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History > U.S. History > Local and Regional > Southwest

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Houston Blue Cover

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Houston Blue

The Story of the Houston Police Department

Mitchel P. Roth and Tom Kennedy

Houston Blue offers the first comprehensive history of one of the nation’s largest police forces, the Houston Police Department. Through extensive archival research and more than one hundred interviews with prominent Houston police figures, politicians, news reporters, attorneys, and others, authors Mitchel P. Roth and Tom Kennedy chronicle the development of policing in the Bayou City from its days as a grimy trading post in the 1830s to its current status as the nation’s fourth largest city. Prominent historical figures who have brushed shoulders with Houston’s Finest over the past 175 years include Houdini, Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders, O. Henry, former Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, hatchet wielding temperance leader Carrie Nation, the Hilton Siamese Twins, blues musician Leadbelly, oilman Silver Dollar Jim West, and many others. The Houston Police Department was one of the first cities in the South to adopt fingerprinting as an identification system and use the polygraph test, and under the leadership of its first African American police chief, Lee Brown, put the theory of neighborhood oriented policing into practice in the 1980s. The force has been embroiled in controversy and high profile criminal cases as well. Among the cases chronicled in the book are the Dean Corll, Dr. John Hill, and Sanford Radinsky murders; controversial cases involving the department’s crime lab; the killings of Randy Webster and Joe Campos Torres; and the Camp Logan, Texas Southern University, and Moody Park Riots.

Houston's Hermann Park Cover

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Houston's Hermann Park

A Century of Community

Alice (Barrie) M. Scardino Bradley

Richly illustrated with rare period photographs, Houston’s Hermann Park: A Century of Community provides a vivid history of Houston’s oldest and most important urban park. Author and historian Barrie Scardino Bradley sets Hermann Park in both a local and a national context as this grand park celebrates its centennial at the culmination of a remarkable twenty-year rejuvenation.

As Bradley shows, Houston’s development as a major American city may be traced in the outlines of the park’s history. During the early nineteenth century, Houston leaders were most interested in commercial development and connecting the city via water and rail to markets beyond its immediate area. They apparently felt no need to set aside public recreational space, nor was there any city-owned property that could be so developed.

By 1910, however, Houston leaders were well aware that almost every major American city had an urban park patterned after New York’s Central Park. By the time the City Beautiful Movement and its overarching Progressive Movement reached the consciousness of Houstonians, Central Park’s designer, Frederick Law Olmsted, had died, but his ideals had not. Local advocates of the City Beautiful Movement, like their counterparts elsewhere, hoped to utilize political and economic power to create a beautiful, spacious, and orderly city. Subsequent planning by the renowned landscape architect and planner George Kessler envisioned a park that would anchor a system of open spaces in Houston. From that groundwork, in May 1914, George Hermann publicly announced his donation of 285 acres to the City of Houston for a municipal park.

Bradley develops the events leading up to the establishment of Hermann Park, then charts how and why the park developed, including a discussion of institutions within the park such as the Houston Zoo, the Japanese Garden, and the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The book’s illustrations include plans, maps, and photographs both historic and recent that document the accomplishments of the Hermann Park Conservancy since its founding in 1992.

Royalties from sales will go to the Hermann Park Conservancy for stewardship of the park on behalf of the community.

How Did Davy Die? And Why Do We Care So Much? Cover

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How Did Davy Die? And Why Do We Care So Much?

Dan Kilgore and James E. Crisp

Just over thirty years ago, Dan Kilgore ignited a controversy with his presidential address to the Texas State Historical Association and its subsequent publication in book form, How Did Davy Die? After the 1975 release of the first-ever English translation of eyewitness accounts by Mexican army officer José Enrique de la Peña, Kilgore had the audacity to state publicly that historical sources suggested Davy Crockett did not die on the ramparts of the Alamo, swinging the shattered remains of his rifle "Old Betsy." Rather, Kilgore asserted, Mexican forces took Crockett captive and then executed him on Santa Anna's order. Soon after the publication of How Did Davy Die?, the London Daily Mail associated Kilgore with "the murder of a myth;" he became the subject of articles in Texas Monthly and the Wall Street Journal; and some who considered his historical argument an affront to a treasured American icon delivered personal insults and threats of violence. Now, in this enlarged, commemorative edition, James E. Crisp, a professional historian and a participant in the debates over the De la Peña diary, reconsiders the heated disputation surrounding How Did Davy Die? and poses the intriguing follow-up question, “. . . And Why Do We Care So Much?”  Crisp reviews the origins and subsequent impact of Kilgore’s book, both on the historical hullabaloo and on the author. Along the way, he provides fascinating insights into methods of historical inquiry and the use—or non-use—of original source materials when seeking the truth of events that happened in past centuries. He further examines two aspects of the debate that Kilgore shied away from: the place and function of myth in culture, and the racial overtones of some of the responses to Kilgore’s work.

