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Sunday, March 17, 2024

What secrets are hidden in this circa 1895 photo taken in downtown Kerrville?

A faded photograph -- what secrets does it hide?
Click on any image to enlarge.

While going through another box of Kerrville photographs given to me by a kind reader, I stumbled upon a downtown Kerrville treasure.

After scanning and cleaning up
Upon first glance, it is very difficult to see any details in the photograph. It is very faded. And it is also pocked with many holes, evidence of its display on a wall for many years, affixed there with pins or nails.

Fortunately, I have a good photograph scanner, and within a few minutes I had a remarkable digital scan of the image, which I could further enhance using software on my computer.

After this processing is done, I could see clearly the subject of the photograph: a group of men standing in front of a saloon.

But it is not just any saloon – it is a photograph of the Favorite Saloon, which operated in the 700 block of Water Street in downtown Kerrville. The building is still there, at 709 Water Street.

Constructed in 1874, it is the oldest building in downtown Kerrville. It was built by F. J. Hamer, who also served as Kerr County sheriff, and he operated a saloon in the building.

When I was a child, the Kullenberg family operated a Western Auto store in the building; more recently the Rectors have operated several businesses there, including Cricket’s and Hill Country Living. Today, the Rectors have a tenant in the building, the Busted Sandal Brewing Company – meaning the use of the building has gone full circle from its original use.

Now, to look at some of the clues in the old photograph I found.

There are two important clues – a sign on the wall near the doorway, and a man in a white apron.

The sign clearly says “Lone Star Brewing Co. / Lager Beer.” The Lone Star Brewery was built in San Antonio in 1884, and was the first ‘large mechanized brewery in Texas.’ It was founded by Adophus Busch, along with a group of San Antonio businessmen.

The earliest date of the photograph, therefore, is sometime after 1884.

Ernest Schwethelm
Another clue is the frame building to the right of the saloon building. A masonry building replaced the frame building in 1908 – so the photo had to be taken earlier than 1908.

That’s a range in years of 24 years – from between 1884 and 1908.

Then there’s the clue of the man in the white apron. He is Ernst (Ernest) Schwethelm, the son of Heinrich (Henry) and Emilie Stieler Schwethelm. Ernest was born in 1863.

The man in the photograph appears to be around 30 – 35 years old. This is a guess, of course. If it’s close to accurate, though, that would put the date of the photograph between 1893 – 1898.

I’m guessing, then, the photograph was taken around 1895.

Circa 1915
I have another photograph of men standing in front of the Favorite Saloon many years later, thanks to another kind reader. In this one, Ernest Schwethelm looks about 20 years older, or around 1915.

These glimpses of downtown Kerrville from the 19th century are rare – and even rarer are images from downtown Kerrville showing a group of men wearing the happy expressions of friendship and camaraderie often associated with a favorite watering hole.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects historical items from Kerrville and Kerr County. If you have something you’d care to share with him, it would make him very happy. This column originally appeared in the Kerr County Lead March 14, 2024.

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  1. Loved the story.

  2. What an amazing photo. I wonderful who those African Americans were?


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