The Best Singing Cowboy
in the Movies 1-1-14
Short Life of the Texas Highway Patrol 8-13-13
The Texas Department of public safety has an interesting history
which begins not in 1935, but in 1875. It was in that year that
Gov. Richard Coke, after ousting E. J. Davis from the capitol building
in Austin in a confrontation...
Jim Bowie’s Fight at
Calf Creek 7-8-13
...Old Matt told Ralph the story of the fight. It’s not the story
the Bowie brothers told. It’s not even close. It was, however, told
by someone who was a participant in the fight...
The Night the Ghost Hounds
"When I got outside the hounds had the house surrounded. I
could hear them baying in chase all around me. I could see nothing.
There was no movement in the grass, no shadows among the trees.
The brilliant moon showed a tranquil landscapebut all around
me were the sounds of hounds in chase..."
Tex Ritter - A Texas Original
Woodward Maurice Ritter was born near Murvaul, Panola County, in
the piney woods of deep East Texas in 1907. He grew up on a cotton
farm near Beaumont and graduated as Valedictorian of his high-school
class. He enrolled at what was then the only University of Texas...
Who Killed Oliver Thornton?
Oliver Thornton is no more than a footnote in the history of Western
outlawry—a man who wouldn’t be more than a name on a tombstone had
he not chanced to get himself murdered. Even so, very few people,
even serious students of outlaws, would know that name had not Eugene
Cunningham, pioneer chronicler of sixshooterology, told about his
Ben Thompson's Tombstone
When the old Iron Front Saloon on Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas
was torn down in the 1920s, a most peculiar object was found in
the basement. It was a fine marble tombstone—but there was no inscription
Robin Hood of the Tonkawa
The original teller of this story, John C. Jacobs, told it in Pioneer
magazine in the teens of the last century...
Oliver Partridge ‘Brushy Bill’ Roberts really Billy the Kid?
A recent episode of ‘Brad Metzger’s DECODED,’ shown on the History
Channel, delved into—or appeared to delve into—the long-held myth
that Brushy Bill Roberts was actually Billy the Kid...
Old Whip 12-1-11
"Then came April, 1836. Santa Anna and his army showed up on
Vince’s doorstep. The family promptly fled, leaving their stock
behind—including Old Whip. Santa Anna immediately appropriated the
stallion for his own use..."
Freemasonry in the Republic
The first Masonic Lodge in Texas was formed in March of 1835, approximately
a year before Texas declared independence from Mexico. Although
there were Masons in Mexico—Santa Anna was a Mason—the Catholic
Church frowned on Freemasonry. The Knights of Columbus was established
to counter the appeal of Freemasonry for Catholic men...
Heroic Murderers? 8-26-11
Indianola, Texas, county seat of Calhoun County, September, 1875.
Most of the adult males in Calhoun County were at the Indianola
courthouse, a jury panel for the trials of two suspected murderers...
The First Election in Texas
In March, 1836, a convention met at Washington-on-the-Brazos for
the purpose of framing a constitution for the fledgling Republic
of Texas. The Republic really didn’t exist yet, since San Jacinto
was not yet fought. The constitution provided for a presidential
election to take place in the fall of 1836...
in Texas 4-21-11
Prior to the 1937 legislative session, Texas governors had unlimited
power to grant pardons, paroles, or commutation of sentences. It
had been this way in ‘the old states’ and, because that was the
way it was done where they left to come to Texas, that’s the way
the laws were written by the Anglo-Texans who controlled the state’s
Ida Lee 2-11-11
On March 21, 1924, Mrs. Ida Lee Daughtery of Hall, Texas, died.
She was a woman of some reputation—not as a ‘soiled dove,’ but as
a devoted wife.
What Happened To Jesse
Jesse Evans is one of the more enigmatic characters in the annals
of West Texas and New Mexico outlawry. He’s known to have worked
with John Selman when Selman was robbing homes and stores in Fort
Davis during the late 1870s. He’s rumored to have been associated
with Billy the Kid in New Mexico. Then he just quietly disappeared
sometime around 1879--and nobody knows what happened to him. Or
A Hero Named Tom
We don’t know much about Tom’s background, because Tom was a slave.
He belonged to William Snyder, a plantation owner in East Texas.
We’re told that he was about 35 years old, stood well over 6 feet
in height, and weighed about 240 pounds. He was also, apparently,
Jacinto Marriage Traditions in Texas 11-10-10
In 1837, but just for a short time, any man who had served honorably
in the Texian army in 1836 was entitled to a full league of land—over
4000 acres—but only if he was married. There weren’t a great many
unmarried girls and women in Texas at the time...
Bloys and Bloys Camp Meeting 10-6-10
In 1878 a rather slightly built man with blue-gray eyes came to
Fort Davis, Texas. He was a native of Tennessee and an ordained
Presbyterian minister. The man’s name was William B. Bloys. While
a lot of folks have heard about another denizen of the trans-Pecos,
Roy Bean, William B. Bloys was far more influential, though far
less widely known.
From 1919 until 1933 the United States was in the throes of one
of the worst mistakes it has ever made—prohibition. Texas has the
longest border with Mexico of any state. Mexico had no prohibition.
It was perfectly legal to make, sell, transport, and consume alcohol
in Mexico. Just across the Rio Grande was a very thirsty state...
Bernardo de Galvez
"If it hadn’t been for a Spaniard named Bernardo de Galvez—and
yes, Galveston is named for him—the United States might not exist."
