History

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Texarkana’s National Humane Alliance Fountain

Texarkana, AR- Herman Lee Ensign of New York died in 1899, and with his passing another wealthy philanthropist from that time passed away into history.  In addition to building his wealth off of advertising, Mr. Ensign was also an early anti-cruelty to animals’ advocate.  After his death, his stories were published in a book, Lady Lee and Other Animal Stories.  It would be published in 1901 to a modest review.  The book, like the man’s name and advertising company would virtually melt into history.  The book, in first edition format, can still be purchased today through antique dealers and online through EBay for a modest $25-$30 which as any collector can tell you does not raise the book to any great elevation in the world of book collectors.  It is simply another book and is now even available online through many free eBook programs.  But it is not Mr. Ensign’s business, or his book that has had the most enduring impact on American history and on Texarkana in particular as it is his love of Animals.  In the end, Mr. Ensign’s love for animals would reach out to well over one hundred cities after his death, and Texarkana was one of those fortunate cities. When Mr. Ensign died in 1899, it was two years after he had founded the National Humane Alliance.  That foundation received a great portion of Ensign’s money with very specific directions.  Ensign indicated in his donation that the money must be used to build animal drinking fountains for any city, anywhere, that wanted one.  The requirements were simple for a city.  The city had to request the fountain, provide an appropriate spot for it, maintain it, and ensure a constant water supply was provided.  The city could not charge for the use of the fountain, and it had to be free for horses, cats, dogs and any other animal that might require a drink while passing through the city which received the fountain. After Mr. Ensign’s death, the National Humane Alliance began making the fountains available.  Somewhere between 1904 and 1912 over one hundred cities across the United States, Mexico and Puerto Rico took advantage of the free offer.  The fountains were built in Vinalhaven, Maine by the Bodwell Granite Company. Mr. Ensign could not have foreseen the impact that the auto industry was going to have on Americans and the way they would travel.  Most of the major cities that applied for fountains suddenly found themselves with a huge, water producing, potential hazards for new drivers.  Some of the cities put the fountains away in storage, others moved them to parks, and still others have been lost to the bureaucratic red tape of government and its ability to ever relocate, store, or even give away, and forget about what they have acquired through the years. Despite the fact that over one hundred were initially issued, there are still about 70 fountains in operation to this day.  There are multiple websites that show the fountains, all similar in design, and even give the coordinates for visitors to go see the fountains.  Texarkana, Arkansas currently maintains its own fountain. Continue Reading →

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July 4, Fireworks, Shows, Parades, and God

It started with a suggestion in June, followed by a meeting on July 2, and finally a formal signing on July 4, 1776.  From that moment on, the cry would go up around the world that the colonies of the North American Continent, all thirteen of them, had declared independence from Great Britain.  Like any country, Britain would not take kindly to losing the colonies.  In fact, no country in the history of the world has ever simply said, “Sure, go ahead and leave us and take all the investments we made into your area with you.”  No, instead the greatest empire in the world set out to reclaim the colonies and force them back into the British realm.  The rest of the story, you know as the United States won independence in the war that followed.  To this day, we still hear our friends across the pond in England wish us a “Happy Traitor’s Day.”  Naturally, this is done more in good humor now that we are friends so many years after the revolution. The founding fathers were by no means blind to the fact that they were setting in motion something that would be celebrated for years, and perhaps forever.  John Adams wrote to his wife of the importance of the entire event that officially started on July 2 and ended on July 4.  He sent his letter on July 3, 1776 that included the following statement:

“The second day of July 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.” Continue Reading →

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241 Years Later, America Still Celebrating

 

LITTLE ROCK – Governor Hutchinson’s weekly radio address can be found in MP3 format and downloaded HERE. As the United States heads towards its 241st birthday, Arkansans are stocking up on charcoal and propane, and business is booming at the fireworks stands. John Adams, our second president, foresaw all this celebratory hoopla even as he was helping to craft the Declaration of Independence.  

