When I walk into an antique shop, I know within the first 3 seconds if I'll stay or not. If it passes the 3 second test, I walk around the entire shop, eyeing every piece, and taking in the energy of a collection of lives long passed. After I've checked on the old books, jewelry, and cookware, I usually end my journey sifting through a bin of old photos. They captivate me and terrify me. The white eyes of a strange man with sadness and hard work etched in every wrinkle on his face. A smiling beautiful young woman who knows something we don't. The children who laugh and dance, unaware of the struggles their parents are managing and a future of war, depression, disease, and oppression that awaits them. In the moment that photo was taken, they have no idea what their future holds, but we do.
I end up leaving with 5-10 photos of strangers, because, well, I've connected to them. Really, I've just stared into their color painted eyes and created a fabulous story of their life, so they HAVE to come home with me now. It's only fair. To the both of us.
When my parents moved to the land, my mom was so excited to tell me about the history of the occupants. *The previous owners had done extensive research and gave life to all who came before and the many incarnations of the land itself. When I moved in, I felt like I was in my own antique shop, only now, I wasn't hunting through pictures of strangers, creating stories about their lives, now, I was staring at someone who I had something very special in common with; the land itself.
Henry Liesmann was born June 17th, 1833 in Hannover, Germany. He came to Texas at a young age and was a Rancher and a Texas Ranger. In 1855, a call was made for men, offering a pension of $20 a month, to "help defend the borders of Texas from raiding bands of Indians and Mexicans." At age 21, Henry volunteered. Based on an article written in the Comfort News, June 23rd ,1921, he was never paid that pension due a misspelled name. After many years filing for the pension and being denied, he was finally offered what was due to him at age 87. Through the efforts of Congressman Harry M. Wurzbach, Henry Leismann was granted $3,000 of pension back pay. Today, that's about $84,180.
Yippppeee Kaiii Yaii Yaa!
Henry Liesmann ( 1833 - 1924 )
Nathalia Schmidt was born January 26, 1843 in Rhein, Germany. She came to Texas as a young child with her sister, brother and parents. Shortly after arriving to New Braunfels, Texas, her parents fell ill and were victims of the epidemic. She and her sister Lisette were placed in an orphanage in Gruene, TX where she lived until 1851. The book "Orphans on the Guadalupe" by Frances Alexander is a fictional book, based on real people who grew up in that orphanage. She moved in with her sister after Lisette married, Hans von Specht. She met Henry years later and they were wed on May 11th 1862 in Boerne, Tx. They went on to have 10 children. 10! Having extra hands on the land was crucial back then.
Nathalia Liesmann ( 1843 - 1928 )
Nathalia and Henry
The Liesmann family grew and grew. I love thinking about this huge family working the land, hunting deer for food, and eating together after a long hard day of work. Much like we do now. I like to think they are watching over us, guiding us, and thanking us for respecting their home and land.
Liesmann family ( I'm not sure whom though)
When the Liesmanns passed, the land was sold to Ed Ward and wife Ada Studer-Ward. The Studer family owned a chain of portrait studios and processing labs in San Antonio. They had lots of famous friends and Will Rogers spent a lot of time out on the land. ( pics coming in Pt.2 of this post)
The history of the Studer-Wards is fun because there are a lot more photos and articles to share. This post could be another hour long. I'll save you the hour and end with some great photos we have of the Wards and their friends on the land. I'm not sure who everyone is, but the photos are wonderful and magical. I love seeing the laughter and life that was once here, the hard work, and all the transformation. In next weeks post, I'll dig into before and after pics of the land. It's pretty amazing to see.
Bringing new life to a land that has seen so many was overwhelming at first. None of us are ranchers, or expert gardeners, or naturalists. We grew up in suburbs and cities, but we always had a call to nature, a deep understanding of family, and a dream to work together to get back to our roots. The roots that go far beyond what we've actually experienced, the roots of our souls and ancestors. So with great pride and honor, we take on the land and pay respect to all that came before. With gratitude we thank the land for all it's provided and for the love that was, is, and will be.
A special thanks to Kathy Thalman who did an amazing job researching all of this information.
Various Studer-Ward and friends photos from the 30's-50's