We are picking up where we left off by visiting the community called Comyn (pronounced “COMEEN.”)
Although little remains of the town that was Comyn, it was one of the first outlying communities to be established in the county after the removal of the Comanche in 1875. Here W.F. Catheney set out to make a thriving home for his family and friends, before having the town named for the man who built the railway depot. The school still bore Theney’s name. This community was neighbored by that of Jones Crossing, the birthplace of Lt. Governor Ben Barnes. Like many of the surrounding towns the area grew precipitously during the turn of the century oil boom, afterwards sharing much of the same declining fate.
Although the historical marker is now housed in the county museum you can still visit Jones Crossing, a place still frequented for its fishing and scenery. This river no longer needs to be forded, as a bridge was constructed in 1899. On sunny afternoons you’ll find eager anglers hanging their fishing poles from its sides.
The community of Proctor began as Mooresville, named for Thomas O. Moore who moved there in 1872, with his family behind back in Galveston. After returning to Galveston to fetch his family he found them ill and partnered with his friend Alexander Watson Proctor, sending him ahead to establish a mercantile building. As there was already a Mooresville in Texas, the town was eventually named Proctor. A building was erected for a post office in 1873, followed by a community center and school in 1876. The little town was moved in the 1890’s when the new Fort Worth Railroad missed the town by a mile, with Alex Chisholm buying the site for ranchland.
Today a relic from the original Mooresville can be explored at the Comanche County Museum. You’ll also find a historical marker detailing the life of Thomas Moore’s sister Mollie, a renowned poet, playwright and from all account’s a highly interesting woman. She also wrote what may be the most impartial history of John Wesley Hardin’s time in Comanche county.
So, this tour ends where it began. Although this list is far from exhaustive, I hope that it presents a few of the many reasons you may find yourself wanting to spend some time visiting Comanche County. There’s much to experience and much to learn, as well as ample opportunity to make a bit of history for yourself. Tell them I sent you!
This week, we are picking up where we left off with “More Comanche County History, Part 2.” This article will begin with the Robert Thomas Hill Historical Marker:
Although briefly mentioned when speaking of the museum, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give Robert Thomas Hill and the history of geology in Comanche County a bit more light. Being a state steeped in oil, geology is a field of interest for many Texans. A man considered the father of Geology in our state made his first forays into the field while living in the little frontier town of Comanche. His tale of coming to join his brother in Comanche and the events that detailed his life would make for an enthralling Hollywood biopic. He was first employed with his brother at the local paper, The Comanche Chief. They soon became co-editors, until 1882 when Robert found his way to Cornell University – at the behest of his friend the local barber.
The Comanche Chief Historical Marker – 2019
The paper is the oldest business in the county, and one of the longest running papers in the state. Robert thrived in the world of words, as he was a man with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, as well as a curiosity all Texans owe for the knowledge it produced. He started his explorations on the local hilltop known as Round Mountain, and when he died his ashes were scattered there. The little mountain has history of its own, becoming the hiding place of John Wesley Hardin in 1874.
Heading northward from town on a single lane dirt road you’ll find a memorial. This memorial has been kept and guarded since the 1870’s, for over a century it’s left many with more questions than answers. It sits just outside of the community of Sipe (pronounced Seep) Springs, a once bustling oil town.
Little Girl’s Grave Headstones
Amongst an eclectic offering of toys, flowers, stuffed
animals and hundreds of pennies lie two headstones. The older looking of the
two poses a simple question: Who is the little girl? Age 3, 1870. It’s said
that in 1870 a family was traveling this trail westward when their child fell
from the wagon, dying from head injuries. There’s also speculation she died
from disease. Whatever befell the girl, she rests here now. A few years later a
cemetery was established just a few miles away, but the girl remained. This is
a story that has haunted and intrigued generations, so much so that the
tradition of adorning this little one’s grave site still exists. Today you can visit and pay your respects,
leaving a penny and a thought.
