Death at Bastogne

2nd Lt. Carlton Sheram, from Greenville, was killed in a tank battle in Bastogne, Belgium, in January 1945.

2nd Lt. Carlton Sheram, from Greenville, was killed in a tank battle in Bastogne, Belgium, in January 1945.

Fighting around the Belgian town of Bastogne was furious the first two weeks of January 1945. The German Army was determined to push through on their way to the harbor at Antwerp. Standing in the way was United States’ Third Army under General George S. Patton and the 101st Airborne Division. Among others units supporting the Third Army was the 15th Tank Battalion of 6th Armored Division. One of the tank commanders in Co. D was a young second lieutenant from Greenville, Texas.

Carlton A. Sheram, Jr. graduated Cum Laude from Greenville High School in 1939. He was a member of the debate team, business manager of the yearbook, and a member of the GHS band. A woman who remembered Carlton brilliantly described him with two words, VERY SMART. While in high school he and his father lived with Carlton’s aunt Laura Pollard.

Carlton attended Texas A&M University where he graduated in January 1943. Ironically he lived in the American Legion House while at A&M. Newspaper clippings state he was a quiet young man, studious, and a devout member of the Baptist Church wherever he lived.

With a brief stopover in Greenville to visit his father and aunt he headed to Fort Riley, Kansas, for training in the Tank Corps. Second Lieutenant Sheram served in England, France, Belgium; all part of the European Theater. By January 1945 the 15th Tank Battalion of 6th Armored Division was positioned just east of the town of Bastogne. Following is a portion of an e-mail I received in April of this year from Ruud Huijts, a resident of The Netherlands.

This is what I know about the circumstances of Carlton’s death: 2nd Lt. Sheram served in the 15th Tank Battalion, 6th Armored Division. In the first two weeks of January 1945, the 6th Armored Division was positioned just east of Bastogne adjacent to the famous 101st Airborne Division. There was some heavy fighting taking place at that time:

Vision was poor and foggy, they (armored tanks) were coming in leap frog style, one group would move then the other, GI style. When they go close enough I had no doubt they were Germans. I waited for the second group to come closer, when I had them in a concentrated group I began to fire. I had them down to three men when Lt. Sheram tried to come into where I was, he got two of them but the third one got him.

The arrow on the map below shows the approximate location of his death. At the left of the map is Bastogne.

The arrow on the map below shows the approximate location of his death. At the left of the map is Bastogne, Belgium.

The info above came from Sebastian Fiacco. Rob Fiacco, Sebastian’s son says that the fact that his father mentions Carlton’s name in the story above means that his father must have thought very highly of Carlton, Rob would like anybody that knew Carlton, or is related to Carlton to know that his father considered Carlton to be a hero.

Carlton A. Sheram, Jr., United States Army was awarded the Silver Star for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy while serving with the 6th Armored Division during World War II.” (General Orders No. 23, 1945). He also was awarded posthumously the American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, two stars, and Purple Heart. Today he rests in Grave 81, Luxembourg American Cemetery, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg. He should be remembered.

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One of My Favorite Places

The friendly staff at the Archives of Gee Library at Texas A&M University Commerce.  Those smiles are real; they love helping patrons find unique information and relics.  I once found a fiddle there that Ruby Allmond of Bonham used when performing at the Greenville Municipal Auditorium.

The friendly staff at the Archives of Gee Library at Texas A&M University Commerce. Those smiles are real; they love helping patrons find unique information and relics. I once found a fiddle there that Ruby Allmond of Bonham used when performing at the Greenville Municipal Auditorium.

A few weeks ago, I slipped off to Commerce to one of my very special places, the archives at Gee Library on the campus of Texas A&M University Commerce. On the fourth floor with windows on the north and west sides of the Reading Room, one can see for miles and miles and wonder what that part of the world looked like back in the early 1840s when first settlers arrived.

I have been researching in the Bowman Papers and what a treasure. L. L. Bowman came to Texas around 1900 from Mississippi and Tennessee where he received a law degree at Cumberland Law School in Lebanon, Tennessee. The young man joined the law firm of Ben F. Looney, a prominent local attorney. Bowman served as City Attorney, District Attorney, on the Greenville School Board for sixteen years, and was appointed Judge of the 8th District Court in January 1931 after practicing law here for more than thirty years.

