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Sunday, August 23, 2020

Henke Brothers Meat Market -- and a mysterious book on my desk

Henke's Meat Market, 800 Block of Water Street, late 1950s - early 1960s.
Click on any image to enlarge.
The Cash Book

I found the book on my desk at the print shop, left there by a kind reader while I was away at lunch. It was a bound book, large, measuring about 9x14 inches. It was for an old type of business accounting, a cash journal.
“What in the cat hair is this?” I asked myself, opening the old book. I wasn’t the only one asking this question. A note accompanying the book asked: “Do you maybe know anything about who kept this book?”
Gentle Reader, I do not shy away from puzzles, mysteries, and obscure questions about Kerr County history. I dove into the question right away, thereby avoiding work I was supposed to do at the print shop.
First page
The cash journal was kept in a clear hand, and was easy to read. I noticed it was written with a pencil, which is practical whenever a lot of numbers are involved, though I didn’t notice a lot of erasures. Some, of course, but not many. Whoever kept these accounts was good at it and had been keeping records like these for a very long time.
I noticed, too, some of the names in the book, customers, employees, and vendors of the unnamed firm. Among the entries were Stewart’s Camp; C Schreiner Bank; Lee Mason and Son; Richard Holdsworth; Bob Ridgaway; S. Eastland; Judge Wheless; and so on. That proved it was a Kerrville business, but it was not clear which company it might be.
I could tell this firm traded with individuals and organizations. The dollar amounts were not large – most were under $20. The book recorded transactions from February, 1924 through the following February.
Henke Brothers, well before
1920s renovations
I knew the mystery company bought a lot of paper from the San Antonio Paper Company; they also bought a fair amount of wood, and paid for sawing.
On the first page someone kept a record of a building project at the company, but some of the building materials only deepened the mystery. Purchases were made from Beitel Lumber (lumber); S Eastland (tar); Charles Schreiner Company (gaskets, wire, and paint); W. B. Brown, a plumber, provided lead washers. Ammonia was purchased, several times, as well as an ice machine, a cooling tower, and ‘electric parts.’
These notes on the building project made me think the ledger had something to do with the old ice plant, which once stood at the end of Washington Street, on the bluff overlooking the river, since the materials seems to be used to make a refrigeration machine of some kind.
The Henke Brothers
Cash Register
Then I noticed a recurring small cash expenses paid to an “AWH,” “Hy,” “Emmett” or “Chester.” That was the clue I needed.
Though it was gone before I was old enough to remember it, many people have very fond memories of Henke Brothers Meat Market, which was located in the 800 block of Water Street. People especially remember the good barbecue you could buy there, and eat behind the store. “AWH” was August W. Henke; “Hy” was Henry Henke, August’s brother and business partner; “Emmett” and “Chester” were Emmett and Chester Henke, August’s son.
In 1898, the Henke Brothers purchased the City Meat Market from the Karger Brothers, who were ‘great bear hunters,’ and who kept a pet bear chained up behind the butcher shop.
The Henke brothers divided up the labor: August looked after the store, while Henry looked after the farm, buying and raising cattle.
I found a front-page story about the Henke Brothers Meat Market in the April 9, 1925 edition of the Kerrville Mountain Sun with the headline “Extensive Improvements Made to Meat Market by Henke Brothers.” One of the improvements was mentioned in the very first paragraph: “the recent addition of the new refrigerating showcases…. Last summer Henke Bros. installed their own refrigerating system, which has greatly facilitated their handling of meats, and the addition of the neat showcases makes their salesroom and shop about as complete throughout as any to be encountered anywhere.”
So, the mystery was solved. AWH, or August W. Henke, was probably the person who kept this cash journal for his family’s meat market.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who completes a trek around the Sun today, and is raring to go on a new loop. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times August 22, 2020.

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