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Sunday, June 13, 2021

A Kerrville love story, written in stone, in the form of a cottage

The Nellie Holdsworth Memorial Cottage, 
once part of the Westminster Encampment, Kerrville.
Click on any image to enlarge.

The small cottage stands on the western edge of the Schreiner University campus, in the area which was once Westminster Encampment. Today all that remains of Kerrville’s first summer camp are three buildings: the Barbara Dullnig Building, the Westminster Auditorium, and this little stone cottage.
As my friends Maia and Jeremy Walther, along with partners Schreiner University and the City of Kerrville, prepare for the big grand opening of the Trailhead Beer Garden today, June 12th, I wanted to tell the story about the stone cottage next to the Trailhead building.
The story of that cottage is the story of one couple – it’s a love story.
I first knew the cottage as the offices of the Texas Arts and Crafts Fair Educational Foundation, and often delivered printing there, in the late 1970s and later. Next the cottage was the home of the Texas Heritage Music Foundation, which Dr. Kathleen Hudson led for many years. I understand Schreiner University plans to house a campus visitor center in the building soon.
What I’d never noticed before was a large plaque by the front door: “Erected to the Memory of Nellie Holdsworth 1937”
Who was Nellie Holdsworth?
Since the Trailhead building was originally built as the Barbara Dullnig Building in 1920 to commemorate a Presbyterian woman who led women’s church programs all across Texas, I assumed Nellie Holdsworth served in a similar capacity. I learned she was very active in Kerrville’s First Presbyterian Church, serving as president of their women’s auxiliary. She was also involved in the work of Westminster Encampment.
Richard and Nellie Holdsworth.
He blossomed under her care.
However, this church work was not the reason the cottage was built; it was built by her grieving husband, Richard Holdsworth.
According to an account written by Rosita Holdsworth Hollar, a niece of Richard and Nellie Holdsworth, the couple was a very happy one.
“Nellie Jensen Holdsworth,” Hollar writes, “was a small, plump woman five years her husband’s junior with excellent business training and a life attitude that made her able to make and keep worthwhile friends in every walk of life.” The couple married on Richard’s birthday, April 14, 1912, in San Antonio.
Hollar writes a poignant sentence about their life together: “Richard, who had grown up almost a recluse, blossomed under her care.”
The recluse became a Mason and joined Kerrville’s Rotary Club. His circle of friends grew. “He was known as a reserved person, a good, but fair trader, and not a social mixer.” His judgment and excellent credit helped as he invested in local real estate; his hard work helped as he raised cattle on the couple’s several ranches.
Later, the reclusive Richard Holdsworth became involved in local politics, and on April 12, 1933, he became the mayor of Kerrville. He held this office with distinction until June, 1936, when he resigned, ostensibly to go on an extended visit to his home country, England, with his wife.
But there is more to the story.
Wedding announcement
Hollar writes: “Mrs. Holdsworth began planning a trip to England ‘to see where you lived when you were small.’ Her husband had no keen desire to travel, but now conceded and began plans. Then the family doctor told him that her current illness was to become worse – incurable. The medico deemed it best that she not be told. Of all the bitter things life had brought him, this was the ultimate. He confided in family members who said ‘Go! You can give her every care; she would feel no better at home.’”
And so the Holdsworths went on that big trip to England. “Mrs. Holdsworth, as was her want, gave glowing accounts of the voyage, the sights, ‘although [Richard] would only explore for short days.’ One can only imagine what this fa├žade cost him,” Hollar writes.
They left on June 6, 1936, traveling by train to New York City, and crossing the Atlantic on the steamship President Roosevelt, according to a front-page story in the Kerrville Mountain Sun. “Mayor Holdsworth will visit his birthplace. He was born near the Yorkshire village of Rippenden, but left England at the age of seven.”
They returned after 46 days – and, once again, in a front-page story, the highlights of their last trip together were reported. Not only did they visit his birthplace, they ‘motored’ in Scotland all the way to Edinburgh. They explored the Lake District. They hit many of the required tourist spots. They returned to America aboard the steamship California.
Nellie’s health continued to decline, and she passed away at home in Kerrville on November 17, 1936. 
The cottage Richard built to honor his late wife was completed in about seven months, during the following June, and dedicated in August, 1937. The rock work on the exterior of the building includes fossils, crystals, and other rare materials. It was lovingly designed and constructed.
Somehow the building has survived when few in Westminster are still here. Perhaps the memory of Nellie Holdsworth is strong in that place.
Richard Holdsworth died on January 5, 1950 a little over 13 years after Nellie’s passing. The couple had no children; Richard never remarried.
If you head out to Trailhead Beer Garden this weekend for their grand opening, take a moment to look at the little rock cottage, and remember the couple it represents, and their last big trip together.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has definitely blossomed under the care of the lovely Ms. Carolyn. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 12, 2021.

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