Tuesday, July 29, 2014

WWHA

"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.

The grave of cattle king J.W. Iliff is
marked by a 44-foot granite monument.
From July 22 through July 26, my wife Karon and I participated in the Seventh Annual Roundup of the Wild West Historical Association. This year’s WWHA Roundup was headquartered at the Denver West Marriott, a convention hotel located just west of Denver on the outskirts of Golden, Colorado. The WWHA was formed by a merger of two western history groups, NOLA (National Association for Outlaw and Lawman History) and WOLA (Western Association for Outlaw and Lawman History). I was a longtime board member and frequent program chair for NOLA, and occasionally I presented programs at WOLA meetings. When NOLA and WOLA merged into the WWHA, Karon and I became charter members. Indeed, Texas has provided the largest number of WWHA members, and at each Roundup there is a large contingent of Texans. Next year the Roundup will be held in Amarillo.


The original building of the Iliff School
School of Theology was donated
by his oldest son.


Karon and I drove toward Denver through West Texas, spending our first night in Dalhart, a Panhandle town which houses the XIT Museum. The next day, Tuesday, July 22, we reached Denver in the early afternoon. I had volunteered to speak on Colorado’s famous cattle king, John Wesley Iliff. I first researched and wrote about Iliff two decades ago, for my book Historic Ranches of the Old West, and I dealt with him again a few years ago in my book about frontier Cheyenne. Iliff came to the gold mining camp of Denver in 1859, but instead of prospecting he entered the cattle business. Iliff established nine ranches in northeastern Colorado, running as many as 40,000 head of cattle on 650,000 acres of open range, and he did business with legendary Texas cattleman Charles Goodnight and his partner Oliver Loving. So before Karon and I went to our hotel, we visited Iliff’s grave – marked by a 44-foot granite monument – in Fairmount Cemetery, and the J.W. Iliff School of Theology – featuring a picturesque Victorian building – on the University of Denver campus.

Bar-B-Q atop Lookout Mountain with Cody and
Annie Oakley among the WWHA crowd.
There were no scheduled WWHA activities until late Wednesday afternoon, so earlier in the day Karon and I drove into Golden to visit the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum (her treat) and the Colorado Railroad Museum (my treat!). That evening the WWHA Roundup opened atop Lookout Mountain, where we visited the grave and nearby museum of Buffalo Bill Cody, and ate a delicious Bar-B-Q dinner.
With Arizona State Historian and WWHA
Vice President Marshall Trimble
Two old Bills

Buffalo Bill's grave
Karon with her six-gun cane outside the
Buffalo Bill Museum























Program chair Roy Young introducing the
Texas State Historian

Thursday morning I presented the leadoff program, which was warmly received. The rest of the day we enjoyed a great many fine programs, as well as three breakout sessions that evening. At mid-day we sat down to the annual Awards Luncheon, and Texan Chuck Parsons was presented a check and plaque for the best article in the WWHA Journal.

Our crowd exceeded 140.
Friday was field trip day, with a bus ride up to historic Leadville. Karon and I twice had visited Leadville, so we stayed at the hotel to work on various projects – including this blog. On Friday evening we all enjoyed an hour-long interview with historian Dr. Gary L. Roberts, author of Doc Holliday: The Life and Legend.
Texas author Chuck Parsons (right) receives a
Six-Shooter Award from WWHA President
Pam Potter and Awards Chairman Carroll Moore.
With fellow Texan Bill Zigrang
With WWHA board member and distinguished
Texan Kurt House
Ron Chrisman is director of the UNT Press.

Saturday morning featured several more fine programs. At the Boots and Spurs Banquet that evening, WWHA members from across the nation dressed in Western attire and feasted on a superb meal. Bill Koch, noted collector of Western memorabilia, was our "Special Guest Speaker." Koch and Texan Kurt House, WWHA board member, rancher, and a noted collector in his own right, greatly enlivened the live auction, the proceeds of which go to WWHA coffers. Several president’s awards were announced, and an enticing preview of the 2015 Amarillo Roundup was presented. Indeed, the next day Karon and I drove through Amarillo, already looking forward to meeting again with our WWHA friends – kindred spirits all.
Bill and Karon at the banquet


WWHA Founding Father Bob McCubbin receives
the Lifetime Achievement Award.



