History of Neal's Lodges: A Timeless Tradition
Historic Neal's Lodges was founded in 1926 by local rancher Tom Neal and his wife, Vida Thrift Neal. During the early days, Tom, with the help of his father-in-law, built the cabins, the dining room and much of the furniture. Tom managed the cabins, traded in furs, had racehorses and served as the Concan Postmaster. Vida was "chief cook and bottle washer", as well as storekeeper. In addition to these activities, she fried up the chicken and prepared homemade ice cream for the guests each Sunday.
As city folk looked for getaways, Concan drew the attention of those looking for the quiet life of the "olden days" - no phones, no radios, no newspapers, no outside world worries. Often guests would stay a week, a month, or a whole summer. Some would bring their maids, butlers, and nannies to assist in the pursuit of a carefree holiday. Horseback rides, swimming, and serene walks were the order of the day. The Neal's daughters, Billie and Mary Tom grew up helping with the camp and rounding up goats.
The years brought few changes in amenities. Cabins grew in number to 21 by 1953, despite floods which seemed intent on destroying them. Summer girls camps, dance camps, horse races, and Saturday night dances with live bands were held during the years. All served to bring folks back again and again. From time to time the old "shut in camp" received a bit of publicity in city newspapers, but for the most part Concan and Neal's Vacation Lodges remained a well-kept secret.
Tom Neal passed away in 1954. Vida (or Mimi as many knew her) continued on with the summer-only cabin rentals. She maintained the grocery store and served as Postmaster during the quiet winter months. Life remained slow paced and peaceful. In the early 1970's, when more money and leisure time were available, people began to seek out destinations to "get away from it all". Statewide attention was given to the "best little swimming hole in Texas" when Texas Highways saw fit to put pictures on it's cover of the deep hole and large rocks which make Neal's swimming hole memorable. The cool, clear, spring-fed water became a magnet to those wanting to escape the city heat. Cars began heading to the hills and the secret of Concan was a secret no more!
John and Mary Tom (Neal) Buchanan took over the running of the camp in the 1970's during which time the number of cabins grew to 61. Tubing, hayrides, and horse rides added to the summer attractions.
Neal's Lodges was then run by Mary Anna and Rodger Roosa and John and Carol Graves. Mary Anna and John are two of the nine Neal grandchildren. Today, Neal's is operated by a new family intent on keeping the tradition alive. Cody & Yvonne Davenport have brought back the feel of the early days music by offering music and family friendly dances at "Joe Jimmy's" . Horseback rides and Hay Rides were added in 2012 at the Neal Ranch just over a mile from the Frio.
Newcomers arrive from all over the United States to visit Concan now in order to view the rare birds which nest in the area. Clinics in china painting are held yearly in the Spring. Hunters stay in the cabins and roam the hills during Fall and Winter looking for white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and feral hogs. Fall foliage tours also find their way to Concan. Though progress may now surround Neal's, the cabins and quaint dining room at Neal's remain as rustic as in the early days. "Life in the olden days" can still be found for one's family. Neal's is truly an historic destination for generations to come.