by Mike Cox
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. The
other, 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 years ago.
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
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 baseball team.
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.
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
Tales" September 14, 2003 Column
Sipe Springs, Comanche County
Springs, Milam County
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