"Schertz Now and Then: An Oral History"
| Nestled between
San Antonio and New
Braunfels lies Schertz, TX, a growing town that is home to 34,000
residents, Randolph Air Force Base and a rich history of agriculture,
German heritage and small-town values. The city's history is compellingly
retold in "Schertz Now and Then: An Oral History," a 25-minute
documentary that takes viewers through the history and growth of Schertz.
The city's story is told through interviews featuring anecdotes from
former city officials, area historians and residents of Schertz whose
families have lived in the area for generations. The documentary's
interviewees share stories about what it was like to grow up in Schertz
all throughout the 1900s, and the documentary's storyline encompasses
topics such as Schertz's founding family, the city's German roots,
the impact of the Randolph Air Force Base and the city's current growth.
Beginning in early 2016, the project's impetus came from Chris Price,
Executive Producer and developer of The Crossvine, a mixed-use,
master-planned community located in southern Schertz. Price was passionately
interested in learning more about and preserving the rich history
of Schertz, and by having conversations with area historians and lifelong
residents of the city, his vision for the project was able to grow
into its current form: A full-fledged documentary about the city with
interviews and stories told by those who know Schertz best.
The documentary is divided into six "episodes," each addressing a
different aspect of Schertz's rich history and growth. Topics range
from Schertz's founding German family in the 1800s; its agricultural
connection to cotton, oat, wheat and corn farming; personal stories
from life-long residents about what it was like growing up in Schertz;
the impact of Randolph Air Force Base and how it came to be, and the
city's current and continuing expansion. The project began in early
2016, with interviews and B-roll captured by Austin-based cinematographer
Rocky Conly over the course of the following two years.
The public viewing of the documentary debuted on March 6, 2019 at
the Schertz Public Library. The evening hosted more than 100 attendees
who enjoyed popcorn, Reggie's dogs, pop-up booths by local organizations
and the full, 25-minute documentary followed by a panel discussion
featuring some of the interviewees from the film. If you're interested
in viewing the documentary, here is a link to the
full 25-min documentary along with event photos from the viewing.
The City of Schertz
began with origins from Alsace Lorraine, France where Joseph and
Anna Schertz, along with six of their ten children, came to
Texas by sea, leaving France in October 1843 and arriving in San
Antonio in 1844. After becoming exhausted from the long journey
and losing two family members, the Schertz family decided to return
to Europe; in route, they ran into Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels,
who was on his way to form a colony that would eventually be named
Moved by their determination, Prince Solms-Braunfels promised a one-half
acre town lot and a ten-acre farm parcel to those that pledged to
join his colony. The Schertz accepted the offer, and on March 25,
1845, they arrived on the site of what is now known as New
Braunfels, becoming one of the first people to help settle that
On January 3, 1849, two Schertz family members purchased 600 acres
of land in Guadalupe
County for $600, marking the early beginnings of the future Schertz
settlement. After some years passed, Sebastian Schertz bought
307 acres of land and settled in the southwestern corner of Guadalupe
County in 1866, which is now part of present-day Schertz. It was
then that Sebastian developed a farming and business enterprise, which
became the heartbeat for this small town named "Cut-Off."
A City Soon
to be Established
The first crops
planted by settlers in Cut-Off were wheat, corn and oats; however,
in later years, cotton proved to be a hearty and cash-producing crop.
This, in turn, created a need for a cotton gin in the area for cotton
harvesting. In 1870, Sebastian built the town's first gin powered
by mule and then later by steam; cotton proved to be a prosperous
crop and soon, other farmers came into the area.
In addition to the gin, Sebastian also started the community's first
water supply plant which was eventually passed down to son Adolph
and his son Walter J. Adolph was also the owner and manager of the
Schertz Electric Company, which eventually became the city's local
electric supplier, the Guadalupe Valley Electric Company. In 1876,
one of the largest additions to Schertz came when the Galveston, Harrisburg
and San Antonio Railroad was built through the town. When the railroad
was constructed, Sebastian Schertz was owning and operating a general
store and soon after the railroad arrived in 1882, the first post
office was established.
On April 6, 1899, the town of "Cut -Off" officially became
the town of Schertz, and through the years, Schertz grew and
the family branches of the original Schertz family continued to invest
in the town. In 1917, Adolph donated two acres of land to the school
district and Schertz School was born. Walter J. eventually became
the owner of the Schertz Water Works, in addition to inheriting the
Schertz Electric Supply Company. In 1928, Walter J. decided to start
a land development project named "Aviation Heights," which would help
the housing situation that the soon-to-be Randolph Air Force Base
would bring to the city.
lack of funding would cause the "Aviation Heights" venture to fold.
After Walter J's passing in 1940, Walter A. assumed the reins and
set out to bring additional water sources into Schertz by obtaining
federal funding for the Schertz area. He obtained a larger water supply
by tapping into the Edwards Aquifer at two different locations in
Universal City. This allowed
for the construction of a 250,000-gallon storage tank in Universal
City, where a delivery main was installed and allowed water transportation
to Schertz. Schertz Water Works supplied water for up to 1,500 customers
in both Schertz and Universal City
until the company was sold in 1963, where half of the company went
to Universal City and the other
half to Schertz.
With water secured, Walter and his attorney went to Washington to
plead their case to have FHA/VA funding be extended to the Schertz
Area, and in a few weeks with an approval in place, building of the
land development began. Construction ended in the early 1960s, shortly
after Schertz was incorporated as a city in 1958. From this, Walter
A. partnered with Dr. Roy W. Richard, Russell Rowell and Alda Mae
Cross to create the Green Valley Development Company. By the 1970s,
military retirees were establishing homes in the Schertz area to be
close to the military facilities of Randolph and Fort Sam Houston.
Though it has grown substantially from its beginning roots, Schertz
is a city that has not lost touch with its heritage, and it continues
to embrace it today through its celebration of festivals and events
that blend the past with the future.
Guest Column courtesy The Crossvine
February 21, 2020