For more information: www.wildwesthistory.org

Friday, July 18, 2014

Historical Potpourri

"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.

Libby Elementary School
Two years go the Carthage ISD opened a new school, Libby Elementary. I was toured through this state-of-the-art facility by Dr. Glenn Hambrick, Superintendent of CISD. Dr. Hambrick especially wanted me to see a courtyard which featured a large scale model of the solar system, as well as a clever depiction of Texas (for fourth-grade Texas history classes) on the floor of the courtyard. The large map of Texas included the geographic regions of the Lone Star State.  Just outside the boundaries of the Texas floor map are large, labeled rock samples from the various regions. Carthage is marked on the map. And there are separate, smaller floor maps of Panola County and of Carthage.

Karon standing atop the Edwards Plateau
Prairies and Lakes limestone
The courtyard is a superb teaching tool, for science and geography teachers, and for Texas history teachers. My opening lecture in Texas history was “The Natural Setting.” I wanted to acquaint my students with the incredibly varied geography of Texas, and the resulting historical consequences. I would have loved teaching that lesson in the Libby courtyard.

Gulf Coast sandstone
Earlier this week my wife Karon and I went together to Libby Elementary, camera at the ready. Karon is a math instructor at Panola College, and for several years she was the chair of the Math and Science Department, so she was especially captivated by the solar system depiction. We were toured by Garrett Welch of the CISD maintenance department. Garrett was a classmate of my youngest daughter, Causby, and he was a most gracious and informative tour guide. Garrett is artistically gifted, and he designed the logo for the new school. We also learned that Garrett, using acrylic paints on the large window spaces of the building, creates attractive images for the opening of school, Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and school closing.










Solar System





















Our tour guide, Garrett Welch, beside the
mascot he created


Karon and I also stopped at the Panola College Library to visit the Fay Cassity Allison Gallery. Librarians Sherri Baker and Cristie Ferguson change exhibits monthly, with able assistance from library staff members. The current exhibit is photographic, “The Grand Ole Opry,” supplemented by cases of various materials from the college library collections. Exhibits during the past school year have been obtained from the Texas Humanities Commission, Mid-America Arts Alliance with Texas Commission on the Art, and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as displays from local talent. These exhibits provide an excellent cultural service for the Panola campus and for the community. Indeed, the Grand Ole Opry exhibit sets the stage for the annual induction weekend in a few weeks of the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame Museum in Carthage. 

With Librarian Sherri Baker














Dr. Van Patterson introducing me to his fellow Rotarians
Yesterday (Friday, July 18), Karon and I were at First Baptist Church in Longview for a meeting of the Rotary Club. Rotarian Dr. Van Patterson, Executive Director of the University Center of Longview, is a longtime friend and a former colleague at Panola College. Early this year I was invited by Van to inaugurate a lecture series at his institution. I presented a program on Gunfighting in Texas (“Gunfighterology””), which Van publicized widely. The crowd that night was large, enthusiastic, and responsive, and the evening was a success. For the Rotary Club, Van asked me to provide an abbreviated version of “Gunfighterology.” I saw several Longview friends, including lovely Raina Howerton, the personable Executive Director of the Gregg County Historical Museum in Longview. Among the new friends I made was John Jetter, who in 2002 became only the thirty-second person to travel to all 138 (at that time) Texas state parks. The audience enjoyed the program and asked a number of questions, and afterward Karon and I lingered to visit.

With Rotary President Susan Mazarakes-Gill
With John Jetter




Saturday, July 12, 2014

War in East 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.


Robert Potter 
There were more blood feuds in Texas than in any other state or territory. The first Texas blood feud was the Regulator-Moderator War, which erupted in 1840 and continued for four years, with thirty-one men killed in shootouts, ambushes, brawls, and lynchings. The climactic year of the feud was 1844, with 200 mounted Regulators and 100 Moderators facing year other in Shelby County. Republic of Texas President Sam Houston rode to the site of trouble and, backed by 600 members of the Texas Militia, abruptly halted the feud.

