Chipping away at a stucco-covered wall is no fun, but it’s worth the work if a gem of a discovery is waiting to be uncovered.
Clint and Jami Tunnell weren’t looking for a gem when they decided to remove part of the stucco from one wall of a historic building they bought in Comanche in 2019. They knew the building’s history and wanted to renovate it to house their three businesses on the courthouse square in downtown Comanche.
But they had no idea what lay in store once the laborious task of removing decades of dirt, grime, and “improvements” began. “Everything that was historical in the building was covered up,” Clint said.
Even after the stucco removal began, they didn’t know what to expect. But then, slowly, red paint started to show, and then green paint. Before long, a tail appeared. When the chipping ended, an 18 by 18-foot “Blackwell’s Genuine Bull Durham Tobacco” mural, with the famous bull logo, was exposed.
The Blackwell Company of Durham, North Carolina, was among the first to carry out a large-scale outdoor advertising campaign around the country. From the late 1870s through the early 1900s, four teams of painters traveled throughout America constantly painting “Genuine Durham Smoking Tobacco” ads on billboards along highways and on the sides of buildings. The ads consisted of giant illustrations of the bull with either memorable sayings or the price.
The mural has a faded look to it, but that’s not due to age. “They painted those murals to look old,” Clint said.
An interest in the history of Comanche County came naturally to Clint. His family moved into the area in 1853, before the county was organized in 1856. Being somewhat of a history buff, Clint was drawn to the building on Comanche’s historic square. “I always liked the looks of this little building,” he said.
When the mural was painted, most likely between 1892 and 1893, it was on an outside wall that faced a walk-through space. In the 1870s, the building now owned by the Tunnells was home to the Jack Wright Saloon. During construction of a bank building in 1891, the Jack Wright Saloon was torn down and then rebuilt after the bank was completed.
Both the saloon and an infamous patron, outlaw John Wesley Hardin, are featured in the Comanche County Museum, located at 401 Moorman Road. In May 1874, Hardin added another notch to his gun belt when he shot and killed Charles Webb, a deputy sheriff from neighboring Brown County.
The Tunnells discovered the Bull Durham mural in October 2019, but they kept it quiet. The building wasn’t open yet, so no one could see the mural. Then, on New Year’s Eve 2020, Clint decided to take a photo of it and post it on Facebook. It was a secret no more.
“That thing went viral,” Clint said, with more than 200,000 people seeing it within a few days.
The interest today is higher as Clint and Jami have made their building even more compelling for travelers searching for authentic Texas experiences. The couple built a two-story 1890’s replica farmhouse inside the building to serve as their offices and to make clients feel at home while doing business.
The Texas Rural Living Business Group includes three businesses–landscaping and irrigation, insurance, and land and real estate. Clint and Jami discovered that they don’t have to do much to get their business names out to the public.
“The building itself does all our advertising for us,” Clint said.
Texas Rural Living Business Group
The Bull Durham tobacco mural can be seen at any time through glass front of the building.
109 W. Grand St.
Comanche County Museum
401 Moorman Road
Loretta is a freelance writer in Abilene.