It was while he journeyed throughout his judicial district of Hunt, Hopkins, Delta and Rains Counties that he developed a deep interest in the history of Northeast Texas. At every courthouse he visited with local citizens, with other attorneys, and with anyone who had a story to tell. However, he wanted true stories so he used his time in the various courthouses to look through probates, land records, criminal and civil cases. His notes recorded old roads throughout the counties with precise reasoning why the road went that way.

One of my favorite items in his collection is Twenty-Seven Years on the Texas Frontier, or Fifty Years in Texas by William Banta, an early settler in Hunt County. Less than a dozen copies were printed, and one is in Commerce at Gee Library Archives. It was exciting to hold it and read it.

As I dug around this past week I found notes that a grand jury in Sulphur Springs convicted Reconstruction outlaw Ben Bickerstaff. I co-authored The Devil’s Triangle: Ben Bickerstaff, Northeast Texans, and the War of Reconstruction. My co-authors and I believed that most of those individuals were never brought before a grand jury. Since we want to release a new edition, I think a drive to the Hopkins County Courthouse is in order. Thanks to Judge Bowman, I now have the volume and page numbers.

I now know that the first attempt at prohibition in the county occurred on July 15, 1854 when an election was called to abolish the sale of liquor in less than a quart. In 1858 the city of Greenville was one-half mile square around the courthouse. In the same year a Board of Executive was appointed to license teachers. Many such tidbits lie hidden in those acid free boxes.

Why am I interested, you ask? Good point. Just like an exceptional seamstress can sew colorful scraps of cloth to create a quilt, or jigsaw puzzle fanatic can put tiny pieces together to create a scene, or a composer puts notes in the right line or space to create a musical score, I want to use these ideas to create a history of very early Greenville and Hunt County History. One that will reveal the earliest settlers, their stories, and the lessons learned. Few people will know all the stories, but with the help of people like Judge Bowman I can write that book.

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World War I Projects

The ladies of the Mayflower Club presented this monument to Hunt County officials in 1919.  On either side are the names of those who lost their lives during World War I.  All forty-one men were residents of Hunt County when they enlisted.

The ladies of the Mayflower Club presented this monument to Hunt County officials in 1919. On either side are the names of those who lost their lives during World War I. All forty-one men were residents of Hunt County when they enlisted.

I think we all know that we are in the midst of the 100th Anniversary of World War I, the war that was supposed to end all wars. I know that I have written many words about it. But I want to share with you a way that each Hunt County resident can help remember those involved in the war and those who gave their lives in the service of their countries. Remember the United States was not the only participant.

The Hunt County Historical Commission members dedicate themselves to the preservation of local history. We assist with historical markers, we answer numerous questions about the history of Hunt County and its many communities, we locate and keep an eye on cemeteries, and one of our members gladly indexes old Greenville newspapers. Sometimes we have such a meaningful event we need to have a public observance of its importance.
On April 13, 1996 the Hunt County Historical Commission entertained the county with the 150th Birthday Celebration on the Courthouse Square. Now we have another important date to commemorate and we want input on ways to share our respect for those whose lives were drastically changed a century ago.

Next Thursday, May 25, we will have our bi-monthly meeting at the Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum beginning at 7:00 P.M. Everyone is invited, and the good new is that it is free. We may have a few leftover items on the agenda, but the primary purpose is to discuss ways to celebrate November 11, 2018.

At exactly 11:00 A.M. on the eleventh day of the eleventh month guns came to a halt. All high-ranking military men in the war signed the armistice. As the news spread, tears of joy and sadness flowed around the world.

John Byrd and John Armstrong have collected over 600 names of men who registered for the draft, enlisted here in Hunt County, died either in action or from the dreaded Spanish Influenza, or returned home to continue an new life, and were buried in one of our county cemeteries. The two Johns did a tremendous job, but as John Armstrong asked, “What’s next? How do we honor these men?”

