"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.
|Opening pledge of the SRT Chapter in Conroe.|
On Tuesday, April 12, it was my pleasure to speak at the monthly meeting of Lone Star Chapter #58 of the Sons of the Republic of Texas. An especially active chapter, this SRT band normally meets at the popular Pappadeaux Restaurant in Conroe. I was invited by Chapter Vice President Art Zepeda, who could not have been more courteous and helpful. At our table he seated me next to the chapter’s immediate past president, Fred Mead, whose ancestor was one of the San Jacinto soldiers who captured General Santa Anna following the battle. I had a fascinating conversation with Fred, and with other members who had patriotic ancestors.
During the business portion of the meeting, conducted by Chapter President Michael Wilson, I was impressed to learn of the numerous activities in which members participate, and recent awards earned by the chapter. These avid SRT participants made an excellent, well-informed audience as I spoke of the campaign of March and April 1836 (a crucial part of which occurred in this vicinity) and on the Battle of San Jacinto. I had a highly enjoyable couple of hours with the members of SRT #58, and as I drove toward home that afternoon I reflected on the deep rewards of being State Historian.
|Chapter President Michael Wilson and |
VP Art Zepada
|With Freida Freeman and Joaquin Mayor|
Michael Wood, a former student of mine
There were more rewards two days later. On Friday morning I made a 30-mile drive to Joaquin, where local history buffs had arranged a two-day history celebration at the First Methodist Church. Local artists and quilters set up in the fellowship hall, while costumed artisans and re-enactors established themselves and their exhibits around the spacious grounds of the church. These grassroots historians are proud of their heritage, and they were eager to share their knowledge and heritage skills with the public and with large numbers of students from area schools.
I was informed about this event by Freida Freeman, an enthusiastic retired professor who invited me to participate. She wanted me to provide a Friday morning program for the workers, as well as the public, and she asked me to speak on the Regulator-Moderator War, a major historical event of this area. Freida felt that this program would be of strong interest to local history buffs, and would be an appropriate kickoff for the event. At nine o’clock everyone gathered in the church sanctuary, including a large class of seventh-grade Texas history students. The auditorium was packed, and it was a pleasure to share information from my book about this conflict. A bonus for me was the attendance of Larry McNeill, the founder of the office of State Historian. Larry now lives just ten minutes from Joaquin, and afterward we visited for a couple of hours at his new country home.
|As the crowd gathered Larry McNeill (at left)|
took a front row seat.
|With Annette Peters in Nettie's Nook|
A few days later I returned to Shelby County for two events in Center. I went first to Nettie’s Nook, an antique mall and sandwich shop on the courthouse square. The current owner-proprietor is personable Annette Peters, who recently acquired the enterprise from Ann Bowen. Ann is a longtime friend who hosted a couple of past events for me, and on behalf of Annette she arranged a book signing on a day I already was scheduled to be in town. I had a fine time at Nettie’s Nook, with the special pleasure of greeting several former students who took time to come to the signing.
|With Ann Bowen|
I went from Nettie’s Nook to the Shelby County Museum a few blocks away. Months ago the Shelby County Historical Society booked me for their April 19 meeting, asking me to provide a program on the Battle of San Jacinto, which I was happy to do. Among the old friends who attended were Johnny and Connie Hargrove from Shelbyville. Johnny is a heavy equipment operator who also is a grassroots historian of the front rank. Fascinated since boyhood by the nearby Regulator-Moderator War, Johnny has accumulated a wealth of information and artifacts about Texas’s first blood feud. When I wrote a book about this deadly conflict (War in East Texas: Regulators vs. Moderators, 2006), Johnny generously shared his materials with me, and served as an expert sounding board.
|Ann Bowen (in back) opening the Shelby|
County Historical Society meeting
|Opening ceremony of Carthage SCV chapter|
During this busy period I also was asked to provide a program for the Carthage chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. I usually present an address each year for the Carthage SCV, and a good crowd was present. My subject was “Sam Houston and the Civil War.” I began with Houston’s long tenure in the U.S. Senate (1846-1859). He was a staunch Unionist, and in 1850 he delivered a “House Divided” speech – eight years before Abraham Lincoln addressed the same subject. Senator Houston supported the Compromise of 1850, which proved quite beneficial to the state of Texas and smoothed over problems between North and South – for the time being. But a few years later he was the only Southern senator to oppose the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and he took other stands unpopular in the South. In 1859 he was elected governor of Texas, launching a valiant effort to head off the growing movement for secession. But secessionists triumphed in Texas in 1861, and when Governor Houston refused to sign an oath of allegiance to the Confederate Army, the legislature declared his office vacant. Houston’s teenaged son, Sam Jr., enlisted in the Confederate Army, and was severely wounded at Shiloh. The fallen soldier was captured and soon exchanged while recovering his health. Sam Jr., therefore, was at his father’s side when he died at 70 in 1863.