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by C. F. Eckhardt

Charley Eckhardt - A personal remembrance 6-4-15
Charley Eckhardt

Texas History & Folklore

The Best Singing Cowboy in the Movies 1-1-14
Eddie Dean

The 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 Came 10-8-12
"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 landscape—but all around me were the sounds of hounds in chase..."

Tex Ritter - A Texas Original 8-5-12
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? 4-16-12
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 death...

Ben Thompson's Tombstone 3-10-12
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 on it...

Robin Hood of the Tonkawa 1-27-12
The original teller of this story, John C. Jacobs, told it in Pioneer magazine in the teens of the last century...

Was Oliver Partridge ‘Brushy Bill’ Roberts really Billy the Kid? 1-7-12
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 11-21-11
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...

Murderous Heroes—or 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 7-9-11
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...

Gubernatorial Pardons 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 government.

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 Evans? 1-5-11
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 maybe not.

A Hero Named Tom 12-1-10
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, immensely strong...

Post-San 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...

William B. 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.

Smuggling Liquor 9-4-10
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 6-7-10
"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."

Armadillos 3-12-10
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 10-26-09
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 9-20-09
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 5-29-09
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 4-16-09
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 Murder Maverick.’...

Alley Oop is a Texan? 1-14-09
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.

Garrett Murder 12-9-08
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 explanation...

The Longest Train Ride 9-20-08
"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 aboard..."

The Many Legends of La Llorona 8-12-08
"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."

The Eckhart 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 1902...

Keep yer powder dry! 6-1-08
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 fences...

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...

Hellagain Hill - 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-Highway-16 3-3-08
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...

  • Preserving Meat on the Frontier 2-21-08
  • Re-examining the Mexican War 2-3-08
  • The Wail of the Wampus Cat 1-3-08
  • Panoramic Drawings 12-1-07
  • The General Was A Spy—And So Was The Pirate 11-2-07
  • Aliens Amongst Us 10-21-07
  • Jesse James. Miss Shirley’s Story 10-8-07
  • First to Fly 9-19-07
  • The Second Battle of the Alamo 9-4-07
  • ‘Mysterious Cattle Deaths’ Not So Mysterious 8-15-07
  • Was South Carolina’s ‘Lost’ First Lady Buried On The Texas Coast? 8-1-07
  • The King's Texan and USS Texas 7-14-07
  • Did John Wilkes Booth Live In Texas? 6-30-07
  • Who Was J. Frank Dalton, Anyway? 6-15-07
  • History's Most Successful Failure - US Army's Camel Corps 6-1-07
  • Henry O. Flipper, An Epic Remaining To Be Told 5-14-07
  • Who Killed the Chief? 5-1-07
  • Bloody Christmas 4-16-07
  • The Bartlett Bank Robbery That Wasn't 3-28-07
  • The Ancient Art of Dowsing 2-16-07
  • Sarah's Dream 2-2-07
    Josiah Wilbarger's Ordeal, Scalped Alive on Onion Creek
  • The Other Houston 1-22-07
    Temple Lea Houston
  • The Great Blackeyed Pea Hoax 1-1-07
  • Mr. Acton's Story 1-1-07
  • Fox in the Pickup Bed 12-15-06
  • O. Henry and the Shoal Creek Treasure 12-1-06
  • The Little Engine That Couldn't 11-15-06
  • Conan in Texas: The Robert E. Howard Story 11-1-06
  • Victor T. Hamlin & Alley Oop 10-24-06
  • Santa Anna or Ste. Anne? 10-11-06
  • Stampede Mesa 9-27-06
  • The Devilin' of Old John 9-20-06
  • To Cultivate Vine and Olive 9-13-06
  • How the Texas Rangers Helped Win WWII 9-6-06
  • Cowboy Life on a Small Spread 8-30-06
  • The Coolerator 8-21-06
  • To Sleep Tight 8-16-06
  • To Build a House II 8-9-06
    Adobe Houses
  • To Build a House 8-2-06
    Texas Log Cabins and Log Houses
  • The Whirlwind Lt. John Lapham Bullis and the Seminole Negro Scouts 7-26-06
  • Bob Wills: The Greatest Fiddle-Player of Them All 7-19-06
  • The Gunfight that Killed Helena 7-12-06
  • The Ghost on Highway 281 6-28-06
  • The Ranger's Creek of Gold 6-21-06
  • San Antonio's Blue Book 6-14-06
  • National Dish of Texas 6-7-06
  • The Rise and Fall of Meansville, Texas 5-24-06
  • The Lake That Wasn't and Was and Wasn't and Is 5-12-06
  • The Ghost on Milam Street
    Seguin's Headless Ghost

    Column begins May 2006

    His full name is Charles Frederick but uses his initials because his name is too long to get on one line, goes by Charley with an 'ey' because he's not a perfume. He was born a long time ago in Austin, Texas, and grew up in an atmosphere where Texas and Southern history were part of his life almost from the day he was born. His paternal grandmother, a lifelong member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas -- she was a 'real daughter' in the former case, since her father was a Confederate soldier -- who lived with his family until he was 12, was born when Sam Bass, Billy the Kid, Jesse James, and George A. Custer were still all alive and kicking, and was a young lady before Butch Cassidy stole his first horse. The man across the street was born when Texas was still a republic, the man next door was the grandson of one of Jim Bowie's companions at the Calf Creek fight in 1831, the man up the street was visited frequently by an elderly uncle who knew way too much more about a couple of Clay County, Missouri boys named Dingus and Frank than any peaceloving feller had any business knowing, and just down the creek lived a feller named J. Frank Dobie.

    Eckhardt grew up in Austin and on about 400 acres of hardpan, cedar brake, and honeycomb limestone in western Williamson County, Texas. He attended the University of Texas when there was only one, and managed to stay on good terms with both H. Bailey Carrol and Walter P. Webb, which was considered something of an achievement, as the two Ph. D.s hated each other's guts. He majored in history and holds a BA in the subject. Since jobs in 'the history bidness' were hard to come by unless one was politically 'correct' - which Eckhardt has spent a lifetime refusing to be - he spent many years as a peace officer and soldier. Finally tiring of being a moving target, Eckhardt pursued a trade that would allow him both the time and the intellectual energy to pursue his first love, writing about Texas and the American West. From this trade he retired on 30 March 2002, to pursue writing full time.

    Eckhardt's books include THE LOST SAN SABA MINES (Texas Monthly Press, 1980), UNSOLVED TEXAS MYSTERIES (Republic of Texas Press, 1990-co-author), TEXAS TALES YOUR TEACHER NEVER TOLD YOU (Republic of Texas Press, 1990), TALES OF BADMEN, BAD WOMEN, AND BAD PLACES-FOUR CENTURIES OF TEXAS OUTLAWRY (Texas Tech University Press, 2000), and TEXAS SMOKE-MUZZLE- LOADERS ON THE FRONTIER, illustrated by Wesley G. Williams (Texas Tech Press, 2001). Forthcoming is "Tales Told Across Campfires," from Texas Tech Press, probably in 2005, and of course the perennial 'novel in progress' that all writers have. He has been published in magazines as diverse as The Tombstone Epitaph and the short-lived revival of Harper's Weekly, and in magazines in Great Britain, Switzerland, and Australia.

    Eckhardt lives in an historic home in Seguin, Texas, with Vicki, his wife of more years than she likes to admit, and numerous critters.

    Texas Books by C. F. Eckhardt

    Related Topics:

    Texas | Texas History | Columns


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