by Barbara J. Wood
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Happy Sutherland Springs School group

Sutherland Springs Wilson County Texas..... A photo shows precious little girls in flour sack dresses and bobbed hair-dos while the straight standing young men wear overalls but most all students are barefoot. This was a happy Sutherland Springs School (Wilson County Texas) group and makes one wonder what the photographer said to get such grins. Sadly, though except for the Sutherland boys,  another group of unidentified individuals go down in history.


Dr. John Sutherland's house was located near the intersection of Camino del Cibolo and the Road to Chihuahua (today's 5th street and CR 539 seems about right).  The well in the picture is last remaining historic relic of his home.The slab of cement on top is from the old Sutherland Hotel sidewalk .
Robert E. Lee stopped at the Sutherland Springs boarding house kept by Dr. John Sutherland's wife Ann on his way to the Texas coast from San Antonio in February 1861. There he wrote a poignant letter to an associate, declaring that he was "unable to see a single good that will result" from the secession of Texas and the other southern states.
Ironically, by 1862 many men from Sutherland Springs served in Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. They were members of the Mustang Grays, which became Company F of the Fourth Texas Infantry, initially led by and forever associated with John Bell Hood, its first colonel and a West Point graduate who served under Lee in the Second United States Cavalry in Texas before the Civil War.
Joseph B. Polley graduated from Florence Wesleyan College in the spring of 1861 and joined a military company organized at Sutherland Springs, along with Sutherland's son Jack. The new unit called itself the Mustang Grays, probably in honor of a legendary Texas Ranger leader who was the subject of a popular song and at least one published biography before the Civil War. An older Sutherland sibling, George Quinn, allegedly also served in the Texas Brigade in Virginia, at least for a short time. Regardless, then, of when or if they supported the Confederacy, the families of Sutherland Springs sent their young men to fight for the South. 
Courtesy /Rick MacCaslin & Allen Kosub

Dr. John Sutherland and Old Town

Dr. JOHN SUTHERLAND & OLD TOWN..... Dr. Sutherland had moved to the Cibolo both to enhance his business opportunities and to provide a better quality of life for Ann, his third wife. He spent little to improve his house, much to her disgust. She complained to her stepdaughter Sarah that her grown children were building nice homes while nothing was being done to improve hers. She resented being left alone while her husband traveled on business, and she was appalled at the crude life of the Texas frontier.

Her mood did not improve when her stepson Levin stabbed and killed George Galbraith after a quarrel, even though Levin was tried and acquitted.

Sutherland's solution was to have Thomas Pooley, an English schoolteacher, plat a town site on his land in 1854 and offer the lots for sale, trying to develop a more settled community for his wife and, of course, make money. It worked.

Joseph B. Polley, Joseph H. Polley's son, later recalled that Sutherland Springs (OLD TOWN) by the mid-1850s boasted "half a dozen residences, one hotel, and two or three stores." The 1860 census listed about four dozen heads of households in the community. More than half were farmers or stock raisers, but there were four merchants, three carpenters, two brothers who were wagon drivers, a blacksmith, and a gunsmith.

Sutherland shared the medical business with R. Stevenson, from New York, and Thomas M. Batte, a Mississippian who actually settled on the Cibolo east of Sutherland Springs.

More important for Sutherland, thirteen people paid taxes on town lots they had purchased, while Columbus M. Reese was assessed for part of the Treviño grant, which he had apparently bought from Sutherland as well.

The springs on the Cibolo may have initially attracted Dr. Sutherland's attention in 1836, when he led reinforcements from Gonzales that failed to reach the Alamo, but he apparently was not financially able at that time to capitalize on his find.

He was also greatly concerned about the chance of Mexican raiders; after the attacks on San Antonio in 1842 he wrote to a friend that he was very concerned about the vulnerability of the "western settlements" and thought that it was "altogether probable" that Mexico would invade Texas in the spring of 1843. When that did not happen, Texas was annexed by the United States, and epidemics persisted in the new state, Sutherland decided to move.

He reported to his daughter Sarah in May 1849, just eight weeks after he settled on the Cibolo, that his new home site was "handsome," "healthy," and a "place of great resort." He added, "We have quite a variety of waters close at hand to wit—white & black sulphur, calibrate [sic], magnesia & alum springs within one hundred yards of my dwelling."

Dr. Sutherland located his home at the intersection of two important roads. The Chihuahua Road ran from the Gulf of Mexico at Indianola west to San Antonio. This was one of only a handful of principal roads in antebellum Texas, and two stages each week already traveled from San Antonio to the coast. The Goliad Road ran south through Sutherland's land, then east along the San Antonio River to Goliad before angling north to intersect the Chihuahua Road again at Victoria. Traffic moved regularly along both roads, so their intersection by the Cibolo was a great location for the ambitious Sutherland.

Sutherland tried to grow cotton like Polley, but wrote to his daughter Sarah, who had gone to Tennessee for school and there married James P. N. Craighead, that his crop in 1842 was "almost an entire failure" after a long drought was followed by fifty days of rain and then an infestation of pests.

Friends and relatives moved away, but he returned to land speculation, apparently focusing on planters moving into his region to plant sugar cane but also spending time marketing his western lands.

Dr. Sutherland did not become as prosperous as Polley, but in 1850, soon after moving to the Cibolo, he paid taxes on 4,500 acres, eight slaves, six horses, and 110 cattle, for a net worth of $10,000.


