Friday, August 22, 2014

Battle of Medina

"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 Saturday, August 16, I had the pleasure and distinct privilege of attending and participating in the 201st anniversary of the Battle of Medina. On August 18, 1813, more than 3,200 participants battled for four hours in the sandy oak forest terrain around the Medina River about 20 miles south of San Antonio. Over 800 men were killed, with hundreds of others wounded. The Battle of Medina thus was the bloodiest battle ever fought on Texas soil. 

The Battle of Medina was the lethal climax of the Gutierrez-Magee Expedition of 1812-13. After nearly three centuries of Spanish control, Mexico began a revolution in 1810. Revolutionary leader Jose Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara traveled to Washington, D.C., hoping to enlist United States governmental support for an invasion of the sparsely settled frontier province of Texas. Although the U.S. government made no serious commitments, many Americans – especially frontier adventurers – volunteered for an expedition. Volunteers and supplies were gathered at Natchitoches, Louisiana, and organized into a military force under Lt. Augustus Magee, who left the U.S. Army to become a colonel under Gutierrez’s Republic Army of the North.

Gutierrez and Colonel Magee led their growing army into Texas in August 1812. Flying the Green Flag, Magee and his men captured Nacogdoches, regrouped, and marched to occupy the vacant stone presidio at La Bahia. There they were besieged for four months by Spanish soldados led by Governor Santisima Trinidad de Salcedo. There were skirmishes, bombardments, and large-scale engagements. During the siege Colonel Magee died, and was succeeded by Samuel Kemper. Only days after Magee’s death, Kemper led his men to victories on February 10 and 13, and Salcedo retreated back to San Antonio.

Emcee Tom Green



















A month later, Kemper led 800 men  – norteamericanos, Tejanos, Indians, and Spanish deserters – toward San Antonio. On March 29 in the Battle of Rosillo, Kemper defeated a Royalist force of 1,200 men commanded by Gen. Simon de Herrera, and Governor Salcedo surrendered San Antonio unconditionally. A few days later Gutierrez permitted the execution by decapitation of Salcedo, Herrera, and 12 other Spanish officers. Disgusted, Kemper and 100 norteamericanos left for Louisiana. In San Antonio, on April 6, 1813, Texas independence was declared.

Rudy Rodriguez, a descendant of the
alcalde of the old mission communities
of Concepcion and San Jose.
But Royalist forces were on the march to Texas. Col. Ignacio Elisando besieged San Antonio with 900 men, but on June 20, 1813, Henry Perry routed Elisando with a dawn attack. Elisando gathered 700 survivors and retreated toward the advancing column of Gen. Jose Arredondo (whose men included Lt. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna).  Meanwhile, political intrigues resulted in the usurpation of Gutierrez by Jose Alvarez de Toledo. Early in August Arrendondo and Elisando approached San Antonio from the south with a combined force of more than 1,800 men. Toledo led 1,400 men out of town to meet the Royalist army.

Arrendondo set an ambush and Toledo warned his men to retreat. But the norteamericanos fought back with effective rifle fire and rapid arms-handling. When ammunition ran low, Arrendondo’s men swept the field. Only 100 of Toledo’s men managed to escape, while 55 Spanish soldados died of their wounds. For several years the bleached bones of 800 of Toledo’s men lay where they fell.

More than a decade ago the first celebration of the Battle of Medina was held on the approximate site of the battlefield. As State Historian I was invited to participate in this year’s event, and I worked up a program about the course of Manifest Destiny in Texas from the 1790s until the 1830s, with  focus upon the Gutierrez-Magee Expedition and the Battle of Medina.

With Dr. Frank de la Teja, the first State Historian
Being introduced by Tom Green
On Saturday morning I was part of a large crowd at the remote site of the battlefield (where I was guided by Joe Cox, who invited me to the occasion). There was an impressive contingent of re-enactors in uniforms and costumes of the early nineteenth century. The famous Green Flag flew proudly among other period flags. The genial Tom Green, a Knight of San Jacinto and member of numerous other historical organizations, served as Master of Ceremonies. We pledged allegiance to the flags of the United States and Texas, heard from descendants of participants in the battle, and viewed a trio of volleys by the re-enactors.

