June 3, 1936 - July 13, 2013
The Town with an Alias 2-3-13
Omen, a small community of about 150 souls, may be the only town
in East Texas that once went by an alias.
Those strange town names
While some early East Texans named their towns for families, their
hometowns or landmarks, othes were a tad more creative...
A refuge from Indian attacks 1-20-13
In early East Texas, dozens of forts were built by settlers to provide
a safe and sturdy refuge from Indian attacks. One such fort stood
in north central Houston County where Indian attacks were common.
A Civil War Journal 12-17-12
In early 1861, W.W. Heartsill of Marshall, Texas, marched off to
war with W.P. Lane’s Rangers of the Confederate Army. During the
four years, one month and one day that he spent at war, Heartsill
managed to keep a diary of each day...
Fire Lookout Towers 12-6-12
Long before the Texas Forest Service started using airplanes to
spot forest fires, men climbed to the highest pine tree they could
find, preferably one sitting atop a hill...
Making music in Sacul 11-26-12
On the fourth Saturday night each month, the Nacogdoches County
community of Sacul hosts one of the best country music venues in
East Texas--a collection of bands playing mostly bluegrass standards.
Daingerfield, the county seat of Morris County, was named for Captain
London Daingerfield, supposedly a native of Nova Scotia, but beyond
that and a few other facts, Captain Daingerfield remains a mystery
Confessions of a
Graveyard Junkie 10-7-12
While other people collect antiques, postcards and coffee mugs,
I spend much of my spare time in East Texas cemeteries looking for
oddball tombstones, unique inscriptions and other reminders of people
who left behind more than just a nondescript piece of rock to mark
The Colonel 9-30-12
Colonel Homer Garrison, Jr., had one of the most recognized law
enforcement careers in the U.S., culminating with his leadership
of the Texas Rangers and the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Old Days 9-16-12
East Texas after Civil War
The forgotten towns of East Texas got their names from a variety
of ways--from people, places, events...even geological landmarks.
But Jumbo, in Panola County, is the only town to be named for an
The CCC Parks 9-3-12
During the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) designed
and constructed dozens of state parks throughout Texas. The design
of the parks was often inspired by the landscape and history of
Courthouse Fires by 8-26-12
Some of the most delectable historical desserts of East Texas are
found in the yellowed documents of the thirty-plus county courthouses
scattered across the pineywoods. One such morsel is the little-known
story of two courthouse fires in Trinity County, one of the rowdiest
of our early counties.
An intriguing family mystery spanning more than 135 years is told
by three tombstones lying behind a rusting iron fence in a small
East Texas cemetery.
Some seventy years ago, a self-educated farmer and justice of the
peace in Henderson County starting writing letters to the Athens
Daily Review. In a few months, Cicero Witt Corley was so popular
that he was given a regular newspaper column he called “Korley’s
In early East Texas, the death of a family member or friend was
a serious event surrounded by traditional rituals... Death was also
accompanied by a variety of superstitions, some of which are still
respected in the homes of our grandparents.
The Cotton Pickin’ Theater
At Point, a small town of some 700 souls in northern Rains county...,
a sturdy old gin has found a new life as an entertainment venue
that draws crowds from all over East Texas and performers like Mark
Chestnut, Pee Wee Walker, and Gary Busey.
Dog trot houses were built and occupied by East Texas’ earliest
settlers. Many of them migrated here in the early 1800s from the
Old South and brought southern customs, including the way buildings
were constructed with them.
It is on one of the most enduring mysteries in East Texas. In the
early 1900s, an explosion and fire struck the old Emporia sawmill
south of what is now Diboll. More than thirty sawmill workers, most
of them black, are believed to have perished in the conflagration.
Burned beyond recognition, the men were reportedly buried in a mass
grave somewhere on the Emporia town site, now a part of Diboll,
with no tombstones to mark their final resting place.
"East Texans willing to take the time to drive about 100 miles
into eastern Oklahoma will be rewarded with a centuries-old mystery."
The Town of Twin Groceries
A recent caller from Bowie County had an intriguing question: “Does
East Texas have a town named Twin Groceries?” The answer is yes
Lying in the Trinity River at Parker’s Bluff, near Palestine, a
cluster of remnants from an old sidewheeler steamboat serve as reminders
of an era when cotton was king in much of East Texas.
