The Peach and Melon Festival in De Leon, Texas

One of the oldest festivals in Texas….

By: Brandon Mangan

For nearly one hundred years, the first week of August has meant the same thing in De Leon, Texas.

For one, it means that thousands of pounds of watermelons are about to be devoured. Peaches too. There’s going to be a parade. Beauty pageants. Judging and auctioning of delectable desserts. Live music and dancing. A fairground full of vendors, a carnival boasting whirling rides and kaleidoscopic lights. Tractors spool and spin their tires, pulling giant sleds as their exhausts erupt with smoke. Sounds and scenes of joy in small town Texas. This bevy of attractions are part of an event that’s come to be called the De Leon Peach and Melon Festival, one of the oldest festivals in Texas, and it’s taking place from August 6th through the 10th this year. I don’t think you’ll want to miss it.

The festival has a storied history, originally taking place under the name of the “Free Fall Fair” in 1914. A few years later the town began growing watermelons commercially, only to realize that the melons the town grew were white hearted and of little value on the market. A committee was formed and a meeting was held. The town sent local resident L.B. Patterson to Weatherford to find good seed and to learn how to make it prosper. While there Mr. Patterson was invited to and later attended a social gathering centered on the slicing of copious amounts of melons. Mr. Patterson must have enjoyed himself. He was struck by it.

The experience brought him to send not one, not two, but three letters to the De Leon Free Press Editor about having a carving that year in De Leon. So, in 1922 the town had a watermelon slicing of grand proportion. Local melon growers made a deal with the City of De Leon. They’d provide the fruit if the City would get the word out about it and clean up after the event.

The rest is history.

In 1923 there were 1,000 melons set to be consumed and the town hasn’t looked back.

This year promises to build upon the past and put on the biggest festival yet. Featured food vendors this year will offer everything from brisket, donuts, to kabobs, fair classics like turkey legs and sausage on a stick. Cajun offerings will be available, as well as kettle corn, snow cones, fine mexican, afro-fusion and fire cooked pizza. There will also be boutiques and various merchants on the grounds each night.

The week begins Tuesday with pageants in three classes, culminating at 9:00 PM with the selection of the festival Queen. Wednesday brings judging of cakes, peach desserts, as well as melons and fruits. The Triple T Amusement carnival arrives, with rides beginning at 6:00 PM. That evening there’s a parade downtown (7PM), the kids tractor pull and the queen’s coronation (8:30PM), with the Cake and Melon auction taking place at 9:00 PM. Thursday the carnival begins at 6:00 PM, with an acoustic performance by famed Texas songwriter Walt Wilkins at 8:00 PM. Friday the carnival opens back up again at 6:00 PM, with the tractor pulls beginning at 7:30 PM. There will also be DJ David C and karaoke starting at 8:00 PM. 


Golden Saturday is a full day event, starting with the Watermelon Crawl 5K downtown at 7:00 AM. A Texas 42 domino tournament will be held at the City Hall auditorium at 8:00 AM. The seed spitting contest is downtown at 1:00 PM, followed by the free watermelon slicing the festival is named for taking place at 3:00 PM. That night the carnival is open again at 6:00 PM, with another night of tractor pulls beginning at 7:30 PM. Singer-songwriter Van Darian kicks off the music at 7:30, followed by Matt Hillyer of 1100 Springs and Phill Pritchett performing at 8:30 PM. The announcement of Miss De Leon rounds off the evening at 10:00 PM. The carnival sells arm bands each night, $30.00 at the grounds and $25.00 on pre-sale, available at the festival headquarters, located at 5401 Hwy 6, De Leon, TX 76444 and online at http://www.peachandmelonfestival.net/. We hope to see you there!

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NonProfit Feature/Comanche All Pets Alive

By: Sarah Childers

Our first nonprofit feature for the County is Comanche All Pets Alive, better known as CAPA. They are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit located in Comanche County, Texas.  Their primary goal is to help the homeless and shelter animals in the area find forever homes or rescues and when possible, to prevent animals from entering the shelter in the first place. They are made up of 7 members that volunteer countless hours and untold amounts of personal funds in order to rescue, rehabilitate, and rehome unwanted animals in Comanche County, Texas. We want to add that they do an amazing job.

Their most recent rescue involved a dog who was recently abandoned. He was found chained up, dirty, dehydrated, and terrified. Luckily, this organization was able to intervene the day before a massive heatwave came into the area with temperatures reaching upwards of triple digits.

Sadly, this is a scenario that plays out in every part of the state with the testament of just about every shelter in the state being overrun this time of year.

On a brighter note, CAPA also utilizes their platform to reunite lost pets with owners, as well as provide freedom rides to various parts of the country where animals are able to find their forever homes. These animals get to experience the fortune of going to an area in the U.S. where there are actually waiting lists for adoptions.

CAPA will also admit that one of the best parts of animal rescue is to get pictures and updates from their adopters. Check out this spoiled rotten boy. This is Scruffy, aka George. He was dumped out in the country a year ago and just look at him now! We think he is quite content.

However, Dear Reader, they can really use your help in the form of a donation, foster, or adoption right now. Every donation is tax deductible and will go towards making this world a much better place to be in. Even if you don’t have funds to donate, you can give your time in the form of fostering an animal, or even giving one a forever home. To get involved feel free to contact with the methods listed below:

Donations can also be sent via PayPal to: Comancheapa@gmail.com

Website: www.Comancheapa.org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CAPATx2014/

In addition, we here at Visitcomanchecountytx.com want to remind everyone reading this article to SPAY OR NEUTER your animals.