There is a national movement to place flags on the grave of each of these men as well as a special World War I flag. We plan to do our part. There is a monument in front of the courthouse with the names of the forty-one who gave their lives. On one of the memorial walls at the Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum are the same names, I believe. Other communities may have similar memorials for the men from there who died and maybe even those who served. On May 28 I am speaking at Brigham Cemetery in Campbell. I’ll tell what I know about some of their veterans.

But we would like to have a countywide memorial.

So if you are the descendent of a World War I veteran from any part of the country, if you are interested in the past, or if you interviewed a veteran or a relative who was on the Homefront, please join us. We need your input. We need to honor our past. For more information feel free to contact at my email below.

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Traipsing Through Texas

Fort Richardson (1867-1878) is located on the south bank of Lost Creek in Jacksboro, Texas.  It was the northernmost frontier fort in Texas after the Civil War.  The post hospital (shown), officer’s quarters, powder magazine, morgue, commissary, guard house and bakery that once produced 600 loaves of fresh bread each day are all on the grounds.  Today a Texas State Park, the grounds also include nature trails and park ranger talks.

Fort Richardson (1867-1878) is located on the south bank of Lost Creek in Jacksboro, Texas. It was the northernmost frontier fort in Texas after the Civil War. The post hospital (shown), officer’s quarters, powder magazine, morgue, commissary, guard house and bakery that once produced 600 loaves of fresh bread each day are all on the grounds. Today a Texas State Park, the grounds also include nature trails and park ranger talks.

Over the past few months I have had opportunities to travel in many parts of central Texas; up along the Red River, eastward to Marshall and Nacogdoches, and south the Brenham and Navasota. All areas are often similar but definitely individual.

I grew up in Jacksboro, about three hours west of Greenville on Highway 380. It was early last month when I went to a funeral there. As I drove out in a rainstorm, I knew the next day would be a beautiful spring day. It was! The rain had filled the rivers and stock tanks, the word for places created to hold water for cattle and other livestock. Grass was tall and green, every indication of a fine season.

Jacksboro is unique. It grew around a post-Civil War Indian fort, Fort Richardson. The stone buildings surrounding the courthouse square date back to the late 1800s. People in Jacksboro are proud of their heritage and that heritage is visible everywhere.

Denton County Courthouse located in the center of historic downtown Denton.  Designed by W. C. Dodson in 1895 the structure cost $150,000 and opened in 1897.  The county and town were named in honor of John B. Denton, frontier preacher, and lawyer buried on the east lawn.

Denton County Courthouse located in the center of historic downtown Denton. Designed by W. C. Dodson in 1895 the structure cost $150,000 and opened in 1897. The county and town were named in honor of John B. Denton, frontier preacher, and lawyer buried on the east lawn.

I also drove through Denton and Decatur, both becoming suburbs of Dallas and Fort Worth. But they are working hard to remain unique. Many cattle came through Decatur after the Civil War on their way to railheads in Kansas.

Last summer I went to Jefferson to a Civil War conference. Jefferson is not really a great place to visit in the heat of summer. But like other old towns in Texas it has preserved it antiquities in the forms of homes, stores, and the bayou where steamboats stopped for cotton and passengers on the way to New Orleans. The next boat might come from New Orleans and carry goods for the interior of Texas, such things as sugar, coffee, lumber, and furniture. The respect for the past is evident throughout town.

Trying to find the route of Jefferson Road, I drove back roads one spring weekend. Every time I thought I knew where the road had been, I came to a steep hill or creek too deep to cross in a wagon pulled by multiple yokes of oxen. Jefferson Road brought supplies and goods to all the communities in this part of Texas long before there were railroads.

In my travels I have visited Marshall, Denison, Palestine, Jacksonville, and Longview. These were railroad towns that developed after the Civil War. They all have beautiful old homes and churches. But the most evident feature is the railroad tracks, switches, depots, and hotels. There is an obvious similarity in all.

This past weekend I went to Brenham to a history conference. I always avoid interstate highways if at all possible, and this was no exception. I was absolutely swept away with the beauty of Navasota. I understand some of the lavish homes were really summer homes for wealthy families in Houston. It is evident that some one or some group had deep pockets to finance the great restorations.

