Ollie Kerley Johnson Remembers 1916 Fair In Comanche County

OLLIE KERLEY JOHNSONRickey and I have always had an interest in the 1916 Comanche County Fair because we’ve always known that his uncles, Will and Harmon Kerley, had two mules fall into a well at some point during the 1916 Comanche County Fair. However, it wasn’t until we found the written story of his aunt, Ollie Kerley (Mrs. Will Johnson), that we actually came to understand just how it all happened. I have edited a bit for clearer reading.


Back then, there was a chain all around the courthouse, and people tied their horses to the fence.  There was a well out from Baxter’s store (where Prosperty Bank’s ATM is now) where they watered their horses from the square.

I’ll interrupt Aunt Ollie here to say that I assume she is talking about the well located near the Fleming Oak today.

As part of the fair, they sent up a balloon filled with smoke. A fire using coal was kept under the balloon until 5 o’clock, when a  man swung up into it and went up. The balloon landed about 10 miles north of where it took of from. Everyone was so excited to see it go up!

There was a bandstand east of the courthouse and lots of young folks in the band. A man tied a trolley wire from the woman on the courthouse (she’s in the lobby today) to the A&P store (where the Citi-Bank building is now), and he walked the wire. Such screaming! Everyone was scared, but he did it.

It took three men to keep the square clean from the horses trash best I can remember.

Where the airport and fairground is was Mr. Will Martin’s farm. He raised corn and cotton, and my two brothers (Will and Harmon Kerley) worked for him. He had a rent house they lived in. My two brothers were gathering corn, and Mr. Martin did not tell them that there was a well in the corn patch and since there was Johnson grass all around it, they could not see it.

Mr. Martin had two big mules that the boys were using, and he had bought new harnesses for them.  All at once, the mules plunged into the well, tearing the harnesses loose.

And here, I finally understand why this incident was written up as part of the fair happenings. The Martin farm was apparently near the fair grounds, where Will and Harmon must have run for help!

The boys went for help, and Mr. Martin came with a block and tackle to get the mules out. He wanted to save his harnesses, and he did.  He had a brand new wagon, and he broke it  trying to get the mules out so that the harnesses could be saved. The well was 80 feet deep, the mules dead.

The first picture show we ever saw (1907) was where Joe’s (Joe Tupin) Service Station is. It was a big tin barn with benches to sit on and had a stage picture on the wall. Bill Carroll’s girl played the piano while the show went on. It cost $.10 to get in the show. Carroll had a drugstore then.

My first time to go out to a fair was in Dallas. Such a pretty sight! How we are gifted to work and be joyful in our good Lord and so many worked so hard to make this fair so fine.

About Fredda Jones

Fredda Davis Jones was raised “in the country” in Comanche County and learned very early that creativity and innovation are traits that can flourish even in small-town Texas and that with enough effort, indeed nothing is impossible, including being married to the same man for over 40 years! Rickey and Fredda have 2 children, 5 grandchildren, and a crazy life that includes sitting in the bleachers several times a week. The rest of her time is spent creating great content for texansunited.com and marketing small-town Texas.
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2 Responses to Ollie Kerley Johnson Remembers 1916 Fair In Comanche County

  1. Great article ! Sounds like the fairgrounds were very close to where Hardin won his horse race years before.

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