Comfort, Texas

Northwest of San Antonio on I-10, Comfort is a community with strong German roots and ties to earlier generations. Settlers were first planning to name the town "gemuetlichkeit," meaning peace, serenity, comfort and happiness. Fortunately, they settled on the name easier-to-pronounce name of Comfort.

Today that name perfectly describes the atmosphere of this hill country community. The streets here are as busy today as they were a century ago, when customers would come in to the local establishments for kerosene, oil, and washboards.

The only difference is that many of these historic structures today house antique shops, restaurants, and bed-and-breakfast inns instead of feed, dry goods, and grocery stores of a century past. The downtown historic district boasts 120 buildings.

Several of those historic buildings make up the Comfort Common, a combination bed-and-breakfast inn and antique cooperative. Travelers watch small-town life from rocking chairs on the wide porches of the two-story inn. Day visitors can shop for antiques in the hotel and in several outbuildings located in the shady back yard.

One of Comfort's most unusual structures is one mile out of town on FM 473. A bat roost, built in 1918, was constructed here in an attempt to control malaria. The roosts were intended to encourage the area's large bat population to remain in the region and feed on disease-spreading mosquitoes. Sixteen such roosts were built in the country, and this is the oldest of the three still known to exist. The bat roost is located on private land, but visitors can pull off the road and read the historic marker located behind private gates.

Although today the atmosphere of this community defines Comfort, at one time things were far from comfortable. This town suffered a massacre of many of its citizens, an event called "the blackest day in the history of the Civil War."

Comfort was first settled in 1854 by German immigrants who were followers of the "Freethinker" philosophy. These settlers felt an intense loyalty to their new country and its commitment to democracy and freedom of religion.

Things went well in the new land until the Civil War broke out, and Texas began to talk of seceding from the Union. The German immigrants strongly opposed secession, both because they were against the institution of slavery and because of their feeling of allegiance to their adopted country.

Some of the German farmers openly backed the Union government, an act that the Confederates considered treasonous. To make matters worse, the local residents of Comfort formed the Union Loyal League to protect themselves from Indian and outlaw attacks. A nervous Confederacy felt that the group might be a serious threat to their government.

Finally, martial law was declared, and the Texas Rangers were sent to order all males over 16 years old to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy. When many refused, farms and homes were burned, and some dissidents were lynched. Some accounts say as many as 150 citizens were killed.

With these mounting troubles and threats to their families, a group of Comfort men decided to leave Texas and head to Mexico where they hoped to join with Union troops and fight for their adopted country. A band of 60 left on August 1, 1862. They did not know that the Confederates had been told of their move by an informant.

The Unionists were followed to the banks of the Nueces River before the attack began. When it was over, nineteen Comfort citizens had been killed in battle. Nine others were captured, but they were later executed by the leader of the Confederates.

On October 18, eight other Unionists were killed while crossing the Rio Grande near the Devil's River. The bodies of these farmers and those killed on the Nueces River were left unburied until the end of the war.

IN 1865 the remains were returned and buried in a mass grave in Comfort. The next year, on August 10, 1866, the first monument in Texas was erected at the gravesite to remember this grim battle. The Treue der Union or True to the Union Monument was a simple obelisk, inscribed with the name of the men who were killed. Outside of National Cemeteries, this remains the only monument to the Union erected in a state south of the Mason-Dixon line.

This monument, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is also noteworthy for another unusual feature. The flag flown here is the thirty-six star American flag, the one flown at the dedication of the monument over 125 years ago. The inscription on the monument also notes that "It is said that only this monument and Arlington National Cemetery are permitted to fly the American flag at half staff the year round."

The Treue der Union Monument is located on High Street, between Third and Fourth Streets.

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