Good ol’ boy expressions
The good ol’ boy expressions and idioms for which we are famous
seem to be proliferating and keeping pace with today’s times.
Davy’s Spring 5-20-12
Anyone over fifty who traveled down El Camino Real, known today
as Texas Highway 21, probably remembers stopping at the Davy Crockett
Spring and sampling its cool water.
the Biscuits, Pappy 5-13-12
Older East Texans who remember W. Lee (Pappy) O’Daniel will find
a special appeal in a book by Bill Crawford. Daniel, a song-writing
flour salesman who launched the musical careers of Bob Wills and
the Light Crust Doughboys, was a politician unlike any we’ve seen
East Texan 5-6-12
When you talk to East Texas movie buffs about their favorite all-time
films, the one everyone places near the top is Casablanca... Few
know that an East Texan, Dooley Wilson, played a significant role
in the film.
Unique Landmark 4-29-12
Travelers who take the time to wander down Farm Road 31 between
Deadwood, Texas, and Logansport, Louisiana, will find a one-of-a-kind
historical landmark. A granite shaft set into the ground on April
23, 1841, marks the only international boundary existing within
the continental United States.
Chief’s Sons 4-22-12
Twin sons were born to an old Caddo Indian chief living on the banks
of the Sabine River. Natchitoches was swarthy with black hair and
flashing black eyes. Nacogdoches was fair with yellow hair and blue
Licensed to preach in 1897, and coming from peaceful communities
like Malakoff and Beaver Valley, Jesse Lee was appalled at the lack
of law enforcement and the rampant sales of liquor in Trinity County
despite prohibition elections.
A song inspired by John
Hamblen, the son of an itinerant preacher, wrote hundreds of songs
during his lifetime, but his most enduring composition was the gospel
classic inspired by, of all people, John Wayne.
Texas Cousin 4-1-12
Alexander Hamilton Washington, a cousin of George Washington, cut
a wide swath through Polk and San Jacinto counties before and after
the Civil War, but finding any physical reminder of his 28 years
in East Texas is almost impossible...
The Biscuit and Cornbread
The siren was likely blown for loftier reasons such as personnel
shift changes and fires, but Dibollians came to know the sounds
as “the biscuit whistle” and the “cornbread whistle.”
Here and There 3-18-12
After a lifetime in East Texas, I have grown to prefer cemeteries
where the tombstones stand high against the sky, where tall trees
shade the graves most the time, and where people get together once
a year for a graveyard working and homecoming.
Regional expressions 3-11-12
Having written a couple of books on East Texas expressions, I thought
I knew them all...
An Affinity for Place Names
When settlers from the U.S. poured into Texas following its independence
and later statehood, they starting slapping names on the places
where they put down roots. Most of the names are still around and
just as colorful as they were decades ago.
of an irony 2-27-12
Heavyweight champ Jack Johnson’s arrest for boxing in 1903 in Galveston
Sawyers and Flatheads 2-22-12
In the Northwest, they were called lumberjacks, but in East Texas
they were called “sawyers” or “flatheads.” A hardy breed with a
broad streak of independence, they were as colorful as they were
in East Texas 2-19-12
To paraphrase a quote by the Marquise de Deffand in 1774, I don't
believe in ghosts, but I have a healthy respect for them. You would,
too, if you've ever stood on the banks of Bouton Lake when the fog
rolls in from the Neches River bottomlands.
Carnegie Libraries 2-10-12
When Tyler’s historic Carnegie Library building celebrated its anniversary,
the event reminded East Texans of the legacy Andrew Carnegie left
before his death in 1919.
Rusk’s Capitol Role 1-23-12
Over one hundred and thirty years ago Texans celebrated the completion
of the Texas Capitol in Austin. But, as in past observances, there
will be little acknowledgment of the role that East Texas, especially
the town of Rusk, played in the capitol’s completion.
A 1912 road trip 1-17-12
"In 1912, roads were often impassable and ran across farms
and ranches. The Nash-Smith party stopped frequently to open and
close gates, some of which were made of barbed wire..."
Babe Ruth in East Texas
Imagine, if you can, baseball slugger Babe Ruth walking around a
field and shoveling cow manure. In 1923...
A historical link is
When the Houston Chronicle decided to stop delivering its daily
editions to homes in Lufkin and Angelina County, it severed a connection
that reaches back more than a century...
