Sunday, October 22, 2017

East Texas Historical Association Fall Meeting

The East Texas Historical Association held its annual Fall Meeting in Galveston at the luxurious Moody Gardens Hotel and Resort. We met on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, October 12-14, and a crowd of 200 was in attendance.

Chris Gill, the lovely and highly efficient Secretary/Treasurer of the ETHA

Charles Nugent, Adult Education Programs Manager of the TSHA
With Steve Cure, Chief Operating Officer of the TSHA
There were nearly 30 sessions, including joint sessions with the Central Texas Historical Association, the Texas Folklore Society, the South Texas Historical Association, and the West Texas Historical Association. Several graduate students presented papers during various sessions. Four ladies from the Galveston County Historical Commission provided an excellent session on their historic county.
Dan Utley and Milton Jordan
Barbara Holt of the Galveston County Historical Commission
Caroline Castilla Crimm glancing at the camera
On Thursday evening the ETHA was treated to a Welcome Reception at the Bryan History Museum, which is housed in a handsome nineteenth-century structure that was built as an orphanage. J.P. Bryan restored the building and provided 70,000 items  from his superb collection. Bryan's collection especially features artifacts of Stephen F. Austin, as well as wonderful pieces of Western and Texas art. The ETHA presented Bryan the Lucille Terry Historical Preservation Award, and he offered a gracious response. Our visit to the Bryan History Museum was a memorable highlight of the Fall Meeting.

The magnificent Bryan History Museum

Debbie Liles and J.P. Bryan

Friday evening featured the Fellows of the Association Reception, which included the introduction of three new ETHA Fellows: Light Cummins, former State Historian of Texas; James Maroney; and Milton Jordan. The Fellows Reception was followed by the Presidential Address Banquet. The address was delivered by ETHA President George Cooper, who has doubled this past year as President of the South Texas Historical Association.

ETHA Executive Director Scott Sosebee at the Fellows Reception

Fellows Reception crowd
During the weekend I took the opportunity to ride the resort's paddleboat, the Colonel. I love boat rides, and I had a fine time touring our inlet on the comfortable, brightly-appointed Colonel.
The Colonel of the Moody Gardens Resort

On Saturday morning I participated in the West Texas Historical Association Session, along with fellow presenters Leland Turner of Midwestern State University, and Tai Kreidler, Executive Director of the WTHA. My presentation was "Tascosa, Gunfighter Capital of the Panhandle," and the entire session was lively and colorful.
With fellow presenters Tai Kreidler and Leland Turner at the WTHA Session

The Fall Meeting concluded Saturday with the Association Awards and Business Meeting Luncheon. As chairman of the Ottis Lock Awards Committee, I was privileged to present the Best Book Award to editors and contributors Debbie Liles and Anji Boswell for Women in Civil War Texas, a publication of the University of the University of North Texas Press. Jeffrey Littlejohn of Sam Houston State University earned the Higher Education Educator of the Year Award, while Alicia Young of Wylie High School won the Joe Atkins Public School Educator of the Year Award. Research Grants of $500 each were awarded to Richard Orton, Lindsey Drane, and Scot McFarlane.

Awards and Business Luncheon

President George Cooper
James Maroney received the Ralph W. Steen Award from Michael Botson
President Heather Wooten swinging a mean gavel
Michael Botson presented the Ralph Steen Award to James Maroney, while ETHA Executive Director Scott Sosebee presented the Archie McDonald Student Scholarship to Alondra Morillon, an undergraduate at UHD. The Business Meeting featured acceptance of a new slate of officers, headed by Heather Wooten as President. After announcing that next year's Fall Meeting will return to the Fredonia Hotel in Nacogdoches, President Wooten adjourned the meeting with a vigorous swing of the gavel. We all agreed that the Fall Meeting of 2017 was an exceptional event.   

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Big D Plus

A couple of months ago I received a call from Denise Jernigan Ziegler, who was raised in Carthage but has made her career and marriage in Dallas. I coached Denise on summer softball teams (three of my daughters played, so I coached eleven seasons of recreational softball). Later Denise was a student in my Texas and U.S. history classes at Panola College. So when she asked me to speak at a meeting of the Chi Omega Alumnae of Dallas, I was happy to come. My daughter Berri was a Chi Omega member at Texas A&M University-Commerce, and later she was a Chi Omega advisor at TAMUC (and it was pointed out to me at the meeting that I therefore am a Chi O Dad). Berri agreed to attend the meeting with me, and to take photos for this blog.

With Jana Beth Eidson and President Nancy Williams
The meeting was held on Monday evening, October 10, at the Highland Park residence of Jana Beth Eidson. Berri and I arrived a bit early, and we were greeted most cordially by the hostess, by Chapter President Nancy Williams, and by other members. I was pleased to see Connie Manly Dragolich, a former student of mine in an early admission class of Panola College held at Marshall High School in 1981-82. Connie was one of a group of students who arranged a tour for our class of the plantation house near Karnack where Lady Bird Johnson was born. The house is the oldest brick residence in Harrison County, and we were treated to an Old South lunch during our tour.

