History is fun! History enriches us as it shows how and who acted in the past thus making us who and what we are today. Our Leon Spring area has a rich history from the days when it was part of a shallow lake visited by dinosaurs (lots of fossils are to be found around the area) to the time of Indian tribes using the springs (the Tonkawas, Commanches, Payayas, Coahuiltecans, the Mescalero Apaches) leaving lots of flint artifacts. Then the first European explorers tramped through, stopping at the springs (maybe one Spanish man gave the name of “Leon” to the springs). Next came the first settlers to our area, in the 1840s and 1850s. So our story will start with the first settlers who gave land for the school; the next sections will be the first public school in 1881(a wooden one room building), then 1911 the next school, (a three room wooden school), and the third school in 1932 (the three room rock school) and the fourth school built in l991—our two storied school we have today. The next section, titled “Memories” will give personal accounts by students of Leon Springs School from the 1930’s and 1940’s. The last section, “Works Cited”, will seek to give thanks and credit to the many people whose works contributed to compiling this history and who contributed items to be in the Museum of the Northside Independent School District (expected opening in 2006.)
The First Settlers
Max Aue, the founder of Leon Springs, was born in 1826 in Annalt-Cothen, Germany. At age 21 he left home and sailed to the new country, The United States, to its newest state, Texas. He landed on Christmas Day in Indianola, Tx., (near Port Lavaca, Texas). And in 1852 he joined the Texas Rangers and served under Capt. Owen Shaw. He did three tours of duty. Aue was noted for his excellent marksmanship and quickly got the reputation of being a ‘Tough Ranger’. His pay was in land—640 acres that is now known as Leon Springs.
During these years his friendship with the Toepperwein family of Fredericksburg had grown. He had traveled with them, including their 12 year old daughter, Emma, on the long 3 month trip from Germany. In February 1857 he married Emma and brought her to his new property, having quit the Rangers in 1856. To make a living for his new family he established the Leon Springs Supply Company, a general store, housed in his home. The Leon Springs Creek was just a long block away, making an excellent watering spot for travelers when it had water in it. The store was the front room while a post office was in back and the family lived upstairs. (This original home still stands.) Aue’s store was used by the Jackass Line Stagecoach as a changing station and watering spot (being one day’s ride from San Antonio). This stagecoach line, officially known as San Antonio--San Diego Mail Route No. 8067, went from San Antonio to San Diego, California, in 53 days, costing $200 one way. In 1879 he built a two storied hotel across the patio from his first home. (it still stands and can be seen from the road.) In 1887 the railroad came through Leon Springs and the place was called Aue Station.
Max Aue’s reputation with the gun grew; he was known as the best hunter in the area. A bear was seen in the Helotes area and was causing lots of trouble so the residents asked Aue for help. He took his hunting dog, Leo, (who also had a great reputation!) They tracked the bear down to a cave. Leo went in and so did Aue, using a lantern and crawling along; they came face to face with the bear. Aue shot the bear and pulled it out of the cave.
In the 1870s when Max was in his 40s some young thieves entered his store one day and tied up Aue and his family. They ate some of the food, took clothes, horses and money. Finally Aue got free, rode in to Boerne and with the sheriff formed a posse. The Ranger experience served Aue well as they tracked down the bandits and in Texas justice style killed them. But the gang leader, called out before he died, “Tell the old man (meaning Aue) that I died in his clothes!”
Four children were born to Max and Emma—Clara, Agnes, Hermann and Rudolph. Rudolph later took over running the store. He and his first cousin Adolph Toepperwein became excellent marks-men. In fact Adolph became world famous with his shooting shows and pictures he shot into metal. He challenged Buffalo Bill to a shooting match but Bill refused saying he knew he would lose. Adolph always claimed only one man could out shoot him—his cousin Rudolph.
Max Aue continued running the hotel and store until his death in 1903. But in 1881, at age 65, Max and two neighbors did a most significant thing—they started the Leon Springs School Association.
The First School Building
On March 27,1881, three rancher-farmers met for the purpose “…to build a school house at Leon Springs and further to take in hand the education of children”. Those three were Max Aue, Arthur Blinker and H.W. Toepperwein. Herbert Toepperwein in 1874 on his own had conducted school in the local blacksmith’s building. Now they saw the need for a permanent place and organization. They named the organization the Leon Springs School Association and assigned themselves these jobs: Blinker as President, Aue as Treasurer and Toepperwein as Secretary. They said, “Any person can hereafter become a member of this association by paying to the treasurer ten Dollars ($10.00).” The Toepperwein family has provided the School the original minutes (Transcription by Marlene Richardson, March 2006). Some of the rules and regulations were that each third Sunday in March the three officers would be elected; a quorum would be half of the members of the association; regular meetings would be each third Sunday of every month at 3 o’clock p.m. Soon there were over 20 members. They were asked to subscribe to the building fund, knowing their names would be on a special Subscription List to be hung in the school.
On April 17, 1881, the association told the president to take bids for building the school and it was not to exceed $250. Also the carpenter would be paid $45. At the September meeting Mr. Aue was authorized to have a double outhouse erected near the school. The group also organized a special social event and drawing to raise more funds for building the school
Aue gave the land for the one room school. The land was approximately one block east of Aue’s home. The railroad tracks and the Old Fredericksburg Road ran between his house and the school. The Old Fredericksburg Road ran parallel next to the railroad. That road is being used now as the back road beside Rudy’s Corner. Highway 87, also called the Fredericksburg Road, was built on the west side of Aue’s home in the early 1940’s. Today it is known as the access road in front of the school. In 1887 Aue also gave land on the west side of his home to the Aransas Pass Railroad for a turnaround.
