Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Lost Chapter of Kerrville History - FOUND!

The Gregory Hotel, Kerrville ca. 1880 - now known as the Pampell's Building at the corner of
Water and Sidney Baker Streets. From the collection of Dana Lowe
For the past two years I have been corresponding with Dana Lowe, a friend in Rockvale, Tennessee who has family connections to Kerrville.  While we are not related by blood, we share relatives in common (we refer to each other as long-lost step-cousins) and are both incurable genealogy geeks.  Together we have been delving into the lives of two early Kerrville families: the Steagalls and the Gregorys. 

W.V. Gregory, ca 1875
Previously mis-identified as
one of my uncles in the
family photo collection.
Through our shared interests we have been able to identify unknown individuals in our family photo collections, learned about the lives of these two families and brought a forgotten image of downtown Kerrville back into the public eye.  The story I am about to tell you is about one of Dana's relatives, William V. Gregory, an early Kerrville resident who helped shape our town but has been (literally) lost in the annals of local history.  The pictures in this blog come from both our collections and if we hadn't been working together, neither of us would have known the treasures we each held.

William Vandyke Gregory (December 12, 1846 - January 29, 1931) was 29 years old in 1875 when he left his native home in Marshall County, Tennessee and moved to Kerrville.  Within the first three to five years of his residency here, William proved his entrepreneurial spirit: He established a shoe shop, a hotel called The Gregory House and had a horse trading business as a sideline.

In October, 1878 Mr. Gregory was a witness to the aftermath of the Dowdy Family Massacre, one of the last known Indian raids in Kerr County.  He was a family friend of the Dowdy's and was riding to the family's home on Johnson Creek for a visit. He was two miles south of the Dowdy home when he learned of the attack.  Gregory raced to the scene and arrived as the bodies of the Dowdy children were laid before the family.  His account of the tragedy was published in the October 7, 1878 issue of the San Antonio Express.  "Alice lived long enough to recognize her mother - spoke the dear name of 'Mama,' and expired." His account said.

He was very much a part of small town life.  William was remembered in a column by J.J. Starkey in the August 6, 1931 issue of the Kerrville Times, a memoir of life in early Kerrville:

"While going to school at the old building then on the Secor Hospital Corner [now John Miller's car dealership], the teacher being Professor Ryan, the boys got together their nickels and dimes and bought a round rubber football.  A jury, out on a case, borrowed our football and started a game near the old stone courthouse.  One of the jurors struck the ball with a stick and punctured it.  They had W.V. Gregory, who was a shoemaker then, mend it; but as I remember the ball never held air so well thereafter."  

William and Julia Gregory on the Porch of the Gregory House 
William and Julia Gregory, about 1900
Until Recently an unidentified couple in one of my
family group photos.

1880 was the year that changed Mr. Gregory's life.  He injured his left knee while working and it became so infected that the leg had to be amputated.  The amputation was performed by four doctors, Drs. White, Nowlin, and Harwell  from Kerrville and one other [un-named] physician from Comfort. The operation took place in the home of Joe Robinson, a "little residence situated in the southeast corner of the Starkey Farm." 

Joe Robinson's sister-in-law,  Julia Kernodle (August 1851 - Nov. 6, 1930), another 1875 transplant from Tennessee, lived in the home and helped take care of Mr. Gregory.  As Julia nursed William back to health, love bloomed and they were married later that year.

After the couple's marriage in 1880, Mr. Gregory's hotel gained a second story and they eventually branched into the mercantile business.  In studying the photo above of the Gregory House hotel, rooms were $1 a day and meals $.25 per day.

Sometime around 1900 the property was sold to J.L. Pampell and the building became a confectionary.  After their retirement from the hotel and mercantile business, William and Julia built a home on a 20 acre plot of land in the southeast corner of the D.A. Rees tract and raised chicken and dairy stock.  In the early 1920s the Gregorys sold this farm and built a home in the Lowry addition.

On Thursday, Nov. 6, 1930, Julia died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 81.  Her obituary in the Daily Times read, " On Tuesday, Nov. 4, at the general election, she accompanied her husband to the polls and cast her ballot.  The election officers and others remarked concerning her apparent good health, giving promise of more years of life.  Thursday morning she was stricken with heart trouble and passed away about nightfall."

William died only three months after his "beloved" Julia's passing, on January 29, 1931.   In his obituary, the Kerrville Times said, "He had very little education but was energetic, a keen trader and succeeded better than many men with two legs to walk upon.  He was of a kindly and peacable nature and had many friends."

