| Comanche, Texas
Robert Thomas Hill,
"Dean of Texas Geology"
by Margaret Waring
courtesy Cornell University Library
in Nashville, Tennessee, on August 11, 1858, Robert T. Hill was orphaned
before the Civil War ended and he spent a miserable youth in the care
of very strict elderly relatives. Joe Hill, Robert's brother, ran
away from home and became a printer at Comanche
where he wrote back asking Robert to join him. In 1874, at age sixteen,
Hill says that he got to Waco
and came to Comanche riding with kindly
freighters and walking the last of the way. He arrived to a warm welcome
in the midst of the Christmas night dance in 1874 and always regarded
the little town as home afterward.
Thomas Hill Historical Marker in Comanche
Comanche years, Joe and Robert Hill
owned the local newspaper, the Comanche Chief, for a year
or so. Ownership including doing everything from selling ads and
writing, setting type and printing, to stoking the stove and sweeping
up. Hill's home was often a pallet in the back of the shop and he
never forgot his "briar breaker" associates, old time Comancheans.
Among his favorites were T. J. and Lucy Nabers who ran a boarding
house. Even years later, Hill recalled the venison and wild turkey
that graced their table.
Hill made one trip up the trail in 1877 with J. M. Holmsley's herd.
It probably was the most memorable event of his youthful years at
Comanche. His friendship with Holmsley's
widow, Araminta, lasted throughout the rest of her life. They visited
in Comanche any time he could get
In free moments, Hill wandered the area near Comanche
studying geological features. He had a copy of the 1880 edition
of Dana's Manual of Geology and began studying a butte about
eight miles northwest of Comanche
locally known as Round Mountain. There a layer of fossils
suggested that the land had once been part of an ancient ocean floor.
He tried to fit the strata he observed into Dana's classification
scheme but it did not work. He soon realized he was dealing with
something not yet described in science. His life long career in
geological study had begun. Locals made fun of Hill's interest and
took the fossil specimens he displayed in the newspaper office window
to throw at hogs wandering the town's streets.
To shorten a long story, Hill boarded the stage at Comanche
on February 28, 1882 wearing his old jeans and taking a trunk full
of the rocks and fossils he had collected. His destination was Cornell
University where he would study and graduate, defend his theory,
and change earlier ideas in geological science forever. The Comanche
days were ended.
Dr. Robert T. Hill's long and colorful life is well recounted in
Dr. Nancy Alexander's biography. Her dissertation was published
by Southern Methodist University Press in 1976 as Father of Texas
Geology, Robert T. Hill.
At the end, Comanche was relevant
for Hill again as he asked that his ashes be scattered on his beloved
Round Mountain. Hill died on July 28, 1941 and a private
ceremony was held atop Round Mountain on Sunday afternoon, October
26. A small group of invited guests climbed to the summit where
there were remarks by some of Hill's distinguished colleagues in
the field of geology. His ashes were scattered by James B. Nabers
who had worked with him at the Comanche Chief in its early
years. Quoting from the remarks of Dr. Ellis Shuler:
"Frankly, it seemed to me that it was merely a passing fancy
of an old man and yet I felt it was a pledge that we could not leave
unredeemed." Near the top of the mountain Shuler stopped to rest
and beheld the "breathless view . . . and as I sat on a ledge of
rock . . . it all flashed over me that Round Mountain was Hill's
mount of inspiration."
© Margaret T. Waring 2003
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