Wednesday, April 15, 2015

WTHA 2015

"Lone Star Historian 2" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas during his second year. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College (www.panola.edu) in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published over 40 books, almost half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine. In 2013 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by his alma mater, Texas A&M University - Commerce. 

Early-Bird  Dinner at Youngblood's
Members of the West Texas Historical Association enjoyed an outstanding meeting in Amarillo, the 92nd Annual Conference. The official meeting dates were Friday and Saturday, April 10 and 11. But Robert Hall, a master organizer of historical field trips, set up attractive journeys both before and after the official events. Indeed, on Wednesday afternoon Robert led a “Mini Tour” that included the Panhandle-Plains Museum and spectacular Palo Duro Canyon. On Thursday morning Robert and 35 “early birds” boarded a bus for a day-long journey. Thursday’s adventures began at the Alibates Flint Quarry National Monument, followed by the Hutchinson Country Museum, the Square Horse Museum in the town of Panhandle, and – highlight of a superb day – the site of the 1874 Battle of Adobe Walls, located on private property but arranged by the indefatigable Robert Hall. 
WTHA Board meeting



Past president Marisue Potts presenting to a SRO crowd of 50
On Thursday evening there was a lively reception at the Staybridge Inn and Suites, after which a large crowd assembled at Youngblood’s CafĂ© for what has become a traditional “Early Bird Dinner.” More than 100 of us enjoyed a delicious supper, the first of a series of fine meals catered for us by Youngblood’s. Lynn Hopkins of the Hutchinson County Museum showed us the brief but historic black and white film, “The 1941 Native American Return to Adobe Walls to Honor Fallen Braves.” Afterward, as current president of the WTHA, I conducted a meeting of our board.


Paul Matney and Tai Kreidler

On Friday morning we gathered at Dutton Hall on the campus of Amarillo College. Dr. Paul Matney, an Amarillo native who recently retired after 35 years at Amarillo College as faculty member, administrator, and president, made arrangements for us to hold Friday and Saturday sessions on campus, along with Friday’s Women’s History Luncheon and Saturday’s Awards and Business Lunch. Dr. Matney extended a formal welcome to us, and he was present throughout Friday and Saturday, attentive to any need we might have. 
With Robert Hall and Lynn Whitfield at Registration Table

In the same manner, Dr. and Mrs. Garry Nall of Amarillo were co-chairs of the Local Arrangements Committee. Gary is an Emeritus Professor of History at West Texas A&M University, and a Lifetime Board Member of the WTHA. His charming and gracious wife, Annette, is a consummate hostess. Annette was at every event, working quietly but constantly for the convenience of everyone. Many people noticed and thanked Annette for her many courtesies. She responded to me with a smile and typical grace: “If people have a wonderful time at a party or event, it’s because the people who attend are wonderful!” 
The 1905 Bivins House


Bill and Karon in the main hall
Friday morning and afternoon were filled with informative and exciting presentations. In addition to numerous sessions featuring WTHA members, there were joint sessions with the East Texas Historical Association, the South Texas Historical Association, the Center for Big Bend Studies, and the Wichita Falls Chapter of Westerners International.


Reception in the Bivins dining room
On Friday evening we gathered at the historic Bivins House, a massive 1905 mansion erected by rancher, oil man, and Amarillo mayor Lee Bivins. The reception honoring the WTHA president featured excellent food and self-guided tours of this impressive old home. We next moved three blocks to the dining hall of the Polk Street Methodist Church (home church of Annette and Garry Nall). It was my pleasure to introduce our after-dinner speaker, retired lawyer and district attorney Bill Neal. Since Bill’s retirement from his legal career, he has authored five books on the flamboyant lawyers and colorful trials of the Texas frontier. A delightful public speaker, Bill regaled us on the topic, “Courtroom Gladiators of Yesteryear: Tales of Those Audacious Frontier Lawyers.” The last event of the evening was the announcement of a support connection by the WTHA with the Quanah Parker Trail Project. This 52-county historical project about Comanche sites may be explored on their website. Numerous QPT representatives, including descendants of Quanah Parker, were present and were appreciative. 
Friday night dinner crowd at Polk Street Methodist Church