Anderson is the county seat of Grimes County. As you come around a curve there is an incredibly gorgeous courthouse. Anderson is the center of the county and therefore was chosen as county seat and not Navasota.

Brenham is, of course, known for Blue Bell Ice Cream. I splurged on a delicious piece of buttermilk pie, but was very impressed with the way the downtown area has been preserved.

On my latest venture I saw a peacock farm, a saw mill, and crossed the Brazos River, the Trinity River three times, and the Sabine River. I am here to tell you there is always something to see in Texas.

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What’s Ahead?

Hunt County Courthouse on San Jacinto Day 1917.  A record-breaking crowd gathered to hear Texas Governor James E. Ferguson speak as the large U. S. flag was raised over the courthouse.  Notice the over-whelming number of white males in the crowd.

Hunt County Courthouse on San Jacinto Day 1917. A record-breaking crowd gathered to hear Texas Governor James E. Ferguson speak as the large U. S. flag was raised over the courthouse. Notice the over-whelming number of white males in the crowd.

April 1917 was an emotional time for the United States. Greenville and Hunt County were certainly included in the proud, patriotic, and frightening future.

On April 6, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Declaration of War against Germany and Austria-Hungary. We would soon join France, Great Britain, and their allies in the War to end all Wars. Thousand of men died in the previous three and one-half years earlier. Many American wondered how many more would perish?

Two days before Wilson signed the declaration, citizens of Greenville and Hunt County pooled funds to purchase an American flag twenty-five by fifteen feet and a seventy-foot flagpole to display the flag over the Hunt County Courthouse. Citizens of Commerce and East Texas State University followed suit with their flag to fly in the public square.

Fears raged that German spies were around every corner. One fairly substantial rumor spread the news some group plotted to blow up the cotton compress east of downtown Greenville. The sheriff, believing it true, sent guards to protect the property and other sites that were vulnerable.

African-Americans of Greenville held a rally on the courthouse square, pledging their support to President Wilson. They disclaimed any intention or disposition on their part to assist any foreign power. There was a growing sentiment for the organization of a Negro company in Greenville. Efforts were made to secure the proper authority for such action. A few days later new enlistments in the national defense organizations included Cornelius E. Hall, an Africa-American of Greenville.

At the same time, fifteen young men from Greenville enlisted in the U. S. Navy, leaving immediately for Dallas where they would be assigned for training. Over in Hopkins County, Greenville resident Willie J. Durham registered for the draft. Only a school boy at the time, Durham would become one of the leading African-American attorneys in the state of Texas and the United States when he was Witness for the Plaintiff in two monumental Civil Rights cases years later.

On San Jacinto Day, April 21, 1917, a crowd of an estimated 5,000 people gathered on the courthouse square to hear Governor James E. Ferguson deliver the principal address as the huge flag rose over the courthouse. San Jacinto Day had been a special event for years, but this was the largest gathering ever. Officials and citizens gave speeches supporting the President, his ideas, and all young men who had volunteered their service in military branches. Old Confederate soldiers marched around the courthouse, many in their old uniforms. A resolution pledging the support of all Hunt County citizens to President Wilson was adopted at the rally. The selective draft plan of raising an army was wholeheartedly favored.

Four days later a humorous event occurred in Commerce near the college campus. Mrs. John Wells stated that around 5:35 that morning she saw a flying machine not very high above ground traveling due north. She described the vehicle as shaped like a canoe with three passengers. As it flew over the campus it sped across the sky. As it was broad daylight, she was absolutely positive there was no mistake. Could she have seen the famed Red Baron of the German Army Air Corps cruising over Texas prairies or was there something in her morning coffee?

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Dancing Cheek to Cheek at Hotel Washington

The dancing on the Rooftop Garden at the Hotel Washington was hardly of the style and grace of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but it caused a scandal nonetheless.

The dancing on the Roof Garden at the Hotel Washington was hardly of the style and grace of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but it caused a scandal nonetheless.

