Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Medicine Mound and Quanah

"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. 
Bill and Gayla Neal at their ranch gate.

Our room was decorated in bright Texana.
Medicine Mound is a ghost town  in Hardeman County. The region is flat, but west of the old community four hills rise as tall as 1,750 feet. Comanches believed these hills had healing qualities and called them the “medicine mounds.” Late in the 19th century ranchers and farmers settled the area to work the land. In 1908 the grandly-named Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway Company established the Medicine Mound townsite along the railroad right-of-way. A post office was opened, tracks were laid, and a frame depot was erected. A variety of businesses were centered around a cluster of commercial buildings, including a two-story frame hotel, a bank, and a newspaper. There were three churches: Baptist, Methodist, and Church of Christ. 

The town’s heyday was the 1920s, when “Mounders” numbered nearly 500. But in 1933, during the heart of the Great Depression, a fire devastated the business district, and most structures were not rebuilt. In 1946 secondary students were moved to Quanah or Chillicothe, and the elementary grades consolidated with these schools in 1954. Dwindling congregations caused the closure of the churches. Today only two rock buildings remain downtown, along with a few walls of the single-story brick school. 
Medicine Mound Museum

But one of the rock buildings, once the Hicks & Cobb General Store, has been kept in good repair and now houses an excellent museum. A Downtown Medicine Mound Preservation Group has been organized, led by a board of directors of native Mounders. Board member Jeanene Stermer is the dynamic and resourceful curator of the museum, and the driving force of the Downtown Medicine Mound Reunion and Jubilee. Bill Neal, a Mounder who was raised on a ranch that included the four mounds, produced a book about his home town: Our Stories, Legend of the Mounds. Bill collected and edited stories from Mounders, wrote a large portion of the book, and induced his friend and mentor, A.C. Greene, to write a Foreword. Recently Jeanene Stermer produced an excellent DVD, Mounds, Dominoes and Doodlebugs, The Early Days of Medicine Mound, Texas
The other surviving commercial building

Bill Neal invited me to come to this year’s annual Medicine Mound Reunion on Saturday, October 19. He also arranged a reception for the State Historian by the Hardeman County Historical Society at their museum housed in the picturesque old depot in Quanah. Bill was raised a cowboy, but after graduating first in his class at the University of Texas Law School, he practiced law for 40 years. Following his "retirement," he has researched and written a series of noted books on frontier murders, bringing the legal maneuverings to a new level of writing. Bill's middle initial is "O," and when I receive a phone call from him, his greeting is, "Apostrophe, this is Period." 
Ruins of the school

Bill and his lovely wife Gayla invited Karon and me to spend the weekend at their handsome ranch home. We arrived Friday evening, after a quick stop in Medicine Mound to meet Jeanene Stermer. The next morning we returned to Medicine Mound, arriving as a large and lively reunion crowd gathered. I was delighted to see Tai Kreidler, director of the Southwest Collection at Texas Tech and of the West Texas Historical Association, also headquartered at Tech. Accompanied by Mounder James Crowder, we hiked over to explore the remains of the old school. Later, in the museum, we examined hundreds of artifacts and photographs, with a number of helpful Mounders eager to offer explanations. 
Inside the museum

I was introduced by Bill Neal to make a few remarks, and the first thing I did was present a Certificate of Appreciation to Jeanene Stermer for her work in preserving Medicine Mound. Tai Kreidler also offered a description of the role of the Southwest Collections. Following a delicious catered lunch, we made our way to Quanah and the Hardeman County Historical Museum, presided over by curator Scarlett Daughtery. I had the pleasure of exploring the superb depot and museum for a second time. The reception was attended by local history buffs who were dedicated enough to come out o a Saturday afternoon. Once again Bill Neal introduced Tai and me, and this time I explained the office of State Historian to a group of fellow historians. When Karon and I finally headed east out of Quanah, we agreed that we had enjoyed a wonderful day in Hardeman County. 

Presenting a Certificate of Appreciation to
Jeanene Stermer

With Bill Neal and Tai Kreidler
Old Depot Museum in Quanah

The old county jail stands behind the depot.

Scarlett Daughtery welcomes the crowd.

Describing the position of State Historian

Tai Kreidler describes the Southwest Collections.
For more information:  http://www.texasescapes.com/TOWNS/Quanah/Quanah.htm#depot

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