In 1897 Kerrville, the county seat of Kerr County, had been incorporated only eight years. The population was fewer than 1800, but growing. The last Indian attack had occurred twenty years earlier. Even so, it still felt like the edge of the frontier. With the exception of a few rock buildings downtown, most buildings, whether businesses or residences, were wooden, and many of those were not much more than shacks.
The railroad had arrived in 1887, making it easier for the pioneer farmers and ranchers to ship their goods to market. Kerrville became the market center of the hill country. As the last stop for the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad (SAAP), warehouses, hotels, and supporting businesses grew up around the turntable and depot. It was, however, a barren land.
Old photographs show that this bustling town was planted on a near-treeless plain, trees being plentiful only along the water courses.
When L. A. Mosty arrived in Kerr County in late 1897 he saw a need for fruit, shade, and ornamental trees on the nearly treeless plain along the Guadalupe River, not just for the growing town of Kerrville, but also to supply the many farms and ranches being established. He saw an opportunity and purchased land down river from Kerrville, just to the east of where Schreiner University stands today, and began to grow and sell trees and plants.
L. A. Mosty was born in 1851 in Ohio to parents who emigrated from Belgium. In 1868 the family moved to Kansas to join son Frank who was homesteading. Sadly, both parents died within a few months of arriving in Kansas. The youngest child was only 5 years old. L. A. took his sisters to stay with family friends in Kansas City and stayed there, working, until 1874. In 1874 he and his brother Albert headed west where Lee was hired as a trail driver. He drove cattle from Texas to Kansas for the next 15 years. One family who hired him was the Beans of Lampasas. In December 1881 he married daughter Elizabeth Bean. They worked together buying and selling cattle from a base in Kansas City. In 1893 L. A. went bankrupt due to a bad partnership. They moved to Hepler, Kansas for a couple of years (1894 – 1896) and then to Lampasas where they farmed for a year and a half (June 1896 – December 1897). Elizabeth helped support the family by selling chickens, turkeys, and eggs. Times were hard. L. A. and son Lee, who was only 13 at the time, returned to Texas and spent the winter of 1896 – 1897 cutting timber in Menard, making only ($10? or $16?) for the entire time.
The Mosty family decided to leave Kansas and returned to Texas seeking a new home for their family. From a family history compiled by Harvey Mosty, one of L. A.’s sons, Harvey gave this account, “When we came back here from Lampasas in the fall of 1897, we brought a sack of old Indian peach seeds. I planted them southeast of the present well, down in the field where the two pecan trees now stand. These pecan trees were planted from nuts given to me by Mr. Hy Welge. They were from the Oliver tree near Junction. The peach seed came up and Lee and I budded them. A friend named Mr. Jump showed us how to bud a tree. The buds did very well and we got a nice lot of trees out of the planting. This was the start of the L. A. Mosty & Sons Nursery. Most of the trees were planted on the farm; however some were sold to neighbors.”
Elizabeth Mosty purchased the property along the Guadalupe River near Kerrville, closing on the land January 3, 1898.
Her husband and sons established a plant nursery on the home property first known as Kerrville Orchards and Nurseries.
In the early years Mosty was the only nursery in Kerrville and therefore provided most of the trees and plants in the area. L. A. Mosty developed new varieties of trees, including Mosty’s Cling peach, Mosty’s Free peach, and the Mosty pecan, and shrubs including a variety of Nandina. He joined the fledgling Texas Nurserymen’s Association. By 1907 the nursery, which at that time had four acres in roses and ornamentals, was certified by the State of Texas. When L. A. Mosty died in 1917, the nursery was taken over by his two oldest sons, Lee and Harvey, who changed the name of the business to Mosty Brothers Nursery. The Mosty brothers soon turned the venture into a wholesale nursery business. Lee and Harvey were able to grow the nursery to become one of the largest in the Southwest offering a second location in Center Point, Texas and expanding the Kerrville operation to include a retail business including the Mosty Flower Shop. Harvey operated the Kerrville location, Lee the Center Point one. The business prospered, and in 1927 Lee Mosty contracted with W. W. Miller of Kerrville to design and build a spacious two-story, eight-room house on the nursery property in Center Point.