Saturday morning began with one of the highlights of the 2015 meeting. Everyone assembled in the original auditorium of Amarillo College, in Ordway Hall, for a session entitled: “A Prof’s Prof: A Timely Tribute to Paul Howard Carlson and His Versatile Body of Work.” Dr. Carlson is a retired professor from Texas Tech, a master teacher and a prolific author who long has been a mainstay of the WTHA. His former colleague, David Murrah, chaired the session, and former students of Carlson presented programs: Susan Dickey, “Paul Carlson: The Young Teacher and Military Historian”; Leland Turner, “Paul Carlson: Ranching Historian”; Scott Sosebee, “Paul Carlson: Native American Historian”; and Monte Monroe, “Paul Carlson: Editor and Mentor.” These presentations featured personal anecdotes, and Paul delivered an emotional response. 
Introducing Friday night speaker Bill Neal


Bill ("Period") Neal
QPT Arrow at Quanah
Our final official event was the Saturday Awards and Business Lunch. The Rupert Norvel Richardson Award for the Best Book in West Texas History was presented to Alvin Lynn of Amarillo for Kit Carson and the First Battle of Adobe Walls, published by Texas Tech University Press. We welcomed three new WTHA Fellows – Suzanne Campbell of San Angelo, Sylvia Mahoney of Fort Worth, and Travis Roberts of Marathon. 

Chief Quanah descendant Bruce Parker
Our new president, Dr. Diana Hinton, provided me with a gracious introduction, and my presidential address was entitled. “West Texas: Laboratory and Playground for Historians.” Afterward, President Hinton announced next year’s annual meeting: April 8 and 9 in Abilene.
Shortly after we adjourned, Robert Hall began a final field trip, scheduled to conclude at the restored Charles Goodnight House and Visitor Center in the little community named for the legendary cattleman. But Robert already is planning 2016 field trips around Abilene, starting with a tour of frontier forts. Come and join us next April! 
QPT principals


Presenters at Paul Carlson tribute: (l to r)
Monte Monroe, Scott Sosebee, Leland Turner,
David Murrah, Susan Dickey
Bill and former State Historian Light Cummins
with student attendees and past president Keith Owens
Saturday lunch crowd
Paul Carlson presenting new WTHA Fellows:
Suzanne Campbell, Sylvia Mahoney, and Travis Roberts

Delivering 2015 presidential address
For more information:  http://swco.ttu.edu/WestTexas/ 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Winters

"Lone Star Historian 2" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas during his second year. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College (www.panola.edu) in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published over 40 books, almost half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine. In 2013 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by his alma mater, Texas A&M University - Commerce. 

Rock Hotel, with Randall Conner on the porch


For the last weekend in February, I was invited to come to Winters for the celebration of the town’s 125th anniversary. On Saturday morning a historical marker would be unveiled, and that evening the annual Chamber of Commerce Banquet would be held. My invitation came from Winters native Randall Conner, prominent in the field of agriculture and community leadership, who first asked me to deliver brief remarks at the unveiling. Soon, however, Randall called back with word that the Chamber wanted me to provide a more fully developed address for the Banquet. I was pleased with the assignment, and I went to work to put together an entertaining version of the rich history of the West Texas community.


Uniform of the Winters Brass Band
My trip to Winters coincided with a massive ice storm which spread across a vast expanse of Texas. On Friday I drove from Carthage to Waco to Gatesville. My drive was just south of the ice, but by the time I reached Gatesville a light precipitation was turning nasty. I spent the night in Gatesville, and on Saturday morning everything had a light coating of ice. Randall called to inform me that conditions were so bad in Winters that the ten o’clock marker ceremony had been postponed until Sunday afternoon. He advised me to delay my departure, but the afternoon temperatures were to rise above freezing and clear roads and bridges. I took my time and maneuvered to Winters by early afternoon. Randall met me, took me to a guest house, then put me in his pickup for a tour of Winters. 

Drmmers House

I had driven through Winters on other occasions, but a month before my scheduled appearance, I spent a couple of hours in town while on a trip to Lubbock. My orientation self-tour was late in the day, so I was unable to do more than peer in the windows of a cluster of museum buildings. Happily for me, Randall Conner was instrumental in the development of each of these historical centers, and he opened and guided me through each building. The 1909 Rock Hotel Heritage Center is superb. It was built when a railroad finally came through Winters, and hosted travelers for decades. Adjacent to the hotel is a one-room Drummers House, where traveling salesmen could display their wares. More than $300,000 was raised to restore the Rock Hotel, and it is a handsome repository of local history, as well as a center for community events. 

