CORSICANA (CBSDFW.COM) – Inside Carmack Watkins’ trophy room, there is a story for every item. But the one story that is most vivid in his mind is the one of a circus elephant named Black Diamond. I went ‘on the road’ to find out the story behind the trophy room and a jealous elephant.
The trophy room is located inside Watkins Construction Company in Corsicana, and is a collection of taxidermy animals from around the world. Watkins said that he grew up hunting rabbits and raccoons around Corsicana when he was just a boy, but the collection didn’t start until he was stationed in Munich, Germany towards the end of World War II. He shot and killed a pheasant and had it stuffed and sent back home. That, he said, was the beginning of his trophy room, which now includes more than 300 specimen. Everything from a large Alaskan grizzly to Cape buffalo.
Watkins tells of hunting trips all over the world as he shows me around the room, but the large Asian elephant head hanging prominently on the back wall is not from one of he and his wife’s many hunting expeditions. It is a circus elephant named Black Diamond. Watkins recalls, as a 5-year-old boy, his dad took him to town to see the circus parade. October 12, 1929, thousands of people showed up to see the elephants walk down Main Street in Corsicana. Carmack’s dad lifted him up onto his shoulders so he could see better, and about that time Black Diamond went berserk and knocked over a car. Then, he pushed his tusks through the windows of another car and pushed it up against some more cars. He said that he remembers hearing a woman in one of the cars screaming. Then, Black Diamond headed behind the cars and tossed a trainer in the air and killed Eva Speed Donohoo.
Donohoo was the fiancé of the elephant’s trainer and had come to see the parade along with everyone else. Many people have rumored that Black Diamond killed Eva Donohoo because the elephant was jealous of her. Watkins believes that the elephant was bothered by all the chains and shackles, and the constant riding in a boxcar.
It turned out that Black Diamond had killed three other people already, and so the decision was made to shoot the elephant and put him down. “When you’re 5 years old and something like that happens, it makes an impression on you,” Watkins said. He never forgot that memory, and years later decided he would try to find Black Diamond. He knew where the elephant had been buried and sent a friend to buy the land. His friend came back and reported that he found the elephant buried two stories under ground, in a museum in Houston. Watkins and the Navarro College had the elephant’s remains moved back to Corsicana, and restored the head to place in the trophy room.
Watkins is proud of his trophy room and the Black Diamond display. It is open to the public during business hours and, if he is around, Watkins will tell you every story behind each and every item in his trophy room. He has never charged anyone to visit. He often has school groups come and he loves to educate the children through the use of his trophies.
It is worth the trip to check out all the cool things that he has — and all the stories that go with them. His company is just off of Interstate-45, south of Corsicana, at 15th Street.
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