Most East Texans under forty know little about Sam Rayburn, the
man whose name is attached to a giant reservoir on the Angelina
River. But in his heyday, “Mister Sam” helped the nation through
the Great Depression, World War II, and into the prosperity of the
Creating a Gospel Classic
Songwriter Stuart Hamblen, the son of an itinerant East Texas preacher,
wrote hundreds of successful songs during his lifetime, but his
most enduring composition was a gospel classic inspired by, of all
people, John Wayne.
Town names with a twist
When it came to naming their towns, East Texans were not shy about
their selections. Consider these examples. Jumbo, in Panola County,
got its name from an elephant in P.T. Barnum’s circus...
The man who killed Lincoln
"Painted inside on one wall in the restaurant is a drawing
of John Wilkes Booth. I’ve often wondered why the drawing was there
until I read a book, “Unsolved Mysteries of the Old West” by W.C.
Storm Cellars 11-6-11
In the midst of a recent tornado outbreak, an oldtimer called and
asked if I remembered storm cellars...
Three-Legged Willie 10-23-11
Three-legged Willie limped into Texas in 1827, a young man in his
early twenties, already a capable and respected lawyer. Born Robert
McAlphin Williamson, his reputation as a judge became legendary
in East Texas....
Place names 10-2-11
When settlers from the U.S. poured into Texas following its independence
and later statehood, they started slapping names on the places where
they put down roots. Most of the names are still around and just
Centennial Monuments 9-25-11
In 1936, as Texas marked the centennial of its fight for independence
from Mexico, hundreds of granite monuments were placed throughout
the state to recognize significant events, people, buildings and
A sawmill ghost town
Aldridge is perhaps the most isolated and desolate of East Texas’
ghost towns--a somnolent cluster of weathered concrete and brick
ruins wrapped in the growth of a Neches River forest...
A Historic County 9-5-11
One of my favorite rural counties in East Texas celebrated its 140th
anniversary this year. Named for the 1836 battle which ended the
Texas revolution against Mexico, San Jacinto County...
Hardin’s East Texas Roots
Most of us associate John Wesley Hardin--the man often called Texas’
most famous gunfighter--with regions beyond East Texas, but the
truth is that Hardin had deep roots in the pineywoods...
Town Names II 8-15-11
Origin of East Texas place names.
The boy with X-ray vision
Every now and then, an old story about a Texas boy who had X-ray
vision, and could locate underground water, surfaces in one of the
fifty-plus East Texas newspapers I read every week.
Pure Gospel 8-6-11
Throughout East Texas are hundreds of gospel music venues where
people gather on weekends to hear songs that you’ll hear only in
Things here and there 7-24-11
Of biscuits, apple peel, and more
The short life of Sam Bass
For more than four years, we have been working on a new book, “Bad
to the Bone,” a collection of outlaws who left their imprint on
East Texas. One of the best known outlaws was Sam Bass...
The Murdered Sheriff 7-10-11
Angelina County Sheriff William Reed (Bill) McMullen was one of
the men who was killed during a feud between the Gilley and Windham
families at Homer, the county seat of Angelina County in the 1860s...
Legalizing noodling 7-5-11
In the midst of a session that dealt with taxes, Medicare fraud
and other serious issues, the Texas Legislature finally dealt with
an issue of concern to East Texans--noodling...
Bowie and his knife 6-26-11
Texas historians have written volumes about Jim Bowie, who died
at the Alamo, but what people remember most about him is a big hunting
blade he carried--a weapon known in history simply as the Bowie
Science Hill 6-19-11
Sitting atop a scenic hilltop in southwestern Henderson County,
Science Hill lasted only a few decades, but its reputation as a
center of education is well-remembered by descendants of its founders
the Texas National Forests 6-12-11
President Theodore Roosevelt established four Texas National Forests
in 1936. By 1937, the federal government had acquired more than
613,000 acres from private landowners at an average price of $4.62
Honoring a bull riding
Myrtis Dightman has finally received the attention he should have
had decades ago. Born in Crockett in 1935, Dightman was a legendary
bull rider who set all types of records for riding raging bulls
in rodeo arenas across the United States.
McMahan Chapel 5-30-11
The news that San Augustine businessman Jack Maund has contributed
$100,000 for a museum and events center at McMahan Chapel Methodist
Church has focused new attention on one of East Texas’ most historic
Caddo Lake 5-22-11
East Texas has some of the most beautiful lakes in Texas. If anyone
ever asks me to pick the lake I like most, Caddo Lake would be high
on my list, largely because its mystical nature is captivating.
