By late 1855 there were between 30 and 40 families in the area, and the general feeling was that it was time to organize into a county. It was only natural that these early settlers wanted their own county. In 1855 the area that was soon to become Comanche County, Texas was in Coryell County, and the county seat was Gatesville, located 60 miles away.
It is necessary to remember that in 1855, the 60 miles between this area and Gatesville covered some very remote and uninhabited territory with no real road for traveling. This made it very difficult for the early settlers to take care of business and have any say in their county government. Therefore, it was decided that F.M. Collier would travel to Austin to see if he could secure an act that would create a new county.
The Sixth Legislature was in session at this time, and it was to this body that Collier presented his petition. On November 20, 1855, Senator James Armstrong who chaired the Senate Committee on County Boundaries introduced the bill that would eventually create Comanche County. Jesse Mercer, Charles Campbell, and Dr. Ransom Tuggle were appointed commissioners with the power to organize the county of Comanche.
The men were ordered to give due notice and then hold an election for Chief Justice, county commissioners, sheriff, clerks for district and county courts, as well as any other county officers. Then, after the election, the commissioners were to qualify these people as officers.
The elected commissioners were then to locate the county seat at any place of their choosing as long as it was not over five miles from the center of the county. They were to choose the name of the county and lay out the lots to be sold for the benefit of the county. The wording on this bill was very unusual in that it gave private citizens of the new county the right to act as commissioners for the organization of the county. This was usually the duty of the Chief Justice of an adjacent county. It was also unusual in that no town was specified as the county seat.
According to the man I studied for years before he became my good friend, Billy Bob Lightfoot, this is easily explained by the fact that there was no town or anything approaching one that could be made the county seat of Comanche County; however, while it is true that there was nothing resembling a town in what was soon to be Comanche County, there was already a tiny settlement established on the spot which would eventually become the county seat. However, at the time, it consisted of only a few log structures and had no official name.
Others who joined the Mercers and Colliers about this time were families whose names are still known in the greater Comanche County area today: Cunningham, Holmsley, McKenzie, McCamey, Ham, Albin, Baggett, Hoover, and Watson.
In the meantime, F.M. Collier was successful in his bid to get the Texas government to create a new county, and on January 25, 1856, the county was formed. It would be called Comanche County, named by Colonel John Henry Brown who represented the territory that made up the new county. He chose the name in honor of the Comanche Indians whom he admired. It would not be long before the people of Comanche County would differ greatly with Brown’s admiration of the Comanches.
The newly formed Comanche County included what today would be most of Hamilton County, as well as parts of Brown and Mills counties; the first elected county officers were: Jesse Bond, Chief Justice; Thomas J. Holmsley, sheriff; T.J. Dunlap, Justice of the Peace; N.W. Battle, District Judge; J.L. McCall, District Attorney; and F.M. Collier, county clerk. These men were elected on May 17, 1856, with the election held in the Tuggle Schoolhouse.
Luckily for me, in her latter years Miss Floy Cunningham, granddaughter of James and Susie Cunningham, lived with my grandparents. According to my grandfather, M.F. Davis, Miss Floy described election-day, May 17, 1856, as a day of celebration. Approximately 100 people came to the Tuggle School, and 47 votes were cast. You have to remember, ladies, that the weaker sex was not considered intelligent enough to cast a vote in 1856!
One final point needs to be made about this first Comanche County election. It is very easy to sit in a comfortable, 21st century home and wonder why it was that these settlers who claimed to want their own county so badly would wait months to hold their first election. To understand this, one has to have a realization of the time and energy required just to stay alive on the frontier of Texas in 1856.
No matter how much these people wanted to create a strong county government, they first had to struggle to survive a winter, manage to secure enough food for their families to eat, and then get crops in the ground. Plus, 1856 was an extremely hard year for the residents of Comanche County; it would be almost a year before plans for the new county seat were finalized and the land obtained for this purpose.