Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Teachers' Conference at the Bob Bullock Museum

A conference for teachers of Texas history was held at the Bob Bullock State Museum in Austin on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 19 and 20. The conference was co-sponsored by the Bob Bullock Museum, the Texas State Historical Association, the Texas General Land Office Archives and Archives, the Texas Historical Commission, and the Austin ISD.

Austin ISD teachers could participate in the conference at no cost, and all participants received two days of professional development credit. There were 94 participants, with a waiting list of 68 teachers. Of course, the Bob Bullock Museum is a superb site for a conference on Texas history, with its imaginative displays and rich collections.
Buck Cole, K-12 Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Texas General Land Office Archives and Records

The program was put together by Charles Nugent, TSHA Adult Education Programs Manager. As Texas State Historian I have worked with Charles on a large number of these teacher conferences during the past few years, and I am always impressed at the stellar lineup of presenters he is able to assemble. I am looking forward to speaking on "The Spanish in Texas" at a teacher conference on August 7 at the Region 10 Education Center in Richardson, and later that same week, August 10, at the Texas State Library and Archives building in Austin.

At the Bob Bullock I was asked to speak after lunch on Tuesday on "The Texas Revolution." There were many veteran teachers in the group of 94, along with a few newly-minted teachers.

With Charles Nugent

Several of the experienced teachers had been reassigned to Texas history classrooms for 2017-18, and they were universally excited to be teaching about the Lone Star State.

These knowledgeable Texas historians provided a highly responsive audience. Of course, the Texas Revolution is filled with drama and heroism and tragedy, highlighted by such Texas icons as the Alamo, San Jacinto, James Bowie, Davy Crockett, and Sam Houston. I used a number of props, which I hope provided a few classroom ideas for the teachers, and the hour went by rapidly. The teachers asked some fine questions, and I wished them all well in the upcoming school year.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Carthage SCV

A few weeks ago I provided a program for the General Horace Randal Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. This camp is based in Carthage, where I have lived and worked since 1970, so I've delivered quite a number of programs to this chapter through the years.
There are 71 chapters in the Texas Division of the SCV. Members are men who are descended from Confederate soldiers, and they are proud of the courage and the battlefield exploits of their Southern forefathers. Three of my great-grandfathers as teenagers served with CSA units late in the Civil War, trying to defend their home states of Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama from invasion. Texas made a major manpower commitment to the war, and alone of the Confederate states, Texas had a frontier to defend. There are numerous Civil War program possibilities available to the Texas State Historian, and during my five-year tenure I've made presentations to SCV chapters in Carthage, Tyler, Center, Lufkin, Athens, and Marshall. As State Historian I gave multiple Civil War programs in Tyler and Carthage, and each of these two chapters also requested a talk on the Regulator-Moderator War of early East Texas. The United Daughters of the Confederacy chapter in Henderson twice invited me to a meeting, and the UDC chapter of Longview asked me to provide a banquet program. 
For the SCV program on Thursday evening, April 27, I decided not to talk about some Civil War battle or campaign. I had presented many such programs to the Carthage chapter, so I spoke instead about the highly significant political actions taken by the federal government during the Civil War. Throughout the 1850s the government was virtually deadlocked as northern and southern politicians were adamantly opposed to policies that would not benefit their particular section. For example, after the 1849 discovery of gold in California, instead of making provision to construct a transcontinental railroad, congressmen squabbled endlessly over whether the route should originate in the North or the South.
But with the start of the Civil War, southern congressmen returned to the South, and northern politicians now could pass a backlog of legislation with little opposition. The import tariff was raised significantly and would remain high into the 20th century, as America industrialized. The Homestead Act made available to farmers free 160-acre parcels of land throughout the West, and during the next three decades more than one million homestead farms were established throughout the American frontier. The National Banking Act stabilized the nation's banks and the American economy. The Morrill Land Grant Act made it possible for states to establish "Land Grant colleges," publicly-funded teachers colleges and agricultural and mechanical colleges, which would offer less expensive alternatives to the private colleges of America. The Emancipation Proclamation declared slaves of the South to be free. And legislation passed in 1862 and 1864 finally launched a transcontinental railroad, with the Union Pacific RR headed west out of the existing northern network of tracks, while the Central Pacific RR built eastward from California.
Routes were surveyed and construction began while combat raged across the South. With the end of the war a host of veterans, mostly young men made restless by combat and with a new sense of teamwork, found employment with the Union Pacific. The U.P. employed more than 10,000 men, the largest work force in the nation's history, but soon matched by the Central Pacific. The Union Pacific was headed by former Union general Grenville Dodge, while other high-ranking officers assumed key leadership roles. The logistics of supplying such vast work forces had been mastered during the war. Former sergeants led work crews. The completion of America's first transcontinental railroad was very much a Civil War story, and I was pleased to share it with an SCV group.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Walton Cemetery Annual Day

At the invitation of Dan Ross, chairman of the Walton Cemetery Association, I drove to Ebenezer Methodist Church in rural Panola County on Sunday, June 4. Across the road from the church is the lovingly maintained Walton Cemetery, and nearby was the Walton School, which no longer stands. The occasion was the Walton Cemetery Annual Day, and I had been asked to deliver a program about the origins of the church and cemetery.

