Comanche, Texas: John Wesley Hardin Driving Tour

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JOHN WESLEY HARDIN

JOHN WESLEY HARDIN

May 26, 1874, began at the old racetrack, which was located somewhat behind the Comanche Intermediate School on FM 3381. Hardin (who was in Comanche visiting his family), his brother, and his cousins (also visiting) didn’t make any friends that day, winning over $3,000 and many of the horses and wagons of the other men!

After leaving the track, Hardin and his friend, Jim Taylor, along with his Anderson and Barekman cousins went first to Carnes’ Saloon, owned by Comanche County Sheriff, John Carnes. This saloon was located somewhere near the general vicinity of Mary’s (125 W. Grand St.) on the north side of the square. The Hardin family was friends with the sheriff and while on his visit, JWH often played cards with him.

After leaving the Carnes, the group headed west toward Jack Wright’s Saloon. These were possibly the only two buildings on the north side of the square at the time. The north side burned a few years before this and in 1874, Jack Wright’s building was the last on the west end. It was located about where Riley Studio is today.

The historical marker that outlines the shooting of Charles Webb is actually placed a little bit too far west. The shooting occurred outside the saloon in front of the door that opened to the east.

When the Brown County Mob (here with Charles Webb) attacked, Hardin and his cousins headed to the Hardin home (off of Barnes Ave.) and then were told by Sheriff Carnes that he could not protect them. He told the young men to head to Round Mountain (about 5 miles out on Highway 1689) and hide there until things in Comanche “cooled down.”

Against Hardin’s wishes, his cousins, Ham Anderson and Alec Barekman, left Round Mountain, heading out of the county. Knowing Webb had shot first, these two boys just couldn’t believe they were any trouble. Hardin tried to slip back to his parents’ home, but found it crawling with those looking for him.

Within a few days, Hardin’s brother Jo who was an attorney, as well as cousins, Jim Anderson and Tom and Bud Dixson, were put in a building serving as a jail. A mob, as happened so often, took all but Anderson out of the jail one night and hung them (about three miles out on FM 590 where it junctions FM 573) even though none was guilty of a crime in Comanche County. Anderson was only saved because his small stature caused mobsters to believe him much younger than he actually was. When the tree was taken down, its trunk was put on display at the Comanche County Museum.

The mob put out the word that anyone cutting the boys down would be killed. However, several days later Mart Fleming took the bodies down and buried them under an oak tree located on the Hardin’s property.

Historical markers, located some yards from the burial site, can be found about one mile out on FM 2247.

Years later, markers were erected in Comanche’s Oakwood Cemetery for Ham Anderson and Alec Barekman. They were murdered after they left Round Mountain. To find graves enter the Cemetery from the west end of Oak St. Turn left in the Bryan St. entrance and take a right on Ave. E. Graves are just a few yards up on your right.

By the time Hardin was brought back to Comanche for trial in 1877, Jack Wright had moved his saloon to the west side of the square. Today, Tuku is home to meals prepared by chef, Jake Gibson.

Comanche did not have a jail in 1874. In fact attorney Jo Hardin had been raising funds to build one. By the time JWH was brought back in 1877, Comanche’s first jail sat on this very spot, 218 N. Houston St.

Years later, Mr. and Mrs. Barnes purchased the old Hardin land. However, Mrs. Barnes refused to move onto the property until her husband removed the three bodies that Mart Fleming had buried beneath the oak tree. Supposedly, Mr. Barnes removed them to the Oakwood Cemetery where their marker sits next to their cousins. Of course, most believe that Mr. Barnes only pretended to remove what might have been left of the bodies. The Hardin land is today owned by T.J. and Kerry Dudley, 807 W. Barnes Ave.

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