A well-used phone book 5-15-11
I’ve received a telephone book adorned with telephone numbers from
the 1980’s scribbled all over the cover, the back, and dozens of
Remembering two doctors
When doctors W.D. Thames of Lufkin and Joe Dickerson of Jasper died
recently, East Texas lost two unique physicians--men who made house
calls, kept up with the babies they delivered, and cared for whole
A Historic County 5-1-11
One of my favorite rural counties in East Texas, San Jacinto County,
celebrated its 140th anniversary this year...
Here, there, everywhere
KMOO of Mineola may have the most memorable radio station call letters
in East Texas...
End of the Hanging Era
From the inception of the Republic of Texas in 1836, the method
of punishing criminals was usually by hanging at the county level.
But in 1924, the State of Texas took the responsibility for capital
punishment and changed the method from hanging to electrocution.
Preserving Forest History
The Texas Forestry Museum, Lufkin.
The Gift of Hannah 4-4-11
"Hannah was Hannah Collie of Alto, a brave little girl who
touched the hearts of thousands of people while her own heart struggled
to keep her alive."
East Texas Traditions 3-28-11
One of the hottest controveries that ever erupted in East Texas
occurred in the sixties when several cities decided that dogs ought
to be stopped from running loose on the streets.
Remembering Columbia 3-20-11
On February 1, 2003, as the world followed the return of Space Shuttle
Columbia, something deadly went wrong with the flight over East
Texas. In seconds, the shuttle and its crew plummeted to the ground
in Sabine County.
In the early days, newspapers carried down-to-earth news that you
seldom read in newspapers today. Some examples...
Old Bevilport 3-6-11
History laid a heavy hand on Bevilport. But you won’t find it on
many road maps or marked by highway signs.
Is Quantrill buried
in East Texas? 2-28-11
One of the most intriguing legends in East Texas claims that William
Clarke Quantrill, the guerrilla leader from the Civil War and the
mentor of the Younger and James brothers, is buried in Angelina
An Outspoken Man
Many towns and cities in East Texas have in their history individuals
who ascended to greatness, but fell to earth when they opened their
mouth at the wrong time. Such was Medford Bryan Evans, a college
professor, author and editor...
Reading Newspapers 2-13-11
I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. But I am addicted.
Give me a stack of East Texas newspapers, and I’ll be hooked for
The sculptress and a paper
When the first paper mill to make newsprint from southern pine trees
was built near Lufkin in the 1930s, Tennant was commissioned to
develop a plaque bearing the likenesses of Charles Holmes Herty
and Francis Patrick Garvan, who developed a method for separating
the pine resin from the tree’s pulp.
Town names 1-25-11
If you’ve ever wondered how some East Texas towns got their names,
you may be surprised at some of the origins.
A Frenchman at San Jacinto
In 1893, the Galveston Daily News printed a reporter’s interview
with Charles Cronea, a Jean Lafitte pirate who fought at the Battle
of San Jacinto, where Texas won its independence from Mexico...
The origin of blue jeans
A few friends and I were sitting around drinking coffee a few days
ago, and the subject of blue jeans came up, and we starting comparing
notes on how old our jeans were...
A Historical Marker
for Lightnin' 1-3-11
The news outlets from Houston reported recently that a Texas Historical
Marker has been dedicated to Lightnin' Hopkins, whose blues music
became famous between 1946 and the 1970s...
George Washington’s Execution
When the Texas prison system plugged in its electric chair in 1924,
would you believe that George Washington was one of the first four
men to be executed? ...
Pittsburg’s Hot Links 12-19-10
Few East Texas foods are as well-known as those spicy sausages,
better known as “hot links,” served at Pittsburg (the one in East
A story of two homes 12-12-10
Two historic buildings in East Texas made news recently. One story
was sad; the other joyous...
The Sheriff Posses 12-8-10
In early East Texas, it wasn’t unusual for a local sheriff to recruit
a posse of men and horses to run down outlaws and fugitives...
A great old map 11-28-10
Most historians love old maps. They squint at them for hours, often
finding places they never knew existed...
Frontier Rifles 11-17-10
Early pioneers and explorers such as Crockett and Daniel Boone probably
depended on Kentucky rifles and a successor, the Plains Rifle, for
survival on the expanding American frontier.