The Kerrville Times reported that the house was built of tapestry brick at a final cost of about $12,000.
The house stands today little changed after more than 85 years.
The Texas Nurserymen’s Association (now known as Texas Nursery and Landscaper Association–TNLA) was organized about 1900 to establish industry standards for the infant nursery business in Texas. In 1918 the name was changed to the Southwestern Nurserymen’s Association and its reach extended.
By 1920, and possibly earlier, the Mosty brothers were members. In 1935, Texas members pulled out of the Southwestern association and organized the Texas Association of Nurserymen (TAN).
Lee Mosty was elected secretary of the new organization, and Harvey Mosty was a charter member.
In 1936 Mosty Brothers Nurseries of Kerrville and Center Point won the contract to supply the landscaping used at the Texas Centennial Central Exposition grounds. To fulfill the contract they shipped six railway carloads and ten truck loads of shrubbery to Dallas. The landscaping featured native shrubs.
The nursery continued to grow as Lee’s sons, the third generation who grew up in the business, began working with their father. Robert Lee, Raymond and C. H. (Scott) Mosty, all graduates of Texas A&M University, took over the nursery after their father Lee passed away in 1962. Both C. H. and Raymond served as Presidents of TAN. In 1965, at the same convention where C. H. was elected President, Raymond Mosty was given the A.R.P. Award, which is presented annually to one of the State’s leading nurserymen who has made outstanding contributions to the industry.
In 1985 the Kerrville location of Mosty Brothers Nursery was sold. C. H. Mosty took over the operation from his brothers and began to run Mosty Brothers Nursery in Center Point with his son Scott N. Mosty. After C. H. passed away in 1994, Scott N. Mosty, also a graduate of Texas A&M University, took over sole ownership of the business and continues to run it today. He has been joined by his daughter Erin Mosty Wofford and son-in-law Bryan D. Wofford who are both graduates of the University of Texas and the 5th generation of Mostys to be involved in the business.
HISTORICAL & CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE
Since 1908 Mosty Brothers Nursery has been a landmark in Center Point. The large, two-story residence at the front of the property was built in 1927 at a final cost of about $12,000. The architect and contractor was W. W. Miller of Kerrville. A concrete water tank, still in use, has been there since the earliest days. There are smaller post-World War II residences, and greenhouses on the property dating back more than 60 years. The business has been in continuous operation by one family for more than a century. During that time the Mostys have been innovators in developing new plant varieties and leaders in their industry’s professional organizations.
From its early years to the modern day the business has provided employment opportunities in the community. It has at times been the largest employer in Center Point. In 2015, the Texas Historical Commission awarded a historical marker to Mosty Brothers Nursery.
1 “KERRVILLE, TX” Handbook of Texas Online, written by Glen E. Lich, accessed September 22, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
2 Kerrville, Texas [map] 1898. “Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps”, 18xx-19xx. Originally located at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
3 Letters between family members 1893 – 1897. In possession of John Mosty.
4 Deed records: Vol. R. P. 107, Office of the Kerr County Clerk, Kerr County Courthouse, Kerrville.
5 Advertisement: “Kerrville Orchards and Nurseries”, Lee Mosty, Proprietor. “Fruit, Shade and Ornamental Trees.” Kerrville Mountain Sun, February 24, 1906.
6 “Construction Began Monday on Lee Mosty’s New Home,” Kerrville Times, June 30, 1927.
7 Kerrville Times, November 3, 1927.
8 “TNLA History Highlights,” accessed September 16, 2013.
9 “Texas Nurserymen Plan Own Organization.” San Antonio Express, September 5, 1935.
10 “Mosty Nurseries Sell Shrubbery to Texas Centennial”, Kerrville Mountain Sun, May 21, 1936.
11 “Charles H. Mosty New President of Nurserymen,” Kerrville Mountain Sun, Aug 25, 1965.
12 Texas Dept. of Agriculture. Bulletin No. 1. Third Annual Report of the Division of Orchard and Nursery Inspection, 1907, pg. 110.
13 “Mosty Bros. Nursery Inter-State Business”, Kerrville Mountain Sun, September 21, 1961, pg. 12.