipulated 'the land shall forever be used exclusively for a building or buildings in which to conduct the public free schools of the said town of Kerrville, Texas, and for the playgrounds and ornamental grounds in connection with the said building and other uses and purposes as commonly pertain and are germane to public institutions of learning.'
Tivy Class of 1912;
Earl Garrett is front row,
in center.
"Construction of the new school was begun in 1890, and the school opened in 1891 with an enrollment of 250.”
Today that ‘new school’ building is home of the Kerrville Independent School District’s administration offices. On March 1, 1891, the move to the new school was made; teachers and pupils assembled at the old school building at Jefferson and Clay streets and marched together to the new building at Tivy, Jefferson and Barnett streets.
Ms. Roland reports “In 1895, Tivy had its first graduating class of three students.” Those graduates were Bettie Rees (Vining), George Marshall, and Hallie Temple. Thousands of local scholars followed those first three.
It is my prayer this new school year is successful and safe -- for students, faculty, staff, and all those who help educate our young people in Kerrville.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native and a Tivy High School graduate. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times August 1, 2020

I have two books available -- each is full of historic photographs and stories about Kerr County.  For more information, click HERE.

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