Eastern gateway to Permian Basin, in Coke County. Called Oso and Broncho in early 1880's. Formally named for English novelist Charlotte Bronte, in 1890. Incorporated 1907. Basic agricultural economy, predominantly ranching. Site of major oil and gas development since 1948.
Location - South intersection of State Highway 158 and US Highway 277
Built by local stonemason James C. Lammers (1874-1942), this depot was completed in 1911, two years after the first train arrived in Bronte. Built of locally quarried materials, the depot features stone lintels and window sills and a red tile roof. Originally owned by the Kansas City, Mexico, and Orient Railway, the Bronte depot was sold in 1928 to the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway Company, which discontinued operations here in 1967.
Location - West Main Street, Bronte
The Cedar Hill area, settled by stock-farming homesteaders about 1890, was named for the nearby cedar-covered elevation. A one-room school built in 1891 was located about 100 yards north of the cemetery, which remains. However, no post office or town ever developed. Discouraged by drouths and the lack of conveniences, many people had departed by 1904. The school closed after 1917. 30 years later, an oil boom swept the county. Cedar Hill area, supplying 2 big companies, now lies within one of west Texas' largest oil fields.
Location - Intersection of FM 2742 and FM 2059, Silver, Texas
Formed from Tom Green county. Created March 13, 1889, Organized April 23, 1889. Named in honor of Richard Coke 1829-1896. Governor of Texas 1874-1876, member of United States Senate 1878 - 1896. County seat, Hayrick, 1889 Robert Lee, since 1890.
Location - 1 mile east of Robert Lee on State Highway 158
Coke County Jail
Successor to county's first one-room jail of rough lumber built about 1891, this building was erected 1907 by Southern Structural Steel Company, San Antonio. Officials who let the contract were P.D. Coulson, county judge; C.M. Barger, S.W. Gaston, T.J. Goss, M.C. Jones, Commissioners. At least seven early sheriffs lived downstairs, acting as jailkeepers. The prisoners averaged about four a month, jailed only for short terms for minor law violations. Coke County never has had a felon assessed the death penalty. The gallows on second floor were never used.
Location - 601 Chadbourne, Robert Lee
In 1896 the Smith and Chapman families donated 4 acres here for a cemetery and church lot. A sanctuary for all faiths was built on the site the same year to serve the scattered ranches along the divide between the watersheds of the Colorado and North Concho Rivers. First to be buried here was Mrs. H.A. (Callie) Chapman (1870-97). The cemetery contains about 100 graves, including those of the earliest settlers of this area of Coke County and veterans of World Wars I and II and Korea. This cemetery is still used by descendants of many pioneers.
Location - From Robert Lee 15 miles south/southwest on FM 2034, then 1 mile west on Walnut Rd
Settled by cattlemen who ran herds on open range, and stock-farming homesteaders. Development began in early 1880's after Winfield Scott, rancher, fenced his spread. Area had three schools, lodge hall, tabernacle, general store, cotton gin and blacksmith shop. The post office, established in 1890, was named for Edith Bonsall, an admired young lady of Ballinger. It closed in 1955. Dwindling schools combined, then consolidated with those of nearby Robert Lee. As trend toward urban living increased, Edith declined.
Location - 9 miles west of Robert Lee on State Highway 158
Fence Cutting War
This area was a center of hostilities during 1880's conflict between landless cattlemen trying to keep use of free grass and open range and those erecting barbed wire fences to create permanent ranches. On L.B. Harris Ranch (3 miles west of here) posts and wire worth $6,000 were burned by anti-fence group during crisis. War was brought on by severe drought in 1880's when men without land found best waterholes fenced in. Many ranchmen owned or leased land they fenced, but some overambitious ones enclosed public lands, farms, and small ranches belonging to homesteaders recently arrived in Texas. Widespread resentment prevailed against these fencers, who, by blocking a road, had little regard for convenience of travelers. When drought pushed landless cowmen to brink of financial ruin, violence was inevitable. They blamed barbed wire fences for their predicament. At first, cutting of fences that blocked roads or waterholes occurred, but soon all fences were threatened. Armed "Nippers" cut fences in almost every Texas county. Fence cutters were then viewed as outlaws rather than crusaders. When laws were passed in Gov. John Ireland's administration to stop the war, Texas had suffered much damage to its property and reputation.
Location - Courthouse Square, 7th & Austin, Robert Lee
First Baptist Church Bronte
Organized by visiting minister W.G. Green and a congregation of three on June 19, 1887, the Baptist church in Bronte met in homes. In 1890 a brush arbor was built and the Rev. R.M. Cumbie was called as first pastor. Services were later held in the community school in winter and the brush arbor in summer. A Sunday school was organized in 1901 and the first church building was dedicated in 1907. A new building was completed in 1951. From its beginning, this church has been involved in missionary and community activities.
