Friday, January 23, 2015

A Day in Lubbock

"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. 

Entrance to the Southwest Collections
A few months ago I was invited by John Wolf to address the Llano Estacado Corral at their annual banquet. The Westerners International is a far-flung organization which celebrates and studies Western history through 145 “Corrals” and “Posses” in the United States and overseas. Of course, I was delighted at the opportunity to participate in an event with fellow Western history enthusiasts.

WTHA headquarters
Also in Lubbock is headquarters of the West Texas Historical Association, located on the campus of Texas Tech University at the Southwest Collections/Special Collections Library. I have the privilege of serving as president of the West Texas Historical Association, and the Executive Director of the WTHA is Dr. Tai Kreidler. Tai is also the Co-Director of the Southwest Collections/Special Collections Library, and he has secured office space for the WTHA at the SWC/SCL building. The WTHA annual meeting this year will be held on April 10 and 11 in Amarillo. While I was in Lubbock I had the opportunity to meet with Tai and his staff to work out details of the WTHA meeting and to deal with committee appointments and other matters. 

With Tai Kreidler
During the course of our time together, I was escorted to various sites where Southwest Collection work is ongoing. Tai Kreidler travels a great many miles adding miscellaneous historical items to the collections. The SWC/SCL employs cutting edge technology. I was especially impressed with a project which has brought more than 50,000 copies of West Texas newspapers to the SWC/SCL to be scanned and digitized so these newspapers may be researched online. Study is facilitated by the application of Optional Character Recognition (OCR), a keyword search of more than 90 characters. From the Baird Star to the Hansford Headlight, from the Matador Tribune to the Slaton Slatonite, newspapers from 25 West Texas towns are being made available for online study. Many of these hardcopy newspapers are quite fragile, but staff members are scanning upwards of 50 per day. I was highly impressed with this important work.
Student assistant Kaitlin Dickson digitizing a newspaper

Newspaper scanner









Approach to the Ranch Heritage Center


While in Lubbock I drove to the Ranch Heritage Center, an internationally famous tourist attraction. I am a longtime member of the RHC, and this museum and collection of historic ranch structures was one of the highlights for participants of the Traveling Texas History courses which I conducted for 20 years at Panola College. I viewed the current exhibits, took a quick look at the ranch buildings, and visited the gift shop – Cogdell’s General Store – where I gratefully autographed several of my books that were offered for sale.


Cogdell's General Store

XIT bunkhoue




More than 50 Westerners attended the banquet.
Late in the afternoon I drove to the historic Women’s Club building, located on Broadway in downtown Lubbock. The Llano Estacado Corral had secured this fine venue for the banquet. The Westerners movement originated in Chicago in 1944, and the next year the Denver Posse was organized, followed in 1946 by Corrals in Los Angeles and St. Louis. The Llano Estacado Corral was established in 1969, and is one of eleven Texas Corrals. The Llano Estacado “Sheriff” (President) is the lovely and gracious Sara McKee. Other Corral officers include: Deputies (as many as needed with specific duties – i.e., vice-presidents); Ink Slinger (editor of any publications); Recorder of Marks and Brands (secretary); Keeper of the Chips (treasurer); Trail Boss (sergeant-at-arms, if needed); Rep (Corral/Posse representative for contact with other groups and Westerners International). Westerners International publishes the quarterly Buckskin Bulletin.                                                

John Wolf met me at the Lubbock Women’s Club and helped me carry in program props and books. He had asked me to speak on “Texas: Gunfighter Capital of the West.” I already knew many members of the Llano Estacado Corral, and met a number of new kindred spirits. I greatly enjoyed socializing with everyone, the catered meal – beef, of course – was excellent, and the program on Texas Gunfighters suited the Llano Estacado crowd. I had a grand time, and the evening with the Corral was a genial conclusion to a fine day in Lubbock.

For more information: http://nrhc.ttu.edu
http://swco.ttu.edu/

Friday, January 16, 2015

Delta Gamma

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

With Fannie Watson and Melba Pahal
A few months ago I was invited by Fannie Watson, a retired teacher who lives near Tenaha, to address the January meeting of Delta Gamma Chapter of women educators. Delta Gamma was organized in 1929 by women educators from Shelby, Sabine, and San Augustine counties. Among many other awards, Delta Gamma recently received the coveted President’s Award for Chapter Excellence (PACE) from the Texas State Organization of the Delta Kappa Society International, which has more than 90,000 members in 18 nations worldwide. 