“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated … as the great anniversary festival,” he wrote in a letter to his wife, Abigail, on July 3, 1776. “It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. Continue Reading →

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Fourth of July: The First Anniversary (1777)

On the first anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Congress adjourned for the day and dined with military officers and various dignitaries.  British deserters and the Hessian band, taken at the Battle of Trenton, also joined the festivities.  A naval parade with cannon fire began the day’s celebration.  During the evening, candles were placed in windows, bells were rung and fireworks were set off.  John Adams wrote to his daughter, “I was amazed at the universal joy and alacrity [cheerfulness] that was discovered, and at the brilliancy and splendor of every part of this joyful exhibition.”

The Pennsylvania Evening Post reported the event: “Yesterday the 4th of July, being the Anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America, was celebrated in this city [Philadelphia] with demonstrations of joy and festivity. About noon all the armed ships and galleys in the river were drawn up before the city, dressed in the gayest manner, with the colors of the United States and streamers displayed. At one o’clock, the yards [timbers with sails attached] being properly manned, they began the celebration of the day by a discharge of thirteen cannon from each of the ships… in honor of the Thirteen United States…

After dinner a number of toasts were drank, all breathing independence, and a generous love of liberty, and commemorating the memories of those brave and worthy patriots who gallantly exposed their lives, and fell gloriously in defense of freedom and the righteous cause of their country. Each toast was followed by a discharge of artillery and small arms, and a suitable piece of music by the Hessian band…

The evening was closed with the ringing of bells, and at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks, which began and concluded with thirteen rockets on the Commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated. Everything was conducted with the greatest order and decorum, and the face of joy and gladness was universal.”  Pennsylvania Evening Post, July 5, 1777

James Still (July 2017), RetraceOurSteps.com

“Thus may the 4th of July, that glorious and ever memorable day, be celebrated through America, by the sons of freedom, from age to age till time shall be no more.”  Pennsylvania Evening Post, July 5, 1777

“In the evening, I was walking about the streets for a little fresh air and exercise, and was surprised to find the whole city lighting up their candles at the windows.  I walked most of the evening, and I think it was the most splendid illumination I ever saw…”  John Adams, Letter to Abigail Adams II, July 5, 1777

“… Continue Reading →

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Moonlight and Movies Presents Second Movie of Summer

Texarkana, Texas – The Ace of Clubs House, a part of the Texarkana Museum System, will present a second movie for the summer series “Moonlight and Movies” on the grounds of the house.  This movie will feature James Dean’s Rebel Without a Cause.   The grounds will open at 7:30 p.m. on June 16th with concession stands, and games. Those planning to attend should bring lawn chairs or blankets.  The movie will start just after dark or around 8:30 p.m.  Admission is free for members of the Museum system and $3.00 for all others. Continue Reading →

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2017 Bandit Run Marks 40 Years of the Bandit

Texarkana, USA – It’s been 40 years since the words “East Bound and down…” screamed out at silver screens across the nation.   Those words continued into the theme song right up until the point where Jerry Reed sang, “The boys are thirsty in Atlanta and there’s beer in Texarkana.”  At that moment Texarkana added another star as a place in cinema history.  Burt Reynolds tore out of Texarkana in that black Trans AM and cleared the way of “Smokies” by keeping them busy so the big truck could get the beer to Atlanta. 

40 years later the town given credit for where it all started will be celebrating again June 17-18. Continue Reading →

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The Meaning of the Rattlesnake (1775)

The rattlesnake was a significant symbol used throughout the American Revolution.  The Dept of War, established in 1789, included a rattlesnake in its seal in recognition of the rattlesnake’s importance.  The Dept of the Army (1947), successor of the Dept of War, continued the tradition and included a rattlesnake in its seal.  The Gadsden Flag, “to be used by… the American Navy” beginning in1776, and the First Navy Jack, which is currently flown by the U.S. Navy, both contain a rattlesnake and the motto “DONT TREAD ON ME”.  The following article, written by Benjamin Franklin one month after the formation of the [U.S.] Continental Marines, was his explanation of the rattlesnake. “I observe on one of the drums belonging to the marines… there was painted a rattlesnake, with this motto under it, ‘Don’t tread on me.’  … I sat down to guess what could have been intended by this uncommon device. I took care, however, to consult, on this occasion, a person who is acquainted with heraldry [military artwork]… This rather raised than suppressed my curiosity, and having frequently seen the rattlesnake, I ran over in my mind every property by which she was distinguished…