New Town Sutherland Springs

Sometimes, one simple picture can tell you more about history than any story you might read. These vintage photos of New Town Sutherland Springs  Wilson  County Texas tell stories about the historical years of 1912 to 1915. Enjoy!


Springs, Spas, Fountains of Youth

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS TEXAS ... " Taking in the Waters in Texas: Springs, Spas, and Fountains of Youth" by Janet Mace Valenza.

Sutherland Springs/La Vernia roadway

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SUTHERLAND SPRINGS/La VERNIA ... As early as 1907, plans had been laid for a roadway that could be more easily traversed by cars. In 1911, when "sandy stretches" on the unpaved road between Sutherland Springs and San Antonio still made it "almost impassible," local supporters of the national "Good Roads" movement gathered for a rally at the Hotel Sutherland.

When the legislature continued to leave the matter of improvements in the hands of county officials, another meeting was held at the Sutherland Springs Opera House in April 1912 to demand the sale of local bonds. These would fund a paved road to link the town to highways that would be built from San Antonio to the coast.

Ford called the meeting to order, and Thomas C. Richardson was elected as chair. A week later, Ford and Richardson became vice president and secretary, respectively, of the new Wilson County Good Roads League.

Another year passed without results, so in 1913 volunteers from Sutherland Springs and La Vernia, a total of 168 men, shoveled sand, clay, and gravel to resurface the 8.8-mile roadway between their towns.

Richardson chaired a local committee organized in April 1914 to ask state, not county, officials to pay for road improvements. That initiative must have failed because in December 1914 voters in Sutherland Springs returned a margin of more than three to one in favor of a bond issue to upgrade the road from San Antonio to Sutherland Springs by way of La Vernia.

Years of discussion and hard work finally bore fruit in 1916. Residents of Sutherland Springs welcomed a delegation from the Texas Good Roads Association during their tour of the state in September 1915. Women from the Civic League, led by Perdie Busby, hosted a banquet inside the Hotel Sutherland and then a meeting on the lawn after all of the 
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travelers inspected the local roads and enjoyed a brief swim. A writer for the San Antonio Express reported that the "meeting was snappy and filled with enthusiasm and applause." He added that the locals had a motto, "If energy counts, we've got it," and were interested in having a highway built to their town.
Specifically, they wanted a "southern route" to be chosen for a proposed San Antonio to Houston highway.

The residents of Sutherland Springs did not get a highway, but they held a big celebration in May 1916 for the opening of an improved road for automobiles from their community to San Antonio. Invitations were sent to many local motoring clubs, and a special train was scheduled to bring more visitors for barbecue, speeches, baseball games, footraces, swimming contests, horse races, music, and dancing (including a Maypole dance).

Everything was arranged by Williams, who also had the entire affair filmed. Anticipating a huge crowd, Williams proudly told a newspaper reporter that his "home" was at San Antonio, his "business" was in Houston, and his "playground" was in "Sutherland Springs, of whose franchise he [was] the owner."

(Courtesy of Richard B. McClasin, author of Sutherland Springs Texas: Saratoga on the Cibolo)

"The first picture shows volunteers from Sutherland Springs in action along the road between Sutherland Springs and LaVernia. The area was improved yesterday by citizens of both towns  and farmers along the way to give their time. The eight-mile stretch was put in first-class condition before the day was over."

"The second picture shows La Vernia workers taken at noon just after they had finished eating a big barbecue.  A force of 125 men and 78 teams represented La Vernia in the road building experiment." [Barbara Wood]

The Cemetery with No Name

THE CEMETERY WITH NO NAME ... In Wilson County one of the unnamed graveyards is located below Sutherland Springs Texas. Near the intersection of Highway 97 & Highway 87 there is a big brick house.  The graves are under the big oak tree to the west of the brick house.  They are on PRIVATE PROPERTY... STAY AWAY!

 Wilson County Historian, Mark Cameron, says, "The cemetery has no name. It is not known even who these people were. There is a white house there with a large Oak tree in the front yard. The graves are under the oak tree on the east side. Several years ago a Dowsing expert came in and dowsed around the tree and found 10 graves. 8 men and 2 women. Don't ask me how she could tell the difference but she was an expert. "

     Wilson County Historian, Shirley Grammer posts, "I only have about 8 pictures taken at the "Y" below Sutherland Springs underneath the big oak trees near the white brick house.  The people in the photos are Marjorie Burnett with the dowsing rods and Leon and Joyce Gorden looking on.  We visited this site in 2012.  Such a beautiful place under those trees.  If I remember correctly, Marjorie found at least 10 people buried here, 8 men and 2 women.  This grave dowsing is quite interesting.
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White Cliffs

Sutherland  Springs  Wilson County Texas ... This group is posing in front of the white cliffs across from the former New Town Sutherland Springs Park  (Photo Courtesy of Liz Lester) No details .
COURTESY / Wilson County Historical Society
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Cibolo Creek

Sutherland  Springs  Wilson County Texas ... This group of ladies are having fun posing on the Sheehy Rocks at Cibolo Creek  (Photo Courtesy of Liz Lester) No details. Notice the long strands of Spanish Moss hanging from the trees.
COURTESY / Wilson County Historical Society