Fannie Watson serves as president – again – of Delta Gamma, an exemplary chapter. I was delighted to receive her kind invitation because, among other reasons, a number of Delta Gamma members were students of mine at Panola College. Mrs. Watson asked me to bring books to autograph and sell, because interest had been expressed in books by the State Historian.


Meetings are rotated among communities across the three-county area of Delta Gamma Chapter. The meeting of January 2015 was held at Woodland Christian Church of Timpson, a drive of less than thirty miles for me. The meeting was scheduled for six o’clock on a Monday evening, but I arrived early to set up a selection of books. I was greeted by a number of old friends. By the time the meeting was called to order, I had inscribed all but one of the books I had brought.
With former students

Five of my students were seated at my table, and I had a grand time catching up on their families and careers. Almost all of the ladies had participated in my Traveling Texas History Course, and it was great fun reminiscing about those 2,100-mile trips around the Lone Star State. One of the ladies, Nora Robinson of Timpson, photographed the event for the Delta Gamma publication, and she graciously provided photos for me to use in this blog. During the evening I was introduced to Melba Pahal, First Vice President of the Texas State Organization, who was visiting this outstanding chapter from her home in Fredericksburg. 


Our catered meal featured barbeque served on Texas plates with other Lone Star decorations and trimmings, all in honor of the State Historian. After I was introduced I mentioned that the “Texas Culinary Trinity” was considered to be barbeque, Tex-Mex, and chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes and cream gravy. I also described my activities as State Historian and how the office came into existence (Larry McNeill, who played a key role in creating the office, is well-known by Fannie Watson and several other members). Following my program I enjoyed a number of pleasant farewells before driving home. This meeting was my first appearance of 2015, and for me it was a memorable evening indeed. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Johnson Ranch House

"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. 

On December 16, 2014, Karon and I were in Snyder for a signing and program. The subject of the program was “Gunfighting in Texas,” and the final part was about the last old-fashioned blood feud in Texas, the Johnson-Sims Feud, which erupted in Snyder on December 16, 1916.  During the afternoon before this anniversary program, Karon and I were part of a group that toured the magnificent Johnson ranch house, a 16-room mansion completed in 1910 and located 12 miles north of Snyder. 


Billy Johnson was a young cowboy riding point on an 1878 cattle drive when he discovered a spring-fed stream in northern Scurry County. Johnson put together a ranch of 47 contiguous sections, and as he prospered he helped to found – and soon became president of – Snyder’s First National Bank (the old building still stands on the northwest corner of Snyder’s courthouse square). Johnson and his wife, Nannie, had three sons and a daughter, Gladys, and the family lived in a two-story frame ranch house. 

But Billy Johnson decided to erect a home worthy of a cattle baron and bank president. This splendid residence was constructed a short distance east of the frame ranch house, commanding a sweeping view from the top of a mesa. A 16-room manor was built of concrete blocks, which were fashioned of gravel and sand from nearby Ennis Creek. Billy Johnson hired a man for a dollar a day “and keep” to count the shovels of sand and cement to make certain the mixture was sound for the blocks and the mortar. 

A master craftsman was employed to create a superb parquet floor in the parlor. To fasten the design, 1,500 pounds of nails were used to put the small oak pieces in place. The craftsman also hand-carved the oak banister on the big stairway. The second-floor landing served as a sitting room. A music room off the ground-floor parlor boasted an Edison record player. Also on the first floor was the bedroom for Billy and Nannie, and the only bathroom in the house was nearby. A large basement below the kitchen provided living quarters for the cook. 
Karon in the dining room
The Johnsons moved into their grand new home in 1910. In this house in December 1916, following an incident in Snyder in which Ed Sims, ex-husband of Gladys, threatened Billy Johnson, Gladys and her brother Sidney plotted to kill Ed. That killing triggered the murderous Johnson-Sims Feud. Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, hired as a bodyguard for Billy Johnson, fell in love with Gladys. Gladys and Frank married during the feud and lived in the mansion. There were scenes of family drama in the house through the years. 
The rear upstairs gallery
I first saw this impressive and historic home while researching a biography of feudist Pink Higgins, whose oldest son, Judge Cullen Higgins, was assassinated during the feud. I photographed the exterior and longingly peered into the windows. Years later I again had the opportunity to examine the exterior, while working on a book about the feud (The Johnson-Sims Feud: Romeo and Juliet, West Texas Style, UNT Press, 2010). 
With Daniel Schlegel (left), and John Hamlett
This house now is owned by a Johnson descendant, John Hamlett. John grew up in the aging mansion, and he and his wife have repaired and refurbished the house. There is a great deal of original furniture, and the home is being returned to its original splendor. Daniel Schlegel, Director of the Scurry County Museum, and some of his board members, arranged for John to open the house to us prior to my program. Museum employees, board members, and Karon and I caravanned out to the house. For the next couple of hours we went from room to room, from level to level, inside and outside, as John pointed out numerous features – and as I felt some long-familiar ghosts. 