A sad footnote to this tale: While William's obituary says that he and Julia are lying side by side in Glen Rest Cemetery, due to an unfortunate series of circumstances, the location of their graves has been lost and cannot be located.  After searching for old church registries, courthouse records and talking to numerous cemetery and funeral home personnel, I am still hoping for a miracle that will one day point me to their final resting place.  Mr. Gregory's name is also mis-spelled on the Pampell Building's historical marker.

It has been a lot of fun researching William and Julia Gregory with Dana and I would like to thank him for his generosity in sharing the fantastic image of the Gregory House Hotel with us.  It is an amazing photo!  Who would have guessed the Pampell's building ever looked like that?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

It's been a fun ride and I've learned along the way!

I have recently been told that I made a classic mistake that many budding bicycle enthusiasts make when getting into bikes.  This is an opinion shared by many internet cycling gurus.  Even though I admit those "in the know" have a point, I don't regret my "mistake" because it was fun in the making and the past year has been one of growth and learning.

The mistake was purchasing my beloved Nora, the 1963 bicycle I bought and rebuilt, almost a year ago.  Back then I had stars in my eyes and only had my childhood experiences and love of old things as a guide as to what to look for in a transportation cycle.  In all fairness to myself, I just wanted to get back on the bike and didn't want to invest a lot of money in case my return to the pedals was short lived.

Marina the Schwinn
I enjoyed riding Nora when I first started cycling to work and still love that bike, but I realized how hard I was making it on myself when a generous friend gave me a 21 Speed Schwinn Suburban.  After fixing the gearing and making some upgrades to the bike (racks, fenders, etc.) the Schwinn became my bike of choice for basic transportation.  The Schwinn (aka Marina) was lighter than Nora, I had better balance on the Schwinn and the gearing on the bike made it easier to climb hills.  I also didn't know enough about bikes to know that Nora's frame was bent and as a result is a lot harder to keep balanced.

Even though Marina has 21 speeds to choose from, I realized that I only use about four of the different gear selections in my commutes around town and even though she's a lot lighter than Nora, she's still a very heavy steel bike.

Before long  I started reading blogs by other bike enthusiasts like Lovely Bicycle and Rideblog and learned more about different types of bicycles and cyclists.   I read about the experiences of other cyclists out there and the various bikes available.  There's a bike for every personality and journey and the selections are as varied as snowflakes.  Before long, I was dreaming of British bicycles and the bikes that caught my eye the most were the Pashley Princess Sovereign and the classic Raleigh Sport 3-Speed.  I felt both bikes would suit my needs commuting around town and running errands.

The Pashley Princess runs about $1200 retail and a good Raleigh Sport can be found on Craigslist for around $150-200 (which is high, but they're harder to find in Texas than on the East Coast). After doing research on both types of bikes, I learned that the Pashley is much heavier and harder to get up hills than the classic Raleigh (and I live in the Hill Country!) ... not to mention that the price of an old Raleigh fits into my budget better than a Pashley!  So I started looking for a vintage Raleigh Sport, circa 1969-1978.  I dreamt of finding a green Raleigh because 1. green is my favorite color and 2. the one that Velouria at Lovely Bike used to own was gorgeous!  For months I have been pouring over ads on Craigslist, drooling over Raleigh photos on the web and eyeing my husband's 1972 Raleigh with serious bike envy.

Lovely Lilly
This past week I found my dream bike - a green 1971 Ladies' Sport!  I have named her "Lilly" and my husband and I are currently working on her to make her road-ready for the miles ahead. There are a few condition issues: She needs a new saddle, there's a bad rust spot on the front fork and the gearing needs some work.  All in all, she's a beauty:  The Sturmey Archer shifter looks brand-new, the chrome is immaculate and I am fascinated by the branding that adorns the bike. The folks in Nottingham, England sure were proud of that Heron logo - it's everywhere! 

I haven't had a chance to ride Lilly yet, but I am already amazed at the lightness of her lugged steel frame and how well she fits my own frame.  More updates to come as we get to know each other better!
Marina, Lilly and Norman!
Check out the cool porteur (front) rack
my husband built for his Raleigh!

While Nora might not have been the best choice for a budding cyclist, it's the choice I made with the knowledge and skills I had at the time.  I still ride Nora, mostly when I am riding with nieces and nephews who are brand-new to the joys of bicycling, and it's still a lot of fun.  I have grown in skills and comfort level and the type of cycling I do has changed drastically from when I started this journey a year ago.  I doubt Lily is the last bike I buy (although finding a place to store five bicycles is getting to be a challenge) but she's the bicycle I've dreamt of riding for several months and I am going to enjoy falling in love all over again!
At last! His and Hers Raleighs: ready for a ride into the sunset!