Haunting the Graveyard: Unearthing the Story of the Coker Settlement
Reading/Signing Publication Celebration
5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, September 10, 2019
The Twig Book Shop, 306 Pearl Parkway, Suite 106
Inconspicuously tucked away north of Loop 410 and in the shadow of Wurzbach Parkway in San Antonio, the Coker Cemetery contains the graves of more than 600 people. Texas Ranger Markers and three Texas Historical Markers serve as obvious signs this turf is fertile with stories. Beginning with the arrival of Americans on the eve of the Texas Revolution, Haunting the Graveyard: Unearthing the Story of the Coker Settlement covers a 100-year slice of Texas history.
While a schoolhouse and Methodist church served as anchors for the Coker Settlement, men who went off to fight in bloody battles of the Civil War, spent months pursuing Indians and herded cattle and horses northward found settling back into everyday farm chores difficult. Struggling to survive, farmers battled rattlesnakes, endured extended droughts and suffered through the Great Depression.
Many overcame these obstacles, only to find their rural lifestyle vanquished by San Antonio itself. As the city grew, increased demands for housing convinced some to sell. Roads to reach new homes chopped up dairy farms with wider and wider ribbons of asphalt, and airport runways buried fields.
The headstones in Coker Cemetery are almost the only evidence of the former farming community, but the tales of its residents are rich. Expect to encounter some heart-breaking tragedies, a bit of mayhem and even an unsolved murder as their lives unfold on these pages.
From the Back Cover
“With San Antonio now the seventh largest city in the country, it is difficult to envision farms once occupied much of the San Antonio River Basin. By plowing up stories of hard-working individuals who formed the backbone of the Coker Settlement, Gayle Brennan Spencer delivers a rich slice of Texas history for us to savor.”
—Lila Banks Cockrell, Mayor Emeritus of San Antonio and Author of Love Deeper than a River: My Life in San Antonio
“Having introduced us to Minnie Tomerlin and Max Voelcker whose former farm is now a 330-acre park shaded by towering oaks, Gayle Brennan Spencer now brings a colorful cast of their ancestors and fellow farmers to life in these pages. Their personal stories represent the underlying agricultural heritage that shaped our city and state.”
—The Honorable Phil Hardberger, Former Mayor of San Antonio and President of Phil Hardberger Park Conservancy
“Preservation of historic cemeteries is a passion of mine, but a graveyard holds so much more than headstones. Under every marker lies a story, and Gayle Brennan Spencer dug deeply to release the tales of many such stories found in the Coker Cemetery. Farm life in Bexar County in the late 1800s appears far from peaceful.”
—Scott J. Baird, PhD, Chair, Cemetery Committee of the Bexar County Historical Commission
Click to view blog update from July 4, 2019.