It was an unforgettable historical adventure. 

For more information: 
www.scurrycountymuseum.org

Friday, January 2, 2015

Winnsboro 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. 

At Wild West Days
On Saturday, February 15, 2014, I presented a program in Winnsboro, “The History of the Texas Cowboy.” I was invited by the Winnsboro Preservation Commission and the Gilbreath Memorial Library. There was excellent publicity and a large crowd, which included an enthusiastic group of gunfighter re-enactors, The Legends of Crossroads. Karon and I were treated with great hospitality, and I posted a blog about the event. 


Spearheaded by The Legends of Crossroads, a Winnsboro Wild West Days was organized for the weekend of November 14 and 15, to be held at a park which featured a covered pavilion. There would be booths and western music and fast-draw contests. I was asked to provide my program on “Gunfighterology.” The invitation came from librarian Pam Dumse, who also is a gun-totin’ member of The Legends of Crossroads. Like Legends, Karon and I again wore western attire. I brought my replica weapons and various gun rigs, and “Gunfighterology” was well-received by the Wild West enthusiasts who were in attendance.

The Legends of Crossroads, including
Librarian Pam Dumse, second from right.
Pam Dumse recently had earned promotion to head librarian. When she learned that my most recent book, Texas Gunslingers, would be released in December, she graciously offered to host a signing at the Gilbreath Memorial Library. Pam wanted to bring the State Historian to the library early in her tenure, and she knew that Texas Gunslingers and others of my titles would be popular in Winnsboro. I was delighted to appear in this history-minded town for my third time in ten months, and Karon and I were eager to see our new Winnsboro friends again. We also had a favorite eating place to visit, and Karon wanted to puruse the colorful shops in “The Bowery,” once a street of saloons. 


The third week of December was filled with book signings and programs, beginning on Monday in Carthage and extending to West Texas (this week is the subject of the most recent blog). By Saturday morning we were back in East Texas and setting up at the Gilbreath Public Library. Pam once more arranged excellent publicity, and The Legends of Crossroads were present to lend support. Library visitors include Randy Lindsey of KWNS Radio, and for several minutes we broadcast live from the library. Responding to our broadcast, a number of guests came to the library soon after we were on the air. I was also interviewed by Bryan Giguere of The Winnsboro News
With Randy Lindsey of KWNS

The library closes on Saturdays at noon. Karon and I said our goodbyes and expressed gratitude to Pam for a highly enjoyable event. Next we drove a few blocks to The Bowery, where we ate a delicious lunch at the Double C Steakhouse and Saloon. The Double C offers a superb Texana atmosphere, which we photographed as best we could. The Bowery, incidentally, was the site of an epic 1907 shootout between lawmen and saloonkeepers, in which all four participants were fatally wounded. But Karon made her way safely to an inviting shop, where she purchased several Christmas gifts before we headed home. 

Double C Steakhouse and Saloon
With hostess Nancy Reid


For more information:

Friday, December 26, 2014

Signing Tour

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


With Sammy Brown Library Director Debbie Godwin
Several months ago I was contacted by Arcadia Publishing, located in Charleston, South Carolina. Acquisitions editors wanted to know if I would produce a book entitled Texas Outlaws. I was immediately attracted, but I pointed out that a book about Texas Outlaws would be about criminals, losers with few redeeming qualities, men on the dodge who left little photographic records. I suggested Texas Gunfighters, which would include Texas Rangers, town marshals, county sheriffs, and other upholders of the law. In addition to peace officers and outlaws, Texas Gunfighters would include blood feuds, as well as the evolution of Sam Colt’s revolving pistols, which took place by Texas Rangers who needed a repeating weapon as they battled mounted Comanche warriors on the frontier. Arcadia approved the project under the title Texas Gunslingers.