For a special group of Greenville citizens, the 1920s meant fun, laughter, outlandish pranks, and a break from staid customs of the past. As the popular song of the day suggested, “Anything Goes” and it did in Greenville, Texas. With the Spector of War vanquished, Americans enjoyed automobiles, jazz, dancing, and the luxury of credit buying. Everything was available except alcohol that was banned in 1903. Yet numerous bootleggers remedied that problem easily enough.

However, not every citizen in Greenville lived the Good Life. Only those with hefty bank accounts fit into a class that included bankers, doctors, lawyers, cotton buyers, large landowners, and merchants. Wage earners, African-Americans, and laborers composed a much larger portion of the population but clearly knew they were not in the elite group.

Greenville was a thriving city, boosted along with multiple rail lines, a large cotton compress, a large number of cotton gins throughout the county, and banks with connections to leading financial centers in New York. The elite definitely celebrated the Roaring Twenties. Many young men of the group owned automobiles, all elite women dressed in the latest fashions, and social events filled society pages of local newspapers.

With the arrival of railroads in 1880, Greenville saw a bumper crop of visitors; men such as cotton buyers, financiers, conventions attendees, and salesmen. Large, luxurious hotels became necessary fixtures for the growing city. In 1881 Fred Ende opened the earliest first-rate hotel. But it went up in flames two years later, destroying the courthouse as well as the entire south and west sides of the public square. Shortly after the Beckham Hotel opened on Lee Street. Yet, it too was destroyed by fire a few years later. The Beckham family rebuilt their hotel. In 1925 a group of Greenville businessmen formed a consortium to build the most luxurious, lavish hotel this side of Dallas. Hotel Washington became the social center of town, located on Washington Street.

On Tuesday, August 18, 1926 the Hotel Washington formally opened with a seven-course banquet and late night dancing on the beautifully romantic Roof Garden. Special entertainment at both the banquet and Roof Garden arrived from Dallas as well as some local talent. Doors opened at 7:00 P.M., the Banquet began at 8:00, and dancing lasted until the wee hours of the morning. Some couples may have witnessed the sun rise in the east atop the Roof Garden.

On Sunday, August 16, members of Wesley Methodist Church, a few blocks from the new hotel, heard a hell, fire, and brimstone sermon from Rev. French, their pastor. Methodists at that time were known for their opposition to dancing. Rev. French made a point of the opposition that August Sunday morning. Not only did he let his congregation know his views, he managed to influence one of the local newspapers to print the sermon in two parts on Monday and Tuesday.

What Rev. French proposed was extremely out of the ordinary. Dennis Strickland picked up on a most unusual point and asked me to give my interpretation this Wednesday, April 23 at Hump Day at the Texan Theater at 5:00 P.M. His free entertainment is always fun. So I hope to see as many of you there as can make it.

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Spring Cleaning

Beating a rug in the mid 1850s.  The object in her hand was known as a “carpet beater” and took a fairly strong girl to rid the rug of the accumulation of dirt from the winter.  (Sovereign Hill Education Blog, servant-carpet-beating.)

Beating a rug in the mid 1850s. The object in her hand was known as a “carpet beater” and took a fairly strong girl to rid the rug of the accumulation of dirt from the winter. (Sovereign Hill Education Blog, servant-carpet-beating.)

Do you set aside a few days every spring to clean house? I bet few people, if any, do that. But a few generations ago, Spring Cleaning was a must.

That didn’t necessarily mean that housewives were more absorbed with cleanliness than we are today. More dirt and dust found its way into their houses.

Women simply had fewer of the time and energy saving devices we have today. Plus, many women did not work outside the home. So they had more time to do such chores such as ironing the sheets and pillowcases, washing and drying dishes by hand, and of course, cooking more elaborate meals. By elaborate I mean they cooked all foods from scratch. No running by a fast food place on the way home to pick up supper.

For many, many years the working class families ate the main meal at noon. In small towns the volunteer fire department rang the fire alarm to announce it was time to close down for a big meal at home and a short nap.

