New Kerr County History Book Available!

Sunday, March 21, 2021

The Case of the Missing Kerr County Mill

The mystery mill, as photographed by Gussie Mae Brown, around 1913.
Click on  any image below to enlarge.

There are photographs in my collection of historic Kerr County photos which are special puzzles. These are images of places where I think I know the subject of the photograph, but I have no certainty where the photograph was taken.
Take, for example three images of what appears to be an abandoned mill along the Guadalupe River.
In the days when the world was lit only by fire, finding a way to harness energy became crucial in the settlement of new areas. There is only so much work human or animal muscles can do. The force of water, though, could be used in many helpful ways: sawing lumber, grinding grain, and even, eventually, generating electricity.
Glass plate image,
around 1900.
One of the first families to arrive in Kerrville – back when there were only five ‘shacks’ here – was a young immigrant couple, Christian and Rosalie Dietert. Both were born in Germany, came to Texas separately, met in Comfort, Texas, and married. They moved to Kerrville in 1857.
Christian Dietert was a millwright. He’d built mills elsewhere, and most of them washed away in floods, often within months of their construction. The first mill he built that survived flooding was here, in downtown Kerrville. The ruins of that mill can still be seen, crumbling away beside the river, below the One Schreiner Center in the 800 block of Water Street.
The photographs I describe as ‘special puzzles’ do not show Dietert’s mill. They show a mystery mill elsewhere.
Between Ingram and Hunt there was once a mill called “Sherman’s Mill.” Some ruins of that old mill also remain, and I’ve photographed the site. Just as my ‘special puzzle’ photographs don’t show Dietert’s mill, they likewise do not show Sherman’s: while there is a bluff at the site, the river flows in the opposite direction from its flow in the ‘puzzle’ photographs.
There are three images of the mystery mill in my collection, each taken by different people and at different times.
The image published by Grinstead, 1924
The oldest was taken on a glass plate, which was found among the negatives in Starr Bryden’s foot locker, and shared with our community by the Meeker family. I don’t think Starr Bryden took that photo, though. I think S. H. Huntington took the image, probably around the turn of the last century.
The next was taken by a schoolgirl, Gussie Mae Brown. Miss Brown took a lot of photos during her teen years, and among them was a photo of an abandoned mill. I think her photograph was taken around 1913.  (Gussie Mae Brown was the granddaughter of the founder of Kerrville, Joshua Brown.)
Then, in 1924, J. E. Grinstead publishes a photo of the mill which is almost identical to the one taken by Miss Brown. The image appears in the May, 1924 issue of his “Grinstead’s Graphic.”
In that issue he hints the old mill was between Kerrville and Ingram, and was ‘marred’ by a mythic river god.
Water plant dam, published by Grinstead, 1910
Here’s the thing: there was a mill between Kerrville and Ingram. Miles Lowrance, along with Alonzo Rees and J. M. Starkey, built a mill on the Guadalupe somewhere near today's Starbucks on Junction Highway. (I'm guessing about this location, and I'm sure a reader can offer better evidence than that on which I've based this guess.) This mill was later owned by T. A. Saner, and later still by Capt. Charles Schreiner. The dam was wooden and served several purposes: first, of course, for the mill; later to supply water for Kerrville's earliest municipal water system; and later as a swimming hole for campers at Mount Wesley, the Methodist Encampment.
And so, Gentle Reader, one would think the mystery is solved. Yet there persists one nagging problem: I don’t know of a bluff along that stretch of the river which matches the one shown in the images. (Nor do I remember one from the time before the Nimitz Lake was created.)
If you have any ideas, I’d certainly like to hear them.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is thankful for the good work done each day at the Peterson Regional Medical Center.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times March 20. 2021.

Yep -- you can help produce this free newsletter by sharing it with someone.  Sharing is certainly caring. (Buying one of my books helps, too!)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please remember this is a rated "family" blog. Anything worse than a "PG" rated comment will not be posted. Grandmas and their grandkids read this, so please, be considerate.



Related Posts with Thumbnails