Texans Honored at Shiloh
Texas troops who fought in the Battle of Corinth, Mississippi, in
1862 were honored with a monument at Corinth Unit of Shiloh National
Military Park last month...
The Perfect Haunted
With Halloween upon us, it’s time to remember the old Bonner house
west of Lufkin, which has been called the perfect haunted house.
But it had also has a rich history...
The mayor and the lion 9-26-10
Years ago, when Pitser Garrison was the mayor of Lufkin, a young
African lion was born at Ellen Trout Zoo.
Reading the papers 9-19-10
Once a week, I sit on my couch at home and read the weekly newspapers
sent to me by the folks who are kind enough to carry this column.
By the time I’m through, I have learned a lot more about East Texas
than I knew last week. Here are some examples...
Memories of growing up
Before she passed away, Opal Young sat down with a pencil and a
tablet and left for her family the recollections of growing up in
rural East Texas...
Mystery Solved 9-5-10
They solved a big mystery near Grapeland, in Houston County, a few
weeks ago. Yep, the lingering mystery of the purple deer droppings
has been unraveled...
Graves of the Famous 8-22-10
A reader called a few days ago, asking where John Wesley Hardin,
one of East Texas’ most famous outlaws, was buried. His call brought
up the question of where other famous people are buried in Texas
A Tour of Dog-Trots 8-15-10
If you’re a fan of dog-trot houses--and know what they are--here
is an opportunity you shouldn’t miss. The SFA Gardens of Stephen
F. Austin State University will host a tour of two historic Shelby
County dog-trot homes on Saturday, Sept. 1, from 9 a.m. to noon.
Looking for Hidden Treasures
Fortune-hunters have been searching for buried and hidden riches
for as long as there has been a Texas. The Spanish often hauled
silver and gold bars, coins, and jewelry long distances to reach
their destination, but often without success...
Texas’ Lone Stars 8-1-10
A reader from Gladewater called a few weeks back with an interesting
question: “How many towns named Lone Star are located in Texas?”
At my last count, there were ten, and six of them are in East Texas...
Landing a B-17 7-25-10
A day in the 1940s when the pilot of a B-17 plane ran out of gas
and decided to land on a dirt road at the McQueen farm at Keltys,
a sawmill town near Lufkin...
Unique Town Names 7-18-10
Sadly, we’re losing much of the history of East Texas--the small
communities that sprouted and faded away as East Texas grew and
much of our population was congested in larger cities and towns.
Many of our small communities had unique names that gave them a
The Circuit Rider
Beneath the pulpit of an East Texas country church, far from the
saddle-sloped mountains of his beloved Kentucky, Littleton Fowler
lies at rest...
Here and There 7-4-10
Here and there in East Texas..
Ivory Joe Hunter 6-27-10
When historians in Southeast Texas unveiled a Texas State Historical
Marker for Ivory Joe Hunter at a cemetery near Kirbyville, they
stirred memories of one of America’s greatest musicians...
Moon Pies 6-20-10
A friend sent our family a couple of Moon Pies a few days ago. Our
first reaction was: “Are Moon Pies still being made today?’
The First Millionaire 6-13-10
Texas’ first likely millionaire wasn’t from Dallas or Houston. He
came from East Texas--and he didn’t make his money from oil. Frost
Thorn, an early storekeeper from Nacogdoches, had a worth of more
than a million dollars after Texas won its independence from Mexico
Joe Tonahill of Jasper
When Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy in
1963, an East Texas lawyer soon found himself thrust into history.
Living in sawmill towns
While some sentimentalists may disagree, living in East Texas’ early
sawmill towns was no bed of roses. My parents lived in four such
towns in East Texas and western Louisiana, and I still remember
those days vividly, but not always pleasantly.
Lum and Abner 5-23-10
If you’re an older East Texan, the chances are good that you remember
Lum and Abner, the lovable proprietors of the Jot ‘Em Down Store
in Pine Ridge, Arkansas...
Bigfoot in East Texas 5-15-10
For years, people have claimed sightings of a large, human-like
creature in the thick woods of East Texas...
A life of hardships 5-9-10
When you start worrying about the hardships life has thrown at you,
consider the plight of the Clyde Thurman Owens family of Henderson
Honky Tonks 5-1-10
“How did the term “Honky Tonk” come about?”
