Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tales N Trails

"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. 


Standing in front of the Tails N Trails Museum

Still under construction, the "barn" will add
immensely to the museum's display space.
The Tales N Trails Museum is a feature attraction of Nocona. For almost two decades Nell Ann McBroom, aided by her husband Dennis and by her many friends in Nocona, has worked to develop this excellent museum, which is located on Highway 82 on the eastern outskirts of town. The hilltop site was donated by the family of rancher and oilman Joe Benton, who amassed a vast collection of artifacts pertaining to the history of Nocona and of Montague Country. Although it took 15 years to raise funding for a suitable museum building, Tails N Trails Museum today exhibits a large portion of the Joe Benton collection, along with numerous items donated or loaned by men and women supportive of the museum. Indeed, a 9,300 square foot “barn” is nearing completion a short distance behind the main museum building. This spacious new structure will house agricultural machinery and other large items. From the richness of its exhibits to the quality of its facilities, Tales N Trails is a museum destination that will reward a Texas history buff.

Museum display of the famous Nocona boots.

Nell Ann McBroom, whose great-grandfather founded Nocona, directs Tales N Trails with dedication and resourcefulness. I met Nell Ann and Dennis at a couple of history conferences during the past year. Nell Ann invited me to provide a program for the annual Membership Meeting, scheduled for Friday evening, May 20. She and Dennis had seen me speak about “Gunfighting in Texas” at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, and they asked me to present the same program at Tales N Trails.

A 1/6 working model of a 1920s
oil field Spudder.
Karon and I arrived at the museum early on Friday afternoon, May 20. We were greeted by Nell Ann, who gave us a quick tour of the museum, including the room where I would speak. Soon we drove downtown, where Nell Ann arranged for us to tour the Nokona American Ballgloves factory. Karon and  I were met by genial Rob Storey, Executive Vice President of this unique factory – unique because Nokona now is the only company in the United States which manufactures baseball gloves. Rob conducted our tour, beginning with historic equipment such as leather football helmets and venerable softball and baseball “mitts.” I’ve written six volumes of baseball history, and for several years I coached high school football and basketball, so I reveled in the displays of vintage sports items. Rob took us from station to station in the factory, and we observed the fascinating process of fashioning baseball and softball gloves. I was deeply interested, but Karon, who is a seamstress, was absolutely intrigued. We also learned that Rob Storey is an active board member of Tales N Trails, and there is a fine Nokona display in the museum.
Mural displaying the museum's primary focal points.

One block from Nokona we checked into our hotel, a converted commercial building which owner-manager Bob Ferguson built one room at a time. Red River Station Inn opened last December, and our hosts – Bob, Kristal, and their delightful seventh-grade daughter, Maddie Ferguson - offered a warm welcome. After Bob gave us a room by room tour, we changed clothes to return to the museum. We set up a book table and I arranged my pistols and gun rigs for use while speaking.
Display at Nokona Baseball Glove manufacturing plant.

Nell Ann and Dennis took us to dinner downtown at the Times Forgotten Steak House. The atmospheric restaurant offered a delectable menu, and Karon and I reflected that in the few hours since we had hit town we had enjoyed one terrific experience after another.
Karon and Rob Storey holding kangaroo skin, the
plant's softest leather.
Nell Ann had advertised extensively, but Nocona is a small town, and she hoped for a crowd of 40 or so. Instead, extra chairs had to be set up, and by the time I was introduced by Tom Horn, more than 70 people jammed the room. The audience was most receptive to my presentation, and we spent an enjoyable hour together. 


The next morning Karon and I were in no hurry to leave such pleasant surroundings. I took in the town with an hour-long walk, and we lingered in our room. We finally drove out of Nocona at ten o’clock, talking to each other about the people we had met and the historical experiences we had enjoyed.
One of the Nokona manufacturing rooms.

In the hallway of our charming hotel, the
Red River Station Inn.

With Nell Ann McBroom in front of a
Native American mural (we appear to be a trio).


With Tom Horn, a distant descendant of the notorious
gunman and scout.


For more information:
http://www.talesntrails.org/index.html
http://www.timesforgottenrestaurant.com/

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Audie Murphy Day

"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. 

Statue of Audie Murphy outside the
museum that bears his name.