My first book, Encyclopedia of Western Gunfighters (University of Oklahoma Press, 1979), established that there were far more shootouts in Texas than in any other state or territory. More gunfighters were from Texas, and more died and were buried in Texas. There were more blood feuds in Texas, across a period of seven decades, beginning with the Regulator-Moderator War of the 1840s. For more than 30 years I’ve explored these events and people in a variety of books and articles. I’ve presented many programs through the years, and perhaps my most popular program as State Historian is “Gunfighterology,” presented with array of replica weapons and gun rigs.


Texas Gunslingers is my fifth title for Arcadia. I’ve put together two community books, the type of book that comprises the majority of Arcadia’s 9,000 titles. But increasingly Arcadia has turned to subject books which, like all other titles, rely upon 200 or so photos as a major element of telling the story of the community or subject. I’ve been permitted to utilize the Arcadia treatment on three favorite Texas history subjects: East Texas in World War II (2010); West Texas Cattle Kingdoms (2013); and now Texas Gunslingers (2014).

Karon at the entrance of the Scurry County Museum
At the beginning of the project I already possessed a majority of the images I needed, assembled for previous books and articles I had written. The theme of the book is that Texas was the gunfighter capital of the Old West. Nothing is more dramatic than life and death conflict, and when those conflicts take place in frontier settings, between men in big hats and boots wielding Colt revolvers and Winchesters, a special appeal is generated.


Texas Gunslingers was released the second week in December. But it was discovered that pre-orders greatly exceeded the first printing, and Arcadia scrambled to assemble a second printing. Of course, the timing of the release was perfect: A profusely illustrated book on a popular subject for just $21.99 – an ideal stocking stuffer!

My wife Karon and I embarked on a week of pre-Christmas programs and signings, beginning on Monday, December 15 at the Sammy Brown Library in Carthage. There had been excellent publicity, including interviews over KGAS Radio and lengthy PR pieces with color photos in the Panola Watchman. Head Librarian Debbie Godwin also flooded her website, and a banner crowd was the result. I signed non-stop for more than two hours, and many sales were of other titles of mine we had on display. Of course, like any author I’m convinced that books make the best gifts!


Before Monday afternoon ended, Karon and I were driving toward West Texas. By mid-day Tuesday we were in Snyder, and we reported to the Scurry County Museum on the campus of West Texas College. Museum Director Daniel Schlegel had arranged an evening program and signing, not only of Texas Gunslingers but also of The Johnson-Sims Feud and other titles he keeps in the museum gift shop. The last old-fashioned blood feud in Texas, the Johnson-Sims conflict, erupted on the Snyder Square on December 16, 1916. Several months ago Daniel arranged an anniversary program event with me, and several weeks ago he added a book signing activity. (Daniel also set up an exciting afternoon field trip, which I’ll describe in a future blog.) Daniel secured newspaper, radio, and electronic publicity, and we enjoyed a fine, responsive crowd.

With Rosa Latimer at Ruby Lane Books (below)


The following day, Wednesday, we drove to Post, where Rosa Latimer has established an independent book store, Ruby Lane Books. Without any prior experience in the book business, Rosa bought a two-story building on Post’s main street. She opened a book store downstairs and lives upstairs. The store is warm and intimate, and Rosa arranges pleasant book events. She provided a light lunch, and I enjoyed seeing old friends while signing a large number of books.

We were back in Carthage by mid-day Thursday. Several people came to the house to acquire inscribed books as Christmas gifts. On Friday I spoke to a noon meeting of the Carthage Rotary Club, describing the new book. That afternoon Karon and I made a two-hour drive to Winnsboro, where we had been invited to have a signing at the Gilbreath Memorial Library. (It was my third appearance in Winnsboro since February, and I intend to discuss the two most recent events in my next blog). Karon and I returned to Carthage on Saturday afternoon, and I happily signed books for last-minute shoppers through Christmas Eve.








For more information:
www.sammybrown.org
http://scurrycountymuseum.org
rubylanebooks.com
http://www.winnsborolibrary.org





Gilbreath Memorial Library in Winnsboro
With Library Director Pam Dumse