August 15, 2002, Thursday
Houston Chronicle correspondent
The Houston Chronicle
Spring Branch resident Karen Herridge attended St. Peter's United Church of Christ on Long Point all her life, hearing stories about old, German settlers whose descendents still thrive in Spring Branch.
The church, a sanctuary and time capsule built in 1848 had cultivated a love for history and genealogy in Herridge that she did not give air to until her darkest moment.
Shortly after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Herridge, 48, channeled that passion into writing a book about the history of Spring Branch and its early settlers.
"There were a lot of people who wanted to write this book, and they never got around to it," said Herridge, a descendent of the Quackenbush family who immigrated to Texas in the mid-1800s. "A lot of them passed on, and they had a lot of stories to tell, and I just felt like it was my calling." "Spring Branch Heritage," published in 1998, might be in print again soon and is now stocked in Spring Branch library branches, Herridge said.
Herridge researched and wrote the book in a period of four years, struggling with complex family trees, gathering oral histories and trying to stave off exhaustion that came from her multiple sclerosis.
"I clipped every article I could find from the 1800s to the 1990s," Herridge said. "That helped me piece together the book. I had to do a lot of research. I couldn't have done it without my church, the seven families that were involved. I got a lot of information from them. I went down to the courtroom to look things up."
She also drew from St. Peter's wealth of old photographs, church records and artifacts, tucked away from those who did not attend the church.
"Having multiple sclerosis, I'm a person that doesn't give up, and I just keep going," she said. "Loving history and talking to people, it was an experience I really enjoyed."
It was also an experience that helped her to take her mind of the disease, though the condition continues to ravage her body.
"It helped me get through a lot of dark days and dark nights," said Herridge, a hairdresser by profession. "It gave me an accomplishment that made me feel good about myself. There are a lot of times I can't walk and can't drive. I have new symptoms now where my hands and feet are numb. When I have overdone it, I get very, very tired."
Despite having grown up in Spring Branch, Herridge learned a lot of new information about her home as she dug through old records, including that 29 streets in Spring Branch were named after pioneer families.
Like her own, many families in early Spring Branch were from Germany.
Herridge said she hopes the book proves a resource to people in Spring Branch, giving them a sense of identity.
Participating in the Roots to Wings program at Valley Oaks Elementary, where Herridge and her 22-year-old son, Freddie, both attended, she has been able to share her knowledge of the area with children.
"I think they want to know their history because its going to be their roots," she said. "In general, I think that history needs to be saved and preserved."
Recently, she has been trying to help preserve history by seeking historical markers for two old cemeteries in Spring Branch.
The Hillendahl Cemetery, where about 21 settlers are interred, is located on what used to be the Hillendahl family farm. The family eventually sold the land, but the cemetery was spared from development.
About $ 750 would be needed for the marker, which Herridge said she would like to pay for with proceeds of the second printing and sale of her book.
Another cemetery, used by early pioneer families Rummel and Bauer is
buried from view. A dispute about the exact location of the graveyard continues
between St. Peter's Church members, Rummel and Bauer descendents and the
city of Houston.
© Copyright 2002 The Houston Chronicle Publishing Company