History

Recent Articles

Masonic Lodge and City of Texarkana Arkansas Saves a Small Piece of History

By now, social media has ensured that most people in
Texarkana know about the Regency building and the recent collapse of a front
wall.  If you don’t know about it, take a
drive to downtown Texarkana, Arkansas and look for the blocked off section of
the road.  The top portion of the
building fell in creating a safety hazard and concern for the pocket park and
surrounding businesses.  As is the case,
it seems when any old building has issues, and the city seeks out the owner,
the owner suddenly appears to be nowhere to be found.  With no owner in sight, and a falling in
building that the city may have to secure, the time to save a part of Texarkana
history finally arrived. For years the building was the location of Dillards before
the move to the mall.  It has been the
home of several other businesses as well before it began to fall into a state
of disrepair sometime in the early 1990s. 
That disrepair and lack of maintenance by the, now lost owners, seems to
have contributed to the recent collapse. 
Another aspect of the building’s history is that while Dillards and
other stores were housed downstairs, the upstairs was once the home of
Texarkana Masonic Lodge #341.  The lodge
met upstairs for several years, and in the late 1970s, the group opted to
purchase some land to build a new lodge building.  By the early 1980s, the lodge moved to their
current location at 4102 East 9th Street in Texarkana,
Arkansas. 

Like most moves, the lodge carried their furniture, pictures, charter, and other belongings to the new location.  It was an exciting time of growth and expansion as the lodge moved into their new building at the 5-acre location.  Unfortunately, there was one item the lodge could not take with them at the time. Regency House Building before fall

Over time, some may have noticed that on the front of the Regency building, up high on the wall, was a small metal-looking emblem.  The square and compass contains the letter “G” and is the symbol of Freemasonry.  The little sign that marked the home of Lodge #341 had to be left behind because there was no way to obtain it. Masonic symbol on Regency Building

Through the years the Lodge #341 had attempted to retrieve
the symbol.  Because of the same
difficulties the city is now having in contacting the owners, the lodge was
never able to obtain their property. 
Lodge member Mike Bunn noted that the lodge had access to a bucket truck
at one time and city approval to take the symbol down.    By that
time, they could not reach the owner to discuss removing the symbol. Regency Building fall – from Facebook post

When the building fell in recently, it was apparent that the
lodge symbol had gone with the collapsed wall. 
Members of the lodge assumed the metal symbol, and a significant piece
of Texarkana history, as well as the Lodge #341’s history, had been lost.  Contact was made with the city and
arrangements were made to see if the symbol could be retrieved.  While members of the lodge and community
could not, and should not go into the restricted area, city officials could
arrange for inspections, reviews, and preparations to remove the remainder of
the building.  Because city officials
knew the desire to have the historic symbol back home with Lodge #341, they
safely looked for an option to obtain the symbol. 

Surprisingly, the galvanized sheet steel symbol was found
together on top of the collapsed wall.  City
officials quickly obtained it before further damage could be done and turned it
over to the lodge.   The symbol is now
safety secured, and preparations are being made to restore it, and display it
at the lodge’s home. Continue Reading →

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Local History Group Finds Soldiers’ Lost Graves

The Major J.B. Burton Camp, a Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) camp, of
Miller County, Arkansas recently located seven graves in Miller County. The
graves are those of Confederate soldiers from the 13th Texas Cavalry Regiment. The graves have been discovered and documented with the United States Veterans,
and U.S. gravestones have been placed. Frank McFerrin, the Commander of the Major J.B. Burton Camp, provided the
history of the unit:

According to records, the 13th Texas Cavalry Regiment, about 900 men and their mounts, camped on the Spring Bank Hill in early July 1862. The Soldiers named the camp, “Camp Blair,” after Riley Blair, the Sergeant Major for the regiment. Continue Reading →

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Two Local Organizations Dedicated to the Preservation of History