Settlers began arriving in the wilderness of Panola District in the 1830s. The only two settlements were Pulaski and Grand Bluff. Both were log cabin villages and ferry crossings on the Sabine River, and Pulaski served as the seat of Panola District and of newly-organized Harrison County. Panola County finally was organized in 1846, and in that year Carthage was platted to be the county seat in the center of the county.

Before Panola County was organized, before the Republic of Texas became the 28th state in the Union in 1846, two congregations were formed in the rural area a few miles west of the site of Carthage. Shortly after Texas broke away from Mexico - and the requisite Catholicism - the Methodist denomination sent three volunteer missionaries to the Lone Star Republic. One of these men, Littleton Fowler, organized the first Methodist church in Texas, near San Augustine. Fowler acquired a farm in Sabine County, took a bride, and had a daughter and a son, who would become a prominent Methodist minister. All the while Reverend Fowler was organizing Methodist congregations, including a band of believers at the rural neighborhood of Macedonia, in 1843. (Sadly, Fowler died only three years later, at the age of 43.)

Two years after a Methodist congregation was established in Panola County, Baptist missionaries Isaac Reed and Lemuel Herrin organized a sister congregation at Macedonia, in 1845.   

The two congregations erected a log church, while conducting Methodist and Baptist services on alternate Sundays. During the week, for a few months each year, a field school was held for neighborhood children. When the church/school burned in 1880, the Baptists moved a few miles east, toward Carthage, and built Macedonia Baptist Church. In 1872 John Ross, great-grandfather of Dan Ross, donated 3.6 acres for a Methodist church and adjacent cemetery. Following the fire of 1880, Ebenezer Methodist Church was erected, and Walton Cemetery (named after a nearby family) and Walton School were opened.  Meanwhile, at Old Macedonia the cemetery became neglected and overgrown. A few years ago, as State Historian, I spoke at the dedication of the reclaimed Old Macedonia Cemetery.
Eddie Pride singing to the congregation

On Sunday, June 4, the Ebenezer Church auditorium was packed with more than 100 people. Cemetery Association Secretary-Treasurer Karen Bagley, a former student of mine at Panola College, read the minutes. Dan Ross approved the minutes and conducted a brief business meeting. Dan next introduced Eddie Pride, who sang and played two songs, with the accompaniment of a bass guitarist. Next I spoke for half an hour, describing the history of the church, and remarking upon the legacy that was handed down by the church's pioneers. Afterward we enjoyed a delicious "dinner on the grounds," and I wondered how many congregational meals had been held on these grounds in the last century and a half.

With Dan Ross

Monday, May 29, 2017

Texas Civil War Museum

The Texas Civil War Museum in Fort Worth boasts the largest collection of Civil War memorabilia west of the Mississippi River. It is housed in a modern facility which opened in 2006, but I did not have the opportunity to tour it until a Saturday in April 2017. Accompanied by my brother Mike, I found the museum busy with tourists. Three of our great-grandfathers served in Confederate units from their home states: Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama. I have toured virtually all of the important Civil War battlefields, and I lectured about the conflict for four decades. For nine consecutive Decembers (when U.S. History classes study the Civil War) I organized Confederate encampments on the campus of Panola College. Since becoming State Historian I've provided programs for Sons of Confederate Veterans chapters in Carthage, Tyler, Center, Athens, Lufkin, and Marshall, as well as United Daughters of the Confederacy chapters in Longview and Henderson. Any of these SCV or UDC members, any Civil War re-enactors would enjoy a visit to the Texas Civil War Museum.  

Mike O'Neal at the entry memorial
There are 15,000 square feet in Fort Worth's Texas Civil War Museum, but the core of the collection began with the Texas Confederate Museum late in the 19th century in a room in the State Capitol building. The Albert S. Johnston Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy obtained the room for the collection of the uniforms, weapons, flags, and artifacts they began to gather. As a result of statewide appeals, the collection grew rapidly, and under the Texas Division of the UDC the Texas Confederate Museum was moved into the historic Land Office Building. By the 1990s items from the collection were on loan to the Bob Bullock Museum and to several other reputable museums, while the Texas Association of Museums, the Summerlee Foundation, and the UDC sought a permanent home.  

