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Sunday, December 27, 2020

Top Ten Most Popular History Stories in 2020

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As I research our community’s history each week, I’m continually finding stories I’ve never known before. Some of this research has resulted in new history facts for our community, and I enjoy sharing these finds with you here each week.
At the end of the year, it’s good to look back and see what new things we’ve learned this year, and an easy way to summarize this new knowledge is to share the ten most popular columns published in the past year. Here’s the list, as determined by the number of pageviews each of these stories received on my blog at

The Baker brothers
Number 10
: “Five Brothers, Soldiers from Kerrville, 1917” published April 12. 
A kind reader brought by a very brittle photograph showing five men who served in World War I. It took a bit of digging, but I figured out who was in the photograph: it was five brothers, Sidney, Leroy, Claude, Frank, and Iva Baker. The photo provided a never-before-seen image of Sidney Baker, for whom a major street in Kerrville is named.

The Barbara Dullnig Building
Number 9
: “The Secret Life of Kerrville’s Trailhead Building,” published October 11.
My friends the Walthers, working with Schreiner University, converted an old building on the edge of campus into a college gathering place. But what was the history of that old building? A postcard found on eBay provided the clue: it was built to honor a Presbyterian home missions pioneer named Barbara Dullnig, one hundred years ago.

The Cascade Pool
Number 8
: “In the heart of downtown Kerrville: The Cascade Pool,” published September 13. I’m not old enough to remember the municipal pool which once was located near the intersection of Water and Earl Garrett streets, but many readers have very fond memories of the pool. New research confirmed an old rumor: it was closed due to desegregation in 1960.

Pampell's, 1902
Number 7
: “A newly discovered print of a 1902 photograph of Pampell’s,” published October 25. 
A kind reader brought by a new print of a photo I’d seen before, taken at the corner of today’s Sidney Baker and Water Streets, of J. L. Pampell’s fancy emporium. This new print was so sharp and clear, many new details could be seen.

Camels at NYC's Central Park
Number 6
: “What happened to the camels of Camp Verde?” published January 5.
I’ve wondered for a long time what happened to the camels kept at Camp Verde after the army post was closed by the government, and I was surprised by what I found. A number of the camels ended up in New York City, and some of those were used to give rides in that city’s Central Park.

Home of A.C. and Myrta Schreiner
Number 5
: “A new museum for the Texas Hill Country,” published January 26.
With much fanfare the City of Kerrville and the board of the Heart of the Hills Heritage Center announced plans to transform the former home of A. C. and Myrta Schreiner into a regional history museum. The home, built in 1909, will be preserved and become part of the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library campus.

Bachelor Mountain
Number 4
: “Finding a historic African-American cemetery with lots of help,” published May 3.
Honestly, this was one of my favorites for 2020, not only because of discovering the location of an African-American cemetery, but of an afternoon spent exploring the area with my son, Joe 3. While the existence of Lane Valley Cemetery No. 2 was known, its location was a mystery.

Florence Butt in her first store
Number 3
: “Florence Butt and the new H-E-B store in Kerrville,” published March 8.
I found a newspaper article written by Florence Thornton Butt, the founder of what is now H-E-B Grocery Company, telling of the company’s earliest days. I compared her story to the news about the new, huge H-E-B being constructed.

Our Lady of Guadalupe School
Number 2
: “Kerrville’s response to the 1918 Flu Pandemic,” published March 15.
Kerrville was not immune from the 1918 ‘Spanish’ flu, and many people here died from the illness. However, there were five heroes who helped save hundreds of lives. One was a priest, two were nuns who were also skilled nurses, one was an English doctor, and one was the richest lady in town.

Lane Valley Cemetery No. 1
And the most popular column of 2020, Number 1: “A lonely Kerr County cemetery in the middle of a plowed field. Who’s buried there?” published March 1.
On Lane Valley Road, just after you cross the Guadalupe River, on the right is a plowed field. In the center of that field is a small cemetery containing just three graves. One of those buried there, Jack Hardee, had quite an adventurous life, including being captured by a band of Native Americans and finding a way to escape. Many of Jack Hardee’s descendants still live in our area.

I’m grateful to the Kerrville Daily Times for sharing space in the newspaper with me, and I’m grateful for the readers who’ve encouraged me to write about our community’s history. A community is stronger if it knows its story.
Until next year, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who wishes his friend Louis Amestoy the best of luck in the next chapter of his professional life. This column appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times December 26, 2020.

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