Tuesday, July 24, 2018

WWHA Roundup

The Eleventh Annual Roundup of the Wild West History Association was held on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, July 18-21, at the Oasis Hotel and Convention Center in Springfield, Missouri. The event was attended by more than 170 Western history enthusiasts, and the 2018 Roundup was one of the most enjoyable and successful gatherings in a series of enjoyable and successful Roundups. Indeed, two of our last three Roundups have been held in Texas, and more members are from Texas than from any other state.
WWHA President Jim Dunham calls the 2018 Roundup to order
Roy Young and Dennis Garstang assembled an excellent program, which included a terrific field trip, and the Oasis was one of the finest facilities we've ever had. On Wednesday evening we assembled for an opening reception. Roy and Dennis provided a preview of the next few days, and our keynote address was delivered by one of the most highly regarded writers in our field, Jack DeMattos. Following his remarks, Jack was presented a Six Shooter Award for Lifetime Contributions to Wild West History.
With Ron Chrisman, Director of UNT Press, and Chuck Parsons,
holding his new biography of Ben Thompson from the UNT Press
The Thursday morning program opened with a presentation by best-selling author Michael Wallis on the topic of his next book, "Belle Starr of Missouri." Michael was followed by Erik Wright of the Tombstone Epitaph, who spoke on "Blood in the Ozarks, The Largest Feud in Arkansas History." After a morning break I was up next with "Wild Bill Hickok, Prince of Pistoleers." One of the principal reasons we met in Springfield is because it was the site of one of the most famous street duels in Western history, Wild Bill vs. Davis Tutt in front of an expectant crowd of onlookers. I first wrote about Hickok in the 1970s, and I presented an overview of his colorful - and deadly - career, with emphasis on the confrontation with Tutt. I saved some of that material for the next morning, when we were scheduled to visit the duel site downtown.   
Describing Wild Bill Hickok, Prince of Pistoleers
At my book table

More than 160 were in attendance at the 2018 Roundup

Two State Historians. Marshall Trimble has served
as Arizona State Historian for 21 years.
At the Annual Awards Luncheon on Thursday, the Book of the Year Award was presented to Michael Wallis for his splendid, The Best Land Under Heaven: The Donner Party in the Age of Manifest Destiny. The final program of the afternoon was given by Mary Johnson, "Laura Ingalls Wilder and How the West Was Settled," a fascinating preparation for our upcoming field trip. Thursday evening John Bossenecker moderated a 90-minute panel on "The Earp Brothers," with panelists Casey Tefertiller, Roy Young Gary Roberts, and Tom Bicknell. 
Michael Wallis holds his Book of the Year plaque, flanked by WWHA President Jim Dunham and past president Pam Potter

Jack DeMattos with his plaque for his Outstanding Contributions
to Wild West History
On Friday morning we boarded buses, heading first for the downtown square where Hickok and Tutt exchanged shots. I described the basic layout of the buildings and of the positions of the gunmen, adding remarks about dueling vs. the more common, spontaneous Western gunfights. We then were joined by John Sellars, a native of Springfield who is the Executive Secretary of The History Museum, which is located on the square, and he had a great deal to tell us about the famous duel. Later I had the pleasure of introducing John to three female descendants of Davis Tutt. The ladies came from long distances to meet with us in Springfield, and before the Roundup ended they joined our organization.
John Sellars with three descendants of Davis Tutt
With John Sellars, Director of Springfield's History Museum
Next the buses transported us to Maple Park Cemetery and the graves of Davis Tutt and other Tutt family members. Doc Shores offered a description, and the trio of Tutt descendants were visibly moved at being in the presence of the gravesite of Davis. We had lunch at the Bass Pro Shop; the national headquarters of this organization is in Springfield. We enjoyed an excellent buffet meal, and we had time to visit the outstanding museum of the National Rifle Association, to which many of us belong.
The grave of Davis Tutt

Doc Shores holding forth at the Tutt grave

At the Bass Pro Shop we lunched at the Hemingway Café
The NRA Museum is a major attraction of the Bass Pro Shop
Boarding our buses, we traveled east to Mansfield, where we toured the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum. We arrived just in time to hear a young woman play the violin of Pa Ingalls. The violinist delivered a delightful concert of folk tunes from the front porch of the house, and we learned that Pa's violin is brought out of the museum only on special occasions. The museum displayed a treasure trove of Ingalls-Wilder family artifacts, the gift shop offered an array of books and age-appropriate souvenirs, and there is an excellent eight-minute movie. Of course, the tour of the house, completely furnished and decorated with Ingalls-Wilder items, is the highlight of the visit. 
We enjoyed a folk music concert delivered through the violin of Pa Ingalls

Concert crowd at the Ingalls home listening to the violin performance

The 10-room Ingalls-Wilder home
Friday evening there was a session featuring cowboy poets, storytellers, and musicians. Roy Young coordinated this lively event.
Saturday morning began with a brief business meeting. Most officers and board members agreed to continue their service, and Michael Wallis accepted an open board position. The 2019 Roundup will be held in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and in 2020 we will meet in Fort Smith, Arkansas. There were several fine presentations during the morning, including back-to-back programs by a husband and wife research team, Pat and Chuck Parsons of Luling, Texas.