I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness that of any other animal, and that she has no eyelids. Continue Reading →

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The History and Meaning of the Shreveport Confederate Monument

On May 31, 2017, I traveled to Shreveport, Louisiana to see the Confederate Monument located at the Caddo Parish Courthouse and to meet with Paul Gramling about the monument’s future.  Ronnie Dancer, who operates a Facebook page called “The Who’s Who of Miller County Elected Officials” is a friend of mine from Miller County, Arkansas.  Ronnie and I had started talking about the recent issues and monument removals from New Orleans.  During our conversations, Ronnie asked if the Four States News would like to interview some of the people involved in defending the monuments.  Naturally, I was interested in talking with them.  I know that Ronnie is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) and is a Lieutenant in the organization’s “Mechanized Cavalry” division, a motorcycle branch of the SCV.   Ronnie was quickly able to arrange a meeting at the monument currently being reviewed in Shreveport, Louisiana. Prior to meeting Mr. Gramling, all I knew about him was that he was a member of the SCV, the Lt. Commander-in-Chief of the SCV, and a defender of keeping the monuments in their current and original locations.  We arrived, found parking and as we unloaded the car, I noticed a man who seemed out of place sitting on a park bench in front of the courthouse.  Around him were tourist, homeless people, and a few police officers walking the area.  Despite the variety of people, Gramling stood out for his unique dress and appearance.  He had the appearance of a college professor who should be buried behind research books in some dusty, college office researching and studying history.    As we grew closer and made introductions, I noticed the symbols on his label and the insignia on him that clearly said, “Lt. Commander-in-Chief”.  Through our brief talks before we sat down, I learned that Mr. Gramling is not only a defender of the monuments and a member of the SCV, but he is the current number two person of the SCV in the United States.  As we had small talk it was also apparent that Mr. Gramling was by no means an uneducated man.  He knew history as he explained many aspects about the courthouse, its history, and even the history of the grounds surrounding the courthouse.  He spoke with a soft, authoritative voice that a professor might use in a college class and I began to suspect that by the end of the interview, he might just take out a pop quiz to see how much I was paying attention. We found a place just behind the monument and close to the steps of the courthouse to sit down and talk.  What started out as a simple conversation with some basic questions quickly turned into an hour and a half discussion.  There is simply no way I can put all the information that Mr. Gramling supplied into this article; however, I want to tell the reader what he had to say, what I saw, and what we should all know about the SCV, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), and the various monuments erected by those organizations between the 1890s and the early 1900s.  It’s fascinating, it’s part of all of our history, and whether you agree with the history or not, it’s important that we know all sides in this battle over monuments that is currently being debated and discussed around the country. This monument to Confederate Veterans and those who died in the war is located at the Caddo Parish Courthouse.  The monument was built in 1905 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and placed on the National Historical Register by the Louisiana Department of Culture Recreation and Tourism.   As anyone can tell you, the monument has many meanings to different people.  Despite those different meanings that people feel and express, the purpose is clearly stated and documented in the United National Historical Register’s 52-page application and on the monument, itself.  The monument states that it was “Erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.  1905, Love’s Tribute to Our Gallant Dead.”  The left hand of Clio, who is considered the Muse of “History,” points to the word “Love”.  Her right hand is down and holds a scroll that before 2010 had the word “History” on it. Continue Reading →

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Happy Birthday Miss Texarkana