With former student Connie Manly Dragolich

A crowd of close to 50 women attended the Chi Omega event, and we had a delightful time enjoying refreshments and socializing for half an hour beforehand. My program was about "Sam Houston's Three Wives," and the ladies were quite responsive to Sam's Soap Opera.


With Denise Jernigan Ziegler and her mother, Debbie Jernigan

Being introduced by Denise

I drove to Dallas earlier in the day, because Berri and I wanted to tour the George W. Bush Presidential Museum, which is located only a short drive from the home of Jana Beth Eidson. Neither Berri nor I had ever visited this impressive facility, and we met at the Visitor Parking Lot. The displays were state-of-the-art, and the efforts of the staff on our behalf were most helpful. Berri, whose second major was history, and I spent nearly two hours before closing time, and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit. We had time for dinner before going to the meeting.

Seated in the Oval Office

At the entrance

A few days before traveling to Dallas I addressed a weekly meeting of the Carthage Rotary Club. I was invited by Carson Joines, a longtime mayor of Carthage and a former football player at Panola County Junior College. The Rotarians meet every Friday on the Panola College campus, and it's always a pleasure to participate in one of their lunch sessions. A sizeable crowd included a strong contingent of women - indeed the club president is Cindy Deloney, Carthage Main Street Manager. In my presentation I tried to put a historical perspective on some of the most troublesome political controversies that roil our society today, emphasizing that we don't understand who we are until we know who we were.  

With Carson Joines and President Cindy Deloney

Monday, October 2, 2017

San Augustine County Historical Society Fall Meeting

San Augustine is one of the oldest and most historical communities in Texas, known during the Republic period as the "Athens of Texas."  Despite a population today of only 2,100, San Augustine maintains a large and active historical society. I've had the pleasure of speaking in San Augustine a number of times through the years, most recently on the evening of Tuesday, September 29. Marshall McMillan, who owns two businesses on the square and who is a strong presence in civic affairs, called me a few months ago with an invitation to provide a program at the Annual Fall Meeting of the San Augustine County Historical Society. When we discussed program possibilities, I mentioned that my most recent book was a biography of Sam Houston, who had a law office at San Augustine and numerous connections with this key early community.
The restored theatre entrance now leads to the San Augustine Museum

Marshall embraced the idea of a program about Sam Houston.  The Historical Society provided excellent publicity. There was a front-page story in the San Augustine Tribune, and a color flyer was widely distributed. The meeting was held in a downtown museum which located in a former movie theater. I arrived half an hour early to set up a few props, and a large crowd already was present. As the crowd grew, more chairs had to be brought out, which is always a pleasant problem. I encountered a number of old friends and, as often happens, some former students at Panola College.
With Betty Oglesbee, a driving force behind the numerous history projects of San Augustine
There was 100 percent participation in the Pledge of Allegiance
Marshall McMillan introducing the State Historian

I provided a lively account of Houston's adventurous life, featuring the most dramatic event of a highly dramatic career: the campaign of March and April 1836 and the climactic Battle of San Jacinto. Of course I also featured Houston's presence in San Augustine.
Afterward light refreshments were served, and numerous members of the audience wanted to talk more about the iconic Houston. I had brought a dozen copies of my book about Houston, in case anyone wanted an inscribed copy. To my surprise I sold every copy, and Marshall McMillan got contact information from me about the publisher so that he could stock a downtown store with Sam Houston, A Study in Leadership. The Fall Meeting of the San Augustine Historical Society was a delightful occasion for the State Historian.

Three days later on a trip to Paris I stopped by the Lamar County Historical Museum. I've driven by on previous trips but this was the first time I've caught it open. The museum is located in a cultural complex that includes the superb 1912 Union Station, which is always worthy of inspection and photos. The museum is excellent, featuring a profusion of images of the splendid structures that Paris has boasted. I can't wait to catch the Lamar County Historical Museum open again! 

Bust of George Washington Wright, founder of Paris
Postcard of the old Federal Building

The 1912 Union Station stands across a parking lot from the Lamar County Historical Museum

The General Sam Bell Maxey home is a State Historical Site. Maxey also served two terms in the U.S. Senate, and his superb home is one of the finest historical sites in Paris.

Friday, September 22, 2017

125th Anniversary of the Johnson County War

A few months ago I was contacted by Earl Madsen, owner of the historic TA Ranch outside Buffalo, Wyoming. Earl explained to me his plans to commemorate the West's most notable range war during its 125th anniversary year. The Wyoming conflict between large ranchers and small homesteaders came to a head in 1892. I wrote an account, The Johnson County War, which won the 2005 Book of the Year Award of the National Association for Outlaw and Lawmen History. During my research period, Karon and I stayed on two or three occasions at the TA, which played a central role in the climax of the Johnson County War. So when Earl asked me to come to Wyoming to represent Texas at the 125th Anniversary of the Johnson County War, I eagerly accepted his invitation.

