The Legacy Of Texas Sundown Towns: The County Where Time Stood Still

The Legacy Of Texas Sundown Towns: The County Where Time Stood Still

Part One of a series. In the heart of Texas, Comanche County is a deep hidden pocket of Central Texas where the people and culture have frozen in time.

Living in Texas my entire life, I’ve always heard about Sundown Towns. As a third-generation Dallasite, life outside of the metroplex always seemed like a foreign land. I remember my dad telling me that East Texas was like a Sundown Town even from a young age. Over the years, I’ve heard friends or co-workers talk about how some rural Texas towns aren’t safe for Black people to travel to.

Having no reason to question what people told me over the years, I assumed that there were still Sundown Towns in Texas. Then, while in a discussion/debate with some random person on Twitter over texit, I argued that Texas is a racist state and used the fact that there were still Sundown Towns in Texas. The person I was arguing with challenged me, “What towns?” So, I gave him some examples of things I’ve heard or read, “Nocona, Cut and Shoot, Vidor…”

“Can you prove it?” he asked.

A Google search only produced CNN’s now infamous 2006 article about Vidor and a Newsweek article about how activists in San Antonio last year declared it was a Sundown Town. Otherwise, all I knew was hearsay.

How was I supposed to prove there was still Sundown Towns in Texas?

James W. Loewen is an author, a contributor to the History Channel, and a sociology professor. His books have extensively covered America’s racist past, including a book called “Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism.” He wrote an article called “How To Confirm Sundown Towns.”

This how-to said that we needed to find evidence confirming that a town intentionally kept Black people out. This evidence could be either through the use of restrictive covenants throughout the town, violence or threats of same, bad behavior by white individuals, an ordinance, realtor steering, bank redlining, or other formal or informal policies. 

Undoubtedly, this was something I knew from previous research I could prove in dozens of Texas towns. However, that could represent their past, but does that make them current Sundown Towns?

What are the characteristics of modern Sundown Towns in Texas?

While some towns may have had a racist history in the 1800s and 1900s, it’s reasonable to expect that they are now culturally diverse and just like any other town in America because of urban sprawl. However, if a modern-day town is still a Sundown Town, we would expect to see a mostly white population with examples of racism in the last few decades. Perhaps they’ve had multiple civil rights lawsuits, maybe their annual racial profiling report from the police department is an indicator, and possibly they openly embrace the racist ideology.

Knowing that I would have to research many different towns, I wasn’t sure where to start. I found lists online from Wikipedia, James Loewen’s website, Quora, and Reddit. These lists suggest certain towns are Sundown Towns but don’t really go into detail why.

This series, ‘The Legacy of Texas Sundown Towns,’ will identify current Sundown Towns in Texas and offer the evidence to prove it. There are many reasons why I’m doing this series.

  • In defense of the current texit movement, which is a racism movement fueled by QAnon conspiracy theorists. With so many on the right jumping on board with secession, it’s important to understand where that would leave the 56% of the state who is non-white.
  • In hopes that some white people in these Sundown Towns will recognize their local bad behavior and try to make changes in their own communities to end the local legacy of racism.

On the lists I found of Sundown Towns in Texas, the one place that seemed to be on all was Comanche County, which is why I picked it for the first article in this series.

Comanche County was a well-known Sundown Town.

Yes, the entire county. When I began my research, I expected to find a situation similar to the rural towns outside of DFW. Perhaps they have a small Black community, segregated from the white areas of town(s). Perhaps they are hanging on to their Confederate monuments or have done a complete 180 of their long-ago legacy. But what I found in Comanche County shocked me, and as I tell you the stories I learned, it’ll shock you, too.

Right away, when I began my research, I noticed that there are still to this day very few Black people who live in Comanche County. According to the U.S. Census, in 2019, Comanche County had a total population of 13,635. Of that, only 1% were Black.

Then I came across this article from the Austin Statesman, who spoke about a 1920s brochure from Comanche County, which said the area was ALL WHITE. So, I started to wonder why that was. Why is there such a low Black population now, and why was there no Black population in the 1920s?

That’s when I found a few old articles in the Comanche Chief. The Comanche Chief is the local newspaper, which has been in existence for well over 100 years.

The expulsion of all Black people in Comanche County.

You can find this article in the April 24, 1925 issue of the Comanche Chief. It was written by G.A. Beeman, the founder of the Comanche Chief.

You’ll understand why as you read more, it’s important that any articles are written by the Comanche Chief, whether from the 1920s or the 2020s, be taken with a grain of salt. Regarding this particular story, it’s also important to note some of the details.