But back to the cleaning. Rugs and blankets received a good beating out on the clothesline to rid them of mud and dirt. Mattresses were turned and often taken outside to air. Women got down on their hands and knees and scrubbed floors with soap and water; most floors were either wood or covered with linoleum. Windows were washed, as were the window screens. My grandparents had a large wrap-around porch with cement flooring. My grandmother and I washed the porch as soon as the weather warmed up. She took the water hose, sprayed the porch with lots of water, then we took brooms to sweep away mud, wasp nests, leaves, and everything else that found a hiding place during the winter. I thought it was great fun to go barefooted and play in the water.

Closets were gone through and clothing that didn’t fit was given to someone else who could wear it. If no one could be found that was the right size, the fabric could be reused in another item of clothing. Shoes could be resoled.

Seldom was anything discarded. You reused, made do, or did without. But cleanliness was stressed more often in the springtime.

I did have one great-aunt that took the prize for cleanliness. She and her husband lived on the Club Ranch south of Wichita Falls where he was ranch foreman. Aunt Earl believed in cleanliness with a passion. The kitchen was a typical early rural kitchen of the 1900s with linoleum on the floor and wood stove in a prominent space.

Every morning the cowboys came into the kitchen for a cup of coffee and instructions for the day. On a working ranch there was always something to do. Aunt Earl may have fed them breakfast but I don’t recall. Once they went out to start work, she grabbed her bucket and scrub brush to clean the kitchen. She was never able to train those cowboys to scrape their boots or take off their spurs. Believe me, I doubt if any of those men saw another part of the house or sat down in a chair while talking to the foreman.

Aunt Earl was a tiny woman full of energy. I suppose she was so small because she worked so hard. Her sister was more of a town lady and carried a few extra pounds. She always fussed about her weight. I thought if she worked like her sister, maybe she wouldn’t have that problem. But believe me, I never voiced my opinion on that subject. I knew better.

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The Last Cattle Drive to New Orleans

Army beef swimming the Occoquan River, Virginia / sketched by Mr. A.R. Waud. Library of Congress Online Catalog (634,618) Prints and Photographs Division (815,639)

Army beef swimming the Occoquan River, Virginia / sketched by Mr. A.R. Waud. Library of Congress Online Catalog (634,618)  Prints and Photographs Division (815,639)

I took a long weekend recently to spend in one of my favorite cities, New Orleans. Yes, I enjoyed the delicious food, the weather was perfect, and flowers were already blooming. But my mission was indoors at the Williams Research Center on Chartres Street. It’s one of my favorite places because it is the home of the Historic New Orleans Collection. There, I needed to learn how a herd of cattle leaving Matagorda Island in Texas wend its way into New Orleans.

If you fly or drive from Northeast Texas, you will see lots of swamps about an hour out of Shreveport. Cows don’t swim well so how did they get to the city in 1861?

When I went into the Research Center the attendant asked me how she could assist me. I really think she thought I was kidding when I told her I wanted to see maps showing how cattle and horses might arrive in the Crescent City. Then I told her I would really like to find a good social history of south Louisiana before Admiral Farragut arrived with the Union navy. But the lady was as cool as could be, brought me three wonderful atlases, a journal the mayor kept that spring and summer, and numerous photographic histories, memoirs, etc. I spent two days there taking notes, looking carefully at maps and charts, and having a great time.

Why was I doing all this? Who cares about such things? A large group of south Texas ranchers and historians, that’s who. I will present a paper I call “The Last Cattle Drive to New Orleans” on April 28 at the Central Texas Historical Conference in Brenham, Texas.

I wrote the paper about seven or eight years ago. I had no trouble getting those steers to Beaumont and crossing the Sabine River. Leaving Matagorda they headed to Richmond where they took the El Camino Real or Old Spanish Road created in the 1700s or earlier. But I wasn’t really clear about the way to New Orleans and the trials and tribulations facing the drovers over there.

As I read over the paper I wrote I quickly decided it needed a drastic revision. I have made the trip down there several times in the last few years and knew my paper was weak on that leg of the trip. I have less than four weeks to read and rewrite. There are so many important viewpoints that I neglected the first time. It will be fun putting together a better paper, I hope.