Although often called “The Shelby War,” the Regulator-Moderator conflict broke out in Harrison County in 1840. Harrison County was only recently created and still was a lawless wilderness. A band of “Regulators” was formed to curb the lawlessness, but when their extralegal methods became too heavy-handed, “Moderators” organized to “moderate” the Regulators. The leader of the Harrison County Regulators was a large, rugged pioneer named William Pinckney Rose. As a young man he fought at the Battle of New Orleans. By the time he reached his fifties, Rose was the patriarch of a clan of frontier families whom he led to Texas, settling on claims just west of Caddo Lake. Given to booming out profanities, the big Regulator leader was nicknamed “Hell Roarin’ Rose” and “Lion of the Lakes.” 
The monument for Captain Rose is the
tallest in the Scottsville Cemetery,
and the statement reads "HE WAS
A TOWER OF STRENGTH IN WAR,
IN STATE, AT HOME."

Late in 1840, Regulator George Rembert was killed in a shootout with Moderators. Shortly afterward another Regulator, Isaac Hughes, was slain by a sheriff’s posse of Moderators. In retribution, a brother of Hughes, assisted by Captain Rose, assassinated Sheriff John B. Campbell at Port Caddo, a village beside Lake Caddo. Campbell was killed in January 1841, and further vengeance was extracted when Captain Rose and his Regulators killed Moderators Daniel Minor and D. Morris in September.

Republic of Texas Senator Robert Potter lived at Potter’s Point, overlooking Caddo Lake. Potter was a contentious individual who, throughout his life, gravitated to adventure and danger, as well as to public service. Handsome and charming, Potter was also a compulsive womanizer, and a magnet for trouble. At fifteen he joined the U.S. Navy as a midshipman, but after six years he returned to North Carolina, where he became a lawyer, congressman, and state legislator. During that decade and a half Potter became embroiled in duels, adultery, and savage maimings. He had an affair with a wealthy heiress. Both were married, and when their affair was exposed Potter created a diversion by falsely accusing a middle-aged Methodist and a seventeen-year-old cousin of consorting with his wife. In separate incidents Potter attacked and castrated his cousin and the minister – which gave birth to a new North Carolina verb: “potterizing.”
Monument erected at Potter's Point
to honor Harriet, "Bravest Woman
in Texas." Potter's log home stood
a short distance to the right, and
just behind the monument is a steep
bluff 200 feet above Caddo Lake.

Expelled from the North Carolina Legislature in 1835, Potter came to Texas. Immediately he took an active role in revolutionary meetings at Nacogdoches and Washington-on-the-Brazos. Potter had more experience in government that anyone except Sam Houston, and both men signed the Texas Declaration of Independence on March 2, 1836.With six years as a junior officer in the U.S. Navy, Potter was appointed Secretary of the Texas Navy. During the “Runaway Scrape,” Secretary Potter picked up an attractive refugee, Harriet Moore Page, and her little boy and infant daughter. Harriet’s husband, Solomon Page, was marching with General Houston’s army, but she had been forced to flee before the Mexican forces of General Santa Anna. Secretary Potter installed Harriet and her children aboard his flagship, but sadly her little girl died.


After the war Potter took a land grant adjacent to Caddo Lake. Harriet divorced Page and came to Potter’s Point. She and Potter had six children and built a cabin near a steep bluff above Caddo Lake. Potter became a Senator of the Texas Republic, and early in 1842 he persuaded President M.B. Lamar to offer a $500 reward for the murderous Rose. Arriving in Harrison County on March 1, Potter immediately raised a seventeen-man posse of Moderators and rode to the home of Rose. But Rose hid in the fields, and a disappointed Potter dispersed his posse and headed for Potter’s Point.

