Saturday, January 5, 2013

DRT in Waco

"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.

My first speaking engagement of 2013 was on January 3 in Waco. I addressed members and guests of the Sterling C. Robertson Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. The chapter president is Amelia Bogard, a vivacious woman who energetically advertised this meeting in Waco and surrounding communities. The crowd was gracious and receptive, and a number of additional chairs had to be brought into the library's meeting room. 

Chapter president Amelia Bogard
My sister, Judy O'Neal Smith, is a past president of the Lampasas chapter of the DRT. Judy recently facilitated the application of my daughters for membership in the DRT. Judy came to Waco for the meeting, and so did two of my daughters, Lynn O'Neal Martinez of Mansfield and Berri O'Neal Gormley of Irving. Lynn and Berri had received their membership papers a few days earlier, and I was proud that I would be the speaker at their first DRT meeting. Lynn brought her two daughters, Chloe and Jessie - who are future DRT members - and my wife Karon was part of our group. When President Bogard introduced me, she announced that I had brought my own crowd! 
Current and future DRT members: Lynn, Chloe and
Jessie Martinez; Judy Smith; Berri Gormley

A few weeks ago my most recent book was released: Lampasas, 1855-1895, Biography of a Frontier Texas Town. For the introductory event in Lampasas I prepared a program about the frontier decades of the community: Comanche raids, saloon shootouts, a blood feud, stock theft, lynchings, stagecoach robberies, and conflict between cattlemen and sheepherders. During this program preparation I realized that I had included in the book a considerable amount of material from women pioneers. I soon began preparing a program on the frontier experiences of Lampasas women, and the DRT meeting in Waco would be my first opportunity to present this program to an audience of history-minded women.

I quoted to the audience the venerable saying that "Texas is hell on horses and women." Horses had to deal with the vast distances of Texas, while pioneer women had to endure isolation, hardship, and mortal danger to themselves and their children. For nearly three decades Lampasas bristled with hardships and dangers, and women left behind a number of first-person accounts. My program about them is suitable for DRT meetings, because the organization was formed to perpetuate "forever" the memory of the heroic pioneers of the Republic of Texas by their descendants. 
On November 6, 1891, 16 ladies met at the Houston home of Mrs. Andrew Briscoe and formed the "Daughters of the Lone Star Republic." Mrs. Anson B. Jones, widow of the last president of the Texas Republic, was elected president of the new group. A committee was appointed to draw up a constitution and by-laws, and two ladies were delegated to design a star-shaped emblem.

By this time Lampasas had become a resort town known as the "Saratoga of the South." Arrival of a railroad ended the long frontier period and provided tourists access to the mineral springs of Lampasas. The Texas Veterans Association scheduled a statewide convention in Lampasas in April 1892, holding their meetings in the ornate Lampasas courthouse. The newly-organized Daughters of the Lone Star Republic accompanied the Texas Veterans to Lampasas. On April 21, at the end of the second day of joint sessions, the ladies left the courthouse and walked two blocks to the First Methodist Church. With Mrs. Anson Jones presiding, the ladies voted to change the name of their organization to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.

Signing books after the meeting
The DRT grew rapidly. Encouraging research and the preservation of records and artifacts and buildings, the DRT most famously assumed stewardship of the Alamo. The DRT holds a  state-wide meeting each spring, and I was privileged to serve as keynote speaker a few years ago. The state's oldest patriotic society for women, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas today boasts 106 chapters. There is no more appropriate and pleasurable way for the State Historian of Texas to begin a new year than by meeting with a DRT chapter. 

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