How did Sutherland Springs get its name?

Deep Texas history, not tragedy, defines town, locals say

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas – Many people these days think of tragedy when they think of Sutherland Springs.

While the church shooting massacre in November 2017 that claimed the lives of 26 people is unfortunately a part of the town's history, those who live there and love their quiet community will tell you it doesn't define Sutherland Springs.

Rather, officials would like for people to know about the early 1900s, when the small town was known as the "Saratoga of the South," a tribute to Saratoga, New York, because of the spa industry.

Visitors would come to Sutherland Springs by train from around the world to bathe in what was believed to be healing sulfur water.

"Artesian wells just bubbled up in the pasture, and you can bathe in there,” said Sutherland Springs Historical Museum chairwoman Tambria Read.

The spring waters were thought to have healing properties. The famous Hotel Sutherland hosted spa guests.

"The hotel was 52-room and wood-framed, the electricity was provided by Delco dry cell batteries," Read said.

During its heyday, big names would stay there, including Theodore Roosevelt.

"There were five baseball fields, a jousting field and an Olympic-size swimming pool that was fed by sulfur springs," Read said.

Hotel Sutherland shut its doors in 1923 and not much is left of it today. However, there's plenty more history to Sutherland Springs.

So, the springs explain the second half of the name, but what about Sutherland?

For that answer, you must rewind to the 1800s.

"Sulfur Springs is what he wanted to name Sutherland Springs, but that was not on the list of approved names," Read said.

"He" is Dr. John Sutherland, and Sulfur Springs, an apt name, was already taken, so he gave the new stagecoach stop his family name.

If the name Sutherland sounds familiar, there's a good reason for that.

"Dr. Sutherland was an attending physician at the Alamo," Read said.

Sutherland was also part of the first 300 families to settle Texas.

His gravestone still stands in the Sutherland Springs cemetery to this day.

About the Author:

Justin Horne is a meteorologist and reporter for KSAT 12 News. When severe weather rolls through, Justin will hop in the KSAT 12 Storm Chaser to safely bring you the latest weather conditions from across South Texas. On top of delivering an accurate forecast, Justin often reports on one of his favorite topics: Texas history.