Location - 424 S. Washington, Bronte
First Methodist Church Bronte
This congregation traces its history to the summer of 1890, when a small group of worshipers led by the Rev. J.W. Montgomery gathered under a brush arbor on East Kickapoo Creek to organize a church. Later that year the Rev. G.F. Fair became the pastor of the church, which met in an old school house. A sanctuary was built in 1907 and served the congregation until it was replaced by a new structure in 1951. Throughout its history this congregation, which became First United Methodist Church in 1968, has been involved in missionary activities.
Location - 324 S. Washington, Bronte
First Methodist Church Robert Lee
The Rev. Green Cotton Fields organized this Methodist congregation in January 1891. A one-room frame sanctuary built on this site in 1896 was replaced by a second structure in 1907. This structure was completed in 1928, during the pastorate of the Rev. J.D. Ramsey. Exhibiting elements of the Classical Revival style, it features paired art-glass windows and a triumphal-arch entryway. The church continues to be an important part of the community.
Location - 9th & Chadbourne, Robert Lee
Established by the United States Army, October 28, 1852, as a protection to frontier settlers against Indians named in honor of Lieutenant T.L. Chadbourne, killed at Resaca de la Palma, May 9, 1846, occupied by federal troops, 1852-1867. An important station on the Butterfield Overland stage route, 1858 - 1861.
Location - 11 miles north of Bronte on US Highway 277
Fort Chadbourne (Civil War Marker)
Located 8 miles north on old Butterfield stageline. Upon secession, company of First Regiment Texas Mounted Rifles occupied this post to give protection against Indians. Stopover on way west for many Union sympathizers and people wanting to avoid conflict of war. Permanent personnel left the fort in 1862 when the frontier defense line was pulled back more than 50 miles east. However scouting parties and patrols of Confederate and state troops used the fort intermittently in aggressive warfare to keep Indians near their camps and away from settlements and to check on the invasion by union forces. Usually supplying their own mounts, guns and sustenance, these men guarded the frontier until war's end.
Location - Bronte City Hall
General Robert E. Lee
Military officer in Texas, 1856-1861. In Civil War, Confederate general. This county seat was named in his honor.
Location - Robert Lee City Hall
First county seat of Coke County, 1889-1890.
Location - from Robert Lee, take State Highway 158 east about 5 miles, then go northeast on Hayrick Road about 9 miles.
Hayrick Lodge 696, A.F. & A.M.
Organized 1890 at Hayrick, first county seat of Coke County. Moved to Robert Lee 1891. This hall was built in 1906 by a contractor, S.C. Wilkins, of concrete blocks mixed and cast by hand. First story has housed many businesses, U.S. offices.
Location - 701 Austin, Robert Lee
Indian Rock Shelters
Throughout this area during the last several centuries, rock ledges gave protection to Lipan, Kickapoo, Comanche, and Kiowa Indians. In one typical shelter archeologists found evidence of 3 periods of occupation, plus numerous intricate petroglyphs (rock carvings). River shells, turkey and deer bones, flint knives, scrapers, and points lay about the area. One of several hearths (2' x 3' in size) consisted of small pieces of sandstone lining a natural rock trough. On the highest level was found green bottle glass from nearby Fort Chadbourne (1852-1867).
Location - Junction of State Highway 70 and US Highway 277, 8 miles north of Bronte
Mule Creek Cemetery
Established by pioneers of Mule Creek community, a small frontier settlement founded in 19th century. Said to be named either for (1) an early horse and mule ranch, or (2) a stagecoach mule that died at a creek which runs nearby. The Abilene-Fort Concho stage once served area. For years principal building in here was a combination school church, since 20th century, shift to urban living has diminished population of Mule Creek. Inscriptions of tombstones chronicle history of community. In spring, grounds are covered with bluebonnets, state flower.
Location - Intersection of FM 2333 and US Highway 277, 4.5 miles southwest of Tennyson
Landmark on ancient Indian trail, and early route of travelers and military west of Fort Chadbourne (20 miles east) before the Civil War. After 1880, was used extensively to connect this area with the railroad at Colorado City. Named for panthers (cougars), which still roam the region.
Location - 13 miles northwest of Robert Lee on State Highway 208
(1829-1896) Virginia native. Leader Texas secession movement. Joined army, rose to captain 15th Texas Infantry company serving in Louisiana, Arkansas, chiefly Tennessee campaigns. Elected to state supreme court 1866, removed by Reconstruction military authorities. Defeated Governor E.J. Davis 1873. Bloodless controversy ensued, Davis retired under protest, marking political end Reconstruction in Texas. U.S. Senator 1877-1895.