June 3, 2017 – The first Miss Texarkana turns 100 today, and yes, this wonderful, feisty, and funny lady is still alive and among us!  I first met Ann Cunningham while working with one of her daughters’ years ago.  Within ten minutes after the meeting started, I had been introduced to her wonderful daughters, told family stories, and made to laugh and cry almost at the same time.  I would later remark to a co-worker that Mrs. Cunningham was one of the most intelligent and fun loving people I had ever met. During those years I had direct interactions with Miss Texarkana, I learned a lot.  I learned that not only was this lady fun-loving, but you could find out just about anything you wanted to know just by listening to her.  She is a wealth of knowledge.  You could also find her in town at the strangest times.  I remember going to Walmart one night during the late hours only to find her riding a cart around shopping.  I glanced at my watch and it was 1:45 a.m. in the morning.  Apparently 1:45 a.m. is the best and easiest time to drive one of those cool, riding carts as fast as you can down the aisles of Walmart.  At that time she must have been at least 92 years of age.   I noticed that despite her driving the cart quickly around the store, not a single employee dared to approach her or attempt to stop her.  She stopped briefly, spoke with me and then zoomed off in another direction.  I told one of her daughters the next day about the encounter, and the response was, “Yes, that’s mom.  She goes to the store at all sorts of crazy times.”

In one of my many discussions with our first Miss Texarkana, I learned that she had almost been a movie star at one time.  She told me that she was working as a car hop when two gentlemen came one day and placed an order.  While a conversation was struck up during their visit, one of them asked if she would be interested in trying out for a role in a movie they were making.   At the time she was too shy to follow through with the offer and turned them down.  In hindsight, she likely made the right decision since she is now turning 100, and the actress who eventually got the role died at 53 years of age.  Naturally, being curious, I pressed Mrs. Cunningham as to what role and movie she had turned down.  She casually responded, as if it was nothing, with “Oh it was for Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind.”    Needless to say, you could have picked my jaw up off the floor, but for Mrs. Cunningham, it was just another moment in her amazing life. Continue Reading →

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An Appeal to Heaven (1775)

If found guilty in a court of law, an accused has a right to appeal to a higher court.  Prior to the American Revolution, the Colonists presented their grievances to the court of King George III many times and pleaded for justice.  The King, however, became increasingly hostile and offered no appeal.  Patrick Henry, in his “Give me Liberty or Give me Death”speech, summarized the feelings of many, “An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!”  If King George would not rule with justice, the Colonists were determined to appeal their cause to a higher Court.  Here is an example of the phrase, “An Appeal to Heaven”, seen on a flag during the Siege of Boston. “Yesterday morning, according to orders issued the day before by Major General [Isaiah] Putnam, all the Continental Troops under his immediate command assembled at Prospect Hill [Boston], when the Declaration [‘The Causes and Necessities of Taking up Arms’] of the Continental Congress was read; after which an animated and pathetic [passionate] address to the Army was made by the Rev Mr. Leonard, Chaplain to General Putnam’ sRegiment, and succeeded by a pertinent prayer…

Then General Putnam gave the signal, and the whole Army shouted their loud amen by three cheers, immediately upon which a cannon was fired from the fort, and the standard lately sent to General Putnam was exhibited flourishing in the air, bearing on one side this motto, ‘An appeal to Heaven,’ and on the other side, ‘Qui transtulit sustinet’ [‘He Who Transplanted Sustains.’]  The whole was conducted with the utmost decency, good order, and regularity, and the universal acceptance of all present.”  Essex Gazette, July 19, 1775

James Still (May 2017), RetraceOurSteps.com

“We for ten Years incessantly and ineffectually besieged the Throne [of King George]…  [Now,] in defense of the Freedom that is our Birthright… [and] With an humble Confidence in the Mercies of the supreme and impartial Judge and Ruler of the Universe, we most devoutly implore [petition] his Divine Goodness to protect us happily through this great Conflict…”  Journals of Congress,  Declaration of The Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms, July 6, 1775

“… to the Persecution and Tyranny of his [King George’s] cruel ministry we will not tamely submit- appealing to Heaven for the Justice of our Cause, we determine to die or be free.”  Massachusetts Provincial Congress, To the Inhabitants of Great Britain, April 26, 1775

Continue Reading →

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