Honoring Lightnin' 4-4-10
Earlier this year, Lightnin’ Hopkins, the late legendary blues musician,
was awarded a Texas Historical Marker to be placed in Houston, where
he moved in the 1920s and lived until his death in 1982...
Roaming Around East Texas
Some things we’ve learned by roaming around East Texas...
The Wrong Grave 3-21-10
In East Texas, where John Alexander Greer spent his life, there
is the lingering question if his bones really lie beneath the Texas
State Cemetery tombstone...
Hanging a Dead Man 3-14-10
George Hughes of Sherman may have been the only man in East Texas
to be lynched while he was dead...
Random Notes from East
A half-dime and other coins, The Holy Oak in Buffalo, and an East
Texas link with Canada.
Leagueville, an isolated community in eastern Henderson County,
owes its beginning to a land certificate that originated in 1850
by Aaron York, surveyor of a league of land west of the Neches River...
Bringing back cowboy music
Musicians today seldom play the music older folks remember best.
But, thankfully, I was able to recommend at least one place where
the old cowboy music is still played with enthusiasm. At the Camp
Street Cafe and Store in Crockett, brothers Guy and Pipp Gillette
perform traditional cowboy songs in a downtown building once owned
by their grandfather...
A “tough ol’ bird” 2-8-10
By Gertie Lacey’s own description, she is a “tough ol’ bird” who
grew up in a family of 15 kids, endured the rough days of the East
Texas oil boom, picked cotton, endured crop failures during the
Patroon’s Story 2-5-10
It’s a shame that Patroon didn’t last. But in a way, it may have
been best. Its stern, no-nonsense college would have never survived
in modern times...
Remembering Skin Tight
In the early 1830s, when cattle buyer Henry Reeves and his partner,
a man known only as Ball, built a store on the Rusk-Henderson road,
visiting customers started calling the settlement “Skin Tight”...
Laughs with a Lawman 1-18-10
I suspect that the best-read column in the Buffalo Press, a weekly
newspaper in East Texas, is Sheriff Ralph Billings’ report on criminal
activity in Freestone County...
Naming Arp 1-10-10
Few towns have a name as simple and short as Arp, which sits on
a railroad line and Texas Highway 135 eighteen miles southeast of
Tyler in Smith County...
Remembering Eliza 1-3-10
When she passed away in December, East Texas lost one of the most
competent and aggressive historians.
How a town was born 12-27-09
Reading old newspapers, particularly those of the early 1900s, can
There’s Hope in East Texas
Someone once noted, “There’s a lot of hope in East Texas.” But he
didn’t know the whole story. The Handbook of Texas lists seven East
Texas communities with the name of New Hope, two known as Little
Hope, four Hopewells, and two Mount Hopes. Let’s begin with their
The Epidemic at Grand Bluff
Few remnants exist from Grand Bluff, a community once considered
as the seat of government for Panola County. One of the remnants
is an isolated cemetery containing a hint of why the town died...
Collecting ghost stories
It’s time to put the ghosts into a new book. If you have a favorite
story, here’s your chance to see it in print, whether you beleive
it or not...
of Concord 11-29-09
The countryside around Montalba, north of Palestine in Anderson
County, is among the most beautiful in East Texas with its small
mountains, winding roads and scenic streams...
The Longview Cannibals 11-22-09
Over the years, East Texas have given their hometown baseball teams
some oddball names. But none of them had the flair of the Longview
The Quebe Sisters 11-15-09
If Bob Wills were around today, the chances are good that he would
be delighted with three teenage sisters from Burleson. Listening
to the Quebe Sisters play the western swing music pioneered by Wills
in the 1930s and l940s, you realize they are special musicians who
love what they’re doing...
Antlers Hotel 11-8-09
"The afternoon the building burned, hundreds of Dibollians
stood watching the fire, tears streaming down their faces. Older
Dibollians still recall “the day the town cried.”
The Roads of Upshur County
Most East Texas counties name their county roads with numbers or
the names of people. But not Upshur County.
East Texas Ghosts 10-25-09
So, you don’t believe in ghosts? Well, read on and we may make a
believer of you, especially since this week brings Halloween...
The Settlement of Cuthand 10-21-09
If Marvin Nichols Reservoir is built by Dallas on the Sulphur River
in northern East Texas, dozens of small communities will be inundated,
ending a rich part of the region’s history. One of the communites
The Schools We Knew 10-11-09
From the 1800s to shortly after World War II, East Texas was made
up mostly of farming communities--small in size, but big in community
spirit. Some communities had a small general store and a church,
but almost every community had a school which acted as the glue
that held each settlement together...
