Friday, December 27, 2013

Post City

"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 ( 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.

During the 1990s I began visiting Post as a research site for two books, The Bloody Legacy of Pink Higgins, A Half Century of Violence in Texas (Eakin Press, 1999), and The Johnson-Sims Feud:Romeo and Juliet West Texas Style (University of North Texas Press, 2010). I've been welcomed by the community for programs and autograph parties at Ruby Lane, a charming book store owned and operated by Rosa Latimer. I've been directed to historical locations and to men and women for interviews. My wife Karon has shopped Main Street, and one December I brought Karon and our oldest daughter and granddaughters, Lynn, Chloe and Jessie Martinez, to see the splendid Christmas art at OS Museum. 

Early this December I drove to Snyder for a speaking engagement at the Scurry County Museum. I decided to spend part of the day in nearby Post, putting together material for a blog about this historic, colorful West Texas community. Founded in 1907, "Post City" was the creation of cereal magnate C.W. Post, who had determined to build a model community in West Texas. Born in Illinois in 1854, Post was a successful salesman and inventor of agricultural machinery. In 1886 business ventures brought him to Texas, where he lived on a ranch outside of Fort Worth. By the 1890s Post was suffering health problems from overwork. While ailing, he responded to a recipe idea suggested by a ranch wife and developed a coffee substitute that he labeled Postum. He manufactured Postum at a plant in Battle Creek, Michigan. Soon he added the breakfast cereals Post Toasties and Grape Nuts. Post was an advertising genius, and by the early twentieth century he was a multimillionaire. 
The 1911 depot now houses the Chamber of Commerce.

Moved by the philanthropic impulses common to wealthy men of the Progressive Era, Post decided upon a West Texas colonization project that would offer families the opportunity to purchase homes or farms at low monthly payments. In 1906 he bought more than 213,000 acres of land along the Caprock, and began experimenting with irrigation and farming methods on land that formerly had grazed buffaloes and cattle. 
The oldest church in Post was built in 1911.

Triggered by the promise of Post's activities and advertising, Garza County was organized in 1907. Post laid out a town site near the center of the new county, and Post City became the county seat. Post erected a big department store and scores of houses: one-, two-, three-, and four-bedroom residences, ranging from $800 to $6,000. One of his favorite construction projects was the thirty-room Algerita Hotel, which he provided with a chef, fine linens, and Post cereals on every breakfast table. He built, equipped, and staffed the  two-story Post Sanitarium, the finest hospital in the region. Main Street was 120 feet wide, with grass, trees, and flowers enclosed boulevard style by a white picket fence. Post had ornate curbs built, so that women could step easily from their carriages. 
A dormitory for nurses was built just
south of the Post Sanitarium.

The town was surrounded by 160-acre farms, available from Post at generous terms. To provide adequate rainfall, Post tried seeding the clouds from firing stations along the nearby rim of the Caprock. In 1912 alone more than 234,000 pounds of dynamite were detonated in generally unproductive attempts to produce rain. Post hired a geologist to locate oil, and he constructed an enormous cotton mill which would provide hundreds of jobs. He also had a recreational lake built near town, and Two Draw Lake became a regional oasis and the site of an annual Fourth of July celebration. 
The Post Sanitarium now is home to the
Garza County Museum.

The statue of C.W. Post stands
in front of the courthouse.

Post attracted a railroad which reached Post City late in 1910, permitting the regular arrival of building materials. Soon the population approached 1,000, and a school and churches were organized. Post installed a telephone exchange, while residents of Post City enjoyed running water. Across Main Street and half a block west of the Algerita Hotel stood the two-story stone courthouse. Both the Algerita and the Garza County courthouse would host dramatic scenes from the last blood feud in Texas, the Johnson-Sims conflict of 1916-1918. 
Linda Puckett, Director of the Garza County Museum,
stands amid the C.W. Post office furniture she recently
acquired from Battle Creek, Michigan.

The OS Museum is upstairs, while the J. Cruse
Christmas  Gallery is downstairs.
On my recent trip to Post I stopped first at the 1911 railroad depot, which has been handsomely refurbished as headquarters for the Chamber of Commerce. At the Garza County Museum - housed in the two-story "Post Sanitarium," the two-story state-of-the-art hospital built in 1912 by C.W. Post - I visited with the enthusiastic and resourceful director, Linda  Puckett. Linda proudly showed me her most recent acquisition, the sturdy office furnishings of C.W. Post. I also enjoyed a visit with Rosa Latimer at her Ruby Lane book shop, followed by a tour of the always fascinating OS Museum. Each Christmas season a new set of crèches is placed on display. This year's exhibit will remain on display through January, and is well worth seeing. For the history buff, so is the entire town. 
A magnificent display in the OS Museum.

The historic Algerita Hotel is at left, while the
Ruby Lane Book Store is at right.

Rosa Latimer inside her charming
Ruby Lane shop.
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