Location - Courthouse Square, 7th & Austin, Robert Lee
Robert Lee Cemetery
Established in 1891, two years after the founding of the city of Robert Lee. Developers L.B. Harris and Eugene Cartledge, as president and secretary of the Austin and Northern Land and Cattle Company, on Sept. 29, 1891, sold for $1.00 this 11.7 - acre burial ground. Already site of several graves, it was deeded to Hayrick Lodge No. 696, A.F. & A.M., for "sole use as cemetery grounds for the members, relatives, and friends". Later it was named by the lodge. Buried here are 34 Civil War veterans, as well as soldiers of later wars and members of many of the families in Robert Lee.
Location - Eastern City Limit of Robert Lee on State Highway 158
Route of the Southern Overland Mail Line
One mile southeast to Fort Chadbourne, a station on the Butterfield mail and stage line, which linked St. Louis and San Francisco, 1858 - 1861. The fort was established in 1852, occupied until its surrender to state forces in 1861, and garrisoned at times after the Civil War.
Location - 11 miles north of Bronte on US Highway 277
Sanco (originally located 1 mile east) On site of prehistoric Indian camps; in area where in 1850's Fort Chadbourne soldiers often skirmished with Indians. One of the first settlements and second pioneer post office (established 1888) in county. Named for the Comanche Chief Sanaco, who with Chief Yellow Wolf had regularly camped here. Yellow Wolf, killed in a fight with Lipans, is buried nearby. In 1907, new site was surveyed; town relocated here on Yellow Wolf Creek. School, post office, store, blacksmith shop moved to this new site, where Methodist church was already located.
Location - from Robert Lee, take State Highway 208 northwest about 6 miles, then go north on Sanco Loop about 3 miles
Archeological findings at an overhanging rock ledge on Walnut Creek show that the spot, midway between the Colorado and North Concho Rivers, was for hundreds of years campsite or village of nomadic Indians who sought the shelter, running water, wood, and high lookout point above ledge. After 1850, campsite was used in turn by Fort Chadbourne and Fort Concho scouts, surveyors, and line riders of area ranches. There rangers, state militia, and a posse of settlers hunting horses and Indians rendezvoused a few nights prior to disastrous battle of Dove Creek, Jan. 8, 1865.
Location - 16 miles south/southwest of Robert Lee on FM 2034
A pioneer ranching center, settled about 1880. Early land owners included S.M. Conner, W.G. Jameson and W.R. Walker. Dr. J. E. Reed for 50 years was only physician here. R.B. Allen was outstanding civic leader. Post office, named for peak. Oil discovery, 1946, brought drilling, refining, employees' camps, much growth. the town became busy oil-gas center. After camps closed, 1966, the population declined.
Location - Intersection of State Highway 208 and FM 1672
Southern Overland Mail, 1858-1861
Passed near this site, providing for the first time combined passenger and mail service between Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Operating west from St. Louis and Memphis, John Butterfield's company used 1,350 horses and mules and 90 Concord coaches and wagons. Stage traveled at a run, despite lack of good roads. A signal given approaching a station would have fresh horses ready and food on the table for crew and passengers. Route had stations 12 to 113 miles apart, and was sometimes changed to get water. Crew and passengers wore guns; to reduce danger of Indian attacks, mules (less coveted than horses) were used west of Ft. Belknap. The trip one way took 25 days -- seven spent crossing Texas, from Preston (now under Lake Texoma) to Jacksboro, Ft. Belknap, Ft. Chadbourne and El Paso. One way fare for the 2,700 miles was $200. Passengers rarely stopped off, because they might not find seats on a later stage. Merchants in Jacksboro and other towns used Butterfield's light freight service to make mail-order sales. Greatest contribution of the overland stage was its carrying news; coaches also brought mail from the west one to 10 days faster than it came by ship. Service was ended in 1861 by the Civil War.
Location - 5.75 miles east of Robert Lee on State Highway 158
In area roamed by Indians for centuries. Tamed by open-range cattlemen in the late 1870's. Permanent settlement began in 1880's. A post office, named for British poet Alfred Tennyson, was established in 1894 with Mrs. Sarah E. Kiser as the first postmaster. Seven persons have held that office to date (1970). Over years, area has had several schools, but all are now closed. Near Mt. Margaret (height 335 feet), once locale of Indian activities, is now site of annual community homecoming (the Saturday before Labor Day) and Easter sunrise religious services each spring.
Location - Intersection of FM 2333 and US Highway 277