Not only is the Research Center a great place for historians and genealogists, but also not far away is an almost ideal bookstore, the Faulkner House. William Faulkner actually lived in the home while working in New Orleans. Every time I make a trip down there I find my way to Pirates’ Alley and Faulkner House.

This time I bought Gerstäcker’s Louisiana, translated from German by Irene S. DiMaio. I found lots of fodder for my paper. As I read, I remembered that Frederick Von Ende arrived in Greenville in 1857 after a series of adventures very similar to Herr Gerstäcker’s.

There is a saying among Texas historians that only criminals, debtors, and persons running from bad marriages came to early Texas. If so, most crossed through Louisiana, particularly New Orleans and Shreveport, where they honed their traits.

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An Awesome April

An estimated 5000 citizens gathered at the Hunt County Courthouse in Greenville, Texas on April 21, 1917.  Instead of traditionally celebrating San Jacinto Day, when Texas won her independence from Mexico, the crowd eagerly listened to Governor James Ferguson and showed support for President Wilson’s war tactics.  Note the enormous American flag on the flagpole atop the copula.

An estimated 5000 citizens gathered at the Hunt County Courthouse in Greenville, Texas on April 21, 1917. Instead of traditionally celebrating San Jacinto Day, when Texas won her independence from Mexico, the crowd eagerly listened to Governor James Ferguson and showed support for President Wilson’s war tactics. Note the enormous American flag on the flagpole atop the copula.

Daily newspapers often delight us, bring giggles and tears, and tear at our heartstrings. Such was April 1917. Normally spring brought news of baseball and track meets to Greenville and Hunt County. While these sports captured the readers’ attention, national and international news were at the forefront that year. On April 6 President Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany and Austria-Hungary. The whole world was at war, now the United States joined in the fray.

The Zimmerman Telegram a month earlier scared many Americans into the belief that war was inevitable. Patriotism sprang up like the first weeds of the season. Patriotic citizens purchased an American flag 25 feet by 15 feet to unfurl on a seventy-foot flagpole on the roof of the courthouse. Governor James E. Ferguson arrived on April 21, San Jacinto Day in Texas, to deliver the principal address at the flag raising ceremony. More than 5,000 people from all parts of Hunt County gathered on the courthouse lawn to hear the Governor and others give speeches in support of the President and the ideas he endorsed. A resolution pledging the support of citizens (remember only men could vote) to the President was adopted. The selective draft plan of raising an army was favored.

Earlier in the month a crowd of an estimated 5,000 people joined in a public celebration to honor the Hunt County Company of the National Guard. A donation of $250 was collected and given the men for unfurnished necessities. The local company had gained about fifty recruits in five days. At mid-month fifteen young men from Greenville enlisted in the US Navy and immediately left for Dallas to be assigned for training. One of the new enlistees was Cornelius E. Hall, an African American of Greenville. By the end of the month President Wilson and General Joffre of France indicated by the end of May National Guard troops would be on their way to France.

Such events were held in many parts of the country. However, in other places the war was not at all popular. Among other matters, Americans were encouraged to report any neighbors who were not enthusiastic about the war. The Great War was as divisive as any war.

But there was humor and good cheer in the air in April 1917. The folks at Commerce were tremendously enthusiastic about the Governor’s approval of Mayo’s College becoming East Texas Normal College.

Was this the flying machine Mrs. John Wells saw over her home in Commerce?  She described it as flying rapidly over the campus of East Texas Normal College.  Sighting such as this were quite frequent in the spring of 1897.  But very few reports were found in 1917.  See http://www.carolctaylor.com/wordpress/?p=634 for more about flying machines in Northeast Texas.  (Gareth Shute: Airships)

Was this the flying machine Mrs. John Wells saw over her home in Commerce? She described it as flying rapidly over the campus of East Texas Normal College. Sighting such as this were quite frequent in the spring of 1897. But very few reports were found in 1917. See http://www.carolctaylor.com/wordpress/?p=634
for more about flying machines in Northeast Texas. (Gareth Shute: Airships)

A gentleman in Commerce decided to challenge a recent Supreme Court decision that the pool hall law was unconstitutional. He opened a pool hall in downtown Commerce with no problems.

