The Where I Live series aims to showcase our diverse city and region by spotlighting its many vibrant neighborhoods. Each week a local resident invites us over and lets us in on what makes their neighborhood special. Have we been to your neighborhood yet? Get in touch to share your story.
The story of how I came to my Rio Medina home started over 40 years ago with a telephone call from a blind date prospect set up by a cousin and mutual friend. He had a slight German accent, which was interesting to me. I wondered where it came from.
Being the product of an Air Force family, I had lived in different countries. My father spoke German, and my mother was from Spain. I had heard people speak English with varying accents, but this accent stumped me. It sounded German (like Lawrence Welk, I told my mother), but I couldn’t quite place it.
When I asked him about it, he said he had lived in Rio all his life. “De Janeiro?” I asked, puzzled. That’s when he told me about Rio Medina, a small farming community north of Castroville with a post office, a saloon and a general store. I had lived in San Antonio and traveled through Castroville many times as a child to South Texas but had never heard of it.
Anthony was a firefighter and paramedic for the City of San Antonio and a part-time rancher, and I was a graduate student in speech pathology. We dated for over three years, during which time I developed a great fondness for visiting the quaint areas of Rio Medina and Castroville. The heritage, culture and customs that make it so unique were fascinating to me. It was — and still is — a place where everyone knows each other and is so welcoming and friendly.
Anthony inherited a home and property near Rio Medina, close to San Geronimo Creek, from his great-uncle Willie Wurzbach. His ancestors were Germans who came to Texas on a land grant in 1845. The homeplace, where we now live, was built in 1891. The original homestead on the property dates back to 1845 when Castroville was founded by Henri Castro, an empresario who brought with him Alsatian colonists.
Upon touring the homeplace, I noted the charm of an era gone by. The house was left with old work clothes folded on the bed, dishes washed and set in the drain board, a wine cellar, and an attic for boarding teachers in the early 1900s. Outside there were peaches on the trees waiting to be picked, an old well with a windmill, barns full of old machinery, old horse wagons, and a smokehouse for smoking various meats and storing vegetables. The chicken coop was empty, and the cattle corrals needed repair.
It told the story of building a life here in America and the work it took to make it possible, which was so impressive to me. If I could have only lived one day during that time!
Anthony asked me what I thought he should do with it, and I instantly responded that he had to restore it.
As someone who cherished city life, my dreams had never included living in the country. Well, as they say, love can change all things. He began to restore the home, and we were married a year later. We went on to raise four children here, making them the sixth generation of ranchers. It has been a great place to raise our children, teaching them good country values.
We will not forget the days of a trickle of traffic, crops growing in all the surrounding fields, little noise, dark, black, starry nights, the sweet fragrance of laurel blooms, and pastures with picturesque bluebonnets. I worked as a pediatric speech pathologist at Wilford Hall Medical Center for 32 years and remember for the first 20 years, there was only countryside landscape and one stoplight to get to work. Anthony’s commute to work was also less stressful and congested.
Rio Medina still boasts a historic general store with a post office and a saloon called Spirits, which on occasion brings in some popular musicians. The Medina River flows through the countryside when it rains and Medina Lake is nearby.
Castroville, with its Alsatian heritage, is only five miles south. It is a beautiful historic community to visit with fine eating establishments, a well-known meat market, and an Alsatian bakery offering loaves of New Year’s bread on New Year’s Eve. Parisa (ground beef with cheese and onion) on crackers, Koch Kaese (cooked cheese), dried venison sausage, jerky, and wine made from wild mustang grapes are among some homemade culinary favorites from this area.
There are historic churches and the well-known St. Louis Day Festival in August. The Old Fashion Christmas celebration on Houston Square and the Candlelight Tour of Homes are also longstanding favorites.
But alas, with San Antonio expanding in every direction, it has made its impact westward, creeping into our little piece of heaven. With the city sprawl comes housing developments, strip malls, and technological data centers, all of which strip the local landscape, farming acreage and wildlife refuge. We now get the early morning alarm clock of beeping construction machinery, constant traffic, endless highline poles and dust. But our new neighbors have been very approachable and transparent and have assured us that much will settle down once construction is complete.
So, we muse about the times past and work on keeping our little piece of property and German ancestry alive. We awaken to the greeting of chickens laying their eggs or the awesome beauty of a newborn Hereford calf, the beautiful floral pastures, and all the memories and traditions left behind by Uncle Willie. We plan to stay firmly rooted, keeping the family heritage alive, and hope that others will come and enjoy the heritage of Rio Medina and Castroville.