I have visited the Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum on several occasions through the years. Once, while researching Murphy for a book – East Texas in World War II (Arcadia Publications, 2010) – I was granted permission to use several photos by Museum Director Susan Lanning. A few months ago Susan invited me to describe Murphy’s military career on the annual Audie Murphy Day, to be celebrated on Saturday, May 14, 2016.

With Museum Director Susan Lanning.



I was delighted. I’ve long admired Murphy, and I lectured about him for nearly four decades during my World War II lessons. Of course, it was a privilege as State Historian to present a program on this iconic Texas war hero. The event was organized by Susan Lanning and the Audie Murphy Day Committee, and there were numerous local sponsors. The morning program, at which I was assigned to speak, took place in the Fletcher Warren Civic Center. Afternoon activities were held at the Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum.


Karon and I arrived early at the Civic Center, where we saw Susan Lanning and Linda Owens, who graciously had sent a gift basket to our hotel the night before. I introduced myself to as many people as possible before the room filled. Ron Wensel, a member of the Museum Board of Trustees, was Master of Ceremonies for the morning. The uniformed Hunt County Honor Guard impressively posted the colors. There was an invocation, we pledged allegiance to the flag, and the National Anthem was sung a cappella by lovely Adrien Witkofsky. Steve Ramsey, Board President, gave me a kind introduction.

Emcee Steve Ramsey introducing me.
Audie Murphy was the most decorated soldier of World War II. He was presented 33 decorations, including every medal for valor offered by the United States: the Bronze Star (twice), the Silver Star (twice), the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Service Cross, and the Medal of Honor. Three times he received the Purple Heart for combat wounds. Murphy was given a battlefield commission as a second lieutenant. He engaged in combat for two years, and day after day he took part in battle with extraordinary courage. Following the war Murphy pursued a movie career, but when war in Korea broke out, he joined the famed 36th Division of the Texas National Guard as a captain. Captain Murphy assisted in training exercises, but when it became clear that the 36th would not be sent to Korea, Audie transferred to inactive status, although later he was promoted to major. The final military event involving Audie Murphy was his burial with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Holding a T-patch of the 36th Division
and my copy of To Hell and Back




Following my program, Linda Owens presented a brief PowerPoint of images of Murphy, backed by martial music. Tommy Cook, who acted in two movies with Murphy, related fond memories of Audie as an actor. The final speaker was Michael West, a grassroots historian (he called himself a “hunter and a gatherer”) who had collected information and interviews from a great many friends and relatives of Audie Murphy.

Actor Tommy Cook



As we adjourned for lunch, I was privileged to meet Nadine Murphy Lockey. The youngest of 12 Murphy children, Nadine is Audie’s only surviving sibling. Indeed, in 2013 she accepted from Gov. Rick Perry the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor, presented posthumously through Murphy’s sister. Nadine was sweet and gracious, and I was honored to meet her and her daughters and other Murphy relatives.


Historian Michael West



Karon and I were invited to lunch by longtime friends Carol and Mickey Pierson. Their lovely rural home is in the northwest quarter of Hunt County, where Audie grew up and attended five grades of school and hunted the woods - becoming a crack shot and gaining a feel for terrain, skills that he would bring to the forests of Europe.
With Nadine Murphy Lockey
  

Monday, May 9, 2016

Lone Star Conference

"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. 




Following two days of events in Beaumont, I drove to Waco on Friday, May 29, to participate in the “Lone Star History Conference.” The conference was organized by Bob Alexander, a retired U.S. Treasury agent who launched a second career as an author. Bob has focused his research on lawmen and outlaws of frontier Texas. He writes with keen understanding of peace officers and lawbreakers, and his books have been highly popular.

Lt. Wende Wakeman
Bob is well-known in the law enforcement community, and he has shown an affinity for organizing conferences on frontier gunfighting and outlawry and horseback lawmen. Bob lines up a large number of authors and law enforcement personnel as presenters, while arranging refreshments and meals through corporate donors, which makes possible free admission for attendees. He has been able to book the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum for these events. Participants therefore can meet and hear well-known authors and tour a superb museum at no cost. There has been excellent attendance, and during the past few years Bob has staged three of these Lone Star History Conferences. In addition, he organized an afternoon event last year featuring my program on “Gunfighterology,” attracting a crowd of 300.
Friday night reception

Bob’s 2016 Lone Star History Conference focused on Texas Rangers, and the event was expanded to Friday evening and Sunday morning, as well as Saturday and Saturday evening. The conference leadoff program on Friday evening was an hour with Lt. Wende Wakeman, the first woman to advance to the rank of lieutenant in the Texas Rangers. Energetic and personable, Wendy was impressive in her Ranger uniform as she regaled us – aided by PowerPoint images – with the fascinating story of her life and career, in the DPS as well as the Rangers. Back at the hotel later in the evening, we socialized over a delicious spread provided by Bob and his sponsors.

