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Clayton Wheat Williams Texas Life Series

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Clayton Wheat Williams Texas Life Series

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Harsh Country, Hard Times

Clayton Wheat Williams and the Transfsormation of the Trans-Pecos

Janet Williams Pollard and Louis Gwin

Clayton Wheat Williams—West Texas oilman, rancher, civic leader, veteran of the Great War, and avocational historian—was a risk taker, who both reflected and molded the history of his region. His life spanned a dynamic period in Texas history when automobiles replaced horse-drawn wagons, electricity replaced steam power in the oilfields, and barren and virtually worthless ranch land became valuable for the oil and gas under its surface. The setting for Williams’s story, like that of his father before him, is Fort Stockton in the rugged Trans-Pecos region of Texas. As a youngster accompanying his father on surveying trips through the land, and subsequently as a cadet at Texas A&M, he developed a toughness that served him well in France and Flanders. His letters home provide an unusually nuanced picture of what life was like for an American officer in Europe during the Great War. After the war, he returned home, where he taught himself petroleum geology—so effectively that he picked the site of what would become in 1928 the deepest producing oil well in the world. With his brother, he mapped the structure of what later became the Fort Stockton oil and gas field, and he went on to hammer out a successful career in the boom and bust cycles of the West Texas oil industry. On the civic front, Williams served for fourteen years as a Pecos County commissioner, and he held offices in a number of social and civic organizations. Imbued with a deep love for the history of his region, he wrote (with the editorial help of historian Ernest Wallace at Texas Tech University) Texas’ Last Frontier: Fort Stockton and the Trans-Pecos, 1861–1895, published by Texas A&M University Press in 1982. Nonetheless, by some of his neighbors he may be best remembered for his role in drying up the town’s famous Comanche Springs by pumping water feeding the spring’s aquifer to irrigate his and others’ farms west of town. Williams left behind a treasure trove of letters, personal papers and writings, and interviews with his family, helping document in rich detail the history of an unforgiving land as well as what life was like during a pivotal period of American history. These materials, which form the core of the present manuscript, reveal a life that made a difference in the economy and history of the region and the nation at large.  

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Jane's Window

My Spirited Life in West Texas and Austin

Jane Dunn Sibley, as told to Jim Comer; Foreword by T. R. Fehrenbach; introduction by James L. Haley

On the southern portion of what was known as the Sibley’s Pezuna del Caballo (Horse’s Hoof) Ranch in West Texas’ Culberson County are two mountains that nearly meet, forming a gap that frames a salt flat where Indians and later, pioneers came to gather salt to preserve foodstuffs. According to the US Geological Survey, the gap that provides this breathtaking and historic view is named “Jane’s Window.”

In Jane’s Window: My Spirited Life in West Texas and Austin, Jane Dunn Sibley, the inimitable namesake of that mountain gap, gives readers a similarly enchanting view: she tells the story of a small-town West Texas girl coming into her own in Texas’ capital city, where her commitment to philanthropy and the arts and her flair for fashion—epitomized by her signature buzzard feather—have made her name a society staple.

Growing up during the Depression in Fort Stockton, Jane Sibley learned first-hand the value of hard work and determination. In what she describes as “a more innocent age,” she experienced the “pleasant life” of a rural community with good schools, friends and neighbors, and daily dips in the Comanche Springs swimming pool. She arrived as a student at the University of Texas only ninety days before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and studied art under such luminaries as sculptor Charles Umlauf. Her enchanting stories of returning to Fort Stockton, working in the oil industry, marrying local doctor D. J. Sibley, and rearing a family evoke both her love for her origins and her clear-eyed aspirations.

The Sibleys never discussed the details of their good fortune, and, to their gratitude, no one ever asked. In Jane’s Window, Sibley narrates travel adventures, shares vignettes of famous visitors, and tells of her favorite causes, among which the Austin Symphony and the preservation of lower Pecos prehistoric rock art are especially prominent.

Peopled with vivid characters and told in Sibley’s uniquely down-to-earth and humorous manner, Jane’s Window paints a portrait of a life filled to the brim with events both heartwarming and heartbreaking.

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Lone Star Steeples

Historic Places of Worship in Texas

Pixie Christensen

In Lone Star Steeples: Historic Places of Worship in Texas, Carl J. Christensen Jr. and Pixie Christensen present sixty-five captivating and historically significant structures in exquisite watercolor illustrations accompanied by brief summaries and convenient, handcrafted maps. Ranging from stately edifices of brick and stone located in urban centers to more humble wood-frame chapels in rural surroundings, the houses of faith shown in these pages have one important trait in common: They have all served as centers of cultural identity, spiritual comfort, and public service to the communities in which they arose.

In their introduction, the Christensens write, “The journey behind Lone Star Steeples crisscrossed the state along back roads, farm roads, and state highways.  In these journeys and in the stories that were told, certain patterns began to emerge:  the pride of the people in building their churches debt-free, the perseverance of the people who endured their beloved church being destroyed by natural disaster once, twice, or even three times . . . the people’s recognition of the church as their cultural foundation, their moral foundation, their social center.” As the Christensens demonstrate, Texas is home to a remarkable diversity of people, and their places of worship reflect and celebrate that diversity.

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Taming the Land

The Lost Postcard Photographs of the Texas High Plains

By John Miller Morris

A postcard craze gripped the nation from 1905 to 1920, as the rise of outdoor photography coincided with a wave of settlement and prosperity in Texas. Hundreds of people took up cameras, and photographers of note chose some of their best work for duplication as photo postcards—sold for a nickel and mailed for a penny to distant friends and relatives.   These postcards, which now enjoy another kind of craze in the collecting world, left what author John Miller Morris calls a "significant visual legacy" of the history and social geography of Texas. For more than a decade, Morris has been finding and studying the photographers and methodically gathering their postcards. In Taming the Land, he shares those finds with readers, introducing each photographer and providing interpretive descriptions of the places, people, or events depicted in the photographs. The stories the cards tell—in the images captured and the messages carried—add an exceptional dimension to our understanding of life in rural Texas a century ago.   Taming the Land presents postcards from twenty-four counties in the booming Texas Panhandle. This is the first book in a set called Plains of Light, which will collect and document turn-of-the-twentieth-century photo postcards from all over West Texas.

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