The Texas Prison Rodeo (earlier known as the Huntsville Prison Rodeo) was an event that Texans looked forward to for many years. It began in 1931 when Marshall Lee Simmons, then serving as general manager of the Texas Prison System, conceived of it as a means for the prisoners to have recreation and as entertainment for the prison employees and their families but it quickly grew to a ticketed event that would play to a full grandstand of 14,000 to 15,000 people per performance. The event covered costs and raised money for an inmate treatment, education and recreation fund for the prisoners. Eventually the performances were held each Sunday in October and would total as many as 100,000 attendees per season. In its later years, it would not be unusual for the prison rodeo to earn $450,000 in a season for the inmate fund.
(Image credit: Houston Museum of Fine Arts)
One of the more unique and recognizable names in Texas was Miss Ima Hogg. Her father was James Stephen Hogg, the first native born governor of Texas, who served as governor from 1891 to 1895. James and Sarah Ann Stinson Hogg had three sons and Imogene, their only daughter. It is not known for certain who Imogene was named for, but the story is told that James had a brother named Thomas Elisha Hogg, a Confederate Captain, who had written a Civil War poem “The Fate of Marvin.” The poem was about a Southern girl named Ima who had cared for a Union soldier. There are some stories floating around that she had a sister named Ura, but according to published genealogy records, Ima was the only daughter of Jim Hogg and Sarah Stinson Hogg.
Goodnight is a name that calls to mind cattle drives from North Texas to Wyoming or Montana and also the start of ranching in the Panhandle. Charles Foxwing Goodnight, Jr. was born in Illinois, not too far north of St. Louis, Missouri to farmers Charles and Charlotte Collier Goodnight in 1836. His father died five years after this and his mother married Hiram Henry Daugherty, a farmer who lived nearby. A few years later in 1845, the family headed for Texas, settling between what is now Milam County between College Station to the east and Austin to the west. Charles did not receive much formal schooling and began working as a cowboy to help the family get by. His first stepfather Daughterty also died not long after arriving in Texas. His mother then married a minister by the name of Adam Sheek in 1853. Goodnight and a step brother, John Wesley Sheek, began a ranching operation and around 1857 they relocated it further up the Brazos to what is now Palo Pinto County. Once they got settled, they brought the family with them.
(Image credit: Waco Tribune Herald)
George Bernard Erath was born in Vienna, Austria in 1813. He was educated at Vienna Polytechnic Institute where he studied liberal arts. Young Erath lived on his own and worked for a few years in Europe, eventually setting sail for America. One of the reasons given for his departure was that he did not want to be drafted into service for the Austrian Army. Whatever his justification for not wanting to serve in Austria, he would show no reluctance whatsoever to fight for the State of Texas. In fact, he spent years doing just that. He arrived in America in the summer of 1832 in New Orleans. He then worked in Cincinnati, Ohio before returning to the South again in Florence, Alabama for a short time. Erath then relocated to Texas in 1833 where he would remain for the rest of his life, entering at Brazoria on the Gulf and settling in Robertson County.
Jackson was a Texas Ranger during most of his law enforcement career, serving in the Uvalde area and later in Alpine. He was born in 1935 and hired on with DPS briefly before becoming a Texas Ranger. He served a total of 27 years with the Texas Rangers before retiring in 1993.
(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.
(Image credit: gettyimages.com, showing Dale Evans between the actor Jimmy Stewart and Dale’s husband Roy Rogers.)
Dale Evans was born Lucile Smith (later changed to Frances Octavia Smith) on October 31, 1912 in Uvalde, Texas to Walter Hillman Smith and Bettie Sue Coln, according to published genealogy records. The family later moved to Osceola, Arkansas where she attended high school. When she was 14, she eloped and married Thomas Frederick Fox with whom she had her first born son, Tom Fox, Jr. The marriage ended shortly thereafter and two years later, she married August W. Johns. In 1936, she married Robert Dale Butts, which relationship lasted about nine years. She had no children from the latter two marriages. In her early years, she struggled as a single parent and supported herself by working as a secretary, a singer and working in radio in Chicago, Memphis, Dallas and Louisville. She was given the stage name of Dale Evans by a radio station manager who suggested it because it was easier to pronounce than Frances Octavia Smith.