Meanwhile, Rose put together a band of Regulators and, during the night, surrounded Potter’s cabin. Rose attacked at dawn, but Harriet was ready to defend their home. “We had a cannon [a ship’s swivel gun] and plenty of firearms, and I reminded Robert that I could loads guns as fast as he could.”

But Robert decided to flee the cabin, probably to safeguard Harriet and the children. Despite Harriet’s entreaties to fight, Potter bolted outside and scrambled down the steep 200-foot embankment, as the Regulators fired their single-shot rifles after him. Leaving his loaded rifle leaning against a cypress tree, Potter swam away under water. But John Scott, Rose’s son-in-law, followed Potter down the embankment. Scott picked up the loaded rifle, and when Potter came up for air he was shot in the head with his own gun. Potter died six years to the day after he signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. Buried near his home, in 1928 Potter’s remains were reinterred in the State Cemetery in Austin.

Holding my book on the Regulator-Moderator War
Potter was a controversial and, in many ways, an unlikable figure, but he was the most prominent man killed in the Regulator-Moderator War. He left his common-law wife in straitened circumstances, and she wrote a memoir of her eventful life. A novel, Love is a Wild Assault, was penned by Elithe Hamilton Kirkland and published in 1959. I was requested by the East Texas Historical Association to write an account of the feud, and War in East Texas, Regulators vs. Moderators was released in 2006 as the first volume of the ETHA’s Bob and Doris Bowman East Texas History Series.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Tragedy at a Texas Courthouse

"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.

The old cemetery lies three blocks south of the Carthage town square. A weathered headstone reads:

DENNIS C. HILL

Panola’s murdered TREASURER
BORN July 17, 1833
Robbed of his life for the County’s money
Feb. 10, 1888
Hill’s murderer, Deputy Sheriff Tom Forsyth, is buried just 80 feet to the north. The murder and robbery of the Panola County Treasurer provided front-page headlines across Texas in February 1888. Carthage, the Panola County seat, was a quiet farming community of 400 which seemed an unlikely locale for a spectacular murder and lynching. Law and order was enforced by a thrice-wounded Civil War captain, Sheriff James P. Forsyth. When the war ended, Forsyth returned to his Panola County farm. He married and began to raise a family. His oldest son, Tom, was born in 1866, and another son and daughter soon followed.

J.P Forsyth in later years
In 1880 Forsyth was elected county sheriff. Popular and efficient, Sheriff Forsyth was re-elected in 1882, 1884, and 1886. When Tom Forsyth came of age at 21 in 1887, the sheriff gave him a deputy’s commission. But Sheriff Forsyth took a calculated risk when he pinned a badge on his son. Tom was chronically short of money. Although the young bachelor had no family responsibilities, he drank and gambled and sank into debt. Sheriff Forsyth apparently hoped that the responsibilities of enforcing the law would mature his son.

1886 Courthouse
On Friday, February 10, 1888, court was in session at Panola County’s two-year-old courthouse. At noon court adjourned, and the building rapidly emptied. Longtime County Treasurer Dennis Hill continued to work in his ground-floor office. He was 55, a solid family man. There were no banks in Carthage, and the only safe in the county stood in Hill’s office. His reputation was so trustworthy that local businessmen frequently entrusted cash to him for safekeeping. Therefore, on February 10 nearly $1,500 in private funds rested in his safe, along with almost $5,000 in county monies. 

 Deputy Sheriff Tom Forsyth strolled into Hill’s office and asked the treasurer to change a $20 bill. Hill amiably agreed, turned toward the open safe and began counting out change. Dazzled by the stacks of currency, Forsyth experienced an overwhelming surge of agreed. Impulsively he seized an axe, kept in the office to split wood for the fireplace. Forsyth launched a powerful blow at the back of Hill’s head. Hill was sent sprawling by the unexpected impact. As Hill writhed on the floor, Deputy Forsyth viciously struck him twice more with the axe. To make certain he was dead, Forsyth opened his pocket knife and slit Hill’s throat. Stepping over the bloody body, Forsyth looted the safe of more than $6,000, then locked the door behind him. 