If the Comanche Chief’s founder wrote this story, he was 80-years old when he wrote it.

The article stated that a man named Dick Stephens employed a young Black man about 18 years old. One day Stephens left on business, and when he returned, he found his wife murdered, and the young man was gone.

The young man was later found in the woods by neighbors and shot to death.

Sometime later, the two young sons of Mr. and Mrs. Nabers and a servant girl were murdered. It was blamed on a 50-year old Black man who also worked for the Nabers, named Old Mose. According to Beeman’s account, after Old Mose murdered the trio, he set the house on fire and then hid in the woods. A search party located him and shot him.

Shortly after that, all of the Black people in the area were corralled in town and interrogated to see if they had taken part in the murders. The person investigating them, a writer, determined that Old Mose had acted alone and let them all free.

However, it wasn’t enough to appease the lynch mob.

By the time all of the corralled members of the Black community were deemed innocent, word had got out that there were between two to three hundred men were on their way to Comanche to kill all of the Black people.

When the mob got there, they ordered all Black people out of Comanche County within 10 days, or the mob would have killed them. Beeman expressed how once those orders were given, he had no business there, as there were no more than 30 Black people in Comanche County. He boasted in this article that Comanche County had no Black people and fewer aliens than any other county in the state.

This 1925 article also spoke about DeLeon’s large sign, which said, “Negro don’t let the sun go down on you in Comanche County.” An admittance of Comanche County being a Sundown Town in 1925.

(The 1880 Census actually listed 79 Black people in Comanche County.)

What’s strange, though, is in the April 6, 1962 issue of the Comanche Chief, they published an account of this expulsion, they framed it as a reprint of the 1925 story from G.A. Beeman, but it wasn’t.

The differences in the 1962 article.

The young man who allegedly murdered Dick Stephen’s wife, his name was Tom. According to the 1962 article, he wasn’t shot; he was lynched.

The 1962 article also said the people of Comanche gathered at the courthouse and wrote a resolution.

The order of the murders was different as well. The 1925 article said first Dick Stephen’s wife was murdered, then Old Mose murdered his three victims. The 1962 article said the Old Mose murder happened first.

It wasn’t a reprint of the original story, it was a retelling.

I looked in the newspaper archives on the Portal to Texas and Although both have digital copies of old Comanche Chief issues, neither have any issues from the late 1880s. Which is weird.

From the July 29, 1886 issue of the Austin Statesman:

The wife of Reuben Stephens, not Dick. I looked it up, Mr. Stephens name was actually Benjamin Franklin Stephens, and his wife, Sallie was actually murdered in 1886.

According to a book called Comanche County History created by Fredda Davis Jones, the murder of Sallie Stephens is what led to the exodus of Black people from Comanche County in 1886. Jones also listed the alleged murder by Old Moses as taking place in 1875, more than a decade prior.

Did these murders actually take place?

In modern-day society, we’ve learned that in the post-Civil War South, Black men were often blamed and lynched for rapes and murders that they never committed.

The Fort Worth Daily Gazette published an article in September 1886, saying the expulsion of Black people in the community was because of rapes in Central Texas, but never mentions any murders.

Maybe it did happen. Maybe not. We’ll never know. However, if history is any indicator, it’s more likely that Sallie Stephens was murdered by her husband, rather than a hired worker.

Lynchings In Texas lists three lynchings in Comanche County from 1882 and 1883, none of them were Old Mose or Tom Stephens.

That was the story on why Black people were expelled from Comanche County, but the reason they never came back is much more sinister.

TSHA listed 709 people living in Comanche County in 1860. I looked up the Muster Rolls during the Civil War, and I found the records for 139 Confederate Soldiers from Comanche County.

The reason why this was so odd was because of this 2014 article from the DeLeon Free Press that said 700 Confederate Soldiers were buried in Comanche County.

How was it that during the Civil War, Comanche County had 139 Confederate soldiers, but in 2014 they boast of 700 being buried there?

Another strange and uncomfortable thing about that 2014 article is how the county commissioners voted unanimously to hoist the Confederate flag over the Courthouse during Confederate Heroes Month. In 2014. Like, seven years ago.

And the did exactly what they planned on doing.

In 2014, Comanche County honored the Confederacy.

On April 3, 2014, they proudly boasted about honoring the Confederacy in their County. The article says, “Many Southerners have despaired over the more popular ‘northern’ version of Confederate history that states the war was fought over slavery but the folks in Comanche County are helping stir up a renewed sense of pride in our Southern roots.”

What the actual fuck?

There’s more.

“A ceremony was held at the Comanche Courthouse on Monday in which ‘First National Flag’ was raised by members of the Texas Frontier Camp #1904 SCV for the 14th year in a row.”

