Pecos Trail From Del Rio to Sanderson:
Traveling from Del Rio to Sanderson, Texas, along the Pecos Trail is a ghost town and ghost ranch experience filled with a rich history. The 120-mile drive is situated in the Chihuahuan Desert, which is broken by numerous small mountain ranges as well as low-level river valleys formed by the the Rio Grande and the Pecos Rivers.
From the county seat of Val Verde County – Del Rio, to the county seat of Terrell County – Sanderson, the long stretch across an arid terrain provides numerous peeks at lifestyles long past from 4,000-year-old Native American art sites at Seminole Canyon to the Wild West days of Judge Roy Bean at Langtry, railroad history, and a numerous old ghost towns that are crumbling in the desert heat.
When the Galveston, Harrisburg, & San Antonio Railroad made its way through the area, a number of town sites and stations developed to fuel the steam engines. Soon afterward numerous large ranches developed in the area, shipping their cattle along the railheads. Later, when a highway was paved through the region, several small spots in the road appeared as rest and service
Just about ten miles northwest of Del Rio, the visitor crosses Lake Amistad. Straddling the United States and Mexico, the lake is known for excellent water-based recreation, camping and is surrounded by a landscape rich in prehistoric rock art, along with a wide variety of plant and animal life. The Amistad National Recreation Area is administered by the National Park Service.
Just about 29 miles northwest of Del Rio, Comstock, like many other small towns in the area, got its start when the Galveston, Harrisburg, & San Antonio Railroad came through the area in 1882. When the town was first platted it was called Sotol City but was soon changed to Comstock, after a railroad dispatcher named John B. Comstock. The original town site was built just east of the current location, but, was later moved to make use of water from a nearby natural lake. Today, the water supply of the lake is only intermittent.
In 1888 a post office was established and a man named George Washington Ames opened the Ames General Store, which sold groceries, lumber, salt, livestock feed, and ranch supplies. From 1888 until 1910, the Deaton Stage Line, which delivered mail and hauled freight, operated a six-horse stagecoach that changed teams four times between Comstock and Ozona, some 80 miles to the north. In 1889 the Phillips Hotel began to serve travelers stopping overnight in Comstock and the following year, the D.C. Denny Lumber Yard was established. Later, it would be converted into Uncle Denny’s Saloon and Billiard Hall.
In the late 1890’s, Comstock became known as a lawless place when a minor outlaw by the name of Bud Newman was living in the area. In December 1895, Newman, who was working in the stock business killed a man named Shepard Baker in a shoot-out near Kelly’s Saloon.
The pair had evidently been feuding for some time and while Baker was sitting in a wagon, Newman came by, and Baker took a shot at him. Newman shot back and killed the other man. Newman was acquitted and at Baker was buried in the Comstock graveyard.
A year later, a westbound passenger train was robbed about midnight on December 20, 1896, near Cow Creek less than a mile west of Comstock. Four outlaws tied up the train crew and tried to open a large trans-continental safe equipped with a timer lock. However, they were unable to open it and only made off with about $70 from a smaller safe.
A local posse was formed by the County Sheriff, which quickly pursued the bandits. The next day, they were joined by several Texas Rangers. By December 27th, they had arrested Bud Newman and three other men named Frank Gobble, Alex Purviance, and Rollie Shackleford. Purviance and Shackleford each received five years in prison. The results of Frank Gobble’s trial are unknown. But, the lucky Bud Newman was acquitted once again.