Thursday, April 24, 2014

Trouble at the Depot--1915

You never know when you'll stumble across an interesting little-known tale.  Yesterday, I did some research for the owner of Depot Square, and discovered a little known controversy surrounding the former San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad depot in Kerrville, now housing a restaurant--Rails-A Cafe at the Depot. The depot was erected in 1915 to replace an earlier frame one destroyed by fire. I have just discovered that the construction of this depot was so controversial that the debate appeared in papers across the state. 

A March 20, 1915, story in the Kerrville Mountain Sun reported that this new brick depot was to be ready in 60 days--in time for the summer tourist trade.  Newspaper accounts at the time suggest the depot was finished more or less on time, so that wasn't the controversy.  The story unfolds below.  It began with a lawsuit filed by certain currently unknown parties in Kerrville to prevent the use of the depot.

The first mention of the controversy appeared in the July 31, 1915, Mountain Sun. The newspaper reported the following:
The injunction suit against the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad company seeking to prevent that compnay from using their new depot erected between Clay and Tchoupitoulas streets was heard in vacation by Judge Barney Wednesday.  General Attorney A. J. Boyle, General Manager J. S. Peter, Land and Tax Agent Geo. Chamberlain, of the Aransas Pass were among those in attendance.  Barnett & Geddie were attorneys for the plaintiffs.  The trial of the case consumed a greater part of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and resulted in the injunction being granted as prayed for. 
Have any of my readers heard this story?  Does anyone have any idea who the plaintiffs were--other businessmen, local residents, elected officials? 

The following appeared in the Galveston Daily News, May 10, 1916, p. 7, as part of the report of the regular monthly session of the railroad commission, which at that time actually concerned itself with matters pertaining to the railroad! 
Argument was heard in the Kerrville depot controversy, where there is a division between the mayor and some of the citizens.  Today's petition asked the commission to order the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad to build and maintain what was characterized as an adequate passenger station at Kerrville, located on the old depot site and on the south side of the tracks.  It also protested against the petition of the mayor of Kerrville and the San Antonio &  Aransas Pass Railroad for permission to use the brick depot constructed by the San Antonio & Aransas Pass.  The new depot is declared inadequate and unsuitable and inconveniently and dangerously located.  There is a injunction pending in the courts to prevent the use of the depot.

Why was this new building considered "inadequate and unsuitable and inconveniently and dangerously located"?

The San Antonio Evening News of September 18, 1919, p. 5 reported that the Kerrville SAP Depot hearing had been postponed.
More items about the controversy appear in the Evening News for several weeks. Then the October 27, 1919, Evening News reported a resolution.
Order Will Compel Use of New Depot
Austin, Tex., Oct. 25?--Assistant Attorney General W. J. Townsend is drawing an order for the Railroad Commission which will require the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad Company to use its new brick depot at Kerrville.  This follows the hearing and the two years' legal controversy.  Some two years ago the commission ordered the Sap to build a new depot at Kerrville.  The railroad erected a handsome brick structure, but on an entirely new site.  Its use was enjoined by certain citizens, and it has been closed for 18 months.  When issued the order now being prepared will permit the railroad to move into its new quarters.
Few 1919 issues of the Kerrville newspapers exist, so we cannot determine exactly when the passenger depot finally opened, but presumably before the end of the year 1919.

So, loyal readers, do any of you know more about the lawsuit or the parties involved or have anything to add to this story?  You can comment below, or email me at dgaudier at gmail dot com

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter a Century Ago

Union Church Building, 2002.
It's Easter time.  I decided to look in the old newspapers to find out how Easter was celebrated in Kerrville in the past. These are the highlights of Easter from about a century ago as reported in the local paper.

The earliest mention of Easter in the newspapers is in 1902 when shops were advertising Easter hats and bonnets. Few of us wear hats to church anymore, even at Easter; one custom seemingly gone with the wind.  However, secular customs common today were being mentioned in the newspapers by 1903--dyed eggs, baskets, and cards.
That year, the Kerrville Book Store offered "Easter Egg Dyes, Easter Cards, Easter Eggs, etc." The religious significance of the day was not ignored.  The Kerrville Mountain Sun of April 11, 1903, reported "Special Easter services at the Methodist church, Sunday, April 12.  Easter Music. Sermon on the resurrection by the Pastor". Oddly, this is the only mention that year of an Easter church service. There were probably others, but maybe they just didn't get their press releases in on time!

In 1905 the Famous (a retail store) offered Easter egg dyes with this comment: "Don't let the little ones pass Easter without rabbit nests and fancy eggs."  It appears by this time Easter  baskets were already a staple of Easter celebrations, although they were called "rabbit nests".

In 1906 there was only one Easter service in the city "on account of the illness of Rev. Jas. Drummond, pastor of the Presbyterian church, and the absence of Rev. J. T. King, of the Methodist church." "The Episcopal church was filled to its utmost capacity Sunday morning, and many were turned away for lack of room.  The floral decorations were exceedingly beautiful, the special music was delightful, and the sermon of Rector Galbraith was timely, interesting and helpful." I found it surprising that the other churches were unable to have even a lay preacher in the pulpit on Easter.  That wouldn't happen today! Someone would be there.

By 1909  worshippers could choose between services at the Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Catholic churches.  The Union Church was still in use, and was being shared by the Christian Church and Lutherans.  They were not mentioned as holding Easter services, so perhaps this was the a off-week for both. (The Union Church originally was shared by four denominations, who took turns using the building.)

In 1913 a Sunday school class had an Easter egg hunt on the lawn of the teacher's home--the first such mention in the newspaper.

Aside from the Union Church, only one of those early Kerrville church buildings--the first First Presbyterian church building--reportedly remains today, but where?  Can anyone tell me?  A picture of the church from 1916, and a fairly recent photo are shown here.

Original First Presbyterian Church, ca 1916.

Original First Presbyterian as a residence.

I'll close with this quote from the Kerrville Mountain Sun for April 20, 1920: "Whether you are Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Catholic or what not, Easter ought to be the one day in all the year when you would make a supreme effort to come to the Sunday morning worship of your church."  I hope you were there.