last farm standing on buttermilk hill

Last Farm Standing on Buttermilk Hill

Last Farm Standing on Buttermilk Hill: Voelcker Roots Run Deep in Hardberger Park by Gayle Brennan Spencer retails for $24.95 and is available through The Twig Book Shop at Pearl Brewery, 200 East Grayson in San Antonio.

San Antonio Conservation Society Publication Award

Last Farm Standing on Buttermilk Hill: Voelcker Roots Run Deep in Hardberger Park received a 2013 Publication Award from the San Antonio Conservation Society, which placed her next to Phil Collins. Read about their "two roads to the Alamo" on her blog, and find out about the other award winners here.

Last Farm in Town

Max and Minnie would be shocked their lives inspired Doug McMurry to write a song. But Doug and his wife Michele recorded Last Farm in Town on August 30, 2013. Read and listen here.

Last Farm Standing on Buttermilk Hill

Last Farm Standing on Buttermilk Hill: Voelcker Roots Run Deep in Hardberger Park by Gayle Brennan Spencer was published in the fall of 2010 by LJB CommuniCo for the Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Fund.

The book received an award from the San Antonio Conservation Society in 2013, which placed Gayle right smack beside Phil Collins. Seriously. That Phil Collins.

The following is from the inside flap of the dust jacket:

After the Texas Revolution, land grants from the Republic of Texas attracted new settlers to the outskirts of San Antonio. The grandparents of Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker were among those drawn by "gold" to a community known as the Coker Settlement, just north of today's Loop 410 but, at the time, a full day's round-trip by wagon on bumpy dirt roads. Unlike that of California, their gold was, first the opportunity to produce golden butter and, later, the value of the land itself.

By the late 1800s, so many dairies dotted the countryside that the area became known as Buttermilk Hill. Last Farm Standing on Buttermilk Hill traces the early migration to this community and the daily challenges faced by those who farmed the land. Dairy farming involved rising before dawn to churn milk drawn the night before into butter, answering the twice-daily calls from cows in need of milking and driving long distances to deliver cream and butter to city-dwellers. Life was not easy, and nature did not always cooperate….

The following represents what others have written about the book.

Ed Conroy, San Antonio Express-News, November 14, 2010:

Perhaps the greatest swath of terra incognita in San Antonio extends from the Municipal Airport west to Northwest Military Highway, bounded by Loop 410 on the south and Loop 1604 on the north.

Everyone knows the names of the roads that traverse that zone: Jones Maltsberger, Jackson-Keller, Wurzbach Parkway, all bearing the names of families who ranched and farmed that land. At its heart was a complex of dairy farms known as Buttermilk Hill, but precious little was known of its history.

Now, thanks to the meticulous research of Gayle Brennan Spencer, we know the story - in everyday detail, warts and all - of the couple whose land did indeed become the last standing dairy farm in central North Side San Antonio: Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker….

This story of the Voelckers, like that of any couple in any family, is complex. Spencer's tale will fascinate anyone who wants to understand the lives of local people who, over three generations, braved Comanches, rattlesnakes and sprawl to make gold from butter - long before anyone made money just from the sale of land.

Paula Marks, Southwestern Historical Quarterly, January 2012

This volume chronicles the farms and farm community that grew along Salado Creek north of the nucleus of San Antonio in the nineteenth century, addressing the shift to dairy farming and then the sale of the farm lands for urban development in the early to mid-twentieth century….

Max Voelcker was born in 1897, Minnie in 1904. The author traces their ancestry, noting that both grew up in the Buttermilk Hill community and lived in it throughout their lives (Max died in 1980, Minnie in 2000). After their marriage in 1927, the two sold their milk, cream, and butter locally, but saw their dairy farm and others superseded by large commercial operations. Eventually, they sold off parts of their area land holdings, including Minnie’s inherited land from her own farming family. Putting these earnings in the bank, the childless couple lived frugally but amassed wealth; for example, they drew $65,000 in interest in the year 1973 alone.

Such wealth came at a cost. In family wrangles over inheritances of land from pioneer forebears, Max and Minnie became estranged from siblings over what each claimant considered fair division of property. The two were no more contentious than other community members; lawyers had plenty of business on Buttermilk Hill in the mid-twentieth century as former farmlands became real estate gold....

Char Miller, W.M. Keck Professor of Environmental Analysis at Pomona College of Claremont, California, and author of Deep in the Heart of San Antonio: Land and Life in South Texas:

Few San Antonians remember Buttermilk Hill, but Gayle Spencer has recovered its significance through an intimate portrait of the dairy-farm families who once inhabited the rolling North Side terrain.  Only the Voelckers held out against encroaching sprawl, and the result is Hardberger Park, a verdant vestige of the city's bucolic past.

Banks Smith, Trustee, Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Fund:

Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker tenaciously clung to most of their former dairy farm as San Antonio expanded northward to encircle it.  Last Farm Standing on Buttermilk Hill uncovers the couple's deep historical roots in the land and reveals a story of San Antonio's rural heritage almost lost as the city continues to grow.

The Honorable Phil Hardberger, Former Mayor of San Antonio:

Last Farm Standing on Buttermilk Hill unfolds a portrait of two farmers - Max and Minnie Voelcker - whose stubbornness in the face of development spared the towering oaks that now shade walkers, joggers and bikers enjoying paths winding underneath them in the largest park to be opened in San Antonio since the 1800s.