History buffs welcomed at  Kerr Historical Commission

For any area residents with an interest in Kerr County history, the Kerr County Historical Commission probably has a committee slot to fit your volunteer time.

Chairman Julie Mosty Leonard of Center Point currently leads a county-appointed “commission” that operates as a county-based, state-supported volunteer group, under Texas’ State Historical Commission.

The local group has volunteers on several committees, including:

• Historical Markers;

• “Portals to Texas History;”

• Friends of the Historical Commission;

• Downtown Signs;

• Historical Map;

• Cemeteries;

• Archaeology;

• The planned Hill Country Museum downtown.

Under the current membership and assignments, Leonard says each has a chairman, and responsibilities to track progress on their ongoing projects, whether locating and identifying old cemeteries, shepherding historic marker applications through the state process; or adding input to the plans for the new county museum in the A.C. Schreiner home on Water Street.

“The Kerr County Historical Commission was formed here in October, 1975, with members from across the county. Now we have about 60 members,” Leonard said.

“We have about 120 ‘oral histories’ available to the public through the library’s Regional History Center. Those include recordings of the subject’s life story, written transcripts from the recordings, and photos related to the person,” Leonard said.

Terry Farley and Phyllis Shelton are chairpersons of the Archeology Committee.

Farley also chairs the Cemeteries Committee. The commission has documented 47 cemeteries and more than 22,500 tombstone inscriptions and photographs. The brochure for this is divided by geographic county areas and then by family name.

Leonard said they are currently researching another one, a small segregated burial ground for Black victims of TB at the “State Tuberculosis Sanitorium for Negroes,” now Kerrville State Hospital.

Julius Neunhoffer leads the Friends of the KCHC, the fundraising arm of this commission.

Linda Stone is chairman of the Historic Maps project. There is a brochure listing historic buildings downtown, with a map for walking tours.

A separate brochure of Kerr County Historical Markers lists by number, date, name/business, and a brief description the 66 markers here as of late 2008. They also are checked by committee members for condition, rated good to fair to poor.

Jeannie Berger is in charge of the effort to complete and send Historic Marker applications to the proper offices in Austin and track creation of the markers and delivery back to Kerr County.

Leonard said Berger and this committee must research current criteria from Austin and be sure everything on the application is documented. The applications are written here, sent to Austin’s State Historical Commission where each is previewed, sent back with notes for correction, and finally with the final wording the state considers appropriate for the markers, for local editing. Once that’s approved here, the cost of a finished marker is approximately $800-$1,200.

“And that’s paid by the person or business getting the marker,” Leonard said. “The latest two we are waiting for are for Garrett Insurance, and Live Oak Ranch, Capt. Charles Schreiner’s original property that became the YO Ranch.”

Leonard said that payment goes to Austin to officially put that marker and location on the “reserved” list.

She said the local commission gets a copy of the final narrative and then waits for a foundry to create the marker.

Toni Box is one four KCHC members who sits on the new committee to create and open the new Heart of the Hills Heritage Center history museum downtown.

A member is designated to keep connected to Historic Commission matters handled by City of Kerrville and Kerr County governments, and Bunny Bond is that person now.

Louis Stephens is chairman of the Archives Committee.

Leonard said their archives are housed in the Logan Library, Schreiner University, with public access through the library staff, but can’t be checked out. Some of their photos are sometimes exhibited in the Kerr Courthouse lobby.

Deborah Guardier leads the effort to track “Endangered Properties.”

Mary Elaine Jones works with Kerr County-specific historic items such as the oral histories created with local long-time residents, to get them downloaded online on the “Portals to Texas History” through the University of North Texas, to be available to all via the computer portal.

Leonard said the local “Kerr County Album” published by Clarabelle Snodgrass also is uploaded to the same online portal, index and all.

The website for the Kerr County Historical Commission is www.co.kerr.tx.us/historical; and Mike Bowlin coordinates the website. They also have a Facebook page.

Elected officers

Leonard said the elected officers for this group currently include herself as president; Charlie McIlvain, first vice president; Mary Lee Stewart, second vice president; LeRoy Schlechte, secretary; and Wilma Teague, treasurer.

Leonard said she was a volunteer member at first but soon was made marker chairman.

A varied group comprised of many of their members organized the summer 2019 “History Camp” for elementary school-age student, a success by all accounts; and they hoped to repeat that this summer, but the virus pandemic stopped that. They hope to do it again in June 2021.

“The commission has regular meetings,” Leonard said, “January through May and September through November, at 12 noon at the Union Church building on the third Monday of those months. The public is invited to the meetings. The next one is Sept. 21.”

Those interested in more details or becoming a member can visit the website, or send a message to kerrhistorycom@gmail.com.

“Members on the commission are chosen by our board and we send a list to the Kerr County Commissioners’ Court once a year, to be officially appointed,” Leonard said.

“One project we’re still working on is a Boy Scout from Troop 111 already volunteered to check and refurbish the historical markers around the county, as his Eagle Scout project. We’ll be getting in touch with him to see how his work is coming,” Leonard said.

The mission statement of the commission says it “is charged with the protection and preservation of Kerr County’s historic and cultural resources for the use, education, enjoyment and appreciation of the present and future generations. These purposes are distinct from an organization or society focused on genealogical or family history preservation.”

Leonard said past chairpersons include noted Kerr County residents including Clarabelle Snodgrass and Walter Schellhase.

“Kerr members can be just interested in history; and/or have ties to the county,” Leonard said.

She knows whereof she speaks. Her Mosty family ties go back to 1898, when early family members came to Kerr County in a wagon.

“L.A. Mosty and his wife Elizabeth Bean came with, I think, seven kids; and arrived in December. They thought they had bought a house, but it wasn’t ready when they arrived. The whole family lived for months in a tent, in the snow, on property near what’s Schreiner University today.

“They knew the Butts and their small store, and the Mosty family gave Mrs. Butt milk from their cow to help treat Mr. Butt’s TB and for her boys. The families were friends.”

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