Paul Gramling, CIC, of the SCV speaks

Members of two Sons of Confederate Veteran (SCV) camps came together this evening to discuss history, plan a dedication, and hear from the Commander-In-Chief (CIC) of the organization.  Paul Gramling, CIC,  and his wife Lynda were in attendance which meant leadership from a national level was in Texarkana to hear about the joint work of the camps.   Throughout discussions with Paul, trips to grave dedications, and attendance at various meetings, it has become clear this organization is dedicated to the preservation of history.  The mainstream media, for the most part, continues to ignore the SCV and the work they do.  Outside observers can only assume that the overwhelming positive qualities of the organization are overlooked by the media because it does not fit into their agenda.  SCV members come from all races, and they work to ensure the preservation of the history of the Civil War. Like any organization, the meeting opened with business, new
members, planned events, and charities. 
While the Red Diamond Camp hosted the meeting, there were also plenty of
members present from the Major J.B. Burton Camp.  The two camps from Texas and Arkansas
discussed the preservation and dedication of a recently found cemetery in
Arkansas.  The central focus was a planned
dedication day.  The United States
Government has provided memorial headstones for the Confederate Soldiers buried
at the cemetery.  The stones have been
placed, and the actual dedication day is being planned for October.  Some people may not understand Confederate
veterans have been made American veterans. 
When Congress completed this act, the men who fought for the Confederacy
were given the same rights and privileges of any veteran of the United
States.  These rights include a headstone
and dedication. 

During the meeting, the group was informed the land at the cemetery
had been donated to the SCV.  Future
maintenance of the cemetery will now be the responsibility of the  SCV. 
The Texas unit will provide cannons for the dedication ceremony.  Had it not been for the research of the SCV
and the work put into this project, the cemetery may have been lost to history
forever. 

During the meeting, Robert Edwards, Treasurer of the
Arkansas SCV Division, spoke briefly and commended both SCV units from two different
states for their work in the history and preservation of the cemetery. 

Paul Gramling then spoke and provided an update on the SCV
national museum being completed by December of this year in Tennessee with a
dedication planned sometime in early 2020. 
The museum will hold both temporary exhibits and permanent exhibits
regarding the history of the Civil War. 
Paul also provided a copy of “The Southern Defender,” a small news-like
handout that contains history, information, and pictures from around the SCV in
the United States.  Interestingly, Paul
is one of the people who has continuously said that current attacks and removal
of Confederate Monuments will not be limited to those memorials only.  His words rang more accurate than ever as it
was noted on the front page of “The Southern Defender” that “Vandals
defaced” a Baltimore monument to Francis Scott Key.  Key is the author of “The Star-Spangled
Banner.”  

The cemetery in southern Arkansas and the continued joint efforts of two SCV groups to preserve the cemetery is an integral part of historic preservation.   The work protects graves which are vital for all histories and decedents.  Cemetery research has also retained the history of what was going on around the area during the Civil War.  The movement of troops and camps in southern Arkansas was reviewed extensively.   Colleges and universities will likely use the work of these two SCV units in the future as they study the history of southwest Arkansas.  The dedication to preserving history by the SCV should be appreciated by all students of history. Continue Reading →

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Confederate History, Heritage and Jefferson, Texas

The history of the Confederate States of America is augmentabley
 one of the most complicated histories of
a nation in the world.  The nation sprung
up on the basis of a rebellion, lived through an entire lifespan of war, and
died at the end of the war.  The story is
as old as the ages.  A group of people
become disillusioned with taxes or overreach of the government.  That group of people decide it’s time to
stand up to the leaders because they do not feel their voices are being heard,
and that stand takes the form of armed rebellion.  The Jewish nation did it against Rome,
African nations did it against England, the Americans did it against England
and more recently Texas for example did it against Mexico.  When the rebellion is successful, the leaders
become heroes and the stories spread of the great victory.  You hear names like Washington, Franklin,
Jefferson, and Travis, Bowie and Crockett once a rebellion has been
successful.  But what happens when a
rebellion fails?  Who for example remembers
the names of those who rebelled against Rome in Israel?  For the most part the winners write the
history and the rebellion is soon regulated to a few pages of history and only
by luck does a few of the rebellion’s leaders get mentioned. 

In truth, the Confederate States of America should have
suffered the same outcome as almost all other rebellions.  They should have gone down as a footnote in
American history with a few references to the battles, the problems, and the
outcome.  Regardless of all the politics
that surround the Civil War, those on the losing side knew that history would
not likely be kind to them.  They knew that
there was a very good chance that their deeds, their battles, and the fact that
most of them fought only to defend their homes would be lost as the United
States wrote the history.  The fact is,
forgotten may well have happened to the Confederate soldiers if it was not for
their decedents.  In the late 1800’s sons
and daughters of those who fought for the south worked diligently to ensure the
names, history, and battles of the Civil War did not become a one-sided footnote
in American history.  They wrote books,
presented information to classes, toured battlefields, raised money for monuments
and had celebrations of the Confederate States of America.  Despite current critics, there is little to
no proof or evidence that any of these acts were done to put down people or elevate
white supremacy.   Some myths that are
going around today seem to be more glorified by the media than anything the
sons or daughters could have ever done in the late 1800’s and early 1900s.  In fact, many of the myths simply do not hold
up to history.   We will look clearly and
directly at some of these myths:

Myth – The Confederate States of America and everyone
associated with it was all traitors to the government. 

