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I've always enjoyed high quality history documentaries. However it seems in recent years such a thing is getting more and more difficult to find. Left wing agendas have pretty much taken over the National Geographic Channel and the History Channel is more likely to have stuff about UFOs or ghost hauntings than a decent history film. Happily the other day Arthur Soule got in touch with me to let me know about a new documentary he and Felix Mizioznikov have just released. It is titled "Ben Kilpatrick's Last Train Ride To Boothill" and is about a very real Texas outlaw and train robber.

Benjamin Arnold Kilpatrick aka the "Tall Texan" was born in 1874 in Coleman County, Texas. His family moved to Concho County south of Paint Rock where they raised cattle and sheep and Ben learned to cowboy and ride before he left home, according to him at the age of twelve. Although he was generally well liked by some of those who knew him Ben became an outlaw robbing trains with Black Jack Ketchum's gang. He rode for a time with Harry "Sundance Kid" Longabaugh and Robert "Butch Cassidy" Parker and posed for the famous photo of the "Wild Bunch" at Fort Worth in 1900. That's Ben seated in the center of the above photo with Butch seated to his right and Kid Curry seated far left. In 1901 Ben got arrested for participating in the robbery of the Great Northern Express train at Exter Creek, Montana. He spent ten years in prison for his crime and upon his release found the Concho County Sheriff outside the prison gates waiting to arrest him for the murder Oliver Thornton. The sheriff brought him back to Texas and he faced a murder trial that ended in a not guilty verdict. Apparently learning nothing from his time in prison and the trial, Kilpatrick went back to robbing trains with Ole Hobeck. It all ended badly in March 1912 when the pair tried to rob a Southern Pacific train outside Sanderson and got killed for their efforts.

Mizioznikov and Soule's documentary does a fine job of telling the story of the tall Texan without romanticizing the facts of his sordid life. Kilpatrick and his cronies Black Jack, Butch and Sundance were heartless killers who deserved exactly what they got. While very popular movies like "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" made audiences laugh at their antics, the grim reality is far from being humorous. "Ben Kilpatrick's Last Train Ride To Boothill" is based on solid research and contains many fine historical photographs. The producers went to great lengths to actually visit each of the places where the events took place, a rare but vitally important part of historical research. This is an excellent, well thought out film, one that anyone interested in the days of the last train robbers should see. It is available at:


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On April 29, 2012, a very special day will transpire! Special guests will travel short and long distances to be recognized while honoring our new Indian statue, "A Friend", and recognize the place on which he stands that has come to symbolize many things to a wide range of people. Come be a part of this historic Ballinger event that started 4 years ago with a dream from seventy-five sixth grade students and their teacher.
Some of our special guests will include: Nell Shepperd Hambrick, 95, former Ballinger resident, teacher, friend, and daughter of Elmer Shepperd who originally purchased Ballinger"s original old Indian from Ardmore, OK. Donald Pearse and Geraldine Pearse Zuehlke, family members of the two men who built the old Indian rock base. These two men were William(Bill) Pearse and his son, Albert Pearse. Xoxi Nayapiltzin , our new Native American friend that is very appreciative of the students goal and has taken our mission to heart. He hopes that all Native Americans whose homelands are in Texas hear of this project to honor their ancestors and come join in the celebration. He is a dear friend to Fred and Kay Campbell, guardians of the pictographs in Paint Rock, Texas that so many people have enjoyed over the years. Xoxi's ancestors are of the Jumano family. However, he has chosen to coordinate multiple cultures of true Native American dancers, Elders, and Chiefs because of what our statue has always stood for, "A Friend". In Xoxi's own words, When the European's first came to this land, most Native Americans stood proudly to great them as a friend, just as your statue is doing and is how Texas got its name".
We extend our invitation to all in helping us celebrate a "Dream turned Reality", a "GOAL COMPLETED" and the honoring of our Native Americans for their love, appreciation, and respect for this land and our country.
All activities begin at 10 a.m. at the Ballinger City Park with the Glory Road Cowboy Church featuring the musical group,"Concho Valley Grass", followed by "Picnic in the Park" with various organizations offering lunch choices, and surrounded by fun booths for all ages. The Official ceremony will begin at 1:30 and will include several facets: the unveiling, recognition of our honored guests, followed by a celebration of the Native American Cultures and their descendants through dance and a very special ceremony of the "Blessing of the Ground" and a "Salute to the Four Directions".
Come and enjoy a day of family fun and be a part of an event you will not soon forget!

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Two and a half years ago in May of 2011, after jumping off into the unknown with 75 sixth graders, a crazy notion of raising a large amount of money to purchase a ten foot tall new Indian, and the task of finding the perfect artist to bring the statue to life, WE DID IT!! My goal as the teacher was to at least have the 3 components of the project paid for BEFORE the Class of 2015 graduated from Ballinger Junior High. Indian--check, Park--check,check, Artist--check, check, check!! Task Complete!