A country legend 10-4-09
Someone once asked country singing legend Ray Price to name his
favorite singers. Price paused a minute and finally said, “I have
too many to name, but Gene Watson would be right at the top.” But
Watson--who was born in Palestine and raised in Paris--is such a
low-keyed individual that he considers singing “just something I
like to do,” like working on cars in his shop.
The wooden-tracked railroad
It wasn’t the longest railroad in East Texas. And it certainly wasn’t
the most profitable. But it taught its builders, the good people
of Rusk, how not to run a railroad...
Unique Forest Areas
In the late l980s, a Connecticut-based forest products company launched
a program that triggered the protection of some of East Texas' most
unique forest areas...
Music in an Old Gym 9-13-09
On weekend nights at Lovelady, a small town south of Crockett in
Houston County, it’s not unusual to hear country music wafting through
the rafters of an old school gymnasium.
Where did John Wilkes
Booth die? 9-6-09
When John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln in 1865, he
not only found a dark corner in American history; he may have became
a part of Texas history, too.
Davy In East Texas 8-30-09
Now, a new book has captured the details of Davy's journey to Texas
and the Alamo, where, as every schoolchild knows, he died on March
6, 1836, with more than 180 other defenders.
Ferries in East Texas 8-23-09
Long before modern bridges were built to span rivers in East Texas,
ferries were maintained at places where roads crossed streams that
were not fordable.
The Twirler 8-21-09
When Audrey Dean Leighton passed away in mid-2005, East Texas lost
one of its most entertaining and colorful characters.
Lick Skillet 8-9-09
Lick Skillet is a name that courses through the history of rural
East Texas. For more than a hundred years or so, it has been attached
to communities, creeks, roads and anything else where people have
a sense of humor.
Making history 8-2-09
In August of 1945, when the United States dropped the first atomic
bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Charlie Kimble of Lufkin was part
of the American landing party that toured Japan’s shambles and helped
free 4,500 Korean prisoners of war.
Ghost Road in Hardin County
The best time to visit the Ghost Road in Hardin County is late in
the evening when nightfall descends over the Big Thicket and your
imagination begins to push aside conventional thoughts like, “There’s
no such thing as ghosts.” Skeptical, solid-thinking men and women
have driven down the arrow-straight stretch of woodland road between
Saratoga and Bragg--and emerged from the Thicket convinced they
new museum in Rusk 7-12-09
An old grocery store in Rusk now houses memorabilia telling the
rich history of Rusk and Cherokee County--one of the oldest counties
in East Texas.
Visitors from space? 7-5-09
Mysterious objects supposedly visiting Texas aren’t new. In the
late 1800s, several towns in East Texas experienced aerial phenomena.
Bonnie and Clyde 6-29-09
During their Depression-era crime wave between 1931 and 1934, Bonnie
and Clyde were suspected of killing at least twelve people, including
nine peace officers. Their victims fell in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana...
A gunfight in Hemphill 6-20-09
With deep roots in East Texas, John Wesley Hardin was our most famous
outlaw and gunfighter, but many of his raids and shootings in the
pineywoods have remained unchronicled. A little-known incident in
which he won a gunfight with a Sabine County deputy sheriff at Hemphill...
A cotton gin gets a new
Thanks to the Depot Museum at Henderson, a cotton gin has now taken
its place among other relics of the past...
The Darby-Holcomb Home 6-7-09
An East Texas landmark celebrated its 150th birthday this year,
and it still looks as good as it did when it was built.
Country Stores 5-31-09
A friend who lives near Trawick was bemoaning the loss of country
stores a few days ago. “When I was a kid, you could drive all over
East Texas, and every little town had one or two stores and did
a good business because the hometown folks always traded with them...
Jim Reeves and Cheyenne
As a one-time reporter, I covered the funerals of numerous East
Texans, but the one I remember the most was that of Jim Reeves,
the iconic country singer who grew up at Galloway in Panola County.
Jesse James in Texas 5-17-09
The recent hit movie, “The Assassination of Jesse James,” stirred
more than a passing interest in East Texas, especially in Collin,
Grayson, Hood and Leon counties. In 1863, during the Civil War,
William Clark Quantrill led his guerillas from Missouri to winter
quarters in north East Texas. Among the men who rode with him were
Jesse and Frank James.
