Sunday, March 4, 2018

Patrotic Extravaganza

On Tuesday evening, February 20, "A Patriotic Extravaganza" was presented to a large audience at the Carthage Junior High School auditorium. The program, "A Night Celebrating America," was performed by 150 first grade students from Carthage Primary School. The director, Debbie Leggett Miller, invited me to attend. Debbie was a student of mine at Panola College, and so was her future husband, Randy Miller, Debbie has taught in Carthage for more than four decades, and currently she teaches music to the lower grades.

Principal Kiley Schumacher aided by a student assistant,
introduces the program.
Director Debbie Miller
A few years ago Debbie began staging Patriotic Exravaganzas celebrating America, with as many as 200 first graders on stage, dressed in red, white and blue. Many were attired in military uniforms from the different branches, and some were dressed in costumes, from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln, from George Washington Carver to Martin Luther King, from Betsy Ross to Amelia Earhart. During these events the stage abounds in American flags, and a high point of each performance is a re-enactment of the raising of the U.S. flag at Iwo Jima.

Student narrator and George Washington

Betsy Ross
George Washington Carver
Thomas Jefferson
Statue of Liberty
Uncle Sam
Amelia Earhart
Randy Miller and I went together. At the entrance I was handed a program by a first-grader named Kaison Holloway, who was clad in red, white and blue. The program was introduced by Principal Kiley Schumacher. Veterans of the armed services were recognized from the audience, and the students onstage sang an "Armed Services Medley." I was introduced as Texas State Historian. Musical performances included "The Star-Spangled Banner," "This is My Country," "Yankee Doodle Dandy," "America the Beautiful," and "God Bless America," along with other patriotic airs. The performance of these patriotic first-graders generated applause over and over, and at the end we gave a rousing standing ovation.  

Abraham Lincoln

President Trump

Star Spangled Banner

It was an evening for flag waving
Military salute
With costumed students

With more costumed students

Thursday, February 22, 2018

ETHA Spring Symposium

On Saturday, February 17, the East Texas Historical Association held a Spring Symposium at The History Center in Diboll. Diboll was founded in 1893 as a company town by timber magnate T.L.L. Temple. One of the civic philanthropies provided to Diboll by Temple Industries is The History Center, which opened in 2003 and which features an excellent museum and archival collection. Indeed, early in my tenure as State Historian, my wife Karon and I came to Diboll to create a blog on The History Center.

Behind the main building of The History Center
is a well-preserved lumber train.

One of the statues on The History Center grounds is of Arthur Temple, Jr.
Standing in front of one of the excellent museum displays
The theme of the ETHA Spring Symposium was "The Presidents Speak Again." Two past presidents of the ETHA, Milton Jordan and Dan Utley, have compiled a book that has just been released by the Stephen F. Austin State University Press: The Presidents Speak: Addresses from the Leadership of the East Texas Historical Association, 2000-2016. Each year, at the ETHA Fall Meeting, the Association President delivers a presidential address, and Jordan and Utley have collected these addresses since 2000. The Presidents Speak was introduced at the 2018 Spring Symposium, and a panel of the presidential contributors was assembled at The History Center to discuss their addresses and to answer questions from the audience. The official presider was Portia Gordon, an ETHA board member and the longtime aide to former ETHA Executive Director Archie McDonald.

Dan Utley and Milton Jordan with their book, The Presidents Speak, which provided the theme for the ETHA Spring Symposium

Portia Gore (standing at right), longtime ETHA secretary and board member, presided over the panel.

Milton Jordan at the speaker's stand

Former Texas State Historian Light Cummins (left) with ETHA board member Monte Monroe from Texas Tech
There were about 40 ETHA members in attendance, and we enjoyed refreshments provided by The History Center. Following the presidential panel, we divided into two groups and, led by History Center staff members, we were toured through the museum and the archival collection. As always, it was a pleasure to visit with friends and fellow ETHA members. 

ETHA Executive Assistant Chris Gill makes these events work.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Exploring Texas Workshop Series

On Monday and Tuesday, February 5 and 6, the Texas State Historical Association and the Aldine ISD presented an event for Texas History teachers in the Exploring Texas Workshop Series. This "Encountering Texas History Conference" explored the period 1900 to the present. Charles Nugent, TSHA Adult Program Manager, and M.K. Marshall, K-12 Program Manager, put together a varied program which featured 30 session possibilities for attendees. Numerous breakout sessions covered historical context, teaching strategies, and resources. A number of vendors, from book publishers to the Texas Historical Commission to the Bryan Museum of Galveston, were present, offering door prizes during a reception at the end of the first day.

