There’s Always A Story…If We Just Look For It
Texas is full of triumph and tragedy; it always has been and it always will be. What happens today turns into the history of tomorrow that most people believe they hate. After all, didn’t you leave high school believing that you hated history? I certainly did. And then I met a prof by the name of Dr. Long, who wasn’t even a history prof, and suddenly I realized that I had loved history all of my life; I just did not know it! You see, what I loved were stories, and none of my history teachers bothered to tell me stories.
The town of Comanche, Texas is working very hard to promote itself as the story telling capital of Texas (through its heritage)…sounds so much more interesting than history, doesn’t it? Below you will find the story of little John Campbell Neely, and his poor father, Fletcher.
Fletcher Neely and his wife, Sarah Hicks Neely, settled in the area that would become Comanche County in 1855.* Of course, at that time there were just a handful of people in the area, and they were homesteaded on land that was located in what would be the Newburg community today.
On February 5, 1860, Sarah gave birth to a son that they named John Campbell Neely, and there was much celebrating in the Neely household. And then, as so often happened back then, tragedy struck the little family on January 30, 1861, just six days before little John Campbell’s first birthday.
I have never learned exactly what it was that killed the baby boy, just that the grief was almost too much for his father to bear. In fact, it is said that Fletcher Neely mounted his horse and rode, and rode, and rode, looking for the spot that might be worthy to hold his dear little son.
The spot he chose eventually became the site of Comanche’s Oakwood Cemetery, and little John Campbell’s grave became the first marked grave in the cemetery. Today, crude signage marks the spot that once held almost more grief than the Neelys could comprehend, as those of us who have been forced to bury our children understand all too well.
It was a day of so much sadness that has become softened by the hands of time. Today, the town of Comanche sends out the message, “Come see us, and we’ll tell you a story!”