Robert E. Lee served in Texas before the Civil War.

In 2006 the Texas Civil War Museum opened on the west side of Fort Worth. Now there are excellent battle dioramas, artillery, and a vast collection of female antebellum clothing. The magnificent collection belongs to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and there is a UDC Office in the museum. The gift shop features a great deal of Gone With the Wind memorabilia.


Other sites in Texas that Civil War buffs will relish must start with the Sabine Pass Battleground, where Lt. Dick Dowling led a 46-man artillery company to victory over a Federal invasion force of 17 ships and 5,000 men. There is an impressive statue of Dowling. The last battle of the Civil War was a Confederate victory led by Col. John S. "RIP" Ford at the Palmito Ranch Battlefield. In Corsicana the Pearce Collection Museum on the campus of Navarro College offers superb Civil War displays. Perhaps the most striking monument in the Texas State Cemetery is the gravesite of Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, killed while commanding Confederate forces at Shiloh.   

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Wiley College Honors Convocation

On Monday evening, April 10, I was on the campus of Wiley College in Marshall for the Annual Honors Convocation. More than 140 students were designated to receive certificates recognizing their academic achievements as President's Scholars (3.80 to 4.00 GPA) or Dean's Scholars (3.79 to 3.50 GPA). I was present at the invitation of Dr. Bernadette Bruster, Academic Dean and Chair of the Honors Convocation Committee. Dean Bruster asked me to address the Convocation, and a full page of the 12-page program was devoted to the credentials and a color photograph of the State Historian.

The event was held in the Julius S. Scott, Sr., Chapel. We entered the auditorium in a formal processional, accompanied by organ music played by Dr. T. Bernard Clayton, Professor of Music. Following an invocation, we were entertained by a magnificent organ selection from Dr. JuYeon J. Lee of the music faculty.

I was introduced by Dr. Raquel Henry, Assistant Professor of History. My remarks related highlights of Wiley College, which was established in 1873 and is the oldest African-American college in Texas. The students were unaware, for example, that the Wiley Wildcats won three national football championships, one each in the decade of the 1920s, the 1930s, and the 1940s. More familiar was the triumph of the Wiley debate teams under English professor and poet Melvin B. Tolson, portrayed by Denzel Washington in the 2007 motion picture, The Great Debaters. Along with anecdotes and facts about their institution, I told the honorees about my admiration for higher education students who are academic achievers.

A professional photographer was present to record the moment when, as each honoree, having been presented his or her certificate, ascended the stage and shook hands with Dr. Bruster. As the first student walked toward Dean Bruster, I was surprised when I was summoned from my chair to help welcome each student. I was informed that the honorees wanted the Texas State Historian to shake their hands and offer words of congratulations and pose with Dean Bruster and each fine student. I was immensely proud to be included in the ceremony in this unexpected manner.

Afterward we repaired to the nearby Freeman P. and Carrie E. Hodge Building, where refreshments and a reception had been prepared. Wiley College could take pride in the memorable occasion that had been staged to honor their best students.   

Dr. Bruster presented a plaque to me commemorating the State Historian's participation in the 2017 Honors Convocation.


In 1907 Wiley President Matthew Dogan obtained a Carnegie Grant to erect a public library on the Wiley campus. Thirteen of the 33 Carnegie library buildings in Texas still stand, and four are still used as libraries. During the 1970s the Carnegie structure on the Wiley campus was converted to an administration building.

Following the devastating campus fire of 1906, a new President's Home was built, utilizing student labor.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Chisholm Trail at 150