Charles Nugent and M.K. Marshall at the registration table

More than 60 fourth-grade and seventh-grade Texas history teachers attended the conference. Two teachers from Canyon in the Panhandle had found a TSHA workshop in their area so fruitful that they flew to Houston for this event.


I was asked to address the group on Tuesday morning, from 8:30 to 10:00, on Texas in World War II. The Second World War, of course, was the biggest and most important event of the 20th century. Texas played a key role in America's war effort, from manpower (830,000 Texans, including 12,000 women, served in the military) to combat exploits (36 Texans earned the Medal of Honor, including Audie Murphy - America's most decorated soldier - and submarine commander Sam Dealey - America's most decorated sailor) to the development of the world's largest petrochemical industry. Indeed, Texas oil production fueled the Allied war machine. Upper level leadership included such Texas natives as Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe, Admiral Chester Numitz, Naval Commander of the Pacific, Gen. Ira Eaker, commander of the 8th Air Force in Europe, and Gen. Claire Chennault, founder of the famed Flying Tigers, as well as Col. Oveta Culp Hobby, commander of the Women's Army Corps . More than 150 generals and 12 admirals were from Texas. Texas A&M College provided more than 20,000 fighting men, including seven Medal of Honor winners. More than 23,000 Texans died from military action, including 900 Aggies. Texas was America's largest training field, with 80 bases developing 20 combat divisions and 1.5 million soldiers, aviators, and sailors. With shipyards and airplane manufacturers and munitions plants, Texas played a significant part in the miracles of war production achieved by American industry.

I brought a number of WW II artifacts to demonstrate classroom possibilities to the teachers, who examined these items carefully at the end of my presentation. These teachers were an unusually responsive audience, and I had a most enjoyable and, I hope, productive session with them.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Adventure with John Chisum

A couple of months ago I was contacted by Dana Joseph, editorial director of Cowboys & Indians magazine.  He had learned that I had two books nearing publication that could be of interest to readers of Cowboys & Indians: a biography, John Chisum, Frontier Cattle King (scheduled for release by Eakin Press in February 2018), and Frontier Forts of Texas (Arcadia Publications, with a release date of the first week in March 2018). Dana wanted to include an interview with me in Cowboys & Indians about those two books and my duties and Texas State Historian. I was thrilled, of course, at the opportunity.
John Wayne played the title role in the most famous movie about Chisum.

Dana assigned Chuck Thompson, a noted travel writer and humorist who lives in Oregon, to interview me by telephone. It was a privilege to have an extended conversation with such a successful author. The interview took place on the last day of January. Chuck had done a lot of homework, and early in our interview I realized I was in gifted hands. I know that Chuck is going to make me and my books look good, and I can't wait to read his interview in the next issue of Cowboys & Indians.
Chuck Thompson

The Cowboys & Indians interview was the latest of my adventures with cattle king John Chisum. I first researched and wrote about Chisum for my book, Historic Ranches of the Old West (Eakin Press, 1997). I visited the site of his famous ranch headquarters near Roswell, as well as his home town of Paris, where he is buried. I realized that I had only scratched the surface of this famed rancher of the Old West.
John Chisum

The leading researcher of Chisum was Harwood Hinton, who investigated the cattle king for half a century. Dr. Hinton wrote a masterful article about Chisum, which I found highly beneficial. When I was program chair of a spring meeting of the East Texas Historical Association in Paris, I invited Dr. Hinton to present our keynote on Chisum. His presentation was superb, but he never wrote a full-length biography.

After Dr. Hinton passed away in 2016, his Chisum papers were donated to the Southwest Collection at Texas Tech University. I contacted Tai Kreidler at the Southwest Collection, and he told me that the Hinton papers were not yet catalogued, but that Monte Monroe was in charge of the project. Monte graciously invited me to work with the Hinton materials. I flew to Lubbock, and was met at the airport by Monte and Tai, and at the Southwest Collection reading room Monte had set out the 18 boxes of papers, trial documents, old newspaper clippings, articles, books, and other materials collected by Hinton. I worked all day, and the staff produced a great many copies for me. From time to time during the day Monte brought history students over to meet the Texas State Historian, and I was delighted to interact with these bright young men and women. At the end of the day Monte and Paul Carlson and their wives took me to dinner, before Monte drove me back to the airport. It was a wonderful day with Monte and Tai and Paul - and John Chisum.

