BACK IN TIME: Sanco was typical rural community, but that’s not all

EDITOR’S NOTE: Information for this article came from the books “Ghost Towns of Texas” by T. Lindsay Baker, “Comanche Barrier To South Plains Settlement” by Rupert Norval Richardson, “Texas Almanac,” and an article about Sanco, Texas from The Handbook of Texas Online.
SANCO The town of Sanco in northern Coke County was a typical West Texas rural community — there to serve the needs of its residents who were farmers and stockmen until improved roads sealed its fate.
Situated a few miles northwest of the Coke County seat of Robert Lee on what became known as the “Sanco Loop” northeast of Texas Highway 208, the little community grew up around a post office started by John L. Durham in 1888. Writing about the community in an article for “Ghost Towns of Texas,” T. Lindsay Baker stated “about this same time the members of the surrounding rural community erected a meetinghouse which five days a week served as a school and on Sundays housed worship services when a minister was available.”
A general store opened, but some residents “became convinced that the site of their town was not conducive to further growth, they moved it one mile west in 1907 to a location on the south bank of Yellow Wolf Creek.”
Ulmer Bird donated land for the construction of a new school to take the place of two former rural schools. Within a decade, Baker wrote, “Sanco contained a general store, school, Methodist and Baptist churches, cotton gin and blacksmith shop which later became an automobile garage.”
The little town flourished early and then essentially died although at its peak it was home to some 30 families. As Baker stated “drought, boll weevils, and changes in agriculture spelled its demise.” The cotton gin closed in the mid-1920s and the last store closed in the early 1970s.
Yet in earlier times, the area that became Sanco actually had more residents — more Comanche Indians. In fact, Sanco was named for a Comanche chief named Sanaco who camped near its location in the early years before white settlers began moving into the area.
An article in “The Handbook of Texas Online” states that Sanco “was named for the Comanche chief Sanaco who regularly camped there” before white settlement began. While the U.S. government was seeking ways to control the Indians as a means of encouraging Anglo expansion westward, the hardships that the Indians in Texas endured during the 1850s were impossible to deny. As Rupert Norval Richardson wrote in “Comanche Barrier To South Plains Settlement:”
“Meanwhile, the misery and poverty of the Indians increased from year to year, and the problem of restraining them grew proportionately greater. In 1850, chief Katum’se complained to (John H.) Rollins that his people were starving. The game was gone, he stated, and there was no hope for the Indians in trying to learn to farm like the white men when the settlers could come along and drive them away from the place they had chosen to make their home. The next year the same chief said that the Comanches had ‘been driven about for the last seven years,’ and now they wanted a home where they could learn to raise crops.”
Later in that article it was noted that “Near Camp Johnson, on the Concho, in 1852, Horace Capron found some seven hundred Comanches under Katum’se, Sanaco, and other chiefs, ‘suffering with extreme hunger bordering on starvation.’
“In forceful language the chiefs stated their plight. He quoted them as saying:
‘What encouragement have we to attempt the cultivation of the soil, or raising of cattle, so long as we have no permanent home, and in every attempt we have ever made to raise a crop, we have been driven from them before they could mature by the encroachment of the white man.
‘Over this vast country, where for centuries our ancestors roamed in undisputed possession, free and happy, what have we left? The game, our main dependence, is killed and driven off, and we are forced into the most sterile and barren portions of it to starve. We see nothing but extermination left for us, and we await the result with stolid indifference. Give us a country we can call our own, where we may bury our people in quiet.’ ”
The area around where Sanaco often camped in Coke County was a region of rolling hills covered in oak and cedar trees. Deer and turkey were abundant in that region and, according to the Texas Almanac, Comanches roamed the Coke County area from 1700 to the 1870s.
Although many Comanche Indians were on the reservation that had been established, Richardson noted in his book that “the two most influential chiefs, Buffalo Hump, a chronic disturber, and Sanaco, destined to be quite as troublesome, were still at large.”
That spelled trouble for Texas in the latter years of the 19th century.