Truth – in the mid-1800s we were still very close to the
time of Washington, Jefferson and other founding fathers.  The original concept of the United States was
for the government to deal with foreign powers and for the states to take care
of their own business.  In other words, a
spirit of “States Rights” and “State Loyalty” was the norm for the time
period.  Everyone knew this and respected
this on both sides of the war.  Lincoln
for example, asked Robert E. Lee to lead the Union forces at the outbreak of
the war.  Lee waited to see where his home
state of Virginia would stand.  When
Virginia voted to join the Confederacy, Lincoln was informed by Lee that he
would be going home to Virginia and could not lead the Union forces against his
home state.  Lincoln, though he was not
happy about the decision, respected it and allowed Lee to leave.  Many other people chose to fight on the side
of their states because at the time loyalty to the state was more important
than loyalty to the nation.  Today,
society sees this as a problem since we have been conditioned and expected to
have loyalty now to the United States first. 
In fact, state loyalty is discussed very little since the end of the Civil
War. Myth – Those fighting for the Confederacy were fighting only
to keep slavery. 

Truth- certainly slavery was a part of the reason for the
war.  Lincoln was, after all, elected as
a Republican and the Republican Party’s main mission was always to abolish and
end slavery in the United States.  Only a
handful of states issued declarations as to why the left the Union.  Texas for example was one of them and it did
include slavery as the reason.  But it
must be remembered that the majority of the men fighting the war did not own
slaves.  A review of many of their
diaries not only indicates a disdain for slavery, they outright stated in many
cases that they were not fighting so that the rich could keep his slaves.  They were fighting for their homes.  Most did not have the money required to
purchase slaves and most had never owned slaves in their lives.  To further complicate this myth, if the
Confederacy was fighting to keep slavery, then no one in history has been able
to explain why five slave-holding states remained loyal to the Union.  They have also been unable to explain why
Lincoln’s famous proclamation to free slaves only freed them in the states in
rebellion.  The fact is, the United
States at Lincoln’s direction, freed slaves in the south and did not free them
in states in the north. 

Myth-The Confederate States of America’s soldiers were
racist. 

Truth – maybe.  Maybe some of the men fighting, people leading, and others in the south were racist.  Not only is it possible, but it’s also very likely that some were.  We know from some Union diaries that when slavery was finally made an issue of the war in 1863 by Lincoln’s proclamation that many of them indicated a dislike for the idea that they were fighting for African-Americans.  Union soldiers overwhelming disliked the idea of serving with African-Americans or fighting beside anyone other than a white man.  The Confederate States, on the other hand, was highly outnumbered by the Union army from the start until the end of the war.  The Confederate States and the soldiers fighting for it had a different opinion on race relationships.  The Native American Indians, for example, fresh off the Trail of Tears and other atrocities, came out of Oklahoma in large numbers and joined the Confederate Army.  Hispanic people living throughout Texas at the time signed up to defend their home and joined the ranks alongside their Caucasian counterparts.  Some slaves were forced into conscription, but there was also free African American men who joined the ranks and fought for the Confederacy.   Certainly, no government or nation is perfect, but to state that all Confederate soldiers were racist is a gross overstatement and an outright false one.  In many cases, the Caucasian solder fighting for the Confederacy welcomed all the help he could get when facing armies of the Union twice the size of his own army.   The claim that all the south was racist fails to hold up to post-war pictures of Native American, African American, and even Hispanic Americans at their Confederate Reunions throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s. Continue Reading →

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The Alamo launches new tour ‘Weapons of the Alamo’

The Alamo is happy to announce the launch of a brand new, living historybased tour called, “Weapons of the Alamo.”