Chisum Gravestone in Paris

Prior to working at the Southwest Collection, I had revisited the Aikin Regional Archives and gravesite in Paris. I went to the headquarters site of Chisum's first ranch headquarters in Denton County, and to Trickham in Coleman County, where he located his second ranch. At the Haley Memorial Library in Midland I was introduced to a treasure trove of Chisum material. In New Mexico I examined collections in Santa Fe and Roswell, and I enjoyed a second visit to the famous South Spring ranch headquarters site south of Roswell. I also made a research trip to Eureka Springs, where Chisum died.
With Billy Huckaby, who published my book, Sam Houston, A Study in Leadership, in 2016, and who currently is producing John Chisum, Frontier Cattle King

I finished the book manuscript in December, and Billy Huckaby, owner/director of the Wild Horse Media Group, is producing the biography under the Eakin Press banner. My experiences with Chisum have been a grand adventure, and I hope I've done justice to the great cattleman who launched his remarkable career in Texas.   

Friday, January 12, 2018

First Appearance of 2018

On Thursday evening, January 11, I drove to Tyler for my first State Historian appearance of the new year. I was invited by Johnnie Holley, Past Commander of the Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Johnnie currently is Commander of the SCV Army of the Trans-Mississippi, as well as Lieutenant Commander of Tyler's award-winning Captain James P. Douglas Camp. The Douglas Camp recently was named the outstanding SCV camp in the nation for the second time in the past three years. For several years I've been asked to provide programs at meetings of the Douglas Camp, and it is always a privilege to meet with this standout history organization.

Pledge of Allegiance to Old Glory
In addition to Johnnie Holley's statewide and national leadership roles, his lovely wife, Norma, also has distinguished herself in related activities. Norma Holley is Past State Director of the Order of the Confederate Rose, and currently she serves as Chairman of District VIII of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Dennis Brand is Commander of the Douglas Camp of Tyler, and his wife Rita also was State Director of the Order of the Confederate Rose. The members of the Douglas Camp are highly active in SCV activities, and there is a strong camaraderie among these men of common historical interests.

With Johnnie and Norma Holley
With Camp Commander Dennis Green
Through the years I have delivered numerous programs on Texas in the Civil War at Douglas Camp meetings, but for this occasion I was asked to present my program on "Texas Gunslingers." Aware of the interests of these men, I felt that they would enjoy this program, which features a table full of replica weapons and gun rigs, as well as several Civil War references to weaponry. The audience indeed was responsive, and there were numerous questions from the floor. Afterward I autographed a number of copies of my book, Texas Gunslingers, and as I drove home I reflected upon what a delightful experience I enjoyed with so many fellow history buffs.  

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Tyler for History Buffs

Tyler is proud of its designation as the "Rose Capital of America." Two of the city's major attractions are the annual Texas Rose Festival and the 14-acre Municipal Rose Garden, home of 38,000 rose bushes of 500 varieties. Less well known is the array of historical attractions that represent the rich background of Tyler. Smith County was organized in 1846 by the Texas Legislature, which designated a county seat site near the center of the new county. The town was named for President John Tyler, and within just four years the population exceeded 4,000. During the Civil War the largest ordnance plant in Texas was established in Tyler, and so was a Confederate training camp.

Camp Ford was named after Col. John S. "Rip" Ford. The encampment was set up in a wooded area four miles northeast of Tyler. Established in 1862, Camp Ford was transformed into a prisoner of war camp in 1863, and by 1864 it was the largest POW camp west of the Mississippi. A total of 6,000 captured Union soldiers endured crowded conditions inside the Camp Ford stockade, and by late in the war the CSA found it difficult to feed or clothe POWs. There is a walking path through the site of Camp Ford, and there are excellent interpretive signs and illustrations.  