Hundred Years of Texas Waterfowl Hunting Cover

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Hundred Years of Texas Waterfowl Hunting

The Decoys, Guides, Clubs, and Places, 1870s to 1970s

R. K. Sawyer; Foreword by Matt Kaminski

The days are gone when seemingly limitless numbers of canvasbacks, mallards, and Canada geese filled the skies above the Texas coast. Gone too are the days when, in a single morning, hunters often harvested ducks, shorebirds, and other waterfowl by the hundreds. The hundred-year period from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries brought momentous changes in attitudes and game laws: changes initially prompted by sportsmen who witnessed the disappearance of both the birds and their spectacular habitat. These changes forever affected the state’s storied hunting culture. ?Yet, as R. K. Sawyer discovered, the rich lore and reminiscences of the era’s hunters and guides who plied the marshy haunts from Beaumont to Brownsville, though fading, remain a colorful and essential part of the Texas outdoor heritage.? Gleaned from interviews with sportsmen and guides of decades past as well as meticulous research in news archives, Sawyer’s vivid documentation of Texas’ deep-rooted waterfowl hunting tradition is accompanied by a superb collection of historical and modern photographs. He showcases the hunting clubs, the decoys, the duck and goose calls, the equipment, and the unique hunting practices of the period. By preserving this account of a way of life and a coastal environment that have both mostly vanished, A Hundred Years of Texas Waterfowl Hunting also pays tribute to the efforts of all those who fought to ensure that Texas’ waterfowl legacy would endure. This book will aid their efforts, along with those of coastal residents, birders, wildlife biologists, conservationists, and all who are interested in the state’s natural history and in championing the preservation of waterfowl and wetland resources for the benefit of future generations.

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I Fought a Good Fight

A History of the Lipan Apaches

Sherry Robinson

This history of the Lipan Apaches, from archeological evidence to the present, tells the story of some of the least known, least understood people in the Southwest. These plains buffalo hunters and traders were one of the first groups to acquire horses, and with this advantage they expanded from the Panhandle across Texas and into Coahuila, coming into conflict with the Comanches. With a knack for making friends and forging alliances, they survived against all odds, and were still free long after their worst enemies were corralled on reservations. In the most thorough account yet published, Sherry Robinson tracks the Lipans from their earliest interactions with Spaniards and kindred Apache groups through later alliances and to their love-hate relationships with Mexicans, Texas colonists, Texas Rangers, and the U.S. Army. For the first time we hear of the Eastern Apache confederacy of allied but autonomous groups that joined for war, defense, and trade. Among their confederates, and led by chiefs with a diplomatic bent, Lipans drew closer to the Spanish, Mexicans, and Texans. By the 1880s, with their numbers dwindling and ground lost to Mexican campaigns and Mackenzie’s raids, the Lipans roamed with Mescalero Apaches, some with Victorio. Many remained in Mexico, some stole back into Texas, and others melted into reservations where they had relatives. They never surrendered.

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In the Governor’s Shadow

The True Story of Ma and Pa Ferguson

Carol O’Keefe Wilson

In 1915 Governor James Ferguson began his term in Texas bolstered by a wave of voter enthusiasm and legislative cooperation so great that few Texans anticipated anything short of a successful administration. His campaign was based on two key elements: his appeal to the rural constituency and a temporary hiatus from the effects of the continuous Prohibition debate. In reality, Jim Ferguson had shrewdly sold a well-crafted image of himself to Texas voters, carrying into office a bevy of closely guarded secrets about his personal finances, his business acumen, and his relationship with Texas brewers. Those secrets, once unraveled, ultimately led to charges brought against Governor Ferguson via impeachment. Refusing to acknowledge the judgment against him, Ferguson launched a crusade for regained power and vindication. In 1925 he reclaimed a level of political influence and doubled the Ferguson presence in Austin when he assisted his wife, Miriam, in a successful bid for the governorship. That bid had been based largely on a plea for exoneration but soon degenerated into a scandal-plagued administration. In the Governor’s Shadow unravels this complex tale, exposing the shocking depth of the Fergusons’ misconduct. Often using the Fergusons’ own words, Carol O’Keefe Wilson weaves together the incontestable evidence that most of the claims that Jim Ferguson made during his life regarding his conduct, intentions, achievements, and abilities, were patently false.