In the fall of 1881 Leon Springs School opened. (See the hand-drawn map of the area.) Adequate funding stayed a problem. Minutes of the Leon Springs School Association’s meeting in 1883 tell of setting a $1.00 tax on its members, and renting out the building to other groups also the association sponsored special events to raise money.
By 1911 Leon Springs School was the Common School, District No. 1 (part of the County’s school system). There was one teacher. The teacher’s salary had increased in the ten years, going from $40 to $75 for nine months. Some 50 children were in the area with 32 children attending her class, serving grades 1 through 8.
In early 1911 the school burned. A new three room wooden structure replaced it, located in the same spot as the first school.
The Second Leon Springs School
The new three room school opened in fall of 1915 at which time the Bexar County School Superintendent wrote: “ A new school house has been built and properly furnished, a well of good water has been placed in the yard, a comfortable stable for horses used by the children is provided; shade trees planted—this school is making real progress.”
Unfortunately no photos have been found of the new three room wooden school. But there is a drawing of its plan done by two of its students. Also in the Museum are pictures of students standing in front of that building or standing on the west side of the building. It faced south, had lots of windows, and its door apparently was on the southwest corner with a large porch and steps.
In 1916 there was still only one teacher with 54 students, serving grades 1 through 8, with a salary of $75. By 1927 there were two teachers with one earning a salary of $105 and the other $125 for the nine months. Note some of the rules placed on the teacher:
She may not marry during the term of her contract.
She may not keep company with men
She may not ride in a carriage or automobile with any man unless he was her father or brother.
She may not loiter downtown in ice cream stores nor travel beyond the city limits unless she had the permission of the chairman of the board.
She may not dress in bright colors and dresses must not be any shorter than two inches above the ankle.
She must keep the schoolroom neat and clean; sweep the floor at least once daily; scrub the floor at least once a week with hot, soapy water; clean the blackboards at least once a day; start the fire at 7 A.M. so the room would be warm by 8 A.M.
Some of the trustees about this time were Rudolph Aue, Sr., Fritz Kauut and George Heidemann. A later trustee, James Ralph Wood, told of driving in to San Antonio once a week to purchase needed groceries and supplies. The cook, Ms. Miller, charged five cents a lunch. The property tax rate from 1914 to 1924 had changed from 15 cents to not exceed 50 cents on each $100 valuation.
During these years, students who desired to go to high school had to arrange their own travel or move into the city staying with family or friends, or some simply hitchhike into town each day. Those with cars available would pick up friends and neighbors, delivering each to his/her selected school.
In 1931 there was again a school fire, completely destroying the building. And again the community and county re-built.
The Third Leon Springs School
By the 1930’s the Aransas Pass Railroad (later known as the Southern Pacific RR) had quit using the Aue land. The Aue contract with them did not allow them to sell, so using it for the public or returning it to the original owners were the choices. Both parties agreed it should go to the school district. The Railroad deeded the land to the Bexar County School District on July 25, 1932. In 1932, the new three room stone-rock school was built on the land two blocks south and west of Aue’s store and gas station, Rudy’s Corner.
The new school had a rock fence with a large iron arch showing the words Leon Springs School. A cattle guard was across the driveway going under the arch. There were two long, low rock structures that held the water fountains. Other smaller buildings were separate rock building restrooms, and a well-pump house. By now there were three teachers. Two rooms had three grades each and the last room had 7th and 8th grades. Two of the rooms had a moveable divider wall so the room could be made into a large meeting area with a stage. (See the Memories Section for more details about the building and the activities therein.) A 1939 report said the salaries were $115, $105, and $95 (for the newest teacher) to serve nine months, with 115 students. By 1949 the salaries were up--$215, and $210 and $170 per school year for the three teachers serving 164 students
In 1936 the Texas Highway Department awarded a plaque to Leon Springs School as the “Rural School awarded first place for the most Attractive Appearance in this county.” The County Superintendent of Schools, Mr. R.W. May, received the plaque on behalf of the school. (See Memories Section as students recall their recesses out moving rocks and planting flowers, working alongside the teachers.)
Not only did the school add to the beauty of the community, it also encouraged the formation of other social organizations, letting its building be used by these groups. In the late 1930s and early 1940s the principal of Leon Springs School was very concerned that the children had no religious organization so she approached her church,
Beacon Hills Presbyterian, to start a mission out there using the school. By 1944 the mission work was large enough to become an independent organization with its own building, the Leon Springs Presbyterian Church.
February 5,1949, voters in Leon Springs, in Locke Hill and Leon Valley voted to consolidate into the Northside Consolidated Common School District # 1 of Bexar, Medina and Bandera Counties. Later other rural schools joined the district—Los Reyes, Helotes, Lockhart, Mackey, Hoffman, Culebra, Evers, Clifton, and West San Antonio Heights. In 1951 The Rural High School District # 1 became Northside Independent School District. Before 1951 those children wanting to go to high school did have to arrange their own transport or go live in San Antonio for the school months.
During the 1970s and 1980s the Leon Springs School served more specialized functions—as a pre-school, as a kindergarten, as an alternative school, and for brief periods as a storage building. But by the late 1980s the growing population of Leon Springs once again needed a larger elementary school and plans for the fourth Leon Springs School began.