The blood-soaked corpse was not found until Saturday. There was no telephone or telegraph connection to Carthage in 1888 (the first railroad into the county was still several miles from Carthage). News of the brutal robbery-murder did not reach the outside world until Sunday night, when Sheriff Forsyth traveled to Longview to seek help with the investigation. The story was flashed to Dallas, and the next day the News spread the sensational story statewide. “MURDERED AND PLUNDERED,” proclaimed a front-page headline. “Awful Fate of a Co. Treasurer/His Head Severed From His Body and His Safe Robbed.”

Sheriff Forsyth was no sleuth, and the services of a railroad detective, one-armed H.E. Parker, were engaged.  Parker soon built a case against Deputy Sheriff Forsyth. Almost as though he wanted to be caught, Tom began a spend money freely. In Beckville he changed a $50 bill that was stained with blood. Within a week he loaned more than $200 to railroad construction workers. He drank heavily and gambled recklessly, paying off one gambling debt with another blood-stained bill. 


Parker took note of Tom’s bizarre behavior, and when his evidence list seemed long enough he obtained a warrant for Tom Forsyth’s arrest. On Monday afternoon, February 27, Tom was forcefully seized in a Carthage saloon. Tom soon revealed where he had hidden the money, and told Parker that if he would prevent a lynching that he would make a full confession the next day in court. His mother fainted in the street. The money was quickly recovered, except for more than $600 that Tom had already spent. That night a lynch mob approached the courthouse, where the murderer was incarcerated, but they dispersed when told that Tom intended to confess in court.

On Tuesday morning Tom was brought into the courtroom. Radiating arrogance, he refused to remove his hat or stand before the judge. Leaning back in a chair, Tom dangled his legs over the table in front of him, lit a cigar, then told the story of the robbery and murder in grisly detail. When he finished, Tom asked the mercy of the court and citizens, and pleaded that he not be burned. 


J.P. Forsyth was buried in his Confederate uniform.
That night a dozen guards were on duty. Sheriff Forsyth, told at his home that a lynch mob was forming, sadly stated that justice must be done. Soon more than 400 men marched to the courthouse jail. The vastly outnumbered guards offered no resistance. Tom Forsyth was hustled outside to a tree near the courthouse. A noose was placed around his neck and the rope was tossed over a limb. Rather than be hoisted up and strangled, Tom persuaded the mob to let him climb a ladder – with his hands tied behind his back – and jump off. His neck was broken at 10:10, Tuesday night, February 28, 1888. Eighteen days had passed since the murder and robbery at the nearby courthouse.


The mob cut down Tom and carried his body to the county treasurer’s office. The murderer’s corpse was deposited atop the bloodstains of his victim, and the mob dispersed. Later that night friends of the Forsyth family carried Tom to a hotel, where the remains were prepared for burial.

After the lynching a more secure jail was built
half a block north of the square. Opened in
1891, today it houses an excellent museum
and genealogy library.
Sickened by the tragedy, Sheriff Forsyth never again carried a gun. His legion of friends persuaded him to run for re-election in the fall of 1888, and he won by a larger margin than in his previous four victories. In 1890 he refused another term, but in 1892 supporters prevailed upon him to run again, and he was re-elected in 1894. After withdrawing from public life for six years, he again was re-elected sheriff in 1902 and 1904. By 1906, now 66, Sheriff Forsyth apparently felt that he had restored honor to the family name, and he retired permanently from public service. Forsyth served as Captain of the Carthage Camp of United Confederate Veterans until his death in 1928. He was buried in his Confederate uniform, beside the grave of his disgraced son.

The brick courthouse, site of the murder of Denis Hill, was razed six decades ago. The hanging tree and other foliage around the square long have been displaced by permanent curbing. Today the only tangible reminders of the tragedy of 1888 are the peaceful graves of villain and victim. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Texans in Mississippi

"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.

For more than a decade at Panola College, each spring and fall I conducted an “Old South Tour,” a weekend at Natchez and Vicksburg and points in between. I usually took 24 men and women – occasionally all women – on a Panola College bus through the non-credit division. I lined up antebellum home tours and fine meals, museums and a trip through the Vicksburg Battlefield National Park. Through the years I managed to take each of my daughters, one or two at a time.