In the Shadow of Billy the Kid Cover

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In the Shadow of Billy the Kid

Susan McSween and the Lincoln County War

Kathleen P. Chamberlain

The events of July 19, 1878, marked the beginning of what became known as the Lincoln County War and catapulted Susan McSween and a young cowboy named Henry McCarty, alias Billy the Kid, into the history books. The so-called war, a fight for control of the mercantile economy of southeastern New Mexico, is one of the most documented conflicts in the history of the American West, but it is an event that up to now has been interpreted through the eyes of men. As a woman in a man’s story, Susan McSween has been all but ignored. This is the first book to place her in a larger context. Clearly, the Lincoln County War was not her finest hour, just her best known. For decades afterward, she ran a successful cattle ranch. She watched New Mexico modernize and become a state. And she lived to tell the tales of the anarchistic territorial period many times.

Indian Agent Cover

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Indian Agent

Peter Ellis Bean in Mexican Texas

By Jack Jackson

How can the life of one relatively unknown man change our understanding of Texas history and the American West? Peter Ellis Bean, a fairly minor but fascinating character, casts unexpected light on conflicts, famous characters, and events from the time of Mexican rule through the years of the Republic. Bean’s role in Mexico’s revolution against Spain and his service as an agent of the Mexican government, especially as Indian agent in eastern Texas, provide an unusually vivid picture of Mexican Texas, as well as new information about the Indians in his region. More explosively, Jackson’s research on Bean’s career as Indian agent casts doubt on the traditional characterization of Sam Houston as a friend to the Texas Indians. Bean’s career shows Houston as a rival for the loyalty of the Indians during Texas’ rebellion against Mexico, a rival who made false promises for military and political gain. After Texas independence, Bean acquired vast lands in Texas, at one point holding more than 100,000 acres. A good citizen and a good businessman, involved with real estate, sawmills, salt works, agriculture, and stock raising, he was also a bigamist. Meticulously researched, dramatically written, and embodying a unique understanding of Mexican Texas, Jack Jackson’s chronicle of Peter Ellis Bean not only rescues him from relative obscurity but also corrects key aspects of the history in which he was involved and brings to life an era more often consigned to myth.

Indian Play Cover

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Indian Play

Indigenous Identities at Bacone College

Lisa K. Neuman

When Indian University—now Bacone College—opened its doors in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) in 1880, it was a small Baptist institution designed to train young Native Americans to be teachers and Christian missionaries among their own people and to act as agents of cultural assimilation. From 1927 to 1957, however, Bacone College changed course and pursued a new strategy of emphasizing the Indian identities of its students and projecting often-romanticized images of Indianness to the non-Indian public in its fund-raising campaigns. Money was funneled back into the school as administrators hired Native American faculty who in turn created innovative curricular programs in music and the art that encouraged their students to explore and develop their Native identities. Through their frequent use of humor and inventive wordplay to reference Indianness—“Indian play”—students articulated the (often contradictory) implications of being educated Indians in mid-twentieth-century America. In this supportive and creative culture, Bacone became an “Indian school,” rather than just another “school for Indians.”

In examining how and why this transformation occurred, Lisa K. Neuman situates the students’ Indian play within a larger theoretical framework of cultural creativity, ideologies of authenticity, and counterhegemonic practices that are central to the fields of Native American and indigenous studies today.

Inventing Texas Cover

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Inventing Texas

Early Historians of the Lone Star State

By Laura Lyons McLemore

Bluebonnets and tumbleweeds, gunslingers and cattle barons all form part of the romanticized lore of the state of Texas. It has an image as a larger-than-life land of opportunity, represented by oil derricks pumping black gold from arid land and cattle grazing seemingly endless plains. In this historiography of eighteenth– and nineteenth–century chronologies of the state, Laura McLemore traces the roots of the enduring Texas myths and tries to understand both the purposes and the methods of early historians. Two central findings emerge: first, what is generally referred to as the Texas myth was a reality to earlier historians, and second, myth has always been an integral part of Texas history. Myth provided the impetus for some of the earliest European interest in the land that became Texas. Beyond these two important conclusions, McLemore’s careful survey of early Texas historians reveals that they were by and large painstaking and discriminating researchers whose legacy includes documentary sources that can no longer be found elsewhere. McLemore shows that these historians wrote general works in the spirit of their times and had agendas that had little to do with simply explaining a society to itself in cultural terms. From Juan Agustin Morfi’s Historia through Henderson Yoakum’s History of Texas to the works of Dudley Wooten, George Pierce Garrison, and Lester Bugbee, the portrayal of Texas history forms a pattern. In tracing the development of this pattern, McLemore provides not only a historiography but also an intellectual history that gives insight into the changing culture of Texas and America itself. Early Texas historians came from all walks of life, from priests to bartenders, and this book reveals the unique contributions of each to the fabric of state history . A must–read for lovers of Texas history, Inventing Texas illuminates the intricate blend of nostalgia and narrative that created the state’s most enduring iconography.

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