“The First National Flag,” is the rebel flag, the Bars and Bars. It’s the Confederate flag, the flag of traitors of no nation. And SCV stands for the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Picture this. It’s 2014, armed men dressed as Confederate soldiers approach the county courthouse, praise Robert E. Lee, sing Dixie, and then hoist the Confederate flag above the local halls of justice. In 2014. According to the article, this was their 14th year doing this, which means they probably did it after that. In 2020, they probably hoisted a Confederate high above a place that is supposed to serve equal justice.

Knowing how all over Texas cities and counties are trying to break themselves free of the white supremacy symbology placed long ago on their courthouse lawns; it’s so bizarre to see this obscure county in Central Texas embracing it with no push back.

What about local historians and history-buffs?

Initially, my first thoughts were to reach out to the local historical society or historical commission to understand this situation. I couldn’t find any, but I did find the Comanche County Historical Museum on Facebook. Looking around at some of their pictures, they seem a fairly normal Texas museum, with lots of interesting exhibits and pieces. Confederate memorabilia can be seen in the backgrounds of a few of the pictures, but this is Texas and it is part of our history. Not a big deal.

Ever since discovering that the Historical Commission in Weatherford was infiltrated by Neo-Confederate ideology and Kaufman County Historical Society’s efforts to keep the Confederate rock in its original form, being skeptical of these rural historical groups is perfectly natural. There was no indication that the Comanche County Historical Museum was overtly pro-Confederate. Not on their Facebook page, anyway.

However, on the local Sons of Confederate Veteran group, it was clear there was a connection.

From the reposting of newsletters to announcements of joint events, it’s obvious the local historical group and the local Sons of the Confederate Veterans are all buddies.

The funny thing, in a little tiny area like Comanche County, all the locals probably already know.

The reason why it’s a problem for local historical groups to have Neo-Confederate ideology is that the Neo-Confederacy subscribes to revisionist history. They completely distort the accounts of the historical records and push Lost Cause mythology. It’s an affront to history.

Take the situation in Weatherford, for example. The historical group knew and had evidence that lynched slaves were buried under the courthouse lawn and they intentionally tried to hide it from the descendants of those slaves. It’s unethical. These historical groups are supposed to be preserving history. What will they do when presented with a historical record or artifact which directly conflicts with their Neo-Confederate ideology?

It’s a problem.

Comanche County hasn’t only embraced their local chapter of the SCV, they’ve completely embraced the Neo-Confederacy.

This YouTube video shows a 2013 Confederate parade held in Comanche.

Not an Easter parade that the local SCV were given a float in. An actual Confederate parade, where a handful of old white men walked down the street in Confederate gray suits, waving the flags of Black oppression.

If you’re reading this from Austin, Dallas, Houston, or any other city in the modern world, you might be wondering right now, “what the hell, Comanche County?” We agree. This shit isn’t normal.

This SCV group really loves their parades, too. In 2019, they tried to march in the Stephenville Veterans Parade and were chased off for trying to march in it with their Confederate flags. This led to Sid Miller publicly talking about hanging the organizers of this parade.

In a gross misrepresentation of historical fact, Frank Bussey (seen in the Facebook posts above), posted on the Comanche County Breaking News Facebook group a defense of the Confederate flag.

It’s long, you can see the entire post here. His defense included:

  • Slavery only existed nine years here.
  • They killed “Indians” under the flag.
  • There were only a handful of slaves in Central Texas back in the olden days.
  • After all, the battle flag is the flag of the Klan. The bat­tle flag is the flag of George Wallace and segregation. Maybe. In Alabama. Or in the Delta. Or on cable news. But not here. And it never was.
  • The most ironic phrase in his post was, “Cuz don’t nobody know nothin’. Don’t nobody wan­na know nothin’.”

The absurdity that Bussey would claim that the Confederate flag was the flag of the Klan and segregation in Alabama, the Delta, but not in Texas, is laughable. We’ve written multiple articles (with receipts) linking the Sons of Confederate Veterans to the Ku Klux Klan in Texas back in the early to mid-1900s.

1980 – Fort Worth
1995 – Austin

The Sons of Confederate Veterans have long had ties with the Ku Klux Klan. In fact, it was actual Confederate Veterans who started the Klan. And the Klan has always used the Confederate flag as a symbol of their hate. Even in the 2017 Neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, the Confederate flag was seen.

Long-lasting Klan and SCV ties didn’t just happen in Alabama or the Delta, they happened here in Texas, too. It’s still happening.

