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Sunday, July 30, 2023

Hidden Clues in the 1921 Kerrville Telephone Company Directory

The home of the Comparette family, on the corner of
Tivy and Jefferson streets, Kerrville.
Click on any image to enlarge.

Recently, a neat Kerrville artifact was added to my collection: a 1921 Kerrville Telephone Company directory. The directory is a goldmine of information – not only does it list all of the ‘subscribers’ to the telephone network, but it also tells where those individuals lived and where businesses were located.

There’s an interesting clue in the directory – the story of a friendship between two out-of-the-box Kerrville thinkers.

The booklet measures 9 inches tall by 6 inches and has 16 pages plus the covers. Four of the pages offer information about the phone company, such as long-distance rates; the remaining twelve pages contain the individual and business listings.

There are ads on the pages and covers, all of them quaint.

“H. Remschel Lumber Company – Lumber – Kant Sag Gates.”

“Prosperity of Kerrville, Texas – The proof of prosperity of any locality is demonstrated by the number of individual homeowners and home-loving people. – Make Kerrville a 'City of Homes.’ Decide today. – BUILD A HOUSE – Kerrville Beitel Lumber Company.”

“Mosel, Saenger & Co. – General Merchants – ‘Shippers of Mountain Cedar’”

And my favorite: “Ask Sid Rees. He Probably Knows. Phone 42.” This ad appears several times. Perhaps Mr. Rees was an early version of Google.

What became the Kerrville Telephone Company started out as the Kerrville Telephone Exchange in 1896. It’s a great Kerrville story.

The telephone exchange was started by a barber who had an interest in ‘telephony.’ His name was D. H. Comparette. His house still stands at the corner of Jefferson and Tivy streets, a two-story frame home that has recently been renovated.

In 1896, Comparette was 25 years old. He moved here from Newvale, Ohio, to run a local barber shop, but soon after arriving here, he’d convinced a few businessmen, including A. C. Schreiner, to invest in a telephone exchange. I wonder if he gave the men his business ‘pitch’ while they were getting a haircut and a shave? With a razor in his hand?

That first exchange had 12 customers. After Comparette purchased the house on Jefferson Street, the exchange ran from that location. Lines were extended in 1898 from Kerrville to Rocksprings, Harper, Junction, and Medina – allowing for instant communication for businessmen like Charles Schreiner and his ranches outside of Kerr County.

In 1908, the Kerrville Telephone Exchange was formally sold to the Kerrville Telephone Company. The bill of sale included “175 phones, about 12 phones in the Harper Exchange, and one horse and wagon.”

In 1905, the telephone company issued its first directory, with just over 100 subscribers. This 1921 directory has a little over 400 telephone numbers listed.

The numbers include a listing for the C. C. Butt Grocery Company on Earl Garrett Street with the phone number 72. However, if that line was busy, callers could ask for 236.

Charles Schreiner’s home phone number was 226. His eldest son’s number was 48, which is interesting, considering that A. C. Schreiner was an investor and president of the telephone company.

There are nine single-digit phone numbers. The county jail had the telephone number 3; Ward Undertaking, 8; Chaney Confectionery, which was in the building now the home of Francisco’s Restaurant, could be reached at 9; Dr. P. J. Domingues, 5; Henke Brothers Meat Market, 7; the Kerrville Drug Company, 5; the residence of N. B. Smith, 8; the residence of Henry Staudt, 3 (which was also the number for the county jail).

But who had the telephone number 1?

The Comparettes and Grinsteads
In my collection of photographs, I have several images of two families picnicking together – the Comparettes (who started the phone company) and the J. E. Grinstead family. Grinstead was a printer and a newspaperman. He lived across the street from D. H. Comparette. The two men were friends and survived a few scrapes together, political and otherwise.

Grinstead published a newspaper called the Kerrville Mountain Sun from a building that once stood in what is now the parking lot of my family’s print shop. The telephone number for the Mountain Sun was 1. The telephone number for the residence of J. E. Grinstead was 2. 

And D. H. Comparette’s phone number? It was 99.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who still remembers the Kerrville Telephone Company phone number of his childhood home. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times July 29, 2023.

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  1. Love it!! My uncle worked for Kerrville Telephone Co. for many years

  2. This was very interesting. I loved it.

  3. What an interesting article! Thank you, Joe. H. Remschel was my husband's grandfather.

  4. I worked for Kerrville Telephone Co for six years before it was bought out by Windstream. I miss working at KTC every single day. Kerrville Telephone was in business for over 100 years. Such great background story. Thank you!


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