Monday, May 2, 2016

Beaumont

"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. 



McFaddin-Ward House
 Late in April I was privileged to deliver addresses at two elegant history events in Beaumont. The history department at Lamar University was involved in both events, and the department provided my lodging and numerous other courtesies. I arrived in Beaumont on Wednesday afternoon, April 27, and Ken Poston of the Lamar history faculty escorted me to the Holiday Inn. A couple of hours later another member of the Lamar history faculty, Robert Robertson, picked me up at the hotel and regaled me with Beaumont points of interest on our way to the magnificent McFaddin-Ward House, a three-story, 12,800-square-foot mansion built in the Beaux-Arts Colonial Revival style in 1905-1906. 


Socializing beforehand.
A major historical attraction, the mansion and grounds are entered through a spacious welcome center. The auditorium of the welcome center is the site for the monthly meetings of the Texas Gulf Coast Historical Association. The Association was organized in 1955, and since 2011 there has been a formal affiliation between the Association and Lamar University. Since my appointment as State Historian in 2012, I’ve had the privilege of addressing the Texas State Historical Association, the East Texas Historical Association, the West Texas Historical Association, the South Texas Historical Association, the Texas Oral History Association, and numerous county and local history societies. But I had never even attended a meeting of the TGCHA, and I enjoyed a most pleasant meeting with the Association and its members. 

The evening opened with a social period featuring wine and cheese and other refreshments. The members were congenial, and several had anecdotes to share about Beaumont ancestors or San Jacinto veterans. At seven o’clock President Ben Woodhead called the meeting to order and Chaplain Marilyn Thornton Adams provided an invocation. A business meeting followed, which included a report by Dr. Mary Kelly Scheer, chair of the Lamar University history department.

I was introduced by Vice President Judith Linsley.  Since the 180th anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto was only six days earlier, my topic was “Old Sam Jacinto,” an account of the campaign of March and April 1836 and the climactic battle. Certainly these events were appropriate for a group of Texas Gulf Coast historians, who were quite receptive and who later shared more anecdotes about their ancestors who participated in the Runaway Scrape or the Battle of San Jacinto.
At Spindletop Park with Richard and
Mary Scheer  and Ken Poston.


The next day I was taken to lunch by Dr. Scheer, her husband Richard and Ken Poston. Afterward they took me to the little historic park which marks a major historic event: the Spindletop oil discovery of 1901. I’ve visited most of Beaumont’s museums and historic sites through the years, and I’ve delivered programs at the excellent Gladys City restoration. But I had never seen the original site, which is not easy to find, and I’m indebted to my hosts for providing a long overdue visit. 
Information boards. The original Spindletop well
was in the distance above the right-hand board.

That evening Ken Poston and his lovely wife Brenda drove me to the Lamar campus, where we went to the eighth floor of the impressive Mary and John Gray Library. This top floor features a ballroom and dining rooms. One of the dining rooms was handsomely appointed for an annual university occasion: the Phi Alpha Theta Spring Initiation and History Department Banquet. Phi Alpha Theta is the national history honor society, and there are more than 900 chapters. A crowd of 50 was on hand to celebrate the initiation of five new members: Taylor Blount, Grayson Meek, Jacob Melancon, Karli Pittman, and Courtney Rhodus, a graduate student who already had assumed the duties of chapter president. Other Phi Alpha Theta members were present, along with family and friends, faculty members, and ranking administrators. 

Dr. Mary Scheer welcomes the crowd
to the banquet.
Dr. Mary Scheer, a noted Texas historian and author, conducted the induction ceremony, and she provided gracious words of introduction for me. The introduction was concluded by President Courtney Rhodus. I responded to Courtney with a personal recollection from more than half a century ago, when I was inducted into Phi Alpha Theta at East Texas State College (now Texas A&M University at Commerce), and that same evening was asked to serve as chapter president. My remarks were entitled, “Texas: Laboratory and Playground for Historians.” I recounted personal experiences with Texas history, starting with boyhood but focusing on my years as State Historian. I described a number of grassroots historians, and made the point that with its rich history, Texas is a fertile laboratory for authors and a delightful playground for history buffs. My two days in Beaumont underscored the remarks I made on my last evening in a historic Texas city.  

The five inductees.

Ken Poston begins the
induction ceremony.
At right Mrs. Nancy Isaac, widow of a longtime Lamar
history faculty member, Mrs. Isaac created a
substantial cash award for an exemplary
senior history student - Judith Nelams (center).

