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Sunday, October 23, 2022

Part Deux: The Case of the French Count and the Burgled Center Point Safe

The home of Dr. Charles and Virginia de Ganahl, 
as it appeared in 1933.

On October 24, 1879, Charles Schreiner solved a problem – with explosives.

Two days earlier, one of his business partners, Paul Below, of the Center Point firm of Faltin, Schreiner, and Below, couldn’t locate his key to the company’s safe.

I’m sure Mr. Below searched high and low for the missing key, because he was concerned someone had stolen the key and taken the money in the safe, which was estimated to be about $1,200. Finally, Below had to report in – and so he mailed a letter to Schreiner in Kerrville. Schreiner ‘immediately went down’ to Center Point after the mail arrived. They decided not to try to open the safe until the next morning.

Here’s where the explosives come in.

As reported in the Galveston Daily News, Charles Schreiner opened the locked safe “by blowing the door all to pieces.”

Once the dust cleared, $900 of the money in the safe was still there, as it was luckily hidden behind some bookkeeping journals. $301.50 was missing, however, made up of two $50 bills, some $20 bills, and miscellaneous currency.

Another view of the Ganahl home, 1933
According to news accounts, “Of course, there are a thousand an one conjectures as to why it was not all taken, and as yet there is not the slightest clue as to who did the job.”

There was an individual who soon became a person of interest. 

“Suspicions were rested,” the Galveston Daily News reported on November 6, 1879, “upon a man stopping at a ranch, a few miles distant from Center Point, and who is a French count. On his arrest, $210 in currency was found on him, among which were two fifty-dollar bills, five twenties, and the remainder smaller notes. The money is said to have corresponded with that missed from the safe.” 

The previous day, the Galveston Daily News reported this about the count: 

“Sojourning at Center Point was a bona-fide French count, none of your Houston French counts a la Pardonnet. His name is Monsieur Compte de Keroman, and about as distinguished a looking man as can be found anywhere. Dressed elegantly, but not ostentatiously, he stands upwards of six feet tall, his whole appearance creating the impression of a real gentleman. He was arrested at Comfort while coming to San Antonio, and in his hat were found $210. The evidence against him seems to consist of the facts that he was in the store the day before the money was missing, and that among the money found on his person were two fifty-dollar bills said to correspond with those missing from the safe.”

The count had been staying with the Dr. Charles Ganahl family in Center Point. Ganahl had been in Kerr County for about 20 years at the time of the burglary of Faltin, Schreiner and Below. He’d opened a post office in his home in 1859, and called the town Zanzenburg. A later postmaster, Dr. G. W. Harwell, renamed the town Center Point.

The Galveston Daily News continued its report:

“The lady of the family with whom the count had been boarding in Center Point,” Mrs. Virginia Jordan (Wright) de Ganahl, “accuses the sheriff and others who instigated the arrest with other motives than a desire to further the ends of justice.”

She was not alone in defending the count.

“Mr. J. B. Lacoste, of this city [Galveston], who is personally acquainted with the count, states that the accused was abundantly provided with money…through the French consul in Galveston, and, moreover, was in the habit of carrying his money in his hat.” Mr. Lacoste “does not believe for a moment that the count could be capable of the crime charged to him….”

Despite these protestations, and the circumstantial evidence brought against him, on March 15, 1880, Count Keroman was indicted by a grand jury in Kerr County, for the crime of burglarizing the firm of Faltin, Schreiner and Below. His bail was set at $1,200.

The trial at the courthouse – and the trial the count faced in the state’s newspapers – is a story in itself, which I’ll share next week.

Until then, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who enjoys tracking down stories from Kerr County’s past, even when the stories involve a minor member of the French nobility. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times October 22, 2022.

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  1. Love your stories. Thanks for sharing

  2. This is a great story Joe looking forward to the rest of the story!Leslie Pollard


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