An Unlikely Partnership
They were an unlikely business partnership--a German immigrant,
an Irish storekeeper, and two Jewish brothers. But in 1900, Joseph
Kurth, Simon W. Henderson, and Sam and Eli Wiener pooled their resources
and created the Angelina and Neches River Railroad...
Finding Dextra 5-4-09
Doris, my wife of more than 51 years, loves researching old East
Texas communities as much as I, but driving down muddy county roads
frightens her as much as a growling bear.
Frontier Jails 4-26-09
There are a lot of jails like the old Tyler calaboose all over East
Texas and, thankfully, jailhouse restorations are happening with
increasing frequency these days in East Texas.
forgotten town 4-20-09
Deep in the woods of southeastern Angelina County, a few miles from
the brown-watered Neches River, the settlement of Philistine lies
in eternal slumber. Little has been written about the old community;
the morsels of information available have come from word of mouth
passed along from generation to generation.
More Blues Brothers 4-12-09
Some of the earliest blues pioneers lived and played in East Texas...
Remembering Fastrill 4-11-09
Some time in the distant future, if Dallas has its way, a new reservoir
could be built on the Neches River in Cherokee and Anderson County.
If the proposal ever becomes reality, the lake would inundate a
landmark in the history of the forest products history--an old logging
camp known as Fastrill.
The President for a Day
Barack Obama isn’t really our 44th President; he is actually the
45th. As it turns out, a little-known politician born in Kentucky
in 1807 served as President for a single day back in 1849, but he
is rarely mentioned in presidential histories...
grand old library 3-22-09
Most historians spend a considerable time in libraries and, invariably,
many of them gravitate to the Jefferson Library, which has a unique
history of its own.
A letter from Mark Twain
When William H. Hamman, a two-time candidate for Texas governor,
was murdered on the streets of New Birmingham in 1890, he left a
legacy as an enterprising businessman and investor. But often overlooked
was his friendship with Samuel Clemens...
Pistol Packing Mamma 3-8-09
One of the most popular songs in the U.S. during the mid-1940s was
“Pistol Packing Mama,” which became Billboard Magazine’s most played
jukebox favorite in 1944. But few know that the song came from East
Texas and was written and performed by an Cherokee County musician
The Bravest Man 3-2-09
Those who lived in Lufkin during the Depression years knew Homer
Garrison, Sr., as a kindly, genteel man who gave away pennies to
children and felt he had cheated them “because I always got a two-bit
100-year-old Aggie 2-22-09
When William B Holsonbake of Hughes Springs celebrated his 100th
birthday last May 15, someone asked him how he had managed to become
a centurion "Well," he said with a twinkle in his eyes, "it could
have been because I was an Aggie." And, indeed, he was quite an
Bright and Early Coffee
and Tea 2-16-09
Once upon a time, Bright & Early Coffee and Tea signs, usually painted
on the sides of barns and country stores, could be found in most
Southern states, including Texas.
A county seat’s troubles
As Hopkins County’s first seat of government, Tarrant had more troubles
than most frontier communities in East Texas. In the end, the misfortunes
converged to cause the town’s demise after 24 years of tenuous existence.
Nazis in East Texas 2-2-09
During World War II, German soldiers who had been captured in Europe
were brought to the U.S. and conscripted as loggers...
In towns across East Texas, big and small, there’s usually a place
where elderly men gather each morning to have a cup or two of coffee--and
solve the world’s problems. Well, maybe some of the problems...
oldest town in Texas? 1-18-09
For longer than most of us can remember, Texans have been squabbling
over which community is the state’s oldest. The principal players
in this ongoing feud are a couple of East Texas cities, Nacogdoches
and San Augustine, and a West Texas village, Ysleta. Now, it appears
there may be another contender...
Hoo Hoo. That’s Who 1-12-09
Separated by more than 200 miles, Gurdon, Arkansas, and Lufkin,
Texas, share a unique legacy: the Concatenated Order of the Hoo
Hoo, an international fraternity of lumbermen...
Fawil, it has been said, is a town that got its name by accident...
and Blair 12-30-08
Two Shelby County, Texas, communities might have passed into history
without as much as a footnote if a singing cowboy had not popularized
a marching and dice playing chant by East Texas soldiers.
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