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Texas State Bison Herd

Evil Intentions

(Image credit: Defenders of Wildlife)

Estimates of 20 million to 30 million bison, literally a “sea of brown,” roamed the plains of the United States as late as the 1800s.  It was not uncommon for travelers to have to stop for hours and sometimes days as herds of the big animals crossed their route.  The native tribes freely hunted them, depending upon their meat for food, their hides for clothing, for a medium of exchange, and for their use in building their habitat.  In a few decades, the shaggy animals were almost hunted and slaughtered to extinction.  As the state began to be inhabited by European settlers, the bison population sharply declined.  It is accepted that one of the reasons the over-harvesting of bison was condoned was that it made the native tribes’ lives more difficult, no longer having a plentiful source of bison to live on.  The bison were no match for the hunters and the big animals were allowed to dwindle down to possibly as few as 1,000 survivors by about 1890.

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Posted by on July 27, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Doan’s Crossing, Texas

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Each year, the Doan’s Crossing Picnic is held in Wilbarger County north of Vernon.  It is the oldest running pioneer celebration in Texas, held the first Saturday in May since 1884.  The old settlement of Doan’s Crossing is located about 12 miles north of Vernon close to the intersection of FM 2916 and FM 924, near where the old cattle drives used to cross the Red River.  The celebration includes the coronation of a king and queen, country and western music and other activities.  For decades the picnic was a gathering place where old timers would tell of the early days in this Red River settlement, passing their stories down to later generations.

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Posted by on October 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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XIT Ranch

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(image credit: tshaonline.org)

The XIT was once one of the largest ranches in Texas, comprising 3 million acres along the Texas-New Mexico border in the Panhandle area of the state.  In 1879, the State of Texas was looking for funds with which to build the Capitol building.  The Texas Legislature appropriated the remote Panhandle acreage to a syndicate led by Illinois natives John and Charles Farwell in exchange for an agreement to build the Austin structure.  The original cost of the Capitol building was projected to be $1,500,000 but wound up costing about $3.7 million with the syndicate funding all but about $500,000 that the state picked up.

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Posted by on September 29, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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WWII Prisoner of War Camps in Texas

At the outset of the war, foreign prisoners of war were not a major consideration for the federal government, but as the war progressed, tens of thousands of foreign prisoners needed to be placed all over the United States.  At the height of the program, Texas had some three dozen prison camps.  They were located from as far north as Dalhart, as far west as El Paso, in the northeast to within a few counties of Texarkana to several on the Gulf Coast.  In all, it is estimated that the United States held between 400,000 and 500,000 prisoners with roughly 20% of them held in Texas camps.  The Geneva Convention provided that prisoners be moved to areas that were close to the climate where they were captured.  Accordingly, many of Texas’ prisoners of war were German prisoners who surrendered in North Africa and Texas was deemed to be an appropriate site for them.

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Posted by on September 8, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Murder of “Alamo” Actress, 1959

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(Image credit: Albuquerque Journal)

On October 12, 1959, the Associated Press column appeared in newspapers across the country with similar headlines to this one, “Admirer Kills Young Actress In Alamo Movie.”  The article reported the death of LaJean Eldridge, an actress in the John Wayne film project being shot in Bracketville, Kinney County, Texas.  Ms. Eldridge, about 26 years old, had died the day before, the victim of a stabbing that took place in a rented residence that she and five male actors shared in nearby Spofford, Texas.  The group were members of a little theater troupe.  Eldridge had been cast in the film as “Mrs. Guy” and the alleged killer, Chester Harvey Smith, about 32 years old, was her boyfriend who had been cast as an extra in the project.

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Posted by on July 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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The Old 300 and Family Ties

The Old 300 refers to settlers in Moses Austin and Stephen F. Austin’s colony in Texas.  Moses Austin petitioned the Spanish government to be allowed to settle in Texas in late 1820 and received his grant in early 1821.  Shortly thereafter, Moses Austin died in Missouri and his son Stephen F. Austin elected to replace his father in the arrangement.  This was later confirmed by the Spanish governor who formally recognized Stephen F. Austin as the person to succeed Moses and complete the grant.

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Posted by on May 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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The Sniper Tree

On December 7, 1835, Ben Milam was killed by a Mexican sniper during the Siege of Béxar in which Mexican forces were driven from the San Antonio area.  After the battle, the Texas forces occupied the Alamo and surrounding areas, setting the stage for Gen. Santa Anna’s own siege to retake it several weeks later.

There is some speculation about the location of the actual tree that was used by the sniper, but it is traditionally thought to be in the center of the town as it then existed and close enough to provide a line of sight to the Veramendi Palace, located on the west side of the river.

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Posted by on March 10, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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