The sheriff received reliable word that a possible bomb might blow up the cotton compress in Greenville. Extra deputies patrolled the area but no bombs were found.

And finally, Mrs. John Wells stated that about 5:35 on the morning of April 25 she saw a flying machine at not a great height traveling due north over the western part of Commerce. She described it as shaped like a canoe carrying three passengers flying rapidly over the college. It was broad daylight so there could be no mistake about it.

For more detailed events in April 1917 visit my FaceBook page at Carol Taylor. I’m the one standing by a Texas Historical Marker.

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While Strolling, Take in the Historic Sites

Lee Street on a Saturday afternoon in the summer of 1925.  Everyone came to town to visit, to shop, and make a few trades.  Notice the IOOF Building at the far right.   The Greenville National Exchange Bank would soon move to the opposite corner. (Photo courtesy of author.)

Lee Street on a Saturday afternoon in the summer of 1925. Everyone came to town to visit, to shop, and make a few trades. Notice the IOOF Building at the far right. The Greenville National Exchange Bank would soon move to the opposite corner.
(Photo courtesy of author.)

While enjoying the Greenville Downtown Stroll next Saturday night, take in a few historic sites. Start at the northeast corner of the square with the Fred Ende Chapter # 87 of International Order of Odd Fellows, the second oldest fraternal group in the county. While the downstairs has served as home to such retail businesses as an old-fashioned hardware store, the original home of Citizen’s State Bank in the 1920, and currently a florist it is the wonderful turn-of-the-century architecture that is worth a glimpse.

Cross Johnson Street and notice the old Kress Building. Bob Landon did an excellent job refurbishing the exterior of the unique building, a truly successful job. I love the way he retained the wooden floors inside.

On your left is the front of the 1929 Hunt County Courthouse. This wonderful jewel was the prototype of the courthouse at Travis County in Austin. Sometime when you are downtown on a weekday from 8 to 5, drop in and look around. There is a lot of history in that building.

Across Stonewall Street is the Greenville National Exchange Building built in 1926 and later modified with three more floors. It not only served as a bank, but housed doctors, attorneys, and dentists. Today it is owned by Hunt County and used for offices.

Now look down Lee Street. You will notice that the south side of the street takes a slight jog. An early surveyor didn’t run a straight line long ago; hence the odd angle. Now cross Lee Street to the north side where the old Perkins Building is. At one time it was one of the earliest “cash stores” in the county. Later it became an elegant department store until it was converted into a unique mall. All the lumber, railings, and doors came from the original Perkins Building.

In the next block of Lee Street were some of the most fantastic women’s clothing stores in Texas. No need to run to Dallas when Skibell’s, Wolfe’s, and Tannenbaum’s were here. The Corner Street Pub was once a great shoe shop.

Of course, the Texan is in the same block. My husband and I had our first date there when it was a movie theater. Next door is the Medical Arts building, now known as the Henson Building. Virginia King had the building built after the King Opera House burned three times. Look up at the craftsmanship on the building.

Now cross Lee Street and turn right on Washington Street. In front of you is the crown jewel of Greenville – Central Christian Church. If you ever get a chance to go inside, by all means do. It is as special as the exterior.

Head east down either side of Washington and notice the Washington Hotel at the corner of St. John and Washington. Imagine dancing under the stars on the Roof Garden; or enjoying a delicious meal in the Coffee Shop. At one time you could soothe sore muscles with a Turkish bath. Yes, it is called the Cadillac Hotel today, but in it’s heyday it was the Washington and the place to be and be seen.

Now walk down to the corner of Johnson and Washington. Look at the name over the door. This is the Ende Building where Fred Ende opened a mercantile store ca. 1858. After the railroads arrived in 1880, Ende tore down his store to build an elegant hotel. Unfortunately it and a large portion of downtown Greenville burned in 1883. It took twenty years to settle insurance matters. By that time, Mr. Ende had died. But his partner James Armestead named the new building in memory of his partner and Greenville promoter.

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