With President Courtney Rhodus.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Multiple Events


"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. 



Opening pledge of the SRT Chapter in Conroe.
On Tuesday, April 12, it was my pleasure to speak at the monthly meeting of Lone Star Chapter #58 of the Sons of the Republic of Texas. An especially active chapter, this SRT band normally meets at the popular Pappadeaux Restaurant in Conroe. I was invited by Chapter Vice President Art Zepeda, who could not have been more courteous and helpful. At our table he seated me next to the chapter’s immediate past president, Fred Mead, whose ancestor was one of the San Jacinto soldiers who captured General Santa Anna following the battle. I had a fascinating conversation with Fred, and with other members who had patriotic ancestors. 


During the business portion of the meeting, conducted by Chapter President Michael Wilson, I was impressed to learn of the numerous activities in which members participate, and recent awards earned by the chapter. These avid SRT participants made an excellent, well-informed audience as I spoke of the campaign of March and April 1836 (a crucial part of which occurred in this vicinity) and on the Battle of San Jacinto. I had a highly enjoyable couple of hours with the members of SRT #58, and as I drove toward home that afternoon I reflected on the deep rewards of being State Historian. 
Chapter President Michael Wilson and
VP Art Zepada














With Freida Freeman and Joaquin Mayor
Michael Wood, a former student of mine
There were more rewards two days later. On Friday morning I made a 30-mile drive to Joaquin, where local history buffs had arranged a two-day history celebration at the First Methodist Church. Local artists and quilters set up in the fellowship hall, while costumed artisans and re-enactors established themselves and their exhibits around the spacious grounds of the church. These grassroots historians are proud of their heritage, and they were eager to share their knowledge and heritage skills with the public and with large numbers of students from area schools. 

Quilting frame
I was informed about this event by Freida Freeman, an enthusiastic retired professor who invited me to participate. She wanted me to provide a Friday morning program for the workers, as well as the public, and she asked me to speak on the Regulator-Moderator War, a major historical event of this area. Freida felt that this program would be of strong interest to local history buffs, and would be an appropriate kickoff for the event. At nine o’clock everyone gathered in the church sanctuary, including a large class of seventh-grade Texas history students. The auditorium was packed, and it was a pleasure to share information from my book about this conflict. A bonus for me was the attendance of Larry McNeill, the founder of the office of State Historian. Larry now lives just ten minutes from Joaquin, and afterward we visited for a couple of hours at his new country home. 
As the crowd gathered Larry McNeill (at left)
took a front row seat.














With Annette Peters in Nettie's Nook
A few days later I returned to Shelby County for two events in Center. I went first to Nettie’s Nook, an antique mall and sandwich shop on the courthouse square. The current owner-proprietor is personable Annette Peters, who recently acquired the enterprise from Ann Bowen. Ann is a longtime friend who hosted a couple of past events for me, and on behalf of Annette she arranged a book signing on a day I already was scheduled to be in town. I had a fine time at Nettie’s Nook, with the special pleasure of greeting several former students who took time to come to the signing. 
With Ann Bowen


I went from Nettie’s Nook to the Shelby County Museum a few blocks away. Months ago the Shelby County Historical Society booked me for their April 19 meeting, asking me to provide a program on the Battle of San Jacinto, which I was happy to do. Among the old friends who attended were Johnny and Connie Hargrove from Shelbyville. Johnny is a heavy equipment operator who also is a grassroots historian of the front rank. Fascinated since boyhood by the nearby Regulator-Moderator War, Johnny has accumulated a wealth of information and artifacts about Texas’s first blood feud. When I wrote a book about this deadly conflict (War in East Texas: Regulators vs. Moderators, 2006), Johnny generously shared his materials with me, and served as an expert sounding board. 
Ann Bowen (in back) opening the Shelby
County Historical Society meeting













Opening ceremony of Carthage SCV chapter

During this busy period I also was asked to provide a program for the Carthage chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. I usually present an address each year for the Carthage SCV, and a good crowd was present. My subject was “Sam Houston and the Civil War.” I began with Houston’s long tenure in the U.S. Senate (1846-1859). He was a staunch Unionist, and in 1850 he delivered a “House Divided” speech – eight years before Abraham Lincoln addressed the same subject. Senator Houston supported the Compromise of 1850, which proved quite beneficial to the state of Texas and smoothed over problems between North and South – for the time being. But a few years later he was the only Southern senator to oppose the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and he took other stands unpopular in the South. In 1859 he was elected governor of Texas, launching a valiant effort to head off the growing movement for secession. But secessionists triumphed in Texas in 1861, and when Governor Houston refused to sign an oath of allegiance to the Confederate Army, the legislature declared his office vacant. Houston’s teenaged son, Sam Jr., enlisted in the Confederate Army, and was severely wounded at Shiloh. The fallen soldier was captured and soon exchanged while recovering his health. Sam Jr., therefore, was at his father’s side when he died at 70 in 1863. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

White Gloves Luncheon

"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. 