In the John Knox Memorial Center
At the Texas Ranger Museum we met at the spacious John Knox Memorial Center, which comfortably accommodated our crowd of more than 250. Along one wall 40 authors were seated at tables to talk with other attendees and to sign books, which were purchased at the museum gift shop. Throughout Saturday, during breaks and lunch, a string band filled the air with Country Music, and a few couples took to the dance floor. The Rangers are part of the Texas Department of Public Safety, and just outside the Knox Memorial Center, the DPS parked their new Crime Lab Vehicle. It is deployed to crime scenes all over Texas, and officers were available to us the equipment and technology. Nearby stood a handsomely restored 1934 Ford – the same model in which Bonnie and Clyde met their fate – and a life-size mock-up of Ranger Captain Frank Hamer, their chief pursuer, stood beside the vintage automobile.


Frank Hamer is the subject of an outstanding new biography by John Boessenecker, a former policeman and currently a lawyer and author. Boessenecker’s discussion of The Legendary Frank Hamer, Fact vs. Fiction, was a highlight of the conference, at which his book made its debut. Other authors describing their latest books included Bob Alexander (Whiskey River Ranger: Baz Outlaw), Bill Neal (Skullduggery, Secrets and Murder: The Wells Fargo Scam), and Dave Johnson (The Fighting Horrells and the Lampasas Calamity).

Doug Dukes holding a small Colt
five-shooter in his right hand and,
in his left a big Walker Colt
Doug Dukes and Glenn Hadeler, with the aid of the Museum’s crack media expert, Casey Eichorn, have just completed an excellent video about the 1844 Battle of Walker’s Creek. Capt. Jack Hays had armed his small band of Rangers with new Colt five-shooters, and at Walker’s Creek they engaged a large war party of horseback warriors, armed with bows and arrows (a repeating weapon which the warriors used from horseback). Hays had instructed his men in new tactics with their revolving pistols, and the 15 Rangers killed or wounded more than half of the 80 warriors they battled. Both the revolvers and the tactics evolved rapidly, and Doug Dukes – a firearms expert – demonstrated these breakthrough developments.

DPS Crime Lab Vehicle
Aside from Ranger Lt. Wende Wakeman, other ranking law enforcement officers who presented programs were David Turk, Historian of the U.S. Marshals Service, Jim Willett, Director of the Texas Prison Museum, and Frank Malinak, Assistant Chief of the Texas Rangers. Following a barbeque dinner buffet on Saturday evening, Frank Malinak spoke on “Real Rangers,” electrifying us with the state-of-the-art technological and manpower expansion of the modern Ranger force, especially along the troubled Rio Grande border.

Frank Malinak, Assistant Chief of
the Texas Rangers
I followed Frank’s presentation on “Real Rangers” with the final program of the conference, “Reel Rangers,” based on my book of the same title. I took a light approach to the cultural reflection of the iconic Rangers, from silent movie Rangers to Singing Cowboy Rangers, from the Lone Ranger on radio and TV and movies to Lonesome Dove, as a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and as an astonishingly popular TV mini-series. On Sunday morning a panel of publishers and authors shared ideas about publishing books, which concluded an enormously successful Lone Star History Conference.

To watch a brief overview:    http://wccc.tv/videos/view/165021200    
Choose city beat or "Featured Videos"
Rose and Bob DeArment, a WWII vet and a
distinguished author of the Old West

With publisher Billy Huckaby, who recently released
my new book on Sam Houston 

Bob Alexander introducing John Boessenecker,
who premiered his standout new biography
of Frank Hamer at the conference

Ron Chrisman (holding plaque) asked all UNT authors
to join him when he received a award for
publishing Old West books

Bill Neal

Standing beside "Frank Hamer" and a 1934 Ford

Replica of a late 1800s Ranger camp

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.