Thursday, May 23, 2013


"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 over 40 books, almost half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine.

I first visited Stamford in 1994. I was researching Historic Ranches of the Old West, and I needed to stop at the headquarters building of the far-flung SMS ranches, located just off the Stamford square. I noticed several fine old buildings in town, but I had a pressing schedule. Despite promising myself to return as soon as possible, in subsequent years I've been in a hurry each time I've passed through town. Finally, early in May, I was able to spend half a day in Stamford while en route to an evening speaking engagement.
Country Cowboy Museum

Curator Sandy Rhea
My first stop was at the Cowboy Country Museum on the square. I assumed I would be in the museum no more than half an hour. But I was greeted by curator Sandy Rhea, who enthusiastically led me from room to room, revealing one treasure after another. I was enthralled, and when I asked questions, Sandy enhanced her answers with artifacts or photographs. The museum receives frequent donations of artifacts, and expansion of the facility is in progress. Stamford's first professional photographer donated a superb photo collection, which was added to by his son, also a local photographer. In the museum gift shop copies of Stamford, an Arcadia pictorial history  were on sale. When I was told that the museum's photographic collection formed the basis of the book's illustrations, I immediately bought a copy.
SMS headquarters

The old Stamford Inn
After leaving the museum I inspected a massive three-story commercial building on the square. Although now abandoned, the big structure long was a focal point of downtown activity. Across from the SMS headquarters building stand the majestic ruins of the Stamford Inn, for many decades the town's principal hostelry. Several blocks down the street, and still in use, is a three-story Carnegie Library.
Carnegie Library

First Baptist Church
While driving through town on previous trips I had noted two magnificent churches. I toured the First Baptist Church, which was erected in 1908, during the pastorate of Frank S. Groner. When Groner was called to Stamford in 1905, the Baptists were meeting in a small frame building. Groner, soon to become a major leader of the Southern Baptist denomination, launched a building program. The church features a dome and an auditorium with a large balcony, handsome pews, and a pipe organ. Faithfully maintained, the church remains a fine place to worship.
FBC interior

First Methodist Church
So does the First Methodist Church. Built in 1910, the auditorium has a vast balcony and beautiful stained glass windows. Outside, the bell tower soars to a height of 100 feet, and the Methodists could boast of "the tallest church building between Fort Worth and El Paso."

2001 championship saddle on loan
to the Country Cowboy Museum
Since 1930 Stamford has hosted the "Texas Cowboy Reunion." During four days of events around July 4, the population of Stamford triples. Famed cowboy humorist Will Rogers attended an early reunion, describing it as "a real celebration in a real cowtown by real old-timers." On my way out of town I drove to the reunion grounds on the west side of Stamford. I knew that my long-delayed tour of Stamford would not be complete without a visit to the site of the Texas Cowboy Reunion.

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