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Present Day Past

Marking history in Comanche

I came across my first Comanche historical marker outside the McCrary House, a circa-1879 structure that now serves as the tasting room for Brennan Vineyards. The marker reports that James Madison McCrary arrived in Comanche about 1872 and used limestone quarried near Austin to build the home.

In 2000, Fort Worth doctor Pat Brennan and his wife, Trellise, bought the house and soon purchased an adjacent 33 acres.

“We had no idea what to do with it and thought of a hundred things,” Pat Brennan recalls. After consulting with fellow doctor Richard Becker, who operates Becker Vineyards near Fredericksburg, and analyzing the soil and water, he decided to plant grapes then open a winery.

Brennan Vineyards now makes 16 wines. At the prestigious San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, Brennan’s 2015 Reserve Viognier won Best of Class 2017, the latest on a long list of awards.

Tastings include a choice of six wines for $10 or are complimentary with the purchase of two bottles. Lingering is encouraged. I sampled the viognier as well as a roussanne and a tempranillo. Between sips, I nibbled on Texas Star cheese from Veldhuizen Cheese Shoppe in nearby Dublin.

Historical markers sprout like wildflowers around Comanche’s square, referencing a hand-dug well from 1859; an enormous oak tree that sheltered a local boy in 1854; geologist Robert Thomas Hill, who named the Balcones Escarpment; and noted American quarter horse Royal King. Three courthouses have graced the square. The current one is a three-story limestone building in the art deco style, dedicated in 1941.

Shops scatter around the square, some of them in buildings with their own markers. A recent addition, Harvest Restaurant, serves lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Owner and chef Todd Sanders incorporates local, seasonal ingredients into the menu. My grilled Texas quail, served with stone fruit honey barbecue sauce, was tender with just a hint of sweetness. Other choices include prime rib, pork tenderloin and flounder.

For breakfast, locals flock to Rockin’ J’s Restaurant, in an old (but not historic) gas station convenience store east of downtown, where cowhides, deer heads and antlers cover the wood-paneled walls. My Hungry Women breakfast of coffee, two eggs, two slices of bacon, a pancake and country potatoes set me back about $7.

Just a few blocks closer to the square and open for 27 years—almost historic in restaurant terms—Miguel’s Restaurant serves lunch and dinner salads, enchiladas, burgers and specials such as tamales wrapped in tortillas then deep-fried, and chicken-fried steak topped with queso.

Even though markers provide tastes of local history, the Comanche County Historical Museum serves the whole enchilada. The grounds house remnants of a one-room schoolhouse, dinosaur tracks, petrified tree trunks and old tombstones. Inside, rooms bulge with historic memorabilia—clothes, photos, furniture, wagons, fossils and books. There are several fully furnished schoolrooms, cases full of arrowheads and, of course, historical markers.

Northeast of town, Proctor Lake touches four parks maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Promontory Park and Copperas Creek Park are accessible from State Highway 16. Promontory Park offers a fishing pier and picnic areas among its wooded hills, and Copperas Creek sports a boat ramp and opportunities to fish from the shore. The attendant at the gate reported folks were “catching crappie like crazy” on the day of my visit.

The road to Promontory winds through pecan groves. Sorrells Farms operates a store in town, selling flavored pecans, candies and fudge—as well as a variety of casseroles including King Ranch chicken.

Pair one of those casseroles with a bottle of Brennan’s Buffalo Roam, a smooth, smoky red wine, for a meal worthy of its own historical marker.

Read more of Melissa Gaskill’s writing at