This will be the first living history-based tour at the Alamo. The Weapons of the Alamo tour will teach visitors about the weapons wielded by Crockett, Esparza, and all the Alamo defenders. Led by an Alamo Living Historian, dressed in 19th century attire, this hour-long tour will unpack the mechanics, use, and importance of rifles, muskets and cannons during the 1836 Battle of the Alamo. Visitors will learn how to load a flintlock firearm, the location and size of the Alamo’s cannons, and much more. “This tour will give visitors a better sense of what the defenders went through,” Angela Wolfgram said, Director of Living History at the Alamo. Continue Reading →

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11-11-18

Today, 11-11-18, at 11 a.m. Paris time, the guns went silent.   One hundred years ago today in 1918, the world collectively let out a sigh of relief as the killing officially ended. Europe remembered the end of World War I earlier today.  It was designated that on the 11th day of the 11th month, at the 11th hour in that cold morning of 1918, the great war would end as swiftly as it had begun.   We are seven hours behind the hour that marked the end of the war one hundred years ago today.   For Americans living in the four states area, World War I would have ended on November 11, 1918, at 4:00 a.m. in the morning. As the end came, one single gun was designated to fire the last shot.  The 11th Field Artillery Regiment of the United States named their gun Calamity Jane, and she fired her last shot of the war at exactly 11:00 a.m.  The day would become known as Armistice Day and it would be celebrated around the world.  The great war was over.  A war that had introduced trench warfare to the world, the ability to kill almost unseen from the air, a modified machine gun that could rip down rows of men, and chemicals that could cripple, burn, and kill a person through the air had ended.  Up until this point, the world had never known so much destruction, death, and warfare as was introduced during those early years of the last century. In the years that would follow, annual celebrations would be held around the four states area and most of the world.  War memorials would be built to honor those who had fallen.  Parades would celebrate those who survived.  Widows, orphans, and parents would tell stories of their brave soldier who went “Over there” and never came back when it was finished over there. Today, 100 years later, as we face a time period when all those who fought in the war and even those who remember the war have faded, it is fitting and right that we should take a moment to remember them.  There is no better way to honor them than a moment of silence since that is what so many on the front longed to the hear back then…the silence of the guns. Continue Reading →

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Remembering Otis Henry

Bowie County, TX: Many people have heard the name Otis Henry around Texarkana.  The VFW Post 2549 has Otis’ name as did the previous post.  Rose Hill Cemetery has a historical designation for the monument at Otis’ grave and children have heard stories about the grave being haunted for years.  One person said that if you go up to the gates at Otis’ grave and ask “Otis, what are you doing?” that Otis will respond, “Nothing.”  It was not clear if the response would be the word “Nothing” or if nothing would be heard by anyone listening, but it was shared by one person who did this in his youth.  The cemetery is now locked at night, but the memorial remains. While people have heard the name Otis Henry, they may not know the story behind the young man.  It is really a simple story and there is not much to it as it goes.   On June 22, 1894, Susan Henry brought into this world her pride and joy, a small baby boy, in Denison, Texas.   They would name him Otis.  Otis would grow up in Denison until his father passed away in his youth and mother and son would move to Texarkana.   Otis’ mother would remarry once to a Mr. Tate while Otis was still alive and again after her son passed away.  Otis was by all accounts just a regular young man of the times.  He went to school, graduated, and went to work to help the family.  When the world war came along, Otis would respond to his draft, go to war, get gassed in the trenches of that war to end all wars and die a few days later.  In all, it would be a simple footnote in history except for two facts.  Otis would be the first to die in what would become known as World War I from Bowie County, and he would leave behind a mother determined to ensure her son would be remembered forever. When Otis Henry answered his draft call he was working as a soda dispenser out of Shreveport, Louisiana.  The company most likely delivered soda fountain supplies and bottles in the Texarkana area.   Otis lived at 1002 South Lelia Avenue with his mother and step-father in Texarkana.   Otis was twenty-two at the time of his draft and listed no reason that he could not be drafted.  As happens in war, Otis was drafted,  enlisted in the United States Army, and trained for war. Otis would end up serving with the 359th Infantry, 90th Division and company H.  He would become a Corporal, and his military service seems fairly routine for a soldier fighting in the war. Continue Reading →

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My Experiment (2009 – 2018)

