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COMETA, TX

COMETA, TEXAS. Cometa is at the intersection of Farm roads 2691 and 393, ten miles west of Crystal City in far southwestern Zavala County. The Cometa area was the location of prehistoric Indian encampments and Spanish campsites; one such campsite was called the Loma de Cometas by Spanish transportation agents. With spring water, a large natural lake, free-roaming cattle, and fertile soil, land in the Cometa area was much sought after immediately after the Civil War. Part of the site was bought by people interested in establishing a commune. The first families to settle the area permanently were Grey (Doc) White and the Vivian family around 1867. They were joined by the Ramón Sánchez and Galván families in 1870 and by J. Fisher in 1871. Cattlemen ranched the Cometa area throughout the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Around 1885 T. A. Coleman established his ranch headquarters on Cometa hill and hired Charles Lindenborn as foreman. The ranch brand was in the shape of a comet, called cometa by the Mexican ranchhands. The county's first schoolhouse was constructed by teacher George Herman in 1885 near Cometa; twenty-five students attended that year. The schoolhouse also served the community as church and community center. Methodists, Baptists, and members of the Church of Christ used the facility. In the early 1890s Coleman constructed a building that served as the general store and later the post office. The Vivian Cemetery was established in the community sometime near the turn of the century.

By 1900, 16 percent of Zavala County's population resided in the Cometa area. A post office was established in the community in 1905 with B. H. Erskine as postmaster. At that time Cometa farmers used artesian wells to irrigate small farms that produced watermelons, pumpkins, and tomatoes. Although harvests were bountiful, Cometa's farmers discovered that their produce spoiled in transit by oxcart and mulewagons to distant markets such as Eagle Pass.

In the early 1900s Thomas Edison and later the Edison Institute contracted with several Cometa farmers to grow experimental crops, including soybeans and guayule for use in the manufacture of various rubbers and plastics. The area was replete with registered and purebred stock, including Durham cattle, Duroc Jersey hogs, Hampshires, brown Leghorn chickens, thoroughbreds, and quarter horses. By 1920, however, Cometa was declining; the post office was discontinued in 1919, and the general store closed several years later. Nonetheless, local prosperity during the Great Depression enabled farmers to donate fresh vegetables and corn to a growing number of migrants moving to the area from northern states. In 1942 the schoolhouse was closed. That same year Cometa had several irrigated and dry-land farms; although some vegetables were raised, most farmers produced oats for cattle grazing. By 1946 Cometa was a rambling community of farms and ranches with an estimated population of 100. In the 1980s Cometa's farmers contended with a rapidly falling water table. Vegetables and exotic crops were cultivated on only 500 acres in the area. The springs at Pendencia Creek had dried up in 1926. In 1988 the area was largely abandoned except for a scattering of small farms and the Vivian Cemetery. In 2000 the population was ten.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Florence Fenley, Old Timers of Southwest Texas (Uvalde, Texas: Hornby, 1957). R. C. Tate, History of Zavala County (M.A. thesis, Southwest Texas State Teachers College, 1942). Zavala County Historical Commission, Now and Then in Zavala County (Crystal City, Texas, 1985).

Ruben E. Ochoa

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Ruben E. Ochoa, "COMETA, TX," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hrc83), accessed April 16, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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