by Barbara J. Wood
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Museum mural transports viewers back in time

The photo turned mural depicting La Vernia life in 1909, graces the front of the La Vernia Heritage Museum.
Let yourself go back in time to a clear day in 1909 when Chihuahua Street was bustling with activity. Life was busy with people, buggies, horses, Model T's, and at least one dog on the old main street of La Vernia.
The detailed photo by Candelario Alegria is now the attention-grabbing mural on the front of the La Vernia Heritage Museum on U.S. 87 at Bluebonnet Street The printing and installation of the mural was made possible by a generous donation from the San Antonio River Authority to the La Vernia Historical Association, which operates the museum.
Details in the image include buildings which are still standing and many which are not. The fashions and modes of transportation have changed and the pedestrians are fewer, but the scene is certain to make your imagination drift back to a very different era in La Vernia's history.
COURTESY/Wilson County News 2017
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The La Vernia Heritage Museum

The La Vernia Heritage Museum was the recipient of three area family heirlooms. Doris Ann Adams Rosendahl donated the items in memory of her mother, Dora Louise Schievelbein Adams, who was born near New Berlin in 1918 and passed away there in 1990.

One item, a framed diploma commemorating her mother's graduation from Concrete School, is dated May 5, 1933. The highest grade level at the school was eighth grade, which her mother completed. The school, which Dora attended during the 1920s and 1930s, was located between La Vernia and New Berlin but no longer exists.

The second item is an original photo taken of a 1929 class at Concrete School with the names of each class member clearly recorded on the back. A small metal lunch pail, which belonged to Dora Schievelbein, also was donated to the museum.

Dora was one of seven children born to Willie and Antonette Mittlesteadt Schievelbein, whose farm was located on the Scull Crossing Road and was bordered on one end by the Cibolo Creek. Dora was raised in the Christ Lutheran Church of Elm Creek, where she was baptized and confirmed. Dora Schievelbein's family extends to many other families in the La Vernia area, including the Hartwicks, the Esparzas, the Gutzes, the Pulhmanns, the Haeses, the Hartmanns, the Streys, and the Youngs.

The items are on exhibit at the museum in an exhibit about La Vernia area schools. The La Vernia Historical Association is seeking items about area schools on loan or by gift.

The La Vernia Heritage Museum is open on the first and third Sunday of the month from noon until 3 p.m. and by appointment.

The museum is operated by the La Vernia Historical Association, Appointments may be made by calling museum Director Susan Richter at 210-392-3281.
COURTESY / Wilson County News  2017

A brief history of the La Vernia schools .... LA VERNIA HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION

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This clipping from the Jan. 25, 1931, morning edition of the San Antonio Express describes the first brick building for the La Vernia Public School. "'The first brick building for the La Vernia Public School was ... "brick and hollow tile construction, all modern, with eight rooms and auditorium, indoor toilets and electric lights. J. C. Driskill is the superintendent of the school, which has six teachers."'
— San Antonio Express morning edition, Jan. 25, 1931

The structure is still in use, as part of the La Vernia Junior High School campus.

As a new school year gets into full swing, the La Vernia Historical Association gives us a glimpse into public education through the years in our community.

In 1853, our community was originally named Post Oak. In 1859, the U.S. Post Office discovered that a town already had that name, so it was changed to Lavernia. The spelling is traditionally accepted as Lavernia, LaVernia, or La Vernia. In 1860, Wilson County was established.

The early settlers of La Vernia were very well educated. According to local historians Allen and Regina Kosub, a school referred to as the Cibolo School existed near La Vernia in the 1850s. Also in the 1850s, the original Concrete School was built, but it was not in La Vernia. It was two miles north of La Vernia on F.M. 775 in the area of Concrete Cemetery, across from what is now the Ross and Mary Scull Circle N Dairy. The area was referred to first as Bethesda and later, Concrete. In 1858, an old concrete building on the site was used as a school and meeting hall for the Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians, as stated in the Deed Records of Guadalupe County. Around 1867, the original Concrete School building burned down. It was rebuilt some time later in a nearby location and was in use until the 1950s, according to Bobby Brietzke, who attended the school.

In 1870, a "Lavernia Male and Female Academy" was mentioned in the San Antonio Herald and probably referred to the Brahan Masonic Lodge in La Vernia, where classes were often held on the first floor.

Two wooden buildings on River Street in La Vernia housed schools in the 1920s. The single-story building housed the first and second grades, while students in the third through 11th grades had classes in a two-story building.

In later years, there were several small schools in the La Vernia area, such as New Hope, Elm Creek, Pleasant Hill, Sutherland Springs, and Wannamaker. As these small schools closed, many of their students then attended school in La Vernia.
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In the 1920s, there were two wooden school buildings located on River Street in La Vernia. One was a single-story building for grades 1 and 2. The other was a two-story building for grades 3 thru 11.

The story of the La Vernia schools continued as the Great Depression was beginning in 1929.

The late E.O. "Junior" Koepp, in a conversation with La Vernia Heritage Museum Director Susan Duelm Richter, spoke of how his father, E.O. Koepp Sr., strongly urged the La Vernia community to hold a bond election and build a new school. The Great Depression had just begun. This bond issue was in the amount of $30,000 and split the community dramatically. Business owners reportedly lost income when customers disagreed with their support of the new school plans. Nevertheless, the bond issue for $30,000 passed, and in 1930 the first brick building for the La Vernia Public School was built. The school was described in a San Antonio Express morning edition article of January 25, 1931, as a "brick and hollow tile construction, all modern, with eight rooms and auditorium, indoor toilets and electric lights. J. C. Driskill is superintendent of the school, which has six teachers."

Junior Koepp further stated that the architect for the La Vernia School building was the same one who had designed both the Stockdale School and the Koepp Chevrolet building that was located at that time on Chihuahua Street in La Vernia.

In a 1937 booklet published in Wilson County titled The Combine Directory of Wilson County, Texas (pages 19–23), it states that the "Lavernia School is a nice brick building. The faculty numbers 10 teachers."

La Vernia's very own local legend, Elsie Witte Ferry, the popular cashier at Witte's Restaurant, was among the first students to attend the brand-new La Vernia school when it was completed in 1931. She graduated in 1942. An enlarged photo of the building from that first year with all the students standing in front of it, including Elsie Witte Ferry as a young student, is on display at the La Vernia Heritage Museum, along with much more information about the schools.

Today, this brick-and-tile school building, constructed in 1930, is still in use by the La Vernia Independent School District. It is located on the La Vernia Junior High campus across from the historic Brahan Masonic Lodge on D.L. Vest Street. The school is one of the few remaining historical structures in La Vernia today.

The La Vernia Independent School District today caters to students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, on four campuses:
•La Vernia Primary School, pre-k through second grade, on F.M. 1346
•La Vernia Intermediate School, grades 3-5, on F.M. 1346
•La Vernia Junior High School, sixth through eighth grades, on Bluebonnet Road (F.M. 775)
•La Vernia High School, grades 9-12, on Bluebonnet Road (F.M. 775).
COURTESY / Wilson County News