I spent the first weekend in May representing Texas at the 150th anniversary celebration of the Chisholm Trail, held in Caldwell, Kansas. Caldwell, located just above the Kansas-Oklahoma  line, became known as the "Border Queen."  For more than a decade the Border Queen was a wild trail town, the first place since leaving Texas that cowboys had access to liquor and other recreational possibilities. Before driving their herds farther north to a Kansas railhead, drovers could drink and cavort with sporting women in Caldwell. Where liquor flowed so freely there were brawls and shootouts, along with lynchings, and violence continued after Caldwell became the Chisholm Trail railhead. Indeed, the casualty list in and around the Border Queen was greater than that in Abilene or Wichita or Dodge City. 
On the approach to Caldwell from the South, these silhouettes were erected
by volunteers in 1995.
This arch overlooks the principal intersection of Main Street.
When I was invited as State Historian to represent Texas at the Caldwell Chisholm Trail Festival, it was explained to me that there would be dignitaries from Kansas and Oklahoma. Of course, I felt that there SHOULD be a Texas representative, since both the cattle and the cowboys came from the Lone Star State. I was asked to make an address about frontier Caldwell and to sign copies of a book I had written, Border Queen Caldwell, Toughest Town on the Chisholm Trail. Through the years I had written articles about the Border Queen, as well as a biography about the murderous city marshal, Henry Brown, and I donated to the Border Queen Museum a scale model of Caldwell in the 1880s. Through all of these projects I was aided by a remarkable Caldwell historian, Karen Sturm. Karen has energy, enthusiasm, and organizational gifts, and she has put together a number of heritage events for the Border Queen, including the Caldwell Chisholm Trail Festival.  

Caldwell's first Opera House was saved and restored by volunteers.
The scale model of early Caldwell that I researched and built is still displayed by the Border Queen Museum.
The most famous of all cattle trails, the Chisholm Trail, opened in 1867, and during the next 18 years more than 4 million longhorns were driven up the historic route to Kansas railheads. The first railhead was developed by cattle buyer Joseph G. McCoy at Abilene, where Texas drovers enjoyed raucous sprees after months on the trail. By 1871 tracks were laid toward the south, and Abilene became nearly deserted, while Newton had one season as railhead before the tracks moved on to Wichita, which remained end-of-track for the Chisholm Trail during the rest of the decade.

 Historical markers have been placed all over downtown Caldwell. This one quotes me from a book I wrote, "Border Queen Caldwell: Toughest Town on the Chisholm Trail."
 But a farmers' quarantine law blocked the Chisholm Trail, even though business was too lucrative to abandon. So in 1880 railroad tracks were extended 49 miles southwest to Caldwell, then another three miles to the state line, where a large stockyard was erected. Texas steers entered the stockyard through gates in Oklahoma, before being driven onto cattle cars without violation of the quarantine law. Caldwell thus became the last railhead on the Chisholm Trail, until the penetration of Texas by railroads ended the famous Long Drives and closed the cattle trails.

With fellow Texans, David and Rena French

On Friday night a "Ghost Walk" up and down Main Street attracted
an unexpectedly large crowd.
The Caldwell Chisholm Trail Festival began on Friday, May 5, when area fourth-graders, along with early-bird tourists, toured the museums and exhibits and historic sites. The town's first opera house displayed a traveling exhibit, "Chisholm Trail Sesquicentennial: Driving the American West, 1867-2017." At the Border Queen Museum a Western art collection was exhibited, while upstairs a "Robbers Roost" displayed a bordello suite.   

With sporting lady
The original Boot Hill was north of town, and the few remaining markers were moved to Caldwell's permanent cemetery.
Hundreds of people came to town for Saturday's activities, which included stagecoach rides around town, mechanical bull rides, calf roping, longhorn cattle, Chisholm Trail Arts and Crafts Show, a street shootout, a Beard and Mustache Contest, a Chuck Wagon Dinner, an Old West Poker Tourney at a local saloon, and a Saturday night street dance. On Sunday morning all local churches combined for a Cowboy Church Meeting, and later there were two quilt shows. There were other weekend activities, too numerous to mention. It was a splendid celebration, staged by a community of 1,100 people with a deep appreciation of the important and colorful place in history held by their town.
Deputy Sherriff Cash Hollister was fatally wounded in a shoot-out with outlaws outside town.
An impressive G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) monument at the Caldwell Cemetery


I used a poster showing my great grandfather, Jess Standard, with a trail crew.

Caldwell Mayor Mark Arnold reading a proclamation on our flatbed stage
(Karen Sturm is at left.)

The 150th birthday cake at a private lunch on Saturday

My great-grandfather, Jess Standard, trailed cattle from Lampasas County to Kansas during the 1870s and 1880s. At Caldwell during May 5-6-7 I paid tribute, as State Historian, to Jess and the hundreds of other Texas cowboys who drove cattle herds up the Chisholm Trail. And like the drovers of long ago, I had a grand time in the Border Queen.  

With Karen Sturm, the dynamic Boss Wrangler of the Caldwell celebration
With Jesse Chisholm, great-great-grandson and namesake of the pioneer who blazed the Chisholm Trail

Signing books for a long line at the Border Queen Museum
Sporting ladies at the entrance to the upstairs Bordello replica

Sporting ladies in the Bordello parlor