Chuck and Pat Parsons, who each made a Saturday morning presentation
On Saturday evening we had our annual Boots and Spurs Banquet. Jim Dunham presented a President's Award to Kurt House, noted Texas gun collector and a strong supporter and board member of the WWHA. The Live and Silent Auctions raised a considerable amount of money for the organization.

Sisters Cecilia Ogasawara and Mary Carey, renowned for their clever costumes, masqueraded as Old West lawmen
at the Boots and Spurs Banquet.
Our entertainment for the evening was an all-time WWHA highlight. Roy Young secured the services of the legendary Sons of the Pioneers, and because I had written a book about the group Roy gave me the honor of providing the introduction. The Sons of the Pioneers were organized during the mid-1930s by Roy Rogers, Tim Spencer, and singer-composer Bob Nolan, along with two gifted instrumentalists from Texas, Hugh and Karl Farr (violin and guitar). Duiring the next two decades the Sons of the Pioneers appeared in 100 motion pictures, made countless public appearances, and established themselves as the top group in cowboys music with such timeless hits as Tumbling Tumbleweeds and Cool Water. For more than 80 years the Sons of the Pioneers have maintained their position as the leading cowboy music vocal and instrumental group in history, as they demonstrated to an enthralled WWHA audience. Dusty Rogers - Roy's son - was the lead singer, and the Sons of the Pioneers royally entertained us for 90 minutes. What a spectacular close to our 2018 Roundup. 

Kurt House accepting a richly deserved President's Award
from Jim Dunham and Pam Potter.
The Sons of the Pioneers, with lead singer Dusty Rogers in the center

Monday, July 16, 2018

A Great Week

The week began at the Colleyville Rotary Club. I was invited by a former student, Mark Bauer, who now makes his home in Colleyville. We agreed that the club members would enjoy a program on Texas Gunslingers, which involves 19th-century life and death conflict in the Lone Star State and a collection of replica weapons and gun rigs. A bonus for me is the fact that my daughter, Dr. Berri O'Neal Gormley - who is instrumental in putting together this blog every week or so - and her family live in Colleyville. I drove up a day early so that I could spend a little extra time with Berri, her husband Drew, and my three youngest grandchildren, Addison, Reagan, and Nolan. Berri also accompanied me to the lunch meeting of the local Rotary club, and we all had a lively time.  
With Colleyville Rotary Club President, Kay Allen
On Wednesday afternoon in Carthage, I was invited to the First Baptist Church, which was having a blood drive competition with a church in another community. FBC's Music Minister, David Yarborough, thought it might stimulate donor attendance to have several local authors on hand to sign books for those who came to donate blood. I had a fine time visiting with Carthage friends, eating homemade ice cream provided by the church, and signing books. I had just received the first box of copies of the UNT Press softcover reprint of my 2006 book about the Regulator-Moderator War: War in East Texas, Regulators vs. Moderators. It was the first time the book had been available in more than a decade, and I was delighted that so many readers wanted a signed copy.  

My book table at MASH BASH blood drive
at the First Baptist Church of Carthage.
On Saturday I drove to Athens for the annual meeting of the Awards Committee of the Otis Lock Foundation of the East Texas Historical Association.  I've been a member of this committee for a decade and a half, and I've served as chairman  for the past few years, since the passing of Archie McDonald. We determine cash awards for book award winners, research grant applicants, and educators of the year. We met at a Mexican food restaurant, and before we could even order lunch we found ourselves discussing the merits of various books that had been nominated. By the time we finished our meals we had made our decisions, which will be announced at the Fall Meeting of the ETHA at the Fredonia Hotel in Nacogdoches. Scott Sosebee, Executive Director of the ETHA, was on hand to lend advice, and aside from the committee chairman, a set of new members was present: Debbie Liles, Jessica Wranosky, and John Lundberg, accomplished authors all.
The Lock Award Committee, L to R: Scott Sosebee, Debbie Liles, Jessica Wranosky, State Historian, John Lundberg