Do you have a nonprofit organization that services the entire County of Comanche? Are you interested in reaching close to 25,000 people? We would be honored to feature you, free of charge, here on Visitcomanchecountytx.com! CONTACT US HERE

More Comanche County History, Part 3

By: Brandon Mangan

This article is continued from the previous article titled More Comanche County History, Part 2

We are picking up where we left off by visiting the community called Comyn (pronounced “COMEEN.”)

Comyn-Theney Historical Marker – 2019

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.

Jones Crossing Historical Marker – 2019

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.

Jones Crossing 2019

If you continue southward, you’ll find yourself crossing the bridge at Proctor Lake (which you can also find an article about on this site), named for the nearby town of Proctor.

Lake Proctor at flood level 2016

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.

Mooresville Cabin 2019

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.

Mollie E Moore Historical Marker 2019

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!

More Comanche County History, Part 2

By: Brandon Mangan

Last week, we shared an article titled “More Comanche County History, Part 1.”

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:


Robert Thomas Hill Historical Marker – 2019

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.

Round Mountain 2019


Little Girl’s Grave CR 185

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.

Mote Gravestone

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.

De Leon Peanut Company Historical Marker – 2019

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.

Be sure to check this marker out next time you are in De Leon, Texas. Don’t forget to visit the Terrill Antique Car Museum or explore the downtown area as well. You are also welcome to browse another page that can give you more history about De Leon, Texas.

For Part 3, we are going to go from De Leon and head east and then south, to the community of Comyn.

Stay tuned…..

Terrill Antique Car Museum

The Terrill Antique Car Museum is located at 500 North Texas Street in De Leon, Texas. The museum opened in 2004, however, the owners, Feltz Terrill and his son have been restoring old cars together since the late 1970s. When they couldn’t find a part they needed for one of their cars, they headed to their machine shop and made it themselves. While Feltz Terrill passed away in 2017, his son Feltz Jr. has kept the legacy alive by maintaining the museum as well as the Terrill Machine Shop which fabricates parts for antique automobiles for customers around the world including fuel pumps for Buicks, Packards, Pontiacs, and other old non-mainstream collectible cars. With that being said, the Terrill Antique Car Museum specializes in Pre-WWII cars as well as “oddball stuff” as Feltz Jr. likes to call it. For example, some of the cars in their collection include a one of a kind, Coffin Steam Carriage, Crow-Elkhart Cloverleaf, REO Speedwagon 3/4 ton truck,  a 1927 Pierce Arrow touring car, a 1931 Studebaker, Series 54, Six Cylinder Regal Tourer, a 1929 Model A Ford Roadster, a rare 1901 Coffin steam car, created by Howard Earle Coffin which has spent 34 years in the Henry Ford Automobile Museum until now, and many more pieces. The museum is even listed on the North Texas Car Museum Trail which is composed of must-see stops for car enthusiasts in North Texas. Therefore, if you are a car connoisseur or are looking for something fun to do with your family then stop on by the Terrill Antique Car Museum in De Leon, Texas. You can also visit their FaceBook Page for more information. Also, be sure to check out what else Comanche County has to offer.

Shuga Pops

**SAVE 10% OFF YOUR PURCHASE AT SHUGA POPS IF YOU MENTION THIS WEBSITE**

This gourmet popcorn and vintage candy shop was recently established on October 1, 2018, by Beth Whitsell and her family. It is located at 156 N Texas in De Leon. Their motto is, “You are what you eat, so eat some sweets” which is absolutely perfect considering all the sweet treats they sell. The store is open Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 A.M. until 6:00 P.M. and then on Saturday from 10:00 A.M. until 2:00 P.M. They serve a variety of candies which includes vintage wax soda bottles, gummy pizza, rainforest frogs, jumbo jawbreakers, Lego brick candy, and a unique hard candy called dog food in addition to a variety of other types of candies. They also sell glass bottled soda in flavors ranging from coke and Dr. Pepper to more exotic flavors like Route Beer 66, Kiddy Piddle, and my personal favorite, Unicorn Yack. Furthermore, Shuga Pop’s pride and joy is their popcorn. It comes in a variety of different flavors and sizes. For instance, you can buy a Dilly Squat for $1 which is 1 ½ cups, a Just a Dab for $2.15 which is 3 cups, a Gimme for $4.25 which is 6 cups, a Lil Sumpin’ for $7.80 which is 11 ½ cups, a Kinfolk for $13.50 which is 19 cups, a Hankerin for $17.30 which is 28 ½ cups, a Bucketful for $19.40 which is 38 cups, and finally a Humdinger for $26.35 which is a whopping 85 ½ cups of popcorn. They can also color and flavor it different things like movie theater style, white cheddar, salt, and cheddar, to more exotic flavors like Texas Chilli, BBQ Bacon, and Ranch. At Easter one of their best sellers was Bunny Bait which was a combination of flavors and colors. Their goal is to have different specials like that for every holiday and special occasion. With that being said, this store has something for everyone. I highly encourage you to stop by if you ever find yourself passing through downtown De Leon or driving around the area on a beautiful day to take a look at historical markers in the county. If you mention this website to them, you will receive a 10% discount off your purchase. You can also contact them by phone at 254-893-2676. Be sure to stop by the Terrill Car Museum as well!

The Hidden Penny Grave Off Sipe Springs

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.

References:

http://texasplacesandfaces.com/places/graveSS.htm
https://tpwmagazine.com/archive/2003/nov/legend/