We drove into Pleasanton for lunch, and regrouped at the fellowship hall of the Church of Christ for program presentations. Dr. Frank de la Teja, the first State Historian and a distinguished scholar of the Spanish colonial period in Texas, was scheduled to speak, along with Dr. Caroline Crimm, an outstanding author/teacher of Texas history at Sam Houston State University. There were other programs as well, and I was proud to be part of such a fine lineup.
With Karon, niece Shelley James, Karon's mother
Louise Ashby, and Matt James. (Shelley and Matt
live in Pleasanton and came to my program.)


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Texas Country Music Hall of Fame

"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 Texas Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum opened in 1998 with the induction of Tex Ritter, Jim Reeves, Willie Nelson, Gene Autry, Cindy Walker, and Joe Allison. There have been gifted Texans in every genre of music, but Country Music and Country and Western Music have been dominated by Texans. During the 1990s the director of the Panola County Chamber of Commerce, Tommie Ritter Smith, decided to open a museum to her kinsman, Tex Ritter. A beloved member of Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame, Tex was a native of Panola County. His family – widow Dorothy and sons Tom and John Ritter – turned over a treasure trove of memorabilia to Tommie for the Tex Ritter Museum. Tommie housed the museum in the second floor of the Chamber of Commerce building, and it became a popular tourist destination. Tommie asked me to write a biography of Tex for the museum gift shop, and she provided most of the primary materials I needed.
The Saturday morning crowd at the TCMHOF enjoyed
talent show performers from the previous night.

Another famed Country artist, Gentleman Jim Reeves, was a Panola County farm boy who is buried in a handsome park a few miles east of Carthage. With the realization that Panola County is the only county in the United States with two members of Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame, Tommie Ritter Smith secured a charter from the state for the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Annual inductions quickly became a major tourist event and a strong attraction for Nashville stars. I was privileged to become a charter board member.
Brian Allison, son of charter TCMHOF member Joe
Allison, in the new wing of the museum

The TCMHOF rapidly outgrew the second floor of the Chamber of Commerce building, and in 2002 a new, state-of-the-art structure welcomed attendees of the Sixth Annual Induction Ceremony. Since 2002 visitors to the TCMHOF have included guests from each of the 50 states and from 42 foreign countries. As the years passed, however, the display area became so crowded that even a closet was incorporated – for the radio studio of Jim Reeves.
Tom Ritter with a cousin

But the City of Carthage and the Carthage Improvement Commission voted to expand the town’s premier tourist attraction. For this year’s induction a $1.5 million, 3,000 square foot addition was near enough to completion to be shown to the public. Later in the year the new wing will be celebrated with a Grand Opening.
With Tommie Ritter Smith at the induction

The stage band was outstanding.
On Friday night before the Saturday night induction, the John Ritter Showcase Annual Talent Contest was held before a large crowd. The emcee is the talented and vivacious Linda Davis. A Grammy-winner and member of the TCMHOF, Linda is a graduate of Carthage High School, where she was a school mate of my wife, Karon. For a year before pursuing her musical career, Linda attended Panola Collage, where she starred as a member of our singing and dancing performance group, the Panola Pipers. In my history class, students staged a cowboy event around a campfire, and Linda sang the classic cowboy ballad, “Little Joe the Wrangler.” Of course, she made an A Plus! Late in the induction ceremony, Linda sat beside Karon and me.

Seated in front of us were Tom Ritter and Les Leverett, who both were of great help to me when I wrote the biography of Tex Ritter. Les is a legendary photographer for the Grand Ole Opry. I asked Les to photograph Linda, Karon, and the State Historian, so the image in this blog was taken by Country Music’s greatest photographer.

An audience of nearly 1,800 assembled at the Carthage Civic Center on Saturday night to see a performance that featured the internationally famous Oak Ridge Boys. Clay Cooper, from Wylie, Texas, and now a star in Branson, was the emcee, and later he performed with Linda Davis. Performers during the evening included the lovely Bailey Wesberry, winner of Friday night’s John Ritter Showcase.
Bailey Wesberry, winner of the 2014 John Ritter Showcase
The highlight of the evening was the Oak Ridge Boys, who entertained everyone with hit after hit, including “Y’All Come Saloon,” “Bobbie Sue,” “Fancy Free,” “American Made,” and “You’re the One.” Lead singer Duane Allen, who joined the group - then a gospel quartet - in 1965, is a native Texan and the 46th artist inducted into the TCMHOF. Duane was raised on a cotton farm south of Paris in Lamer County. He earned a music degree from East Texas State College, which later named him a Distinguished Alumni.
Emcee Clay Cooper from Wylie, Texas
With the Oak Ridge Boys he teamed with tenor Joe Bonsall, baritone William Lee Golden, and bass Richard Sterban. After the group changed their focus to Country Music, there was an eight-year period in which the Oaks had 25 consecutive Top Ten singles, including 13 Number One hits. The Oak Ridge Boys scored their biggest hit in 1981 with “Elvira,” Number One in both Country and Pop charts.

