SAN ANTONIO – Have you ever wondered how some South Texas towns got their names? Here are the stories behind Von Ormy and Concan.
Once named Garza’s Crossing, Von Ormy (pronounced Von "Army," not "Ormy") has a history right out of a novel. That history began with the Castle on the Medina, a structure that still exists today. It has had many owners, but its most famous resident only lived there for 18 months in the 1880s.
"Some people count it as the first European court to establish itself in Texas,” said Art Martinez de Vara, a sixth-generation Von Ormian and the town’s first mayor.
Count Norbert Von Ormay, the town’s eventual namesake, was an Austro-Hungarian nobleman. While working in Prussia, Von Ormay discovered his status as a count after his estranged mother passed away, leaving him a fortune. Von Ormay opted to leave Europe and use his money to travel to the United States.
"So he packed up his bags and decided he wanted to move to Texas and be a cattle rancher,” Martinez de Vara said.
More specifically, he chose San Antonio. Von Ormay stayed at the St. Anthony Hotel and showed up with an entourage fit for a king.
"The newspaper said it was a gilded carriage,” Martinez de Vara said. “He had 12 servants."
After Von Ormay placed an ad in the newspaper offering to buy a ranch and cattle, the owner of the property, which would become known as the Castle on the Medina, sold to him. The count only stayed at the home for 18 months before selling and moving to Brazil. Still, the town was enthralled with the story.
"It was such a big sensation that the postmaster changed the name of the town from Garza's Crossing to Von Ormy, actually misspelling it,” Martinez de Vara said. “Ormay is the way the count spelled it.”
The count would later show up in Galveston and was believed to be involved with creating fake medical diplomas.
This sleepy little town along the crystal clear Frio River is a tourist hot spot, not to be confused with Cancun.
"It is beautiful and the river's gorgeous,” said Patsy Cofer, who has lived in Concan for 40 years.
So, how did the town get its name?
"Rumor is, from all the locals, is that it did get its name from a card game called Coon-Can,” Cofer said.
Coon-Can or as those in Mexico know it, Conquian, is a Mexican card game similar to Gin. Early settlers of Concan may have played it here and amazingly the name stuck.