Isn’t it amazing that you can spend your entire life in a town like Comanche, Texas and never really know its history? Do you know how many times I traveled College Street in my young life and never put two and two together to make the four needed to understand that College Street was named for a COLLEGE? Duh!
No, I had to get a few years along in the game before I realized the obvious. Today, I thought I might share with you a few pictures of the old structure that was built by the Masons in the early 1870s. In fact, it was the chance to sit on the board of this institution that brought James G. Hardin, father of John Wesley Hardin, to Comanche.
This first photo was made from a scan of an 1893 letterhead. Clicking on the photo will allow you to easily read this front side.
The back on the paper reads: “Eliza and Miss ____ Kirk (Looks like Bunnie..does not say Golda) they didn’t know that Lizzie was married. Bunnie sent Lizzie a picture of Mrs. Daniel’s house it is a lovely place. Well I guess I will have to close for the time I can’t think of anything else. Write soon give my love to all. Your sister, Janet Todd
Clicking on the photo above will allow you to get a better view. Be sure to notice that most of the boys on the front row seem to have on “short britches.” Also notice the broken windows and the wooden sidewalk. The photo was taken by J.A. Brodie, and Margaret Waring could use that info to help you date it. It would appear that the front lawn needs clearing of rocks and there needs to be some weeding done along the sidewalk, which also needs repair.
If you look at the bottom right hand corner of the building above (about the grass area), you will see Mr. Strailey’s name. Then, if you look at the grass and then the building itself, you will realize that this was not originally a photo. In fact, look closely. Doesn’t this drawing/photo look exactly like the one on the 1893 letterhead?
Anyway, at some point, the old college (also known as the bat cave) became the West Side School. The tag on the photo shows the teachers who taught here during the 1905-06 school year, but that does not necessarily mean that this drawing/photo was done during that year. Again, Margaret Waring would be the best source for figuring out this puzzle.
If our last drawing/photo actually was from 1905-1906, then this photo was obviously taken after 1906. You will notice that a front stoop or porch has been added since the last photo.
This photo is actually on a post card that was mailed in Comanche on February 15, 1959. It was mailed to Mr. A.P. Burks, Comanche, Texas, with a four cent stamp. The back reads:
“A relic of other days. Clara wants to show picture to Mrs. Godbold-If Mrs. G doesn’t come out soon I will get the picture for you. Sorry of delay, but no one can ____ for all persons. Judge WJ
Here we have another piece of the puzzle. This is the second First Baptist Church building, and it was erected in 1895 on the spot where stands the current church building. The college is clear in the background, but all I know is that this was taken by Mr. Straley, not before 1895.
When I first saw the photo, I believed that it was taken after 1906 because I thought I could see the new addition on the front of the building. However, on closer look, I am not at all sure that what I am seeing is the new porch. What do you think?
The old building was razed about the time that the new high school was built (about 1922), and I graduated from that school in the 1970’s. The college was, of course, long gone, and in its place stood the gymn where I once spent many, many hours playing basketball.
Today, that gym is a part of the First Baptist Church Child Care, and I assume (what a silly thing to do!) that much of the rockwork used around that huge lot is actually rocks that came from the old building. They are all that are left to remind us that the great old building was ever there….well, unless you remember that the street was named COLLEGE Street!