The Sadler family, a familiar name in the Devine area, is one associated largely with farming and ranching, teaching, law enforcement, and, yes, football! Some branches of the Sadler family came to Texas from Tennessee, Alabama, and Missouri as early as the 1830s; the ones that settled in today’s Frio, Atascosa, and Medina Counties – mostly around the communities of Big Foot and Schattel – arrived in the 1850s and ‘60s.
Looking back to the parents of Wanda June Sadler Ehlinger and Doris Ernestine Sadler Boyd, their father, Ernest Novel (E.N.), was born in 1900 in Atascosa County to Henry Clay and Lula Ann Rogers Sadler, the fourth of ten children. Their mother, Bertha Coble Sadler, was born in 1902 in Poteet to David Allen and Ann Nettie Adams Coble, and was one of eight children. When the two met, they realized they had been raised with the same values, and they fell in love and married in Jourdanton in 1921 within just three months of meeting!
The new couple began farming and ranching in Atascosa County, but, in The Great Depression of 1929, they lost everything, “even the ranch on which they only owed $350,” according to a granddaughter. She goes on to state, “It had a tremendous impact…, one that carried throughout their entire lives.”
So, Ernest moved his family, which included two young daughters, back to his parents’ ranch, and they started over. By working hard and living frugally, they were able to build up a good life for their family. And, as related by the grandchildren, when they expressed how difficult the Depression was, “they did not speak of any bitterness, just gratitude for what they did have.” In stoic form of so many strong families of that era, they even realized that they had it better than many during the depression because they had a garden and some animals, whereas the city folk did not have those advantages. And they gave God the praise for “always taking care of them during those very difficult times.”
As family members relate, “Ernest and Bertha’s love for their career callings greatly influenced their family. Grandpa Sadler was a successful farmer and rancher with a love and respect for his calling. He started each day with prayer, reading the Bible, and checking on the weather. His daily diary journals were full of information about the weather and about his crops and cattle.” Sadler grandsons fondly recall helping their grandfather fix fences, work cattle, burn pear, plow fields and work in the watermelon and cantaloupe fields – as field hands! Interestingly, this hard work did not deter them from pursuing that same work today, as all four currently farm and/or ranch either full time or part time.
Another fond memory of the grandchildren was the big garden that their Grandpa Sadler had at the farm each year where many days were spent during the summers picking vegetables and working with their Grandma to can pickles and freeze vegetables. And not only was there a big garden for the family, but needy people were welcomed to enjoy the bounty.
And then there was hunting. For Grandpa Sadler, hunting “was a way of life, not a sport.” He believed in only killing what could be eaten or shared. A grandson recalls, “He would tell me to wait until I could kill at least two or more quail or dove in one shot. He called it ‘pot shooting’.”
Grandma Sadler, Bertha, passionately loved teaching. She graduated from Poteet High School in 1919 and attended Southwest State Teachers College in San Marcos where she received her State Teaching Certificate. She then began teaching all eight grades in a one-room Sand Branch School in 1920. That is where she met Ernest and had to quit teaching in 1921 when she married him because their school did not allow teachers to be married. But, when they moved to the future Kyote area, she taught at the Padilla School, which allowed married teachers, and remained there for nine years before staying at home to care for her two young daughters. Then, in 1942, Bertha began teaching in Big Foot until it closed in 1957. Next, she began teaching in Devine and at the same time she went back to college at Our Lady of the Lake. It was in 1961, at the age of 59, when she earned her Bachelor’s degree!
The family is proud that their grandma became the first Head Start teacher in Devine ISD. According to her grandchildren, “Grandma loved her school children and cried each May when school was over; then she worked all summer in anticipation of her new class of kids.” Bertha retired from teaching in 1972 at the age of 70 and reportedly said that it was “one of the saddest days in her life…” The family claims that this devotion to educating and loving children was a great inspiration to her family, many of whom became educators.
In addition to farming and ranching, Ernest served as a Deputy Sheriff of Frio County in the 1940s, and his cousin, Clark Sadler, was a Frio County Constable for many years. Five brothers who were Sadler cousins also served as Texas Rangers in the years ranging from 1917 to 1935. More recently, Ernest’s grandson-in-law, Richard Sweaney, retired as a Captain for the Texas Rangers, and Ernest’s great-grandson, Adam Sweaney, Richard’s son, is currently a Sergeant with the Texas Rangers.
Another facet of Ernest Sadler’s life was an interest in rodeo-ing and calf-roping. With that in mind, in the late 1940s, Ernest and others were instrumental in building a rodeo arena in Medina County, south of Devine on the Willie Ehlinger property. “This was great entertainment for people in the area, and his daughters, June and Ernestine, would sing at the rodeos as entertainment,” the grandchildren recall.
Considering the calamity of the Depression and its financial toll, it is interesting that Ernest became a director of the Medina Valley State Bank in Devine and served for over 30 years as a dedicated citizen of his community. And in the course of his life, Ernest is remembered as being a devoted Christian who was very kind, gentle, and generous. The family relates that many times over the years people would come to the Sadler’s back door and ask to borrow money for a doctor bill or medicine or groceries. “Our grandparents always gave cash money to them and never worried about it being paid back. He lived a life that was an example for all Christians.”
Grandma Bertha, in addition to being a devoted teacher and lover of children, is said to have especially loved being a mother and generous grandmother. “She played the piano and organ beautifully and was a wonderful seamstress, cook, and baker.” And for the grandchildren, Christmas created beautiful memories, one of which was Grandma Bertha’s peanut brittle and fudge, and, “She made the best home-made yeast rolls ever!”
In 1956, Ernest and Bertha moved from Big Foot to Devine into their newly built, beautiful brick home on the corner of Washington St. & Benton Ave. They lived there until 1994 when health issues arose. Their granddaughter’s family (Nancy & Gary Saathoff) later made it their home until 2003. The First Baptist Church bought the house to use for classes for their youth department and named it the E.N. & Bertha Sadler Annex, in their honor.
Ernest and Bertha were members of First Baptist Church of Devine and helped them form the mission church, the Calvary Baptist Church. Ernest served as a deacon and Sunday school teacher while Bertha played the organ and piano for weekly services. They were also devoted to serving others through their music. For many years, they hosted monthly gospel singings in their home and went to the Devine Nursing Home weekly to play the fiddle and piano and to sing gospel music. Ernest and Bertha Sadler both lived into their 90s and were married 71 years. Ernest passed away in December 1992 and Bertha in January 1997.
Ernest’s and Bertha’s family include their two daughters, June and Ernestine, of Devine and Big Foot, respectively, sons-in-law Arthur Ehlinger and Calvin Boyd, and seven grandchildren – Russell Ehlinger (m. Myra), Terry Boyd, Gary Boyd (m. Vickie), Donna Ehlinger Sweaney (m. Richard), Nancy Ehlinger Saathoff (m. Gary), Yvonne Boyd, and Stanley Ehlinger (m. Rhonda), 17 great-grandchildren and 20 great-great-grandchildren. But wait. Another important Devine legacy includes two Sadler football players: Joseph and Jacob Sadler – sons of the late Corky Sadler and great-grandsons of Clark Sadler. “So, the Sadler name is also in the school record books for posterity!”