Remembering everyday people: Our rural heritage merits attention

Photograph of the old rock house on the Voelcker Farm taken by Dudley Harris for "Last Farm Standing on Buttermilk Hill"

Photograph of the old rock house on the Voelcker Farm taken by Dudley Harris from “Last Farm Standing on Buttermilk Hill”

Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker loved and fiercely protected their land from encroaching, encircling development swallowing up neighboring farms. The towering trees shading walkers in Phil Hardberger Park result from their stewardship.

Max and Minnie were not well-known in San Antonio, unless you were a frustrated real estate developer trying to court them. They were just plain, ordinary people. Like most of us.

Photograph by Dudley Harris of the Voelcker Dairy barn for "Last Farm Standing on Buttermilk Hill"

Photograph by Dudley Harris of the Voelcker Dairy barn from “Last Farm Standing on Buttermilk Hill”

What the retired dairy farmers never would have envisioned is that their old farm would end up safeguarded by the city that endangered it. The city’s Office of Historic Preservation has submitted a nomination to include the farmstead on the National Register of Historic Places, according to Preservation News:

The Max and Minnie Voelcker Dairy Farm, located in San Antonio’s Phil Hardberger Park, was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places this past spring. The farmstead exemplifies a turn-of-the-century agricultural landscape with preserved late nineteenth and early twentieth century buildings. The State Board of Review met on May 17, 2014, in Austin to review the application.  The Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) received a matching $10,000 Certified Local Government Grant to hire a consultant to prepare the nomination. The nomination assessment was prepared by Brandy Harris, M. Kelley Russell, Lila Knight, Ryan Fennell, Nesta Anderson, and Karissa Basse. The $10,000 grant was matched in-kind by the OHP through the execution of a survey in the West Sector Plan area of the city.  OHP staff members involved in the survey included Adriana Ziga, Kay Hindes, and OHP volunteer Brenda Laureano.  The nomination will now move forward to the National Park Service.

last-farm-coverI never met Max and Minnie but was offered the opportunity to delve into their lives deeply when retained by the Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Fund to tell their story. The resulting book, Last Farm Standing on Buttermilk Hill, in turn led me to even more concentrated involvement in the history of the dairy farms that surrounded the Voelcker Farm on San Antonio’s near north side.

As I struggle to uncover bits and pieces of the lives of their neighbors from the Coker Settlement resting beside them in the Coker Cemetery and weave them together into a new book for the Coker Cemetery Association, I am grateful for that introduction to Max and Minnie. Getting to know them and digging into the past of the Coker Settlement has given me incredible respect for the tough-skinned early residents farming on the outskirts of San Antonio.

Life was hard for those pioneering farmers, and it’s wonderful the Voelcker Farmstead has been spared as testimony of the city’s vanishing rural heritage.

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Coker Cemetery

5 thoughts on “Remembering everyday people: Our rural heritage merits attention

  1. Susan Frost says:

    Good job, Gayle! A labor of love.

    Like

  2. Butch Gerfers says:

    Gayle, great work!

    Like

  3. Mary Ann Tomasini Soultaire says:

    I love reading about our family!

    Like

  4. Buddy Inman says:

    I have deed records indicating that Enoch Moffett, my 2nd Great -grandfather sold his homestesd, 150 ac on Salado Creek 11 miles north of San Antonio, to Elise Volcker for $2140.00 on 25 Jul 1877. I believe that the house in Hardberger Park might have originally been the Moffett Homestead. We visited the home last year. I’m glad to hear that it has been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, but I would like to know who the original owner was.

    Like

  5. Jenny Hoffmann says:

    Hello Gayle,
    I ran across your wonderful blog while searching for “Coker.” I live on the Krause Ranch in Kendalia and am researching the Krause family history. George Krause, one of 8 in the Krause family who immigrated from Germany in 1855, is buried in Coker Cem as well as his wife Elisa. They lived in Anhalt and then on N. Loop Rd. near the Salado. I am wondering if they were diary farmers. Have you come across them in research for your Coker Settlement book? I would love to learn more about their lives.
    Thank you.
    JKH

    Like

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