Nov 18 2014
Commerce and Industry
 
The 1870 Federal Census enumerated individuals in occupations, other than farming, that revealed a vibrant community. Enumerated were one physician, three merchants, one dry goods clerk, two carpenters, two blacksmiths, several wagonners, teamsters, and wagon makers, a cook, a washerwoman, a nurse, and an innkeeper. 
 
Ten year later, the 1880 census revealed dramatic growth; those claiming an occupation other than farming included three physicians, four carpenters, five merchants, two magistrates, five ministers, three teachers, two saddlers, a well borer, seven potters, a miller, two broom manufacturers, one blacksmith, one bookkeeper, a law student, a butcher, and two shoemakers.
 
Cotton gins were important to the farmers of the area. H. J. Suhre, J. T. Wolfe, William Wiseman, Hugo Kott, W. E. Tewes, T. H. Abbott, and Henry Linne operated the earliest and most successful cotton gins in La Vernia. 
 
The rich alluvial soils of the Cibolo Valley attracted the farmers to the area, the deposits of clay attracted potters and brick makers. Brothers and Union civil war veterans, Isaac and George Washington Suttles found the clay was ideal for manufacturing superior pottery and bricks in La Vernia. While their presses created bricks for local use, their artisans created salt-glazed pottery that was shipped to customers as faraway as Denver, Colorado. La Vernia’s Suttles pottery is now treasured by pottery collectors.
 
Innkeepers were an important feature of this community. The first mention of a stage stop and livery was at the house of Claiborne Rector in the early 1850s. Thomas Applewhite operated a stage stop from his homestead for a brief period. Henry and wife Georgiana Morgan were farmers during the 1850s. After Henry’s death in 1867, Georgiana maintained an inn that was considered a reliable place for room and board. Another notable La Vernia inn was the Lay Hotel operated by Judge Francis Marion Lay from 1899 to the early 1900s.
 
Remembered by residents of the early 20th century as the “Racket Store,” Samuel Pressley Wiseman operated one of the earliest dry goods stores in La Vernia. Mr. Wiseman, as early as 1877, demonstrated his wares for the Sutherland Springs newspaper the Western Chronicle. 
 
Herman Suhre was a well-known merchant and postmaster during the 1870s and 1880s. Brahan and Erskine, Gersdorff and Company operated stores during the 1870s; Kott and Linne, Tewes and Abbott operated stores and Emil Lenz and Emil Koepp operated the popular Two Emils Saloon when Wilson County celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 1909.

The Innovators 
 
Agriculture was the main preoccupation of the community. Patents registered with the U. S. Patent Office reveal the inventive nature of La Vernia’s farmers. In 1859, T. T. Collier registered a patent for an attachment that increased the efficiency of a cultivator. In 1892, John F. Tiner registered a patent for a Spring Draft Attachment to replace the doubletree used to attach draft animals to wagons. 
 
In 1908, Otto H. Marx registered a patent for Improvements to the Sulky Plow. In 1917, C. W. Neblett registered a patent for a Supporting Structure used to suspend a scale for weighing cotton in the field.
 
In the 1870s, Major John Montgomery recognized the need for improved grasses for pasturage. He imported and sold a new grass from Africa, Sorghum halapense, commonly known as “Johnson grass,” a legacy that grows in Wilson County to this day.
 
150 Years of Freemasonry
 
Freemasonry has been an important part of La Vernia’s history. Brahan Lodge No. 226, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons was first established in Bethesda across the Cibolo in 1859 by John Rhodes King. The Lodge was named after Robert Weakley Brahan a local physician and planter. After the original building burned, the lodge was moved to La Vernia in 1867. Brahan Lodge, a red sandstone structure, constructed in 1871 is still a meeting place for Masons. At times, this registered Historic Texas Landmark has served as a school for the community.