Del Rio to Sanderson on the Pecos Trail

Train Robbery

Train Robbery

Two years later, he and three other men including Pierce Keaton and brothers, Bill and Jeff Taylor, attempted to rob another train on June 9, 1898, about four miles west of Santa Anna, Texas. This time; however, a gunfight erupted in which railroad fireman, Lee Johnson was killed, Newman was shot in the arm, and a Keaton took a shot in the right leg. Fleeing the scene, the outlaws were pursued and quickly apprehended. Used to getting off Scot-free, Newman agreed to testify for the state. However, Bill Taylor managed to escape. In August 1900, he tracked Newman down and killed him.

By 1901, a public school had been established in Comstock with one teacher and about 89 students. Though growth was steady over the next several decades, it was slow. In 1914, the Deaton Stage Line ended its service to Comstock due to the advent of the automobile, and the depot was soon closed as well.

In 1925, Comstock had a population of about 200 people. By 1931, it boasted ten businesses. During the Great Depression, the number of businesses was reduced to just eight, but, the town grew once again during World War II.

At that time, it had 15 businesses and a population of about 400 people. Afterwards, the population dropped to 300 by 1950. Slow growth has been seen since that time, with a population in 2000 of about 375 people.

Seminole Canyon State Park:

Seminole Canyon Rock Art

Rock art at Seminole Canyon State Park, Kathy Weiser, February, 2011.

About ten miles northwest of Comstock is Seminole Canyon State Park. The historic site, sitting on more than 2,000 acres, displays jagged canyons cut through the Chihuahuan Desert where the Pecos River flows into the Rio Grande River. The area has been inhabited by humans for some 12,000 years, who lived in natural rock shelters carved into the canyon walls. Thousands of years later, another culture called the “Archaic people” lived in the dry rock shelters, leaving their mark on the environment through some 200 rock paintings throughout the area. The park contains some of the most outstanding examples not only in Texas but in the world. Extensive pictographs of the Lower Pecos River Style, attributed to the Middle Archaic period of 4,000 years ago, adorn rock shelters throughout its canyons. See more HERE!

A couple more miles down the road is the Pecos River Crossing with fantastic views of the Pecos River.

Pecos River:

Pecos River Map

Map of the Rio Grande watershed, showing the Pecos River flowing through east New Mexico and west Texas, joining the Rio Grande River near Del Rio, Texas. Photo courtesy Wikipedia. Click to enlarge

Properly pronounced “pay-cuss,” the headwaters of the Pecos River are located north of Pecos, New Mexico, at an elevation of over 12,000 feet on the western slope of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in Mora County. The river then flows for 926 miles through the eastern portion of New Mexico and through neighboring Texas before it empties into the Rio Grande near Del Rio. The river was named “Pecos” by the Spanish from the Keresan name of the Pecos Pueblo.

The river played a large role in the exploration of Texas by the Spanish. In the latter half of the 19th century, “West of the Pecos” was a reference to the rugged frontiers of the Wild West.

The earliest-known settlers along the river were the Pecos Pueblo Indians, who arrived about A.D. 800. Supposedly the first European to cross the river was Francisco Vazquez de Coronado, who reached the area in 1541. In 1583 Antonio de Espejo called the river the Río de las Vacas, meaning “river of the cows” because of the number of buffalo in the vicinity. Spanish explorer and colonist Gaspar Castano de Sosa, who followed the Pecos northward, called it the Río Salado because of its salty taste, which caused it to be shunned by men and animals alike. To Mexicans the river was long known as the Río Puerco, meaning “dirty river”. The earliest European settlement was founded in about 1636 at San Miguel del Bado in the upper valley of the Pecos in New Mexico. With the Anglo-American occupation of Texas, the middle and upper Pecos Valley became the chief western cattle trail to the north, as well as the site of several famous cattle ranches.

A small church group settled at St. Gall, Texas, in 1845, and Fort Lancaster was built near the river in 1855. Except for settlement around the fort, the earliest Anglo settlement in Texas on the river was Pecos, founded in 1881 when the Texas and Pacific Railway crossed West Texas.

Noted for its mineral thick waters and sudden floods, the Pecos River snakes through Texas on its way to the Rio Grande River. Storytellers have long likened the river and the arid land along it, to hell, death, and violence. A natural border for several counties, the Pecos is where the mythic Wild West begins, the land that produced the Legendary Judge Roy Bean and the fabled Pecos Bill. There are other scattered, disconnected bits and pieces of folklore strewn up and down the river, including it becoming a haven for outlaws following the Civil War. This became so much so that the word became a verb in folk speech, meaning: to “pecos” someone was to kill him and roll the body down into the river.

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