Sunday, September 23, 2012

Three Days in a Row

"Lone Star Historian" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College ( in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published almost 40 books, half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine.

On Wednesday morning, September 19, I drove to Center to provide a program for "Leadership Shelby County 2013." Leadership Shelby County is a year-long program designed to develop future civic leaders. Citizens of the county apply each year, and 15 men and women are selected. For one day each month, participants study economic development or education or quality of life or health and human services, etc.

Beautifully preserved, the picturesque Shelby County Courthouse was built in 1885.
On August 19. 2012, the historic structure hosted the opening meeting of
Leadership Shelby County.

Participants were given a tour of their fine old courthouse, including the handsome second-floor courtroom.

 The first session each year is "Heritage Day," an exploration of the county's past. The opening program was a political history of Shelby County, presented by State Representative Wayne Christian. Next a tour of Center's beautifully restored courthouse was conducted by local historian Louis Jones. In the afternoon a downtown walking tour was scheduled, along with a history of Shelbyville, the first county seat, and similar heritage programs.

Participants in Leadership Shelby County listened as Colleen Doggett
introduces me and my heritage program on the Regulator-Moderator War.

Colleen Doggett had asked me to present a heritage program on the infamous Regulator-Moderator War, which savaged the area from 1840-1844. At least 31 men were killed, women rode as scouts, and by 1844 more than 100 Moderators faced 200 Regulators. Texas experienced more blood feuds than any other state or territory. The Regulator-Moderator War was the first of these blood feuds, with the greatest number of deaths, thereby setting a murderous standard for later Texas feuds. No other blood feud had as many combatants, and only the personal intervention of President Sam Houston and 600 militia members of the Republic of Texas at last halted the violence.

I've written several books about feuds in Texas and elsewhere in the West, and I was delighted when I was asked by the East Texas Historical Association to write a book about the Regulator-Moderator War. War in East Texas, Regulators vs. Moderators was published by the ETHA in 2006.

The resulting program has proved popular, but I've never delivered it twice in two days. On Thursday afternoon, however, following the Wednesday program in Center, I drove to Tyler for an evening meeting of the Capt. James P. Douglas Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. I've provided a couple of programs in the past to the Tyler SCV camp. Previously I had discussed with them some aspect of Texas in the Civil War. But for this occasion I was specifically asked to talk about the "civil war" between Regulators and Moderators in East Texas during the 1840s.

Once each month the Capt. James P. Douglas camp of the SCV gathers in the meeting
room at Sweet Sue's Restaurant in Tyler. The Tyler group is the second-largest
among 83 SCV camps in the Texas Division.

There are 83 camps in the Texas Division, organized geographically in 11 SCV brigades across the state. The Tyler camp is part of the 8th Brigade, and it is one of the standout camps of the entire Texas Division. The camp is highly active in SCV events -- re-enactments, funeral details, educational programs at schools. An energetic recruitment program currently enlists new members, and the camp's roster now numbers 104, second only to a Houston camp with 120 members. The Tyler camp is aided in its efforts by a chapter of the Order of the Confederate Rose, which assists the SCV with historical, educational, benevolent, and social functions.

The immediate past director of the state OCR is Norma Holley; vivacious and highly organized, she remains active in affairs of the OCR. Norma's husband, Johnnie Lee Holley, is equally dedicated, and he has accepted promotion to First Commander of the Texas Division. As First Commander, Johnnie is second-in-command of the Texas Division, next in line to become Commander.

From the stage I'm watching approximately 450 sixth-graders at Lillard Intermediate School take their places.
A similar number of fifth graders came in the next period. Both groups displayed exemplary behavior, and are a credit to the Mansfield ISD.

After meeting with this enthusiatic band of Civil War historians, I drove to Mansfield to spend the following day with my oldest daughter, Lynn O'Neal Martinez. Lynn is an award-winning teacher in the Mansfield ISD. As soon as we learned of my appointment as State Historian, Lynn moved to bring me to her school, Mary Lillard Intermediate School, which teaches fifth- and sixth-graders. There was publicity about the visit of the State Historian throughout the school district, and entries -- including photos -- from my blog were shown to all classes at Lillard. When I arrived at Lillard on Friday morning I was greeted most graciously by the faculty and administration, as well as by the students.

My oldest daughter, Lynn O'Neal Martinez, once wore her Betsy Ross outfit in front
of Betsy's Philadelphia house so that she could have photos to show her students.
Of course, tourists came by and Lynn gave an impromptu talk, then posed for their cameras.

Lillard was climaxing Celebrate Freedoms Week, and I was asked to provide a program on the U.S. Constitution. As an Intermediate School, Lillard has no fourth- or seventh-grade classes with a social studies emphasis on Texas history. Of course, I was happy to provide a program on America's founding principles to more than 900 students. Lynn and I dressed in colonial garb, combined our teaching artifacts, and presented two 45-minute programs, first to 450 sixth-graders, then to same number of fifth-graders. The students were closely controlled by their teachers, and were most receptive to the presentation. I was extremely impressed by the staff and student body at Lillard.

At the end of a three-day journey of program presentations, I was given by my brother a
fine mememto of my investiture as State Historian. I'm deeply grateful for his thoughtfulness.

In three days I had visited three communities and presented programs to three diverse groups. And I stayed an extra night in Mansfield to watch an eight-year-old granddaughter play a doubleheader with her YMCA softball team. My brother and his wife, Mike and Jerilynn O'Neal, surprised us with a visit to the ballpark. Mike and Jerilynn came to the State Capitol on August 22 when Governor Perry gave me the oath of office. At Jerilynn's suggestion, Mike obtained from the Governor's office the flag that had flown over the Capitol, along with a certificate signed by the Governor. Photographs from the ceremony were added to a handsome framed display, and, of course, the flag. It is a thoughtful and splendid memento of a memorable family occasion.

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