Replica POW shelters at Camp Ford

Entrance to Camp Ford's highly informative interpretive center

Camp Fannin Memorial
The Smith County Historical Museum is housed
in Tyler's 1904 Carnegie Library
The Civil War was the most costly war of the nineteenth century, but Tyler also played a significant role in the greatest war of the twentieth century. In 1942 Camp Fannin was established eight miles northeast of Tyler. The World War II training camp covered 15,000 acres, and there was space for an artillery range, a German POW compound, and a WAC installation. As many as 18,000 men at a time underwent training at Camp Fannin, and a total of 150,000 soldiers trained at the base. An impressive monument to Camp Fannin stands on the west side of Highway 271 about four miles past Camp Ford, and Camp Fannin artifacts are on display at the Smith County Museum in the 1904 Carnegie Library building in downtown Tyler. 
West of Tyler, Pounds Field was opened as the city's first airport in 1933. During World War II the military utilized Pounds Field as one of the 65 air bases in Texas. West Erwin Street leads to Pounds Field, and in a purposely nondescript building on the street, lenses for the top secret Norden bombsight were manufactured by workers who were sworn to secrecy. The outstanding displays at the Aviation Museum at Pounds Field include a Norden bombsight, as well as an excellent collection of military aircraft. I was conducted through the Aviation Museum by docent Jerry Murdoff and by Board Vice President Chip Williams, two highly knowledgeable combat flying veterans.

Display of vintage flight headgear at Aviation Museum
Docent Jerry Murdoff showing pre-aluminum plane fabric
and wooden propellers
Top-secret Norden bombsight of WWII
Chip Williams, Board Vice President of the Aviation Museum
and my guide to the historic aviation collection
A Russian Mig fighter jet from the Korean War
American fighter from the Korean War
After touring the Aviation Museum I headed toward downtown Tyler. Tyler was a growing city during the Victorian era, and a number of Victorian structures have survived as tangible reminders of that colorful period. The Marwin United Methodist Church, named after a Methodist bishop, dominates the corner of West Erwin and Bois D'Arc streets. Organized in 1846, the congregation is the oldest in Smith County. The first building was a log cabin on the square, while the magnificent Victorian sanctuary erected in 1890 is Tyler's oldest church building. Another Victorian building, Smith County's fourth jail, was built at 309 East Erwin in 1881 and expanded in 1894. The county jail was replaced by a new facility in 1916, but it stands today - without bars.

The magnificent Marwin United Methodist Church, erected in 1890, is the oldest church building in Tyler.
The church bell for years was loaned to the city as a fire bell.

The 1878 Whitaker-McClendon House is the center
of a living history museum
Whitaker-McClendon parlor
Hall stairway at the Whitaker-McClendon House
"Shotgun house" at the living history museum
The 1890 Smith-Butler Home
 Charming examples of Victorian residential architecture are scattered around the city. The Whitaker-McClendon Home was built in 1878 at 806 West Houston Street, and today it is the center of a living history museum. A few blocks to the east, at 419 West Houston, is the Smith-Butler Home, erected in 1890. Continuing eastward a few blocks is the Charnwood National Historic District, bounded by Houston and Charnwood streets and boasting a neighborhood of superb Victorian residences. A few blocks to the north, at 318 Fannin Street, is the 1873 Victorian home built by John B. and Kentura Douglas. Douglas was a Confederate veteran, a successful merchant, and a city official.  

One of the fine homes of the Charnwood National Historic District
Across the street is the crown jewel of the
Charnwood National Historic District
The 1873 Victorian home of John B. and Kentura Douglas
Smith County's 4th jail was built in 1881
The most popular home that is open to the public is from the antebellum period, the Goodman-Legrand House, erected in 1859 at 624 North Broadway. With a graceful staircase and filled with antiques, the Goodman-Legrand House is a favorite location for bridal portraits. The house is surrounded by Legrand Park. A few blocks to the southeast, at 210 East Oakwood, is the historic Cotton Belt Depot, which was built in 1905 and today houses a railroad museum.
The antebellum Goodman-LeGrand House was erected in 1859
The historic Cotton Belt Depot was built in 1905
The Cotton Belt Depot today houses a railroad museum
  As State Historian I've had the privilege of addressing the Smith County Historical Society and, on several occasions, Tyler's award-winning SCV chapter and the DRT chapter, as well as combined meetings of the SCV and DRT. There is a strong history contingent in Tyler, as well as a wonderful collection of museums and historical architecture. A history buff can well enjoy a day or two sampling the historical treasures of Tyler.