Saturday, July 15, 2017

10th Anniversary of the WWHA

The Wild West History Association held its 10th Annual Roundup in Fort Worth on Wednesday through Saturday, July 12-15th. More than 150 members from across the nation gathered at the Radisson Fossil Creek Hotel in north Fort Worth. Before the WWHA was organized, men and women with an interest in Wild West History, especially the dramatic events of gunfighting were members of NOLA (National Association for Outlaw and Lawmen History) or WOLA (Western Association for Outlaw and Lawmen History), or the annual meetings sponsored by Wild West enthusiast Michael Hickey in Arizona. I was one of several gunfighting aficionados who participated in all three groups. Robert McCubbin of Santa Fe, a noted historic photograph collector, headed the movement to merge into one organization, “just as long as it doesn’t rhyme with ‘COLA,’” he urged.

The Texas State Historian with Arizona State Historian Marshall Trimble

My opening progam included a demonstration of a Navy Colt, Model 1851
Mike Cox on the Texas Rangers

It is fitting that the Wild West History Association celebrated its 10th anniversary in Texas, because the largest number of members are from Texas. As Texas State Historian I was asked to provide the opening address, on Wednesday evening. My topic was, "The Panther Roared – and So Did the Guns." The theme I explored – as I have in articles and books and even a Texas State Historical Association Webinar in 2016 – was that Texas was the gunfighter capital of the Wild West. There were more gunfights in Texas than in any other state or territory, more blood feuds were fought in Texas, more gunfighters were from Texas, and more gunfighters died in Texas. As far as “The Panther Roared,” I wanted to explain how Fort Worth came to be called “Panther City,” and I wanted to focus as much as possible on the gunfighters and shootouts of old Fort Worth, our host city.

UNT Press Director Ron Chrisman with co-authors, Bob Alexander and Donaly Brice, 
Texas Rangers: Lives, Legend, and Legacy
Vendors' Tables
WWHA board members Roy Young and Kurt House worked as Co-Chairs of the Program Committee to provide us with an outstanding program. The opening speaker on Thursday morning was Dr. Richard Selcer, an authority on Fort Worth history who spoke on, “Law and Disorder – Texas Style.” Dr. Selcer was followed by Mike Cox, who is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters, the Editor of the WWHA Journal, and who has enjoyed a long association as a writer with the Texas Rangers, an iconic organization which was the subject of his program. Award-winning author Chuck Parsons spoke on the murderous Sutton-Taylor Feud. Chuck was followed by Margaret and Gary Kraisinger, who have performed meticulous field research on the historic cattle trails and who presented an excellent PowerPoint program on the 150th Anniversary of the Chisholm Trail. Indeed, that evening we celebrated the Chisholm Trail – which ran through our host city – with a striking 150th anniversary birthday cake.

Awards Chairman Carroll Moore, John Boesennecker (winner of the Book of the Year Award), and WWHA President Jim Dunham
Six-Shooter Award Winner Paul Andrew Hutton
With Billy Huckaby, Head of the Wild Horse Media Group
and publisher of my recent biography of Sam Houston

The mid-day meal on Thursday was an Awards Luncheon. A Six-Shooter Award for Best Article of the Year was presented to nationally-known historian Paul Andrew Hutton. The WWHA Book of the Year Award went to John Boessenecker for his superb biography, Texas Ranger: The Epic Life of Frank Hamer. The programs after lunch were concluded by Bill Neal, who spoke on his recently released book: Death on the Lonely Llano Estacado, about the assassination of the attorney Jim Jarrott by Killin’ Jim Miller, whose home was in Fort Worth.
Bill Neal, with his lovely wife Gayla at left

Roy Young and Kurt House, Program Co-chairs, Paul Andrew Hutton
and Texas State Historian

Cattle Trails Panel: Gary and Margaret Kraisinger, Tom Weger, and Sylvia Mahoney
Friday was field trip day, and three busses delivered WWHA visitors to the nearby Stockyards, to the Museum District, and to Oakwood Cemetery, final resting place of shootists Luke Short, Killin’ Jim Miller, and Jim Courtright, city marshal of Fort Worth (1876-79) and owner of a detective agency/protection racket. In one of the most famous gunfights in Western history, Short killed Courtright in 1887 in downtown Fort Worth. Cattle barons such as Burk Burnett and W.T. Waggoner also rest in Oakwood Cemetery, along with many other Fort Worth notables. On Friday evening the WWHA was entertained by a Cowboy Poets and Storytellers Session.
National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, a field trip highlight
Luke Short's grave at Oakwood Cemetery


Mausoleum of cattle king Burk Burnett at Oakwood Cemetery

Our last day included Kurt House, “Ten Things You Didn’t Know about John Wesley Hardin,” Chuck Hornung and a program on the New Mexico Mounted Police, and a “Gunfighter's Session” with programs by WWHA President Jim Dunham and by the Texas State Historian. Saturday evening featured the Annual Boots and Spurs Banquet, with a program by Pulitzer Prize Finalist and New York Times Best-selling author S.G. Gwynne. Before we adjourned it was announced that we will meet in Springfield, Missouri, in 2018 and in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 2019.

Hard-working board member, Paul Marquez with a richly deserved award
Chuck Hornung, authority on the New Mexico Mounted Police
Showing a buscadero gun rig at my Saturday presentation

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Buffalo Gap Historic Village

On a recent trip to West Texas I stopped off to tour the Buffalo Gap Historic Village. Buffalo Gap, as the name suggests, is an opening in a line of rocky hills through which herds of buffalo moved. A small community grew up near the gap, and when Taylor County was organized in 1878 Buffalo Gap became the county seat. A two-story stone courthouse and jail was built in 1879. Two years later, when the first railroad came through the county to the north, Buffalo Gap was bypassed. The new town of Abilene, on the railroad, wrested the seat of county government from Buffalo Gap in an 1883 election. But the 1879 courthouse remained an impressive building, and beginning in 1956 other frontier structures were brought onto the site.

1879 courthouse

Today the Buffalo Gap Historic Village features the courthouse and jail, along with 15 other buildings. There is a pioneer residence, a log cabin, a blacksmith shop, a two-room school, a dentist office, a railroad depot, a barber shop, a store, a rustic chapel, and a livery barn with an excellent collection of horse-drawn vehicles. There are firearms and all manner of other artifacts displayed in these historic buildings, as well as a Western art collection. The tour starts at a fine visitor center and gift shop.
Inside the courthouse

Inside the school

Years ago, every time I drove through Buffalo Gap I stopped for a tour. I stopped dropping in about two decades ago, but I realized that by now there probably were additional buildings at Buffalo Gap Historic Village, as well as new displays. Both expectations proved true, and I enjoyed a fine visit.


 My last previous stop at Buffalo Gap was a couple of years ago, when I spent the night with Bill and Gayla Neal in south Abilene, only a few miles from Buffalo Gap's famous Perini Ranch Steakhouse. Bill and Gayla treated me to a superb dinner at Perini's, and I began to think that soon I needed to once more tour the Buffalo Gap Historic Village. Bill and Gayla, knowing that I was coming in their direction this spring, very kindly invited me to stay with them again. I was eager for another visit with them, but when I realized that I was running ahead of schedule, I stopped at Buffalo Gap. Any history buff interested in the Texas frontier will enjoy a tour of Buffalo Gap Historic Village. 
Inside the Visitor Center


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.