Dan Blocker was well known as an actor on the long running series, Bonanza. He was born Bobby Dan Davis Blocker to Ora and Mary Davis Blocker in DeKalb, Texas in 1928. He weighed 14 pounds at birth and is still believed to be the largest baby ever born in Bowie County, Texas. After suffering the effects of the Great Depression, in 1934, the family moved to O’Donnell in West Texas, where his father ran a mercantile store.
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Dr. James Henry Duke, Jr. was more likely known to most of us as the charismatic Dr. “Red” Duke. He was born in Ennis, Ellis County, Texas to James Henry (Sr.) and Helen Marion Donegan Duke. He graduated from high school in Hillsboro, Hill County, and then received a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas A&M University in 1950. In connection with his degree at A&M, he did a two year tour of duty in the Army where he served as a tank officer in the 67th Medium Tank Battalion of 2nd Armored Division, spending some time in Germany. Dr. Duke then earned a divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. While at Southwestern Seminary, he read a book by the pioneer physician Albert Schweitzer that changed his life’s focus and inspired him to pursue a career in academic medicine. He then earned an M. D. from University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in 1960 and served as an surgical intern in Dallas at Parkland Hospital until 1965.
John William Fritz was born on June 15, 1896 to Blake and Ada Hamilton Fritz in Dublin, Erath County, Texas. Will was the oldest of four boys. In 1900, Blake was a farmer in Erath County. By 1910, the family had moved to Chaves County, New Mexico in or near a small community by the name of Lake Arthur where Blake was trying to make a living as a horse and mule rancher. Lake Arthur was small back then. Even now, it is only about ten streets north to south and east to west. By all accounts, Will had a normal childhood for the son of a rancher and grew up around the ranch, acquiring cowboy skills from Blake and other workers.
The King Ranch lies between Corpus Christi and Brownsville and is currently the largest ranch in Texas. Historically, it was even larger when it was known as the Santa Gertrudis under a land grand from the King of Spain to José Domingo de la Garza. It was later conveyed to José Pérez Ray whose descendants conveyed it in turn to Richard King.
Originally known as West Texas Military Academy and formerly known as Texas Military Institute, TMI Episcopal was founded in 1893 by James Steptoe Johnston, a bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas. TMI offers classes for students in grades 6-12 and an optional JROTC program for students in grades 8-12. Its website states that it is “the oldest Episcopal Church-sponsored, college-preparatory school in the Southwest.”
Giant was the 1956 film adaptation of Edna Ferber’s epic novel of the same name. Ferber’s 1952 best seller was about an enterprise reportedly modeled after the legendary King Ranch of south Texas. The film tells the story of a ranching family (the Benedicts) in Texas, along with their romances and conflicts, set in the early to the mid 1900s. The project was bankrolled by Warner Brothers with George Stevens as director. The script was adapted by Fred Guiol who had worked with Stephens before. Original music was composed by Dimitri Tiomkin, who already had amassed a lengthy and impressive resume even by 1955.
Fort Phantom Hill was located southwest of Fort Griffin and northeast of Fort Chadbourne. The orders to create such a fort were issued by General William Belknap as he was beginning construction at the fort that would later be named for him, although the General died before he could complete either outpost. Construction began in 1851 under the leadership of Lt. Col. J. J. Abercrombie pursuant to the orders of General Persifor F. Smith, Belknap’s successor. Belknap’s plan had been for the outpost to be located in Coleman County, but Smith changed the orders to the current location. A few buildings were built of local stone, but others were built of wood or were even more temporary, such as pole huts. In retrospect, it would have been difficult to find a worse location from a physical standpoint, as it was poorly situated near dry or brackish river branches. Water had to be hauled several miles and there were no nearby wood sources for fires. Wood for construction was at least forty miles away.
(Image credit: Texas Co op Power Magazine)