Home on the Range
Now, read the "Anthony Lake" newspaper as account published in 1933
From THE COMANCHE CHIEF
, February 3, 1933
In the gay 90's, Fleming's Lake, situated in the northwestern part of Comanche meant almost as much to Comanche as Lake Worth does to Fort Worth today, according to old timers who assert that it was one of the show places of West Texas. Whenever a traveler in those pre-automobile days chanced to come by Comanche, he seldom failed to visit Fleming's Lake, it is said. Indeed, Comanche, among some of the West Texas sportsmen was known as the home of Fleming's Lake.
The Lake, now known as Anthony's Lake, has had at least two other names. In about 1903 Mr. Fleming sold the property to A. S. Harris and for five years it was known as the Harris Lake. June 11, 1908, Mr. Harris sold the property to the Comanche Country Club and for the next twelve years it was known as "Club Lake." Mr. Anthony purchased the property in 1920.
M. V. (Uncle Mart) Fleming, pioneer citizen of Comanche County, prior to his death in the city in 1928, came to the county in 1872 from Brenham, Miss Camille Fleming, his only daughter, said Saturday when interviewed at the old homestead in Comanche, for some data on the history of the Lake. "Father was always of an adventurous nature," Miss Fleming said, "and his love of doing things prompted him, about 1890, to construct for Comanche a lake second to none in this section of West Texas at that time. The site of the lake was purchased by Mr. Fleming from the widow of Dr. J. D. Wright, under whose name the northwest addition of Comanche is now known in most deeds and abstract papers.
Mr. Fleming probably selected the site because its natural beauty appealed to him, Miss Camille said. All old timers in Comanche remember Mr. Fleming's fondness for trees and streams. In 1854, when Mr. Fleming was a mere lad and forty five years before the construction of Fleming's Lake and nearly eighteen years before he moved to the county, he with his father visited what is now Comanche and fell in love with the place which was then just an oak grove. It was in the summer of that year when he slept under the now famous oak tree still standing on the Court House square. Many have heard the story of how many years afterwards when the Court House square was being paved at Comanche, the tree was ordered to be cut down. Uncle Mart took his stand under the tree and defied any one to touch it, saying that the land mark of the early days should be preserved.
Many such trees surrounded the spot through which a small creek ran where Mr. Fleming selected to locate his lake. Workmen were hired to throw a dam across the stream and within a short time a five or six acre lake was completed and Comanche was ready to celebrate. Soon the new lake was the recreation center of the city and surrounding country. Boys and men for miles around came to go swimming "a la-nature" before the advent of the modern bathing suits in Comanche. Uncle Mart hauled fish from Indian Creek which was then well stocked and from the Leon River and soon a few of the fishermen began to get nibbles at the new lake and several boats were later placed on the body of water.
Not neglecting the commercial value of his new project, Mr. Fleming prepared a garden spot below the dam at the lake and installed pipes for irrigation and within a short time was growing vegetables to sell. A Mr. White was hired by Uncle Mart as gardener and caretaker of the lake and a small residence was erected on the 20 acre plot for his family.
A tragedy occurred at the lake while Mr. Fleming was the owner. Sam Tannehill, a young Comanche man who could not swim, fell off some steps which led into deep water and his companions who were small boys were unable to rescue him. The youths rushed to town for aid and Uncle Mart was one of the firsts whom they met. He hurried to the lake in company with Jim Cunningham and on the first dive located the body, but when it was brought to the surface all efforts to revive the young man failed.
An island which still stands in the water was one of the beauty spots of the lake at that time and a favorite gathering place for young couples who went boating.
Fleming's Lake in the 90's was the scene of many baptizings and scores of people received the sacred rites in its waters before the modern churches were constructed with their indoor baptisteries. The Baptist Church at Comanche at that time was located where the Edwards Wagon Yard now is and most of the ordinances of baptism were performed at the lake. One baptizing took place after a revival held by Rev. M. M. Martin of Waco. This revival is still talked of by old timers. A few years later another great baptizing was held at the conclusion of a tent meeting held for the Baptists by Rev. Sid William's, which is said to have been one of the greatest revivals ever held in Comanche.
In September, 1896, a water spout and a near flood threw terror among the citizens who lived in the northwest section of Comanche when the news was spread throughout the city that there was danger of Fleming's dam breaking and flooding that part of the city.
