History

Thu
03
Mar

Lost letter describes pre-statehood Texas

Newspapers receive a lot of mail, much of it deservedly destined for the trash can. Fortunately, whoever opened the letter from New York that came to the Austin Statesman sometime in January 1920 had the good sense to realize it contained something worthy of attention.

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Thu
26
Feb

Radio Days

In the early 1960s, hit songs either came through the gas-filled tubes in your car radio, a plug-in, toaster-size plastic device with round dials for tuning and volume control or a battery powered transistor radio only slightly smaller than a cereal box.
Like the distant signal of a far-away station bouncing off the ionosphere, for millions of Boomers radio memories fade in and out – sound waves converted to memory messages traveling from neuron to neuron in our brain.
My first recollection of commercial radio dates to the early 1950s, when my grandparents seldom missed an evening episode of “One Man’s Family,” a soap opera. 
If we were traveling in 
 

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Thu
19
Feb

Texas “Mail Call” Inspired by a Civil War Letter

One day in the spring of 1942, an old photograph rescued from a trunk at a relative’s house in the small San Patricio County community of Round Lake caught Robert Dougherty Bluntzer’s eye.
The sepia image had captured an instant in the life of a young man with fair, piercing eyes and a Prince Valiant-style haircut.
His too-large cotton shirt, despite the scarf-like cravat he wore, allowed for at least an inch of empty space around his scrawny neck. He did not look happy. Maybe that was his nature. Maybe he didn’t like getting dressed up.
Or maybe Chrys Sullivan had posed for the glass negative portrait not long before

 

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Wed
11
Feb

The Iron Mule

Before ranchers and farmers descended on the last open land in Texas, huge buffalo herds roamed the Panhandle.
The shaggy animals fed and clothed Plains Indians, but as the U.S. pushed farther west, professional hunters began killing them for their hides.
One day in 1874, a party of hard-case buffalo hunters noticed an unusual amount of smoke in the distance.
Possibly they took it for an approaching prairie fire, but then came the sound, a loud, rhythmic chugging.
As the hunters sat on their horses wondering what

 

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Wed
04
Feb

Skinny Dipping at Trinity Bay

The full moon washed Trinity Bay in silver.
In the quiet water, trout and red drum preyed on scurrying schools of baitfish moving in the summer night.
Backlit by the refineries off toward Houston, an oil tanker silently slid toward the Gulf through the deeper water of the ship channel.
Despite the hard times brought by the economic collapse in 1929, all seemed at peace and as it should be.
But one Texas preacher

 

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Wed
28
Jan

Confederate Reunion at Camp Ben McCulloch

His straw cowboy hat balanced on his knee, 84-year-old Luther Watson sat talking about his father’s service in the Confederate army.
“Well, he didn’t want to go,” he began.
“You better not tell that,” Mrs. Watson interrupted, “he’ll put it in the newspaper.”
“That’s all right,” Watson interrupted back, “it’s the truth.”
When the Civil War broke out in 1861 after years of national acrimony over slavery and state’s rights, Watson’s grandfather, father, and his Uncle Jim – along with others

 

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Wed
21
Jan

Texas vs New Mexico: The Nickname Bowl

Texas had Big Foot Wallace, Deaf Smith, and Cactus Jack Garner, but New Mexico plain outdid its neighbor in coming up with colorful handles for its crooks, cronies and characters.
One consolation for prideful Texans: Many of the characters who became famous – or infamous – in New Mexico either hailed from Texas or spent some time in the Lone Star State before hitting the Land of Enchantment.
For some of them, bullets

 

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Wed
14
Jan

Elephant Execution in Wichita Falls

Someday, perhaps, a work crew laying cable or pipe will unearth a large set of bones near a busy Wichita Falls intersection.
They may think they have found the remains of some prehistoric creature, but they would be wrong.
Should a paleontologist be consulted, the expert would readily determine that the bones, while old, did not come from a wooly mammoth, but its evolutionary descendant, the elephant.
How an elephant came to

 

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Wed
07
Jan

New Geography

As much as it might hurt to admit it, Texas isn’t perfect.
Take its map, for instance.
While using the Rio Grande along with the Red and Sabine rivers as borders — along with invisible lines defined by a surveyor’s transom — left the Lone Star state with an iconic silhouette, some of the interior geography could use a make-over.
The Texas pledge speaks of this state as being “one and indivisible,” but the act of Congress that allowed the Republic of Texas to join the Union in 1845 stipulates that Texas could be divided into as many as five separate states.
In light of that, over the years various individuals and groups have advocated either

 

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Wed
17
Dec

A History of the “Other” Dublin

For reasons she apparently did not think necessary to explain in her book, early in the second decade of the 20th century, Sarah Catherine Shivers Lattimore began gathering information on the history of her community.
She interviewed old-timers who remembered Erath County when it was organized in 1856 by men “in love with the freedom of the prairies, filled with enthusiasm over the possibilities for successful stock raising and consequent wealth, lured by the cheapness of the unoccupied land, were eager to avail themselves of such advantages.”
In addition, she paged through the musty pages of early newspapers.
Her endeavors culminated in

 

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