Across the street to the east is another excellent facility, the two-story Z.I. Hale Museum. This donated building long was a medical clinic, and like the Rock Hotel it features room after room of local heritage. Across Dale Street to the south of the Hale Museum is the Gus Pruser Ag Exhibit. Housed in a large one-time commercial building, this exhibit of agricultural equipment and antique machinery is most impressive. One night each month experienced farmers and mechanics gather to perform, restoration work, and various venerable vehicles appear in parades. 


Another historic structure is the log Blue Gap Post Office, built in 1878 16 miles east of Winters. The old post office now stands on Main Street, and the 125th anniversary historical marker has been placed in front of it.









WHS first football team
After Randall’s superb tour, I had time to change clothes at my guest house and report to the Chamber Banquet. The Banquet was held at the Winters High School Special Events Center, which opened in 2010. Last year the Chamber Banquet was attended by 65 citizens, but this year the crowd exceeded 230 – a most impressive response for a town of 2,500. The people of Winters clearly value their heritage. We enjoyed a delicious catered Bar-B-Que meal, annual awards were presented, and I had a grand time discussing the town’s rich past. 
Part of the Gus Pruser Ag Exhibit
Horse-drawn hearse


Banquet crowd
I first became aware of Winters as a baseball-crazy boy when I learned that Rogers Hornsby – the best right-handed hitter in the history of the game – is a native son. Winters was a part of the mainstream of Texas history, from early Spanish expeditions in the area, to Comanche war parties and nearby Texas Ranger camps, to cattle and sheep ranching, to cotton farming and cottonseed mills. Early in the 20th century the Winters Brass Band was one of the best of the Sousa-style  bands in the state. Winters High School organized the first Future Farmers of America Chapter in Texas. The Winters museums highlight these and other aspects of the community's past, and it was a pleasure for me to weave the town’s captivating history into the overall trends and events of the Lone Star State. Any Texas history student would enjoy a tour of Winters (there is an excellent Driving Tour brochure) and its fascinating array of museums. 
With Ruth Cooper, a friend from the West Texas Historical
Association who has authored two Runnels County histories

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Texas During WW II

"Lone Star Historian 2" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas during his second year. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College (www.panola.edu) in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published over 40 books, almost half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine. In 2013 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by his alma mater, Texas A&M University - Commerce. 

Year before last Dr. Van Patterson, a friend and colleague at Panola College, was appointed Director of the Longview University Center. The LUC had never offered a public lecture, and as State Historian I was pleased to inaugurate a Speaker’s Series. I spoke on “Texas: Gunfighter Capital of the Old West.” I use weapons and holster rigs to demonstrate the evolution of revolving pistols, and the subject has proven popular. Van is quite resourceful at generating publicity, and we enjoyed a large turnout, including a number of citizens who had not seen the LUC before. Van was highly pleased, and asked me to return this year. 

With Valerie Kilgore of KETK-TV
We decided upon the topic “Texas During World War II.” Texas made extraordinary contributions to the war effort. Almost 830,000 Texans, including 12,000 women, donned uniforms, and more than 23,000 Texas fighting men died for their country. America’s most decorated soldier, Lt. Audie Murphy, and most decorated sailor, submarine commander Sam Dealey, both were Texans. Texas A&M, an all-male military college, placed 20,000 men in the armed forces, of which 14,000 were officers – more than any other school in the nation, including the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme commander of Allied Forces in Europe, was born in Denison in northeast Texas. Adm. Chester Nimitz, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, was born and raised in Fredericksburg, Texas. Almost 1.5 million soldiers, sailors, and fliers trained at scores of Texas bases. Texas fueled the Allied war effort, while Texas shipyards and defense plants provided a flood of war machines and munitions during the war effort. The details are fascinating, and I bring WWII rifles, pistols, equipment, and other items to enhance the presentation. The public event at the LUC was set for Thursday evening, March 26.