A Democratic Rally, was in progress in a grove near where the home of J. E. Chilton now stands and the late M. M. Crane, candidate for Attorney General, and the late S. W. T. Lanham, candidate for Congress, were addressing the crowd when the down pour started. The political meeting was adjourned to the court house, but the rain continued to come down in torrents. Indian Creek left its bed below where the blue Gin now is and spread over the South part of Comanche up to the Frisco Railway track and the women and children were hauled out of South Comanche in wagons and floats. A break in the Fleming dam was averted when a group of men under the direction of Floyd Carpenter were hired to cut a hole in the upper part of the dam and the surplus water allowed to escape gradually.
In 1903 Mr. Fleming needed some money, and as much as he regretted to part with one of his favored projects, sold the property to A. S. Harris, Comanche merchant. Five years later Mr. Harris sold the lake to the Comanche Country Club and for the next twelve years it was known as "Club Lake" and was the picnic center of Comanche then, even more than Lake Eanes is today.
Comanche, in 1908, was just about to reach the zenith of its growth, new houses were being erected in all sections of the town, but the Wright Addition in Northwest Comanche was the most popular residential section. Here some of the best and finest homes were being erected. Just on the outer edge of the addition was Club Lake, an ideal location for a play ground for Comanche men of two decades ago who were able to make a living, accumulate a little, and still have time to play. Cotton production was at its height in the county at the time, averaging around 45,000 bales annually and Comanche yards alone handled over 30,000 bales. Businessmen here thought little of paying $100 per share in Comanche's new Country Club. Sixty stockholders took one or more shares and soon the club was underway. Hilton Burks was President and Jerome P. Kearby, Secretary. Later E. E. Anthony was elected Secretary.
Fishing, boating, and swimming, with picnic lunches, were the chief diversions at the lake for members. Catching fish with a hook and line was too slow when a big fish fry was planned. It was decided that the lake needed cleaning out and the dam was cut and enough fish caught and fried to feed nearly all Comanche it was stated. Some thought the frolic was worth the price even if the dam had to be repaired at much expense and broke several times before it was rebuilt and enlarged when E. E. Anthony bought the property in 1920.
Club Lake grounds became the scene of many picnics and gatherings of old settlers at which the crowds were amused by such sports as foot and sack races, and Merry-go-rounds. On one occasion one of Comanche's citizens had a profitable day at the picnic, by taking couples riding from the Lake grounds to town and back in his new auto which was then a novelty in Comanche. The price charged was twenty-five cents per round trip.
A pavilion was built near the lake for band concerts, public speaking and other indoor gatherings.
Visions of a Greater Comanche extending beyond Club Lake to the West was the ambition of some of the citizens and J. B. Chilton was persuaded to divide some of his pasture land and have a plat surveyed into lots and streets. A public sale was held and the lots found ready buyers.
When E. E. Anthony purchased the property in 1920, he enlarged a rebuilt the dam, increasing the water surface to approximately eight acres. New bath houses were erected and equipment added for a modern swimming pool.
For the last few years Lake Anthony has been restricted to private use, but is still one of the largest artificial bodies of water other than Lake Eanes in the County. It is well supplied with fish and is almost a resort for wild ducks.
Mr. Anthony has acquired additional acreage around the lake within the past few years, and now has an almost ideal small ranch within the city limits of Comanche.
The newspaper article, above, was found in a scrapbook after the death of Boyd H. Anthony in 1996. Since I grew up living within easy walking distance to this lake I was most interested in this article. I spent many hours at the lake and always wondered about its history. Dad told me some things but, of course, I forgot many of the facts. I knew that the rock structure on the West side of the dam was the women's dressing room at one time. I knew that the men's dressing room was on the East side of the lake but only stones remained in the mud at this location. I knew the lake was used for many baptizings and revivals. The "pavilion" that was built on the site was the tin roof structure Mr. and Mrs. E. E. Anthony (my grandparents) built their home under. I was always fascinated by this structure. From the sitting room and living room, there was a greater-than-normal-step-up to enter two bedrooms located on the South side of their home. This was the "stage" area of the pavilion and was complete with carved initials and names in the wooden floor.
Dad told me that when the Comanche Indians made their last raid on Comanche, they gathered under the grove of Oak trees on the West side of the lake near the dam. The trees still stand. When the Comanche Indians made their last raid on Comanche, the lake was not in existence. He said many arrowheads had been found around and under the Oaks through the years of its development and use as Club Lake.