With Earl Madsen, owner of the TA Ranch
I felt the same way about participating in this anniversary as I had when asked why, as a Texan, was I writing about a major Wyoming event? I always replied that a Texas cowboy (Nate Champion) was the great hero of the range war. A Texas fugitive (Joe Horner) escaped custody in the Lone Star State and, under an assumed name (Frank Canton) came to Wyoming, where he was a feared assassin during the Johnson County War. And wealthy cattlemen hired more than a score of gunmen from Texas to try to impose their will in Johnson County. Therefore it seemed quite appropriate for a Texan to write about and to speak about Wyoming's Johnson County War.

Heroic statue of Nate Champion, by sculptor Mike Thomas
Statue of Frank Canton
Statue of rustler about to be apprehended by Frank Canton
I flew into Billings, Montana, on Thursday, September 14, and rented a vehicle for the beautiful drive to Buffalo. I arrived at the TA late in the afternoon, just as Earl and his gracious wife, Barb, were beginning to host a dinner for the participants in the next day's events. Earl had asked me to moderate a two-hour panel, to be held from 10 to 12 the next day, Friday, September 15. He assembled a stellar panel, featuring former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson and Alan's older brother, Peter, a prominent college administrator and a Wyoming legislator. Alan and Pete's father, Milward Simpson, was governor of Wyoming from 1955 until 1959. Other panelists included John W. Davis, Wyoming attorney who wrote Wyoming Range War, focusing upon the legal machinations of the Johnson County War; Bill Markley, writer for True West and Wild West magazines, and a re-enactor in such motion pictures as Dances With Wolves and Gettysburg; Tim Slosser, English author of More Than Cowboys and Out West, and producer of more than a dozen documentaries about the American West for the BBC and National Geographic; and Jim McGagna, Executive Director of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, which played a crucial role in the Johnson County War. Also present was Sylvia Bruner, Director of Buffalo's Jim Gatchell Museum, a major sponsor of the event.

With Sylvia Bruner, Director of the Gatchell Museum
On Friday morning, after an excellent breakfast at the TA, I drove into Buffalo early to visit with the crowd gathering at the Civic Center. I renewed many acquaintances with history-minded friends who had helped me put together my book. There was a film crew present, headed by Tim Hoch, who is hoping to develop a documentary. An audience of 120 assembled for the panel discussion, and the two hours flew by rapidly. Following a Question and Answer period, we were treated to a catered lunch by Buffalo's Sagebrush Café. During and after lunch we were approached by numerous guests who wanted to ask further questions and who asked for inscriptions in books they had just purchased. On Friday evening a dinner was held at the Civic Center, featuring several presenters who were descendants of participants in the Johnson County War.

Bill Markley at the Speakers' Stand
Tom Hoch, head of the film crew
Earl Madsen acquired Frank Canton's 3-room cabin and moved it to the TA, where Karon and I were the first to stay there.
The Saturday highlight was a re-enactment at the TA Ranch of the climactic events of the two-day siege by 400 townspeople of more than 50 "Invaders" of Johnson County, including 20-odd Texas gunmen. For two days the Invaders, who already had killed accused rustlers Nate Champion and Nick Ray at the KC Ranch, 40 miles south of Buffalo, forted up at the TA while angry citizens besieged the ranch with rifle fire. Townspeople seized three supply wagons of the Invaders, firing their own ammunition at the Invaders. The chief defense points were the TA's log cabin and barn, as well as a redoubt hastily constructed on a hill.

Tourists beginning a wagon tour of the TA
The historic TA Ranch cabin
The most famous barn in the West
Townspeople fashioned a "Go-Devil" from two of the confiscated wagons, lashing the vehicles together with protective planking in front. On the third morning of the siege citizens intended to advance behind the Go-Devil, but before this assault could be made three troops of cavalry from Fort McKinney, located two miles west of Buffalo, arrived to take the Invaders into military custody. The dramatic arrival of the U.S. Cavalry averted a bloodbath, and months of legal maneuvers followed.

Filming a scene at the barn
Earl Madsen with cavalry re-enactors
Part of the crowd preparing to watch the re-enactment
 The Johnson County War later was memorialized by such classic novels and movies as The Virginian and Shane, along with numerous non-fiction books and TV documentaries. Buffalo-based sculptor Mike Thomas executed statues of Nate Champion and Frank Canton which adorn the Main Street of Buffalo.

On Saturday afternoon the re-enactors and film crew rehearsed seven scenes, and this dress rehearsal offered the best opportunity for photographs. Although the temperature dropped into the 30s and there was a light mist, a large crowd assembled for the five o'clock re-enactment. Certainly it was thrilling to view a re-enactment at the very site where a major gun battle exploded 125 years ago.     

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