Last year’s racist attack on peaceful protesters in Weatherford was done under the Confederate flag.

You may be wondering, who is Frank Bussey, anyway?

He’s the commander of the 7th brigade of the Texas SCV.

Does he seem familiar? He should.

He recently got national attention when he identified the traitor in the January 6th insurrection as one of the SCV’s own. He also proudly boasted about how there were Neo-Confederates from Texas at the capitol that day.

The Confederacy has always consisted of traitors to America. They were traitors to America in 1861 and they are traitors to America now.

Texas’ SCV 7th Brigade.

The Sons of Confederate Veteran’s 7th brigade covers Central Texas. This April 6, 2000 article from the Comanche Chief, spoke about how this group covered Comanche, Brown, Erath, Hamilton, Coryell, Bosque, and surrounding counties.

Notice how the article was written by Fain McDaniel and he proudly boasts of being a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. He’s also the chairman of the Comanche County Historical Commission. He’s been there a while, too. This 1994 article in the Comanche Chief lists him as on the board of the Comanche County Public Library and a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

It’s clear that in Comanche County the Neo-Confederates took control of historical documents and historical narrative many decades ago.

Aside from the five lynchings mentioned earlier in the article, while researching the Comanche County Historical Museum and its Neo-Confederate ties, I came across this 1992 Comanche Chief article which says that there is a tree stump in the museum courtyard with a historical marker that says, “HANGING TREE STUMP,” and mentions three more lynchings. There were at least eight lynchings in Comanche County. This is a lot, considering for most of their history there were no Black people within miles from them.

Knowing that Neo-Confederates have taken charge of local history in those parts, there may be countless more lynchings and murders of Black and brown people, that they have covered up. Just as what was done in Weatherford.

Other bizarre Neo-Confederate happenings in Comanche County.

Comanche County’s elementary school has done Civil War reenactments, which included 5th graders riding around on a horse with a Confederate flag.

The Comanche Chief has run newspaper ads for the SCV to post recruitment notices in.

Confederate descendant reunions have happened in Comanche County.

And in 2002 they placed a brand new ode to white supremacy on their courthouse lawn. Most of the Confederate rocks in Texas, and the rest of America, were erected during Jim Crow. Yet, Comanche County erected one nearly 50 years after Jim Crow ended. Perhaps it was to signify how Black people are still not welcome in their county.

It’s clear that Comanche County was once a Sundown Town. Is it still a Sundown Town?

Neo-Confederates control Comanche County. They’ve taken over the historical groups, the museum, the schools, the courthouse, and they even have Confederate parades through the middle of town. If you were a Black person, would you feel safe going to Comanche County?

Some Black people did and here is her account of how that went.

Notice what the old man said at the end of the video, how Black people would be welcome in Comanche County, but they don’t move there because of lack of job opportunities.

While doing research on Comanche County, I read in multiple places that the people who live there are embarrassed by their past and wish to distance themselves from their legacy of being a Sundown Town.

However, if that was true, if Comanche County was ready to step out of the dark ages and welcome Black people with open arms, they wouldn’t allow the Confederacy to parade through town. But, I wouldn’t count on it any time soon.

How did Comanche County become so engulfed in Neo-Confederate culture?

Comanche County’s history is different than many other counties, not because of their legacy of being a Sundown Town, but because of how the Confederacy thrived there after the Civil War.

Remember the article in 2014 that said there were 700 Confederate veterans buried in Comanche County, even though the muster rolls showed only 139 soldiers from Comanche County during the Civil War?

Between 1863 and 1865, hundreds of thousands of acres were for sale in Comanche County and other Central Texas counties. Before the Civil War ended Confederates from all around the country were flocking to the area.

All through the 1870s and 1880s, Confederate veterans continued to pour into Comanche County and surrounding counties.

The Comanche and Erath Confederate Association.

By the 1890s, Confederate camps were being formed all over Texas. The Comanche and Erath County Confederate Association was the largest in the South, with over 1,200 members in 1892.

In fact, the Comanche and Erath Confederate Association was so stuck in their ways, that they didn’t declare the end of the Civil War until 1894 when a camp for the Grand Army of the Republic (Union vets), was formed in Dublin, Texas.

This Confederate Association held regular reunions all the way until the 1930s.

If your wondering what happened, with the white supremacy culture after all of the Confederate veterans died, look no further than this 1916 obituary from the Comanche Chief. It spoke about how the Confederate never admitted to being a Klansman, wink, wink. The obituary joked about how Confederates would also be Klansmen, but would never admit it.

Was there a Ku Klux Klan chapter in Comanche County?

