Welcome to The Comanche Chief -
a weekly newspaper, established in 1873 when Comanche County (Est. 1856) was at the most western edge of the Texas Frontier. It is the oldest business institution in Comanche County, and it is the oldest newspaper published west of Fort Worth. From the day it was established until today, the primary goals of The Comanche Chief are to be in touch with the life of the community, to chronicle the births and deaths of its citizens, as well as using many lines of type to inform the community of county and city business, social gatherings, school activities, as well as to continue to promote Comanche County as a fine place to live, work, and raise a family.
Geraldo Alonzo Beeman was the first editor of The Chief. He, along with a group of citizens, raised money to purchase a used printing press from a newspaper in Georgetown. He sent Tom Estis to haul the G-Wash press to Comanche in a prairie schooner pulled by two oxen. It was during Beeman’s time as editor that John Wesley Hardin reputed to be a professional gunfighter, killed Deputy Sheriff Charles Webb of Brown County, Texas. A year later, he was apprehended and brought back to Comanche for trial and sentenced to 25 years in prison. The trial was covered extensively by The Comanche Chief, taking up four pages in brevier type (8-point type).
During the first few years, Indian raids continued to be a problem. Citizens realized the town would not prosper and people would not settle in the area as long as there was danger of Indians. The Comanche Chief played a significant role in obtaining the protection of the Texas Rangers in the county. Only one Indian raid occurred after the Rangers arrived.
With the area secured, The Chief entered on an earnest campaign to induce immigration, printing many Special Editions that were mailed all over the country. Within in ten years after the first edition of The Comanche Chief in 1873, the population jumped from 1,100 to 8,600.
In 1877, L. B. Russell, an educated man and talented writer, became editor. In 1878, Russell sold The Chief to R. G. Armstrong, who shortly thereafter sold it to Joe Hill. Joe and his brother Robert T. Hill, who later became famous as a geologist and considered “The Father of Texas Geology.”
In 1883, Sam Vernon (TPA president 1897-98) purchased The Chief, followed by Sidney Thomas (TPA president 1904-05) who purchased it in 1896. Five days later the newspaper office burned, along with much valuable history of Comanche County going up in the flames. It was during the time Thomas was editor that he produced many special editions used to entice settlers to the area. It was said of him, “Sound in his political views, firm in his convictions he was yet charitable and tolerant of the views of others, with the mind of a genius and the soul of a poet, his facile pen flowed with an ease and grace seldom equaled.”
Many changes of ownership of The Chief continued until James Claude Wilkerson purchased The Chief in the early 1920s. The parade of editors through the press doors stopped and offered stability of ownership, making The Comanche Chief almost synonymous with the Wilkerson name. He was a 1912 graduate of the University of Texas, and although he was not a native of Comanche County, you would never have known it. Never has a man loved his town, county, school, church, and its businesses more. He wrote long editorials and quoted lots of Bible verses. As an elderly man, one of his favorite columns was the Sunday School Attendance in each church in Comanche. Since his purchase of The Chief, newspaper was run by his sons James and Bill, his daughter-in-law Mary Smith Wilkerson, and currently since the early 1970s, his grandson, James Claude Wilkerson, III and wife Nancy. In the early 1990s, great-grandson Lance Wilkerson became a part of the business, and since 2014, another great-grandson, Bradley Wilkerson, has joined the staff.
In addition to the Wilkerson family members’ dedication to The Comanche Chief, a long line of loyal, hard-working past staff members contributed to the success of this newspaper. Some of the past staff members, some of which were employed at the newspaper for many decades, and sadly are no longer with us, include Bob Carpenter, John Carpenter, Graig Barrett, Claude George, Edwina Rackely, and Alice Ebell. Another outstanding employee who was one of the best proofreaders The Chief had ever had, was the late Miss Hattie Brightman, retired CHS math teacher. Currently, Odell “Woody” Ormsby, 87, an invaluable printer, who worked with all of the above mentioned employees, has been on the staff of The Comanche Chief for over 75 years.
The Chief has gone through many changes since the first edition in 1873. From the old G-Wash press (hand-set type) hauled to Comanche in a prairie schooner to the Linotype (hot type) in 1920. 1972 saw the introduction of the cold press with the prepared pages physically taken out-of-town to be printed. The Chief’s large printing press was laid to rest. In 1976, Compugraphics were introduced to The Chief and in 1982 The Chief purchased its first computers. Today, computers have greatly simplified the composition of the newspaper. Now, fully paginated , the newspaper uses the latest in graphic programs. After composition each week, including artwork and color photos, it is sent electronically to the printer.
While The Chief has seen many changes, its primary goals remain true to its earliest beginnings. It is dedicated to serving the Comanche area providing readers with a week’s worth of information and enjoyment from hardcore news to interesting local features. It strives to make the City and County of Comanche a safe and prosperous place for families, encouraging settlement and growth in Comanche through a positive approach.