Karon and our book table at Shady Oaks Country Club
On Saturday, April 2, Karon and I participated in the annual White Gloves Luncheon of the Fort Worth Chapter of the DAR. The event was held at the Shady Oaks Country Club. Husbands and friends were invited, and the crowd in the dining room approached 100. I was invited to present a program on “Texas Icon Sam Houston and the Spectacular Victory at San Jacinto,” and to sign copies of my new book on Houston.
With former student Mary Yamagata

My contact person was Mary Holland Yamagata, a former student of mine at Panola College. Mary’s father, Dr. V. L. Holland, was a Carthage physician and longtime president of the Panola College Board of Trustees. Dr. and Mrs. Holland were keenly interested in history, and Mary, a brilliant student, inherited their love of history. As chair of the White Gloves Luncheon, Mary explained to Karon that the DAR ladies enjoyed wearing hats as well as gloves to this event, and that the decoration theme would be Texana. As she has at many history events, Karon dressed in a striking Texas outfit, with Lone Star jewelry, white gloves, Texas boots, and a rakish sombrero and hat band.

Karon and Mary are seated together, sporting
their hats!
Following a call to order by President Dede Samuelson, Chapter Chaplain Pam Speed provided an invocation. Opening ceremonies included the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. Flag, recitation of the American’s Creed and of the Preamble to the Constitution, singing of the National Anthem, and the Pledge to the Texas Flag.

President Dede Samuelson
Following a delicious lunch, Mary Yamagata introduced me with gracious and nostalgic remarks. As I began my program, I stressed to this DAR audience the American Revolution combat record of Samuel Houston under Daniel Morgan. Major Houston served the rest of his life with the Virginia State Militia, and his namesake son tagged along to militia drills. In Texas Sam Houston acted on the Revolutionary principles he had absorbed at his father’s knee, and during the Texas Revolution he even fashioned his campaign hat into a tricorn (as depicted by the superb equestrian statue of General Houston in Hermann Park in the city named after him). The patriotic DAR audience responded strongly to my account of Houston, the campaign of March and April 1836, and the spectacular victory at San Jacinto. In turn, I was deeply impressed by the enthusiastic response of the crowd to the opening ritual: flag pledges, recitation of the Preamble to the Constitution and the American’s Creed, and the singing of the Star Spangled Banner.












With distinguished historian Robert A. Divine


Lampasas boasts the biggest spur in Texas.
Two days later I had the pleasure of participating in another patriotic opening ritual. I was in Lampasas on Monday evening, April 4, for a meeting of the Oran Milo Roberts Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. My sister, Judy O’Neal Smith, and her husband John moved to Lampasas more than 12 years ago, and Judy joined the DRT chapter. Lampasas is our mother’s home town, and during the 1960s I spent three years as a coach and language arts teacher at Lampasas Junior High. Since Judy’s move to Lampasas I’ve provided the DRT chapter a number of programs, at regular meetings and at public occasions they have hosted, such as Texas Independence Day, San Jacinto Day, and the reopening of the historic court house. At every event, large or small, the DRT chapter chaplain opened with an invocation, followed by pledges to the U.S. and Texas flags.
My sister Judy is standing right of center.

My presentation was about Margaret Houston, along with Sam’s other wives and miscellaneous romances, and the DRT ladies enjoyed Sam Houston’s soap opera. But at the end I reflected to them upon the recent DAR opening ritual, as well as the similar activities earlier in the DRT evening. I pointed out the great number of patriotic rituals I’ve witnessed with various groups during my years as State Historian, and I expressed that it is reassuring to realize how many Texans across the Lone Star State regularly act to reinforce our traditions and history.

With chapter president Carol Wright and Judy.
The next day I drove into West Texas for photo stops at Fort Lancaster and Fort Stockton. As usual there were strong winds, and on this day I was especially moved at the sight of the large flags fluttering above the historic parade grounds.   
Old Glory flying proudly above Fort Lancaster's
old parade ground (the next day).
     