I didn’t uncover any evidence of that, however, they showed plenty of Klan sympathy during the early 1900s. From screening The Birth of a Nation in town to voting for outed Kan politicians in state elections, the ideology of Comanche County in the early 1900s was drowning in white supremacy. Just like most other towns in Texas.

With no Black people in Comanche County and likely none in the adjacent counties, there wasn’t a need for a local Klan chapter. Yet, northeast of Comanche County, in Parker County, they had a huge Klan presence. Parker County is where Weatherford is. That’s important to note, because of what’s going on in Weatherford in the modern area. I’ll get to that.

All throughout the 1900s, the Comanche Chief frequently published stories and accounts of the Civil War and the Confederacy. They romanticized it.

By the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Comanche Chief regularly published articles about civil rights, segregation, and even Martin Luther King. The stance they took was a racist one and perhaps their attitudes towards Black people were normal attitudes in the Civil Rights Era South, but for a place that kept Black people out for almost 100 years at that point, it’s strange that they would have an opinion about civil rights at all.

The sign warning Black people not to be in Comanche County after dark remained up until the mid-1970s.

How the Confederacy thrived and lived on in Comanche County.

After the Civil War, Confederates flocked to Comanche County and surrounding areas, expelled all of the Black people, and they created a white supremacy utopia for themselves.

Lost Cause mythology engulfed the area in the late 1890s and has remained ever since. The local publication spent over 100 years praising the traitors who launched a war against America for the sake of keeping Black people enslaved. They spewed revisionist history and even taught it in schools. In the late 1990s, as hate groups rose all across America, a new Neo-Confederate group popped up in Comanche County. The 2nd Texas Frontier District.

In Comanche County, where the poverty level is nearly double the national average, and nearly everyone is a descendant of a Confederate traitor, this Sons of the Confederate Veteran group has found a playground to live out their Larping fantasies.

Comanche County is still a Sundown Town

The local Neo-Confederates have gone leaps and bounds to make sure that Black people do not come to Comanche County. They have done this by hoisting a racist flag above their courthouse each April, parading around town while wearing the uniform of people who fought to keep Black people enslaved. and having 10-year-old children wave the traitor flag in their elementary history class. They don’t even try to hide it.

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Ok, well I just will never go to Comanche County. I will never do business there or travel there for fun.” That’s all well and good, we support that.

Until Comanche County can purge itself of these Neo-Confederates and rid themselves of all white supremacists ideology, Living Blue in Texas is calling for a complete boycott of that area.

That’s not enough.

Comanche County Neo-Confederate’s activity outside of their own community.

At the bottom of their website, I noticed a name. Randall Scott. Do you know who that is?

That’s this Charlie Daniels-looking dude wearing a crocheted Confederate sweater, caught on video at a Weatherford protest in December. On a hunch, I went back to the Comanche County Sons of Confederate Veterans Facebook group, and look what I found.

The Comanche County SCV has been traveling to Weatherford to terrorize Black residents who have been peacefully protesting for equal justice.

It would be one thing, if they stayed in their own little racist bubble, keeping their imaginary world of days gone past confined to Comanche County, but with no Black communities in their area, they’ve been traveling to other communities to terrorize the Black people there.

When Andrew Johnson pardoned the Confederate traitors, they all went back to the South, many of them flocked to Central Texas, finding a home with their peers. When Reconstruction prematurely ended, this area in Texas was able to create its own little world tucked deep in the middle of bum-fuck Texas. In the world of Comanche County, the North was the enemy, Black people were the enemy, and anyone who might interfere with the world they’ve created is their enemy. That’s why they partook in the racist attack on peaceful protesters in Weatherford last July.

While this article was to highlight how Comanche County is a current and active Sundown Town in Texas, it should also be clear how deep-seeded the racism and hatred our friends in Weatherford have stood up and faced for almost a year now.

The Crawfords, multi-generational Weatherford residents, have ancestors who were lynched on the Courthouse lawn. Their bodies were thrown in a well and the well was buried. It’s likely their bodies still remain there to this day.

Progressives of Parker County have vowed to never stop fighting for justice for Crawford’s ancestors.

That means removing the white supremacist rock that rests on what is supposed to be the halls of justice and until the bodies of Crawford’s ancestors are located and given a proper burial.

They’ll be out there again on Saturday. The aggressors, who come out to harass them, come from miles away. If you can make it, please come stand with them. It’s 2021, they are literally fighting lunatics who think the traitors in the rebellion against America are heroes, and they aim to continue their legacy.

Black lives matter. They mattered in 1861 and they matter now. Texas will be a better place when the Neo-Confederates realize that white supremacy is no longer welcome.

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