Linda Davis
Near the end of the Oaks’ TCMHOF convert, State Representative Chris Paddie came onstage to present plaques from Governor Rick Perry to Bonsall, Golden, and Sterban naming them Honorary Texans. Duane Allen was given a plaque designating him an Admiral of the Texas Navy. Next Duane was presented his star as the newest member of the TCMHOF. He spoke to the audience and pointed out the large family group that was present in his support.
Joe Bonsall, Duane Allen, William Lee Golden, Richard Sterban

State Representative Chris Paddie presenting
Honorary Texan plaques to the Oaks
Following Allen’s induction, the Oak Ridge Boys closed the show – and brought down the house – with a rousing performance of “Elvira.” It was one of the most memorable evenings in the 17-year history of the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame.
With renowned Nashville photographer Les Leverett
After the show with Karon and Linda Davis
 - photo by Les Leverett

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Totally Texas Teacher Event

"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 Buck Cole
Several months ago Buck Cole, Education and Outreach Director of the Texas General Land Office, invited me to speak at the “Totally Texas Teacher Event” of August 5 and 6. This two-day event provides professional development credit for Texas history teachers of fourth- and seventh-grade students. Especially targeted are teachers who are in a Texas history classroom for the first time, either as new teachers or as veteran instructors who have just been reassigned to Texas history. Utilizing the superb facilities of the Bob Bullock State Museum of Texas History, the Totally Texas Teacher Event offers a crash course in Texas history, featuring substantive information and useful resource tools.

I was asked to close the first day with a one-hour presentation on the Alamo (the General Land Office oversees the Alamo, in conjunction with the Daughters of the Republic of Texas). I was delighted at the opportunity to offer a program on the Shrine of Texas Liberty. I became fascinated with the story of the Alamo as a boy. For more than three decades at Panola College I looked forward every semester to delivering lectures on the Alamo, and twice per summer it was a special pleasure to take the students in my Traveling Texas History classes to the Alamo and to Alamo Village in Brackettville. Since I was allotted an hour, I decided to spend the final fifteen minutes on the Runaway Scrape and the spectacular victory at San Jacinto.

My wife Karon and I arrived at the Bob Bullock Museum at midday on August 5 and lunched at the Story of Texas Café. A number of young ladies with name tags soon came in for a lunch break, and I learned that they were participants in the Totally Texas Teacher Event. I had an opportunity to talk with several of the participants at lunch and during the break prior to my program. They were bright and focused, and I came away feeling that Texas history in Austin is in good hands. A couple of teachers told me that they have been teaching Texas history for several years, but that the Totally Texas Teacher Event offers so much that it is valuable for veteran teachers. I felt that such a statement it is quite a compliment for Buck Cole and his staff, and for the quality event they have assembled. I tried to provide an action-packed presentation with useful anecdotes and interpretation, and I was proud to be a part of the Totally Texas Teacher Event of 2014.








































With Santiago Sanchez-Hernandez, who chose
my skunkskin cap

With Carl Hedges, SAR Chapter President
A day after returning to Carthage, Karon and I drove to Longview to provide a program on a different revolution – the American Revolution. A former Panola College colleague, Carl Hedges, is president of a Sons of the American Revolution chapter. A few months ago he asked me to provide an after-dinner program to SAR members and their wives. Carl wanted to know if the Texas State Historian would make a Texas connection with the American Revolution. I told him I could, but it would be more entertaining if I focused directly on aspects of the American Revolution for the SAR group. It’s okay if the State Historian delivers a program occasionally on a non-Texas subject, even though the American Revolution mindset inspired the revolutionary impulse among Texians in the 1830s. Indeed, Sam Houston’s father was an officer during the American Revolution, and throughout the Runaway Scrape campaign of 1836, Sam fashioned his hat into a tricorn – purposefully reminiscent of American Revolution headwear.


The SAR dinner was at Johnny Cace's, which meant that we had an excellent meal. Members of the crowd were proud of their heritage and seemed quite interested in the information about the Revolution I shared. It is always a pleasure to meet with people who hold our heritage dear.




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