Jessie and Chloe at the Bonnie and Clyde markers.
My oldest daughter, Lynn Martinez, has long held a deep interest in the antebellum south. As a teacher in the Mansfield ISD she artfully shares this interest with her students. Lynn and her husband, Rudy, are the parents of two daughters, my oldest granddaughters: Chloe, soon to be a high school junior; and Jessie, soon to be a fifth-grader. Earlier this year Lynn asked if I could provide a private “Old South Tour” for her and her daughters. Of course I was delighted, and a few days ago I set out with Lynn, Chloe, Jessie and my wife Karon (aka “GrandKaron”).

Deputy Sheriff Ted Hinton stands at left,
Frank Hamer is at lower right.
We drove across Louisiana on I-20, turning off to drive south eight miles past Gibsland to the site where Bonnie and Clyde, Dallas area criminals, were slain by lawmen led by famed Texas Ranger Frank Hamer and Dallas County Deputy Sheriff Ted Hinton, who knew both fugitives. The climax to the manhunt came in 1934, 80 years and one month ago. 

We resumed our journey, crossing the Mississippi River into Natchez early in the afternoon. During the rest of the afternoon, evening, and the next morning, we toured the  mansions Rosalie, Stanton Hall, and Longwood, as well as the Grand Village of Native Americans with its burial mounds and reconstructed lodge. There was an evening carriage tour, and a delicious dinner downtown at Biscuits and Blues. I provided a driving tour of Natchez, and whenever possible I made a Texas connection, such as Jim Bowie. 

Jessie, Lynn, Chloe, and Karon stand at the Windsor ruins.
Late the next morning we left Natchez, stopping within a few minutes at the former military school, Jefferson College, now a state historic park. We drove northward on the lovely Natchez Trace, turning off at tiny Lorman to eat a terrific country buffet at the Lorman General Store, which dates from 1875. We continued on to the spectacular, haunting ruins of Windsor, the 23-room home of David Hunt, who owned 20 cotton plantations on both sides of the river, in Mississippi and Louisiana. The splendid mansion was topped by a towering observatory, from which the Mississippi River could be viewed, just four miles to the east. Despite the nearby passage of General Grant’s army in 1863, Windsor survived the war, but was destroyed in an accidental fire in 1890.

Lynn and Chloe at a Texas unit marker at the
Second Texas Lunette, where Union assault
troops approached to within a few feet of
Texas lines before being repulsed.
In 1881 my great-grandparents and their family rode past Windsor, part of a wagon train headed for Texas. My great-grandfather, Confederate veteran George Washington Owen, decided to leave the longtime family holdings in Hinds County and make a new start in Texas. One of his children was seven-year-old Nannie Ophelia Owen, my future grandmother (my father, W.C. O’Neal, was the last of her eight children). The wagon-train trek from Mississippi to Texas was the great adventure of her childhood, and she told me about it many times. My great-grandfather settled in Navarro County and became a prosperous landholder and cotton farmer. 

This statue of Jeff Davis was placed
at the Second Texas Lunette.
Our smaller trek pulled into Vicksburg early in the afternoon of our second day. We toured Cedar Grove, an elegant mansion near the Mississippi River. Cedar Grove was a target of Union gunboats during the siege of Vicksburg, and several solid shot cannon balls are imbedded in the grand house. We visited the excellent museum in the magnificent 1858 court house, before driving through the National Cemetery, where more than 17.000 Union soldiers are buried. Across the road from the cemetery is the impressive restoration of the U.S.S. Cairo, sunk in 1862 and rediscovered a century later. Although near closing time, we rapidly toured the old warship. 


Lynn and Chloe and I exercised in the Vicksburg National Battlefield Park, taking photos of monuments to the Texas soldiers and units. We all enjoyed our family trip together, and happily there was enough Texas material for a State Historian blog! 
Bill at the Texas Monument.