Every month for 9 years, I have shared a portion of our American history.  In sharing our history, I wanted to see if I could help create more excitement in my community for our Founding history.  Could that excitement lead others to become more involved in my community? Could I help increase local shopping, a higher interest in local civics, and an increase in voter turnout?  I also wanted to see if I could help lessen some of the divisions created by political parties and, instead, bring more unity.  Did my experiment work?  I do not see a difference, but maybe I planted some seeds. I, for one, gained valuable knowledge and respect for our Founding history.  The opportunity to share what I have learned in front of audiences helped strengthen my public speaking and confidence.  The supportive feedback from many of you has been encouraging.  By far, the strangest thing that occurred was when some believed two of my letters were political, thereby ending their use in local schools.  (Marquis de Lafayette: Lafayette loved America (1777) & Marquis de Lafayette: America loved Lafayette (1834))

My life has taken a new turn, therefore, my November 2018 history letter will be my last.  RetraceOurSteps.com  is still available and currently has over 2000 quotes from our Founding Fathers.  I hope to continue adding to this resource as time permits. What is next in my life?  I am not sure.  I am positive, however, and believe that with God, life will continue to be very blessed. Continue Reading →

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Battle of Monmouth (1778)

In June 1778, the British abandoned Philadelphia and began their march to New York City.  The British column stretched for 12 miles and was vulnerable to attack.  Washington sent a small force to engage the enemy until he could arrive with the main force from Valley Forge.  General Charles Lee engaged the British at Monmouth Courthouse but was soon in full retreat.  Washington met his retreating forces and rallied his troops.  Throughout the afternoon, average temperatures were over 100 degrees and many soldiers died from heat stroke.  Several women brought water to the troops and one woman took her husband’s place loading the artillery after he was wounded.  The army demonstrated the effectiveness of Baron von Steuben’s training and Washington considered the battle a victory. “… on the appearances of the enemy’s intention to march thro’ Jersey… I had detached [forces]… to interrupt and impede their progress… so as to give time to the Army under my command to come up with them…   [To] my great surprise and mortification, I met the whole advanced Corps retreating…   I proceeded immediately to the Rear of the Corps, which I found closely pressed by the Enemy, and gave directions for forming part of the retreating troops, who by the brave and spirited conduct of the Officers, aided by some pieces of well served Artillery, checked the Enemy’s advance…  [The Army] remained upon the Ground, they had been directed to occupy, during the Night, with intention to begin the attack early the next morning… and about 12 o’clock at Night [the enemy] marched away in… silence…   The extreme heat of the Weather— the fatigue of the Men… and the distance the Enemy had gained by marching in the Night, made a pursuit impracticable and fruitless…   The Behavior of the troops in general, after they recovered from the first surprise occasioned by the Retreat of the advanced Corps, was such as could not be surpassed.”  George Washington, Letter to Henry Laurens, July 1, 1778

James Still (Oct 2018), RetraceOurSteps.com

“At Monmouth I commanded a division, and… [observed] our beloved Chief [Washington], who, mounted on a splendid charger, rode along the ranks amid the shouts of the soldiers, cheering them by his voice and example…  I thought then, as now that never had I beheld so superb a man.”  Marquis de Lafayette, Recollections and Private Memoirs of Washington by George Washington Parke Custis, 1860

“The Men are to wash themselves this afternoon & appear as clean and decent as possible.  Seven o’clock this evening is appointed that we may publicly unite in thanksgivings to the supreme Disposer of human Events for the Victory which was obtained on Sunday over the Flower of the British Troops.”  George Washington, General Orders, June 30, 1778

“… should we wander from [the Founding Principles]… let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.”  Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

RetraceOurSteps.com Continue Reading →

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Cmr Bush: SBOE Committee Recommendation to Remove Travis “Victory or Death” Letter Dilutes Heroic Story of Alamo Defenders from Texas History Curriculum

AUSTIN- On Thursday, Texas Monthly reported that the State Board of Education Social Studies TEKS Streamlining Work Groups recommended deleting Alamo commander, Lt. Col. William Barret Travis’ stirring “Victory or Death” letter calling for reinforcements during the 1836 siege from the state curriculum. Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, a Navy veteran of the war in Afghanistan and former history teacher, urges the committee to drop its recommendation and retain Travis’ historic letter in its entirety. “Travis’ ‘Victory or Death’ letter is the heart of Texas history,” Commissioner Bushsaid. “This kind of politically correct nonsense is why I will always fight to honor the Alamo defenders’ sacrifice. Continue Reading →

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