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Sifting for sherds

Sifting for sherds
ELAINE M. STEPHENS/Contributor The Byrd family (from left) Charles, Faith, Jared, and Jordan, enjoy sifting for sherds of Suttles Pottery Oct. 29 during the La Vernia Historical Association’s soil-sifting event. Soil removed from the expansion of the police department offices at City Hall was sifted for historical artifacts by volunteers.

History has been unearthed in La Vernia.

Many pieces of 19th-century pottery were found Oct. 29 during the La Vernia Historical Association’s “Sift for Sherds” in dirt excavated from near the former Suttles pottery site in La Vernia. Members of the association participated, along with students from the La Vernia Independent School District and their families. The event was held on the Dennis Richter Drywall yard and was open to the public.

Brothers George and Isaac Suttles came to La Vernia following their Civil War service in the Union Army. They made utilitarian pottery in La Vernia from the 1870s to the early 1920s. In 2000, the La Vernia Historical Association conducted an archaeological dig at the Suttles Pottery site, supervised by professional archeologist David Nickel. In 2005, the association secured a Texas State Historical Marker for the Suttles Pottery and placed the marker on U.S. 87 between what is now the Los Compadres Restaurant and the La Vernia Heritage Museum.

The dirt for the “Sift for Sherds” was excavated in 2010 from the La Vernia City Hall covered parking lot, as the site was prepared for the police department office expansion. The dirt was saved and moved by the historical association. It contained many pottery pieces, due to its proximity to the pottery site, which is located on private property owned by Otto Santos in the same block as City Hall.

Participating in the sift Oct. 29 were students from Trudi Buckley’s La Vernia Junior High School history classes, Alyssa Tamburo, Kayla Homeyer, and Jared Byrd. The students were accompanied by several family members, including Charles Byrd, Jordan and Faith Byrd, Michael Tamburo, and Tina Homeyer.

Each person who participated received a brief Suttles history lesson and was shown what to look for in the sifted dirt. Many pieces of pottery were unearthed during the event. The students said they enjoyed the experience and hoped to return for another Suttles “sift.” Each uncovered artifact now belongs to the state of Texas under the care of the La Vernia Historical Association. The pieces can be viewed at the La Vernia Heritage Museum.

Also assisting in the sift were association officers, 90-year-young Winona Alder, Lilli and Gary Pursley, La Vernia Heritage Museum Director Susan Richter, and I. Professional historians Allen and Regina Kosub of San Antonio dropped by to support the historical event.

“These pottery pieces are important to our history and very personal at the same time,” Richter said. “Many of these broken and unique pieces, made by Civil War veterans, still have the fingerprints of the hardworking Suttles brothers who came to La Vernia during the Reconstruction period.”

“They were welcomed into the community, even though we were primarily Confederate sympathizers, because they knew how to make pottery, which every household needed,” Stephens added.

Learn more about Suttles Pottery by viewing the exhibit at the La Vernia Heritage Museum, operated by the La Vernia Historical Association volunteers. The museum is open the first and third Sundays of the month from noon to 3 p.m., and by appointment.

If you would like to be notified of future “sifts,” send your name and e-mail address to For more information, visit or follow the La Vernia Historical Association on Facebook.

Elaine Stephens is president of the La Vernia Historical Association.

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