In January 1879, Sonka bought eleven acres from Frank Saunders and began his brick yard. The site was on the northwest side of  North Guadalupe Street. The first bricks that he made were tan in color, each weighing approximately 6 pounds. The bricks remained the same throughout the years of his brick producing.

In 1886, the first large modern business building was built by W. L. Baker and Henry Terrell on the corner of Camp and Court streets using Sonka bricks produced by Joseph and Anton Sonka. In 1890, Charles E. Tips and Ferdinand Klein constructed the large two-story building on the southwest corner of Austin and Court streets using Sonka bricks. This was the Klein-Tips building and Opera House and was occupied by the firm of Tips and Campbell. The south end of the building was the saloon of Ferdinand and Klein. Between these two businesses was located the store of J. B. Wittaker. On the second floor was the Klein’s Opera House. (Today the center part of the building is owned by the Seguin Art League, now raising funds for renovation.) At the southeast corner of Court Street and Camp Street, Jesse Legette built a two-story brick building partially occupied by the firm of Wipprecht and Forks. The location housed a billiard parlor, a  bakery, and a saloon.

Sonka bought more land from Ernest and Christian Dolle and built a cotton gin in front of his brick yard. For many years, the gin was known as the town landmark by its tall brick smokestacks. The bricks were manufactured during the period when ginning season was over.

Sonka began building the Sonka home on north Guadalupe Street in 1881, originally for his sister Josephine. However, when she married William Fenstermaker and moved to San Antonio, he finished the home for himself to be used during his bachelor days. The house was finished in 1893, having taken 12 years to build. At the age of 45, he married Anne Klicka on August 30, 1893. The William Mosheim and Weiss families were his neighbors.

With the growing population there was a great need for increasing medical care. Sonka added a two-story brick addition to the house to be used as their residence so the larger part of the home could be used as a hospital.

Sonka was very successful with his gin and brick factory and donated land to the city to construct West College Street, Goodrich Street, Guadalupe Street and Krezdorn Street.

Sonka also built a long single-story home with a large porch and fireplace in every room with his bricks and gave it to his mother and father. That building still stands today.

In 1889, Sonka’s gin burned down and was completely destroyed but he quickly rebuilt it and was back in business in just weeks. In 1898, Henry Troell built the brick building at the corner of North River Street and Gonzales Street which would become the Baenzinger Red and White grocery store and is now the Heritage Museum.

In 1902, Sonka lost his arm in an accident at the gin when he fell into the moving jaws of the compressor. However, the loss of his arm didn’t seem to slow him down and his brick factory grew. In 1907, Sonka bricks were used to build the new train depot at the cost of $12,000. ($325,000 in 2019)

In 1913, the town needed a fireproof building for a hospital. Sonka moved his family into the smaller house and rented the larger building to Dr. Venable, a specialist from San Antonio, who brought his staff and managed the hospital for the other doctors in town.

The Sonka home later became the Seguin Sanitarium and remained the hospital until 1915 when one of the doctors, Dr. Marvin Grace, died. Mrs. Grace, being a widow who could use the money, offered her large home on College Street to the doctors for a hospital. The Sonka house then became their home again.

On April 5, 1924, Sonaka died at age 75 and was buried in San Geronimo Cemetery in Seguin. In 1929, to make ends meet, Annie Sonka rented apartments in the large home to the rapid influx of people with the discovery of oil east of Seguin known as Darst Creek oil Field.

Annie Sonka died on May 27, 1937, at age 69 and is buried next to her husband.

Floyd McKee is a native of Seguin. He is a retired Air Force Colonel and eight of his ancestors were among the 33 Rangers that organized and developed Walnut Springs and Seguin.

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