Some Memories of Garden Ridge, Texas
by Clyde Cox
Clyde Cox Realty

In 1972, the citizens of a community near Bracken Texas, decided to incorporate to protect their homes from being annexed into the cities of San Antonio or Schertz.

A number of farmers and ranchers joined with the small number of residents in the Bracken community to reach the minimum population required to incorporate according to the Texas state law. The Bracken community was predominantly German people, who were descendents of the settlers that arrived around the time of 1840.

Garden Ridge became a "City" in a community rich in German heritage. Except for the new arrivals in Garden Ridge, the population was primarily German and the Mexican. One German friend of mine who is now 84 years old, could only speak German and Spanish when he started the first grade.

There are many wonderful stories about the territory that is now Garden Ridge and Bracken. Herman Blank, who is now deceased, would tell of the ox carts that hauled building stone from Fredericksburg and Kerrville to build houses in the San Antonio area. Herman also told me that, when he was a young single man, he would ride his horse twenty miles across ranches to Bracken, where they danced all night. As he traveled across ranches, he would cut the fences with wire cutters and after passing through, he would repair the fences and continue to Bracken. Herman tied his horse to a hitching rail that had horses tied for about 100 yards. When the dance was over, he would ride back across the ranches cutting fences and repairing them.

When I first moved to Garden Ridge in 1972, there was at least one non German temporarily living in the community. This unusual man lived somewhere, perhaps in the woods in some abandoned building, but no one ever knew for sure. What we did know was that his only mode of transportation was a bicycle. This bicycle was unique, in that, it had no tires and he rode on the rims. Well, he didn't exactly ride the bicycle because he simply pushed his bicycle along with his feet on the ground. Regardless of the temperature, he wore an old army coat, an overcoat. Apparently, he was not accustomed to indoor plumbing, because he sometimes solved his biological urges while surrounded by his coat. Needless to say he carried a significant aroma with him.

The fledgling Garden Ridge-Bracken Lions Club bought him a new bicycle, and he had so much pride in his new possession that he took the bicycle apart and used the parts for repairs when he needed to repair his old bicycle.

Another colorful resident of the Bracken community owned a small ranch in the area. He lived very close to nature. His rock and log home still exists just off of Batcave Road. Neighbors told me that he did not have a bed but slept on the couch in front of the fireplace in the winter and a cot on the front porch in the summer. One of the most unusual stories about this fellow surrounds the fact that he often lived and worked in the nude. One of the early longtime neighbors said that it was not unusual for him to retrieve his mail along Batcave Road wearing only a smile. It was said that he spoke five languages, including Chinese and that his shortwave radio was often used late at night so that he could talk Chinese and keep his language fluent. It was also reported that he would read encyclopedias like novels.

Another colorful character was not German, but Scotch. Nathan McLaughlin was one of my best friends, ever, and was a true character. Nathan and Wilton (his wife) moved into the Bracken community in 1954 from San Antonio. In San Antonio, Nathan and his brother of owned three hardware stores that they sold when they moved to Bracken.

Nathan said that his mother had prepared him for a career in banking. Nathan said that McLaughlin was a Scotch name for being stingy and his given name was Nathan, a name associated with the Jewish nationality. Nathan said that when he put his name on the door of his office of the bank, he was a natural moneymaker.

Nathan and Wilton didn't have children but they had numerous nieces and nephews. Nathan said that his nieces and nephews did not have time for him until some of them discovered that he and Wilton were about 80 years old. At 80, Nathan said that he and Wilton became very popular with family when they visited town. Nathan also said that it was amazing how much funnier your jokes were when you are old and rich.

Being 80 years old, one has bought lots of wedding gifts, baby shower gifts, graduation gifts, and on and on for about five generations. Nathan would go to the mailbox, about 100 yards from the house, and he would examine the mail and would put almost all the invitations into his pocket, which he later threw away and would only give Wilton a token number of invitations. Wilson had a very low opinion of the U.S. postal system and the large number of social events that she never got to attend.

Nathan had a stroke in his later years and had blurred vision in one eye. His mobility was handicapped by not being able to turn his head more than 45 degrees from center. When Nathan drove, he had to close one eye to avoid blurred vision. It was a horror to meet him on the road driving about 60 mph knowing that he was only using one eye. Since Nathan could not turn his head when backing his car, he just backed until he stopped. One day, Nathan took me outside to show me what other drivers were doing to his car. His new car had scratches, dents, and gouges. Nathan thought that the other drivers were destroying his car in the parking lot, when, in reality, he was backing until he backed into something that stopped his motion. Nathan was destroying cars in the parking lot and never knew that he had hit one.

Wilton was known to talk a little and Nathan, to get away from her, would make a call to my wife and start visiting with her. After just a few minutes, he would give the receiver to his wife and he would get away from Wilton and come to my farm to visit. Both of these wonderful people had great, colorful lives.

Many of the Germans liked to use the German language when they talked, but they also would talk "Pidgeon" Spanish to the Mexicans in the community. One day a fellow who owned a successful garbage collection company had just delivered a large garbage receptacle for one of the fundraisers in the community. When he was leaving, one of the Germans spoke to him in "Pidgeon" Spanish and he answered in fluent German. A number of years later, I met this fellow's son and told him about the incident. The son told an account when he and his father had gone to a German couple's house to buy some cattle. When they arrived, the wife told her husband, in German, to offer the cattle at such and such price. Further, she said that if the Mexicans did not want to pay that amount her husband should reduce the price, but not lose the deal. As you may expect, the negotiations moved ahead, ending at the minimum price the wife had specified. After the cattle were loaded, the Mexican man went to the German's wife, and in fluent German, thanked her for the help.

Garden Ridge is about eighteen miles northeast of San Antonio and is in the lower part of the "hill country." Rarely get a person finding more beautiful place in which to live and the so near a business district as living in the garden Ridge area.

Thanks for reading some of the memories of Clyde Cox.

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Links of Interest:

Bracken Cave
Bracken Methodist Church

Boy Scouts
City of Garden Ridge
Covenant Baptist Church 

CYO Youth Sports

Garden Ridge
Bracken Lions Club

Natural Bridge Caverns

Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch

Northeast Bible Church

OLPH Catholic Church

Triumphant Lutheran Church


(c) 2002 Caton Family

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