her grieving parents wrote her name in their family Bible, noting
the day she died. Once, maybe, a wooden grave marker bore her name.
But all that remains today is a mystery written in concrete: "Who
is the little girl, age 3?"
At the foot of the small grave, located on the northern edge of County
Road 185 in Comanche
County about a mile-and-a-half east of the ghost town of Sipe
Springs, is a more modern granite marker with these additional words:
"Little girl, age 3 died 1870, moving west."
Those eight words sum up just about everything anyone living today
knows about the lonely, rock-bordered grave.
Some say the little girl fell off the wagon and suffered a fatal head
injury. Another story has her dying of disease, which seems more likely.
Her family buried her where she died and then continued their journey.
Local folks at some point started putting flowers on the grave. Then
someone offered a small toy. Over the years that tradition has grown.
the grave is covered with toys, ceramic angels and kittens, coins,
teddy bears, horseshoes, even a gimme cap. Periodically, a self-appointed
local caretaker collects the money left at the grave and writes a
check to the local volunteer fire department, but the toys and other
items remain, fading in the sun.
years after the little girl's death, someone settled at a seeping
spring a short distance west of her grave. The community came to be
called Sipe Springs.
It's pronounced "Seep" Springs, incidentally, not the way it's spelled.
Whether that spelling was accidental or based on a variant acceptable
in the 19th century remains open to discussion.
Unusual as its name is, Texas once had two places called Sipe Springs.
never as big as the
one in Comanche County, was in Milam
County. A hundred years ago, it had a two-teacher school with
three score students, but the school closed due to consolidation in
1931 and within a decade nothing was left of the Milam County community.
Not that all that much is left of the Comanche
County Sipe Springs. One old bank still stands. Someone has recently
restored an old stone house that once stood in ruins. And there's
the Masonic Hall, though it's a new one built when the original structure
burned down not too long ago.
West of the intersection that marks the center of the community are
the ruins of an old saloon. Jerry Morgan, owner of the DeLeon Free
Press, said he found a late 19th century nickel in the vicinity several
For a time in the late teens and early 1920s, a lot of nickels slid
across the bar in and around Sipe
Springs. Though named for water, the town got renewed vitality
from the discovery of another liquid - oil.
Some say Sipe Springs
had 10,000 residents for a time. Children crowded a large community
school. Two banks did a flourishing business, as did numerous stores
and eateries. When not busy earning money, local folks and roughnecks
had entertainment choices ranging from an opera house to a professional
But the shallow oil field played out, and so did Sipe
Springs. The government finally closed the post office in 1957,
but the boom days already were long gone by then.
Though Sipe Springs
has had a minor population spurt from city folks buying country retreats,
for years the only growth going on in Sipe
Springs was at the cemetery.
Land for the cemetery
was donated in 1873, but for some reason, no one moved the little
girl's grave to the site. In 1890, a wooden tabernacle went up and
the number of graves increased over the decades.
A granite marker in that cemetery presents another mystery, though
with a little research into old newspapers, it is still solvable.
Photographs of a teenage boy and his sister are set into the stone,
which reads simply "Brother" and "Sister." On another stone is inscribed
"Marion Wayne Mote 1922-1937" and "Patty Mote 1925-1937."
The story left untold is this line on their gravestone: "Happy and
gay, to school they went one day....They are not dead, just away."
© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" September
14, 2003 Column
Sipe Springs, Comanche County
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