Every town in America has a beloved character, someone who shines a light on things and brightens the days of those around them.
For more than 30 years in Kerrville, from about 1913 until 1959, photographer Starr Bryden was that person. While there have been many fascinating characters throughout Kerrville’s history, Bryden’s eccentric style was only part of the story, because he captured many of the city’s early years through his photography.
“The town loved him,” said Joe Herring, a Kerrville historian and former mayor, who writes a weekly column for The Daily Times. “He was a beloved character.”
After a chance find of Bryden’s old photos in 2012, including glass negatives the photographer obtained dating to the 1890s, Herring thought it would be a good opportunity to offer a “pop-up museum display” at Kerrville’s Pint and Plow brewery and coffee shop to showcase the historic works.
Herring, who along with his son, carefully scanned and curated the photos into a small, but impactful collection of what was found in Bryden’s old trunk.
“He was kind of eccentric and he was varied,” Herring said. “He was actually a talented photographer.”
The trunk, which was owned by the Meeker family, contained about 300 images, some of his writing and of Bryden through the years, including during a trip he took from Kerrville to Tennessee in the 1920s by bicycle. There is a picture of Bryden in later years, shortly before his death in 1959, that show him with a camera and with twirling a ring on an umbrella — something Herring said Bryden was well known for.
However, some of the real treasures are images from Kerrville’s past, including one piece of photojournalism of a group of men having a conversation at downtown Kerrville eatery and dance hall, Pampells.
There are others that also show some of the industry of the Hill Country, including goat herding and packing wool in burlap bags for transport out of the area.
Bryden arrived in Texas around 1912, when his father brought him to San Antonio in an attempt to recover from tuberculosis. After a year in San Antonio, Bryden and his father moved to Kerrville and lived in a small cabin. It was here in Kerrville where Bryden regained his strength. He would call the place home for the rest of his life.
Now, you can catch a glimpse of what Kerrville used to look like, and the interesting and eccentric man who loved to capture it.