This is gonna come as a surprise to a lot of folks, but armadillos
are not native to Texas. In fact, the very first armadillo ever
identified in the Lone Star State apparently crossed the Rio Grande
near Brownsville in 1859...
A Very Personal Ghost
I’ve come to the conclusion, over the years, that when it comes
to ghosts there are two sorts of people—those who realize ghosts
exist and those who don’t want to realize it. One of the sure ways
to become one of the first variety is to see a ghost. However, even
if you see a ghost, you may not realize at once what you’ve seen.
I know. It happened to me...
The Great Airship Mystery
In 1896 and 1897 what had to be a lighter-than-air craft—a dirigible—was
seen by credible witnesses in California, Oregon, Washington, North
Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Colorado, what became
Oklahoma ten years later, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri,
Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio...
Texas Fever 7-5-09
From the late 1860s into the 1870s, Texas was, in effect, divided
into two armed camps. The battlers were south Texas cattlemen who
needed to drive their cattle north to the railheads in Kansas, Nebraska,
and Missouri—and north Texas cattlemen, joined by cattle raisers
in the Indian Nations, Kansas, and Nebraska, who stood ready, with
rifles if necessary, to stop the drives.
The Snively Expedition
Jacob Snively was either a con-man, a fool, or probably the unluckiest
man on earth. It’s hard to tell which. He claimed to be a mining
man who’d prospected the Sierra Madres. He also claimed he’d found
one of the richest gold mines on the continent in the mountains
below El Paso, on the Texas side of the Rio Grande...
The Murder Maverick
If you’ve ridden many miles on the sunset side of the Colorado and
listened to people talk in bars and cafes, you’ve heard a good many
tales. Once you get west of the Pecos, there’s one in particular
you’ll hear. You’ll hear the tale of a phantom steer called ‘the
Alley Oop is a Texan?
Alley Oop, the cave-man character created by Victor T. Hamlin in
1932, is a native Texan. The area around present Iraan, Texas was
a gold mine of dinosaur fossils. In the days before salvage archaeology,
the fossils were simply hauled away by the truckload. This gave
Hamlin the idea for a comic strip.
Nearly everybody knows that Sheriff Pat Garrett of Lincoln County,
New Mexico Territory, shot and killed a 21-year-old bandit named
Henry McCarty, who usually went by Billy the Kid, in Pete Maxwell’s
bedroom at Fort Sumner in July, 1881. What most people don’t know
is that Pat Garrett was himself murdered in Doña Ana County, New
Mexico 27 years later. The murder of Pat Garrett is one of the many
unsolved mysteries of the West.
The Marfa Lights 10-4-08
I’ve seen the Marfa lights. Twice. Only the first time I saw the
Marfa lights, what I saw wasn’t the Marfa lights. This requires
The Longest Train Ride
"Train #1 of the Gulf & Interstate Railroad, which left Beaumont,
Texas, at 7:00 AM on September 8, 1900, to make the run to Port
Bolivar, about 85 miles away by modern highway, arrived at Port
Bolivar at 11:10 AM, September 24, 1903—three years, sixteen days,
and ten minutes late. Some of the original passengers were still
The Many Legends of La
"To set the La Llorona story straight once & for all. I've
been digging into La Llorona for nearly forty years. This article
pretty much sums up what I've found."
Name in Yorktown and Elsewhere 8-1-08
Al Jennings 7-21-08
Al Jennings of Oklahoma, largely through masterful self-promotion,
became for a time the best-known of the outlaws of the American
West. He was a genuine bandit, he did go to a Federal penitentiary
for attempted murder on a life sentence which was commuted to five
years in 1900. He was pardoned by President Theodore Roosevelt in
Keep yer powder dry!
Black gunpowder is extremely hygroscopic. That’s a five-dollar word
scientists use to mean stuff that gets wet real easy. In fact, black
gunpowder will absorb enough moisture from very humid air to make
it unusable. ‘Keepin’ yer powder dry’ was of the utmost importance
in the early West...
Before Maw Bell
- Rural Telephone Systems in the West 5-8-08
Alexander Graham Bell’s patent expired in the 1890s, and as soon
as it did anyone could legally manufacture and sell a telephone.
Almost instantly both Sears, Roebuck and Montgomery Ward began offering
telephone sets in their catalogs... Across much of the west, to
the west of old US 81 (present I-35) in Texas... there was already
a network of wire covering most of the country, in the form of barbed-wire
The Forgotten Hero 4-24-08
Who was the first—and possibly the greatest—hero of the Texas Revolution?
He’s a man you may have heard of, but not very often. Try Ben Milam...
- How Elgin Got Its Name 4-7-08
In Elgin they’ll tell you the town was named for a Mister Elgin...
If you ask the members of the Shadetree Historical Society, they’ll
give you a version of Elgin’s naming that has nothing to do with
a Mr. Elgin. They’ll tell you the original name of the place was
Helgin—derived from ‘Hell again.’...
The Long Shot 3-17-08
If you know Texas history, you know the story. At the second battle
of Adobe Walls buffalo shooter Billy Dixon used his Sharps rifle
to shoot a Comanche chief off his horse at about 1000 yards. With
the chief dead, especially at such extreme range, the Comanches
called it quits and left.
The L-O-N-G Roads of Texas:
Texas’ state highways are some of the most interesting ways to travel.
They pass through—not go around—interesting communities of every
sort. The towns are both beautiful—sometimes (and sometimes not
so beautiful)—and often historically interesting. The two longest
state highways in Texas are Highway 16 and Highway 6. Both cut across
scenic and historically significant parts of the state...