MARCH 15, 2010 1:05PM

Comfort and Welfare - a Texas Road Trip with Pictures

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mighty oak

 Yes indeed, sports fans -  there really and truely is a town called Comfort up in the Hill Country among the oaks and cypress trees, as well as another called Welfare. If I were so inclined, I would make a small joke about, but I believe I will reserve the lame humor for the nearby town of Waring -  which if it had it’s own high school would certainly have a sports team called the “Waring Blenders.” Alas, Waring appears to outsource their students, so there goes a good joke as well as terribly profitable sponsorship deal.

True to the Union monument

Comfort itself is a pretty little town, dating from the 1850s, a little way north of San Antonio, a mile or so off the highway. It's main claim to roadside Texas fame is the True to the Union monument - the only memorial for Civil War-era Unionists existing on formerly Confederate soil, and one of only a half dozen such sites to permanently fly a 36-star American flag at half-mast.  (More about the Civil War in the Texas Hill Country in my archives, here.)

  business in Comfort

(Comfort Antiques Mall - it's... ummm ... bigger inside than it looks)

There had once been a more or less permanent Indian encampment on that spot, convenient to water, to groves of pecan trees and plenty of game. Comfort was established by pretty much the same solid and canny German immigrants who settled throughout the Hill Country, and contributed immeasurably towards the cultural and business life in San Antonio, itself. The founding fathers of Comfort settled on a tract of land where the road between San Antonio and Fredericksburg crosses the Guadalupe River, and set about improving themselves and the land.

Deer in the headlights(Small local joke here - Deer appear in the headlights frequently and unfortunately. A couple of years ago, a neighbor of mine nailed one at the intersection of Nacogdoches and Judson - in the middle of suburbia!)

They built the usual sorts of enterprises and establishments suitable to a frontier town founded by generally forward-thinking and educated settlers – all but one feature. There would be no church in Comfort until late in the 19th century. Those founding members of Comfort included a large proportion of nonconformists and free-thinkers – that is to say, those of a somewhat agnostic and intellectual bent.According to one of the books of local history that I absorbed for the writing of the Adelsverein Trilogy, the very first school met in a little ramshackle log cabin, and the first schoolmaster was too lazy to administer switchings to the bad schoolboys, preferring to throw pebbles at them, instead.

  antique desk

(The oldest item in the Antiques Mall - a desk from the 1840s, a recent addition from a local estate sale. This was manufactured in in East Texas, and brought to the local area by wagon)

 There were several attempts at building water-powered mills at Comfort, and the settlers tried to grow the sort of crops they were accustomed to growing in the Old Country, before realizing that the area was more suited to ranching; of cattle, sheep and goats. Lumber and shingles, pecans and burnt limestone for making mortar and plaster – any and all of that were produced in the Comfort in the early years. Some of the early founding families - the Steves and the Altgelts - eventually migrated to San Antonio, where they built fine houses in the King William district. Another original family, the Stielers, are still around.

  more antiques

 (More antique stuff - I could swear Grannie Jessie had a bowl, painted with orange and yellow leaves, just like the one behind the covered crock with the spigot!)

Presently, Comfort is known for the historic district, centered on half a dozen blocks along High and Main Streets – late 19th century homes and businesses, interspersed with gardens and trees, and sometimes with curious adornments  . . .  like a row of sculptured birds along the store-front.  We spent what seemed like hours, exploring the Comfort Antique Mall – which seemed like an ordinary little store-front on High Street, but went back, and back, and back and back forever, with every nook and corner stuffed with interesting oddments. no parking

 (This building on High Street burned out some five years ago, and the estate of the owner is still figuring out what to do with it. Strictly and geographically speaking, Comfort also is north and east of the Guadalupe River.)

            When in search of something to eat, we were directed to a converted garage, which now houses a bakery-café-bookstore-gifts-and-wine-tasting establishment; it’s called High’s – and the food was original and delicious. No ordinary fast-food this, but home-made soups, and sandwiches, home-made pita chips with hummus and crab-cake – the last of which was assembled tower-fashion, on a foundation of toasted bread. The tables in the café part of High’s were scattered out among the shelves of books and artworks, or we could have eaten outside, on the deep verandah, and just watched the world go by, and while the birds watched you.

        birds    

           

 

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Comments

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What a great photo travelogue!
My mother had one of those bowls. I forget what the pattern is called but it was really popular back in the 40's and 50's.
Is that your Cadillac?
Gads - I knew it looked familiar! Amazingly enough, I am seeing more and more stuff from Granny Jessie's kitchen in the antique stores these days... the hand-cranked rotary beater, the tin measuring cup from the flour company ... and now things like that bowl ... most of which were sold at a yard sale when she prepared to move from the house in Pasadena to the Gold Star Mother home in Long Beach in the late 1970s.
The car in front of the Antique Mall? Is that a Cadillac? No, it's someone elses' car. I drive a twenty year old Accura, the Significant Other has a similarly elderly Accord.
Love the "Deer in the Headlights Theatre" poster. Also the memorial to the Union. I had no idea there was one.
It's the only memorial to Unionists on formerly Confederate soil, B - it was put up to honor 36 Unionists who were trying to escape to Mexico, and got caught up in a pitched battle on the American side of the Nueces River. A certain number of them were murdered, after surrendering - and the Confederate authorities wouldn't allow their families to give them a decent burial. There is a story that one of the Stieler's daughters (who was a sister to one of the dead) managed to sneak into the area, and build a cairn over some of the bodies - but their remains couldn't be given a decent burial until after the war. The community put up this memorial in 1866-67.
It was a very, very bitter Civil War in the Hill Country - and the Nueces fight and aftermath wasn't the worst of it by far.
Adding to the bitterness of the Civil War in Central Texas was the brutality of the Comanche wars, from both sides. It's a beautiful area with a colorful history -- often colored blood red.