Monday, April 11, 2016

WTHA - 2016 Meeting

"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 crowd
During the past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 93rd Annual Meeting of the West Texas Historical Association in Abilene. I had the honor of serving as WTHA president last year, and I was succeeded by the gracious and highly efficient Diana Hinton of Midland. WTHA Executive Director Tai Kreidler was everywhere during the weekend, attending to countless details. Program Chair Troy Ainsworth and his able committee assembled a superb lineup of speakers, while Robert Hall arranged bus tours before and after the scheduled programs. We headquartered at the MCM Eleganté near the Abilene Mall. The combination of noted speakers, excellent field trips, and luxurious facilities attracted well over 200 attendees, one of the largest crowds in WTHA history.
Showing the San Jacinto battle flag replica

I was scheduled to speak on Saturday morning about “Sam Houston, Texas Icon.” My session partner was Jerod Haines, an undergraduate history student from Wayland Baptist University in Plainview. It was Jerod’s first conference presentation, and he chose the rich topic, “The Filthy `50s: The 1950-1957 Drought and Its Impact on the Queen City of the South – Plainview.” Troy Ainsworth inventively titled our session A Titanic Personality and a Time Never Rained. All WTHA sessions traditionally have been presented on Friday and Saturday. But a few days ago Troy and Tai Kreidler decided that they would like to experiment with a “Lead-Off Session” that would coincide with our traditional Thursday evening Early Bird Dinner. Jerod and I were asked to move our session from Saturday to Thursday evening. The banquet room was filled, and with Jerod late in arriving, I gave the inaugural Lead-Off address to a large audience of Texas history enthusiasts. Jerod arrived soon after I finished, and his program also was well-received.
Dr. Light Cummins, the second Texas State Historian


WTHA Executive Director Tai Kreidler (right)
at the  registration table
Friday was busy. Session rooms were overflowing because of the near-record crowd, and we were happy to bring in extra chairs. The third annual Women’s History Luncheon had a record attendance. Past president Marisue Potts originated these luncheons, and afterward she conducted an excellent panel, The Challenges of Writing and Publishing Women’s History. That evening there was a President’s Reception in the hotel, and afterward we ventured across Abilene to the beautiful campus of Hardin-Simmons University for banquet at the Johnson Building. The keynote speaker was Dr. Glen Ely, distinguished historian and documentary producer. His latest book was recently published by the University of Oklahoma Press: The Butterfield – A Lifetime of Tracking the Trail Across West Texas. Glen has spent 25 years exploring sites of the historic Butterfield Stagecoach Trail, and he regaled us with stories of his extended adventure. His exciting presentation was complemented with striking PowerPoint images. It was a presentation none of us would have missed.
Ken Howell is Executive Director and Founder of the
Central Texas Historical Association.


Saturday featured nine more standout sessions. The Awards and Business Lunch began at 12:30. The Ruth Leggett Jones Best Article Award was presented to H. Allen Anderson of the Southwest Collection. Sylvia Mahoney was presented the Rupert N. Richardson Best Book Award for Finding the Great Western Trail, published by Texas Tech University Press. The R.C. Crane Heritage Service Award went to the Motley County Jail, a two-story rock structure erected in 1891 north of the courthouse square in Matador. And three new Fellows of the WTHA were announced: Preston Lewis, Glen Ely, and Tai Kreidler.
Back of the table decoration photos, designed by Marisue Potts
for the Women's History Luncheon.

In her presidential address, Diana Hinton discussed “Ladies in the Jazz Age Oil Patch.” The new president, John Miller Morris (author and Piper Professor from U.T. San Antonio, and a native of Amarillo), invited everyone to the 2017 meeting in Lubbock. And immediately after adjournment a Saturday Afternoon Tour of Abilene commenced.

For more information:  swco.ttu.edu/westtexas
Marisue Potts holding one of the table photos.

Women's History Luncheon

Women's History Panel: Barbara Brannon,
Rosa Latimer,  Leland Turner

Program Chair Troy Ainsworth presenting
a paper on early college football in West Texas

Popular speaker and award-winning
author Bill Neal

Executive Director of the East Texas
Historical Association, Scott Sosebee
(a native of West Texas)

Standing in front of the Johnson Building at HSU

Dinner line in the Johnson Building


President Diana Hinton

Keynote speaker Glen Ely