Gravesite in Sipe Springs Cemetery
A few miles from the solemn marker of an unknown girl lie a brother and sister, the epitaph on their gravestones simply reading “Happy and gay, to school they went one day. But thank God they are not dead, Just away.” The two children that rest here were victims in one of the worst catastrophes in the history of Texas – the New London school explosion of 1937. New London was an area rich with the spoils of the oil boom that was taking place at the time – it was home to one of the wealthiest school districts in the nation. In 1932 a large school was constructed from steel and concrete, at the cost of 1$ million (closer to $18 million today). In the original design of the building there was to be a boiler and steam heating system installed in the large area beneath the school, the school board opting instead to install gas heaters throughout. A common practice of the time was for residents to tap into existing residue gas pipelines from the oilfield in order to take advantage of the natural gas that traveled through the pipes. This untreated gas was volatile, and odorless. A leak developed in the system, and before long the gas had filled the subterranean levels of the school. On the afternoon of March 18th, 1837 an instructor turned on an electric sander, igniting the gas. The reports of eyewitnesses record the walls of the school expanding, before the roof lifted from the building and collapsed upon itself. A two-ton piece of concrete was thrown 200 feet, smashing a nearby Chevrolet. The explosion was heard up to four miles away, alarming residents to head to the source of the sound. A massive rescue effort was undertaken, with Texas Rangers, the highway patrol, the Texas National Guard and even a local troop of Boy Scouts being summoned to the scene. At some point in the evening it began to rain, those involved in the rescue effort working tirelessly through it all. Seventeen hours later the site had been cleared. It’s estimated that there were over 600 people in the school that day and that only around 130 escaped without serious injury. Half of them did not survive. A young Walter Cronkite was called to the scene, later stating “I did nothing in my studies nor in my life to prepare me for a story of the magnitude of the New London tragedy, nor has any story since that awful day equaled it.” In the aftermath of the disaster the Texas Legislature began mandating that thiols be added to natural gas, the strong odor from which now makes leaks detectable.
Heading east from Sipe Springs you’ll find yourself in the second most populous city in the county, De Leon. This town has its own history as the peanut capital of the world, a crop turned to by local farmers after the drought and boll weevil devastation of the early 1900’s. This transformed the county from a cotton producing area to one of the largest producers of peanuts in the nation.
The town was also bolstered by the Texas Central Railroad, which due to the creation of the Peanut Company later became known as “The Peanut Line”. The depot was created and Texas Central laid out the town on April 10, 1882. The town became the primary shipping point for cotton before turning to the peanut crop.
When prompted with the question “what makes Comanche County special to you?”, citizens are quick to answer-whether it be in a snippy comment or a heartfelt one.
Comanche County, in general, can be described as rural more than anything else, with not a lot of hustle and bustle unless you firmly plant your roots down and listen to the wind that might move you around. That wind being that life of Comanche County that most tend to gloss over.
If anything keeps this area lively, it’s the citizens. They’re eager to help one another out, and keep this train moving forward.
Yet, the excitement comes from its events. Whether it be the Comanche Pow-Wow, De Leon Peach and Melon Festival, or even the Comanche Farmer’s Market, you can definitely find a crowd there joyously celebrating. Don’t know what those are? Check them out on our Annual Events tab.
However, if you just want to kick back and enjoy the scenery, that’s okay too. Citizens claim that it’s honestly one of their favorite parts about Comanche County. With its sunsets, bluebonnets in the Spring and Summer, and frequently occasional wildlife spotting, who wouldn’t enjoy that?
Have something you want to add to this list? Comment on this post or this one here! We’d love to hear what you love about this area!
Not much is known about this mysterious spot, but if you live in the surrounding area of Comanche Country, more than likely you’ve heard the legend of the Penny Grave.
Located off of FM 1477, you can check this one out for yourself at all times of the year. A marker labeled with “grave of little girl, age 3, 1870s” can be found with a few others, but more than likely you will find gifts fit for a toddler girl laid out on top of these markers.
Many stories can be speculated as to how this grave marker came about. One is that a family was traveling west when their daughter fell off the back and died instantly from head injuries. Another says that cause of death was that the child died from illness. The family had decided to bury their daughter there either way. However, this was a too common scenario for this time period. Typically, when families were in travel as this one was, the best they could do was bury the child and mark the grave with a cross made of sticks or stones.
The story, interesting enough, continues. Why would this grave be remembered if this was a too common thing? It’s apparently because the family took refuge for the night nearby in a cabin owned by some locals. When the mother of the child expressed concern for no one watching over her grave, the lady in charge promised to look over it. Whether this is true, who knows? However, it makes for an extremely touching story that holds true to what still stands today.
So take the time to check it out! Make a date of it or a exploration with siblings. See what others have left, and maybe leave something yourself! Any money that is left is collected and donated to the local fire station-so don’t worry about that.