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On quiet evenings in La Vernia, under the branches of the old post oaks, one can easily imagine the time before railroads came to the area. It was a time when teams of mules and oxen strained to pull huge wagons along the rutted road from Indianola on the Texas Coast to Chihuahua in Mexico.
Trains of wagons, sometimes numbering in the hundreds, lumbered along as their drivers expertly drove their teams with the crack of their whips. Trade goods from Indianola as well as silver bullion from Chihuahua passed through La Vernia in the mid 19th century.
In the ancient world it was often said, “all roads lead to Rome”. During the 19th century in the southwestern United States “all roads led to Chihuahua”. Like ancient Rome, Chihuahua was a center of economic power and commerce. It was a place from which the legendary riches of Spanish Mexico could be exploited.
The earliest routes used to open Chihuahua to American trade came from Missouri through Santa Fe. In 1848 explorers and scouts proved that a southern, less mountainous route through Texas, to the port of Indianola was faster and more reliable. However, along this southern route countless skirmishes were fought between the U. S. Army, bandits and Indians.
Forts, way stations and villages were built along its length to service and protect the travelers. The story of the Chihuahua Trail is a part of the making of the American West. It includes such legendary characters as John Jacob Astor, Stephen F. Austin, and Captain John Coffee Hays. La Vernia was a part of this great legend.
In 1977 Brownson Malsch wrote in Indianola: The Mother of Western Texas “Departing from the wharf area at Indianola after loading, the wagons headed due west to Green Lake, then past McGrew’s and on to Victoria, where they crossed the Guadalupe River. From Victoria they followed the new military road through Pierpont, Yorktown and Sutherland Springs to San Antonio.” The Sulphur Springs (Sutherland Springs) Road passed through La Vernia and on it traveled the huge wagon trains that carried goods to and from Chihuahua.
A description of the roads in and around La Vernia (Post Oak) in the mid 19th century is helpful to understanding the development of the area and traffic pattern for travelers of the day. The Gonzales Road from San Antonio, first laid out by the Spanish administration in the 1820s, was the most important road to the area through the 1840s. Its track was broad and variable; it incorporated time worn Indian trails and cow paths. Crossings at creeks and rivers were selected for their favorable character and usually were at a relatively fixed position.
The Gonzales Road, as it approached La Vernia from the west, passed through the way station at Cottage Hill near present day St. Hedwig
. It continued on to Twenty-Mile House, an Inn, operated by the Bower Family and later by August Sellingsloh. It crossed the Cibolo near Claiborne Rector’s home and then continued in a straight direction to Gonzales.
In 1848 Bexar County (including the part that became Wilson county) began to undertake numerous road-building projects. On September 4, 1848 a petition was presented Bexar County Commissioner’s Court by landholders in east Bexar county for a road from San Antonio to Sulphur Springs (Sutherland Springs). M. R. Evans, Wm. B. Jaques, Wm. Lytle, and Richard Meade were appointed as reviewers of the new road.