With Jerry Hanszen of KGAS Radio
Van Patterson arranged excellent publicity. I had half-hour interviews over KWRD Radio in Henderson and KGAS Radio in Carthage, and both stations also provided news cuts. Valerie Kilgore, Longview reporter for KETK-TV, drove to Carthage to tape an interview for the evening news. Area newspapers published a story with a color photo. The PR helped to produce a big crowd, which included a few WWII veterans. Indeed, L.V. Sadler, soon to turn 90, handed me a copy of his enthralling account of his service with the 7th Submarine Fleet in the Pacific – including his recollections of Commander Sam Dealey. There were veterans of other wars in the audience, and it was my pleasure to talk with almost everyone before or after the program.

With Dr. Van Patterson
There was a different crowd when I presented a similar program on Thursday morning, February 12, in Houston. Working in conjunction with Houston’s Region 4 Education Center, the Texas State Historical Association staged a two-day conference for Texas history teachers. A large number of fourth- and seventh-grade teachers gathered at the big Region 4 facility to begin a content-oriented program on Texas During the Twentieth Century. I opened the conference with “Texas During World War II,” pointing out that the three shipyards in Houston and Galveston employed 35,000 workers. I emphasized information and anecdotes that can used in the classroom about the remarkable efforts of Texas and Texans during the biggest and most important event of the 20th century.




Region 4 Education Center in Houston
Steve Cure and JoNeita Kelly of the TSHA









Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Civil War in Texas

"Lone Star Historian 2" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas during his second year. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College (www.panola.edu) in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published over 40 books, almost half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine. In 2013 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by his alma mater, Texas A&M University - Commerce. 

With Richard Hart
Several months ago I was invited by Richard Hart, Social Studies teacher at Mary Lillard Intermediate School in Mansfield, to provide a program on the Civil War to 500 fifth-grade students. My daughter, Lynn O’Neal Martinez, is a Language Arts teacher at Mary Lillard School, and her daughter Jessie is a fifth-grader.

With Karon, Lynn, and Jessie
During my first year as State Historian, I staged a conference on the Civil War at Panola College. I asked Lynn to assist with the programs on women of the period and on patriotic songs of the Civil War. Lynn’s two daughters, Jessie and Chloe (now a high school junior), also were recruited, along with my wife Karon. Lynn, Jessie, and Karon agreed to help me again at Mary Lillard School, demonstrating antebellum clothing, as well as the Language of the Fan. 

Jessie's introduction
Jessie asked me if she could introduce her grandfather to her schoolmates. I was delighted and flattered by Jessie’s request, and her introduction was the most personally enjoyable I've ever had. The 500 students were supervised throughout the program by watchful teachers, and they were a well-behaved and attentive audience – a credit to Mary Lillard teachers and administrators. 

Language of the Fans
I dressed in a Confederate uniform, and I brought a Union uniform to show. I brought kepis and a felt hat with yellow cavalry acorn cords. I also demonstrated accoutrements and items of equipment. I brought several Confederate flags, along with the bone-handled razor my great-grandfather, Leroy O’Neal, carried during the war. Another great-grandfather, G.W. Owen, served with a Mississippi unit, and he was captured late in the war. At war’s end Private Owen was paroled in New Orleans, and his parole was signed by Gen. E.R.S. Canby. We showed the parole on a document camera, along with Confederate money and selected images.

Lynn, Jessie, and Karon demonstrated different styles of antebellum dresses. Lynn showed some of the voluminous undergarments worn by ladies of the era, as well as mourning dress customs. Lynn also displayed and discussed jewelry and other small items. The large number of girls in the audience were captivated.

 From kepis to baseball caps
To engage fifth-grade boys, a great many of whom play summer league ball, I pointed out the role of the Civil War in the development of America’s first team sport. In the years preceding the war baseball began to be played in the growing cities of the Northeast. During the Civil War armies swelled to vast size, and in camp, while not drilling, off-duty soldiers played the new game. After the war former soldiers brought “base ball” home with them, to every corner of the country. Soon there were town teams, college teams, and professional teams. And team uniforms were topped off with short-billed caps – which had evolved from military kepis.

Following the program, we visited Lynn's classroom. Her students got an up-close look at our costumes, while Karon and I examined the latest additions to her Language Arts classroom. As we departed, Richard Hart told me that he and the other fifth-grade Social Studies teachers were on the eve of beginning the unit on the Civil War. Our program on "Texas During the Civil War" seemed especially timely and useful, and certainly the four of us had a delightful time planning and presenting to such a large group of students.

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