We concluded out business at two o'clock, and I immediately began driving toward Houston. I had agreed to speak at the annual Awards Banquet of the Sons of the Republic  of Texas, Lone Star Chapter #58, which serves Montgomery and The Woodlands. This award-winning group is an outstanding chapter and I've twice had the privilege of addressing them at past events. The banquet was held at a superb restaurant in North Houston, the Steamboat House, which is richly decorated in Texana and features an eye-catching statue of Sam Houston in the parking lot. 
A statue of Sam Houston outside the Steamboat House Restaurant
Texana décor dominates every room of the Steamboat House Restaurant.
The SRT Awards Banquet registration table

There were almost 100 men and women in the picturesque banquet hall. The impressive program included the tolling of a "Passing Bell" for members who had been lost during the year, as well as the presentation of $1,000 cash awards to Educators of the Year.  The recipients were two seventh-grade Texas History teachers from the Conroe ISD:  Penny Williams of York Jr. High, and Brenda Craig of Moreland Jr. High. I especially enjoyed hearing  a detailed recounting of the chapter's Year in Review and the miscellany of historic activities staged by the chapter.

Penny Adams (left) and Brenda Craig were named Educators of the Year.

The gathering crowd (which finally numbered nearly 100)
in the banquet room
Bugle tribute, Il Silencio, beautifully played by Michael D. Wilson

In the past I had spoken to this chapter on Sam Houston and on the San Jacinto Campaign, so we decided that for the Banquet topic I would describe the Regulator-Moderator War. This first of a great many blood feuds in Texas occurred in 1840-1844 during the heart of the Texas Republic era. It was a Texan embodiment of the American Regulator Moderator tradition that began in the 1760s and 1770s, and it produced more casualties than any other blood feud in Texas history. And by a happy coincidence a shipment of my books on this blood feud came in just a few days earlier, and I was able to provide autographed copies for the SRT members.  In all it was a wonderful evening, a fitting climax to a delightful week of Texas history events. 

Chapter President Ron McAnear
Holding forth about the Regulators and Moderators

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Panhandle Trip

For the past several months I've been developing a book on Billy Dixon - hero of Adobe Walls and Medal of Honor winner - and his remarkable wife, Olive King Dixon.

I've assembled books and a collection of documents, and I've been greatly aided by Panola College librarians Sherri Baker and Shay Joines, as well as by my sister and brother-in-law, Judy and John Smith of Lampasas. I've even been able to do a little writing, but I've reached the point where I could proceed no farther without a research trip to the Texas Panhandle. 

On Monday morning, June 11, I toured Frontier Texas in Abilene, obtaining some useful photos and signing copies of my recent book, Frontier Forts of Texas. Museum Manager Rebecca Kinnison was most helpful, and she expressed interest in a program/signing when the Dixon book comes out. Before leaving Abilene I stopped by the Texas Star Trading Company, owned by Glenn and Carol Dromgoole, who are most supportive of Texana books and writers and who asked me to sign several titles on their shelves.
My first stop was at Frontier Texas in Abilene
Signing books at the Frontier Texas gift shop

On Monday afternoon I was in the Scurry County Museum in Snyder, where I was welcomed by staff members Ericka Jayne, Laurel Lamb, and Brenda Tovar. Curator Laurel Lamb brought me into the basement so that I could examine rifles and other artifacts not on display. Program Scheduler Ericka Jayne urged me to return for a program/signing, and before I left town I photographed the famous albino buffalo statue on the courthouse square.   

Curator Laurel Lamb opening an exhibit case at the Scurry County Museum
for a better photo angle of a Sharps Big Fifty

With Brenda Tovar at the Scurry County Museum

The next morning I was at the Southwest Collection on the campus of Texas Tech University. Archivist Monte Monroe had arranged for an impressive collection of documents to be placed at my disposal in the reading room, and I worked until mid-afternoon on this treasure trove of sources. I enjoyed a delightful lunch break with Monte, Tai Kreidler, and Lynn Whitfield, all friends from past visits and from activities of the West Texas Historical Association. Tai graciously contacted several other people at various museums on my behalf, letting them know when I was coming and what my research needs were.
The Southwest Collection building on the Texas Tech campus
The Southwest Collection reading room
Our lunch group at the Texas Tech Stadium Restaurant:
Monte Monroe, Tai Kreidler, Lynn Whitfield, State Historian

After leaving the Southwest Collection I drove to Canyon, introducing myself to Warren Stricker, Director of the Research Center of the Panhandle-Plains Museum and his lovely assistant Millie Vanover. Although the Research Center usually is not open to the public until one o'clock in the afternoon, Warren generously invited me to come in the next morning. After our meeting I had time to examine the Billy Dixon display in the museum, along with other pertinent exhibits. The next morning I was greeted by Warren and Millie - and an impressive collection of boxes and file folders. I worked until mid-afternoon, and came away with a splendid load of photocopies and photograph orders.   
Entrance to the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum

Within 20 minutes I was in Amarillo, where Olive Dixon spent the last three decades of her life, working as a journalist and as an historian of the Panhandle's pioneer period. First I located her grave at Llano Cemetery. Next I found and photographed her last home, near downtown Amarillo. The nearby Downtown Public Library remained open until nine o'clock, so I went to the reference section and found several useful file folders, which provided more helpful photocopies. The following morning, Thursday, I photographed the impressive Polk Street Methodist Church, which Olive joined after moving to Amarillo and shortly after the big new sanctuary opened. In the main office I was welcomed by Natalie Chappell, Financial Secretary, and by Administrative Assistant Carol Moreno. They found Olive's 88-year-old membership card on a venerable rolodex, then located more information from an old church directory.
Exterior of the Polk Street Methodist Church

Interior of the sanctuary, where Olive Dixon worshiped
for more than a quarter of a century
Natalie Chappell and Carol Moreno holding a venerable church register

Finding Olive's membership card in the rolodex
Late in the morning I drove to Fritch to photograph the Billy Dixon Masonic Lodge. A short drive then led me to Borger and the Hutchinson County Museum. Hutchinson County was the site of the Battle of Adobe Walls. Billy Dixon later made his home at Adobe Walls, held several public offices in the county, and took Olive as his bride there. I was expected at the museum by Administrator Lynn Hopkins, who graciously showed me through the excellent displays and made available to me numerous resources, including a recording of an interview by Olive. I had read transcripts of several of her interviews, but it was the first time I had heard her voice.

The Billy Dixon Masonic Lodge in Fritch
Billy Dixon's telescope on display at the Hutchinson County
Historical Museum in Borger

From Borger I went up the highway to Miami, seat of Roberts County. Olive lived for more than a decade in Miami, where most of her children went to school. The current Methodist Church was built while she was a member, and the handsome courthouse was only a few years old when she moved with her family to Miami. I was shown through the courthouse by County Judge Rick Tennant, and at the Roberts County Museum I met Curator Emma Bowers. The museum is housed in the old depot, and Emma is justly proud of the dioramas and other displays, as well as historic outdoor structures. She made available to me several photo sources, which I badly needed.

Historical Roberts County structures outside the main museum building in Miami

Miami's 1888 depot serves as the nucleus of the Roberts County Museum, presided over by Curator Emma Bowers.

The handsome Roberts County Courthouse was erected in 1913 in Miami.

County Judge Rick Tennant graciously guided me
through the picturesque courthouse.

(Pictured below):The First Methodist Church of Miami was built while Olive was a member.


I ended the day by finding the monument at the remote site of the 1874 Battle of the Buffalo Wallow. Shortly after his heroics at Adobe Walls, Billy Dixon was recruited as an army scout. Soon thereafter Dixon, a second scout, and four troopers were jumped by 125 horseback warriors. One soldier died and and everyone else was wounded, but the large war party was repulsed, and Dixon and the other four survivors were awarded the Medal of Honor (Billy's medal is on display at the Panhandle-Plains Museum). Scout Dixon operated for several years out of Fort Elliott near Mobeetie.

I spent Thursday night in Canadian, where young Olive King arrived in the Panhandle from Virginia by rail to visit her cowboy brother. With a few phone calls I made an appointment with Weldon Walser, a native of Canadian, to tour the site of Fort Elliott, which is on property that Weldon owns and farms. We met on Friday morning, and Weldon graciously spent two hours driving me from point to point, collecting old square nails, and showing me photos of the post during its military heyday. I am deeply grateful to Weldon for taking time from a busy day to show a stranger this historic site.

The long Canadian River Wagon Bridge, built in 1916 at Canadian.

Weldon Walser, my guide to the site of Fort Elliott on his property

A short distance away is the Mobeetie Museum, housed in the former elementary school built in 1923. When the school building finally fell into disuse, there was considerable damage the floor and roof, but a $500,000 grant provided an excellent renovation of the six classrooms and large auditorium. Today there is use by community groups and, of course, a first-rate museum, operated by Ada Lester and Suzanne Lohberger. Ada, a native of Mobeetie, served as my intermediary with Weldon Walser, and she and Suzanne assembled a wealth of file material on the Dixons, Fort Elliott, and the nearby battle of the Buffalo Wallow. Following a guided tour of the museum, I spent more than two hours photocopying materials. Ada and Suzanne were delightful company, and we talked - as I had at virtually every stop - of a future book signing and program.
Suzanne Lohberger and Ada Lester
in one of the Mobeetie Museum's reference rooms.

When I finally headed east toward Carthage - arriving at one o'clock Saturday morning - I reflected throughout the trip home on the rich collection of research materials I was bringing back to my writing office, and on the numerous friends and professionals who treated me with such courtesy during my highly productive week in the Panhandle.