The major factors that brought about completion in May were the generosity of two contributors. The first contributor is Lynn Gregory of Gregory Custom Homes of Abilene, Texas with a donation of $3,500. Mr. Gregory is the builder that built our home here in Ballinger 6 years ago. Lynn is a very generous person as well as a very skilled contractor. He became a friend of the Carter family through the building of our home and the relationship continued after the last nail was hammered. He has now become a "Friend of a Friend" as well. The second and final factor that came to us literally with hours left in the school year and put us to the finish line was another $3,500 grant from the Dian Graves Owen Foundation also of Abilene. I just happened to be at Fiesta Texas in San Antonio on the Accelerated Reader Points trip with our BJHS students the day before we got out for summer break. I was about to get on a ride when my phone rang and it was from the Owens Foundation with whom I had been talking with for several days. The conversation ended with, "How about we help you close this project out with $3,500"! I couldn't believe it! We had just received the very LAST of the money for the original project with hours to spare!

Being that it was the end of the school year and the sixth graders had become eighth graders and were about to move on to high school, we, the parents, had a celebration pool party for the kids. I had a "going away" package of goodies for the kids and one of the items was an Indian certificate that basically had the words "PAID IN FULL" on it. This was their first time finding out that we had finished a couple of days earlier. Needless to say, I, as well as the kids and parents, shed a few well deserved tears at the park that day! It was AMAZING to see the looks on their faces when they realized that we actually achieved our goal!

We are we now? WE FINALLY HAVE AN INDIAN!! On January 25, Tammi Virden, Hugh Campbell, and myself traveled to Lubbock for our first look at our new bronze Friend to inspect, approve, and choose the final patina color finish. He is BEAUTIFUL! I wished that I could have taken the students with me, but there was just no way to take the number that would have wanted to travel to Lubbock and miss an entire day of school and activities.

This day has been a long time coming! Since May, there have been multiple "snags" at the foundry in Lubbock which is the entity responsible for constructing our new Indian. However, as of February 3, I received that much anticipated email with a picture of the Indian now fully complete and his permanent color. I have included a picture of him in the sand-blasted bronze stage, but for the final look, you will just have to come to Dedication Day to see that! I have begun meeting with the Class of 2015 to prepare for the park renovation and plan our Dedication Day which has been designated for April 29 of the Ethnic Festival. My heart still skips a few beats when I allow myself to think of our dedication day and how incredible it will be to finally see our efforts come to completion and reality! Wow, what a journey!

One last story to leave you with which was another one of those "WOW" moments we have had many times since starting this whole adventure. About two weeks before Thanksgiving, I received an email from a gentleman from Arkansas who wanted to inform me that his wife's cousin who lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma had one of the old Indians like we have at Higginbotham's Hardware store in Ballinger. I couldn't believe what I was reading! Another one??? AND...the gentleman said that the man in Tulsa wanted to give his to us to have for our collection. Needless to say I was thrilled at that news! However, fate would have it that he belong to another! A collector of Palacine Indian memorabilia found out about the statue and was able to purchase him before I was able to make contact with the man in Tulsa. But, as much as I would love to have been able to lay claim to TWO old Indians, the "one that got away" is now back home in Ardmore, a block away from the original main gas station where one used to stand and welcome customers. A loss for us, but a gain for that community that is just as thrilled to have their old Friend now back home with them as much as we are thrilled to have our old one welcome you in to Higginbotham's! Perspective??? One found his way home to Ballinger and now there is one back at home in Ardmore and all because a bunch of sixth graders and their teacher decided to shoot for the stars and try to achieve something that, at the time, was seemingly nothing but an impossible dream. In three months, IT BECOMES REALITY!

Cinnamon Carter

For more on Ballinger's Friend see: ... 902-103925

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In June of 1876, a young carpenter arrived in Galveston with nothing more than a chest of tools and a desire to find work in the burgeoning seaport city. His name was William Menzies. He was 21 years old, fiercely independent and determined to make his way in the world. Galveston was clearly not where his future would lie, however, and a combination of storms, floods, a fire and a lack of work soon drove him inland. A decade later, having broken countless horses as a horse trader to earn his keep in the interim, the young man finally found himself on the banks of the San Saba River in Menard County, Texas. Here he decided to buy land to set roots and stay.

In 1957, some eighty years after William arrived in Galveston, the Texas State Legislature recognized him as one of the state's pioneer ranchers and a leader in the area of progressive agriculture. "The Spirit of Texas: The Astonishing Story of a Pioneer Rancher's Family and Their Mighty State" is William's story chronicled by his great grandson, Winston Menzies. The 270-page book, ISBN: 978-0-98374472-0-8 has just been published by Creative Publishing Company of Conyers, Georgia. For more information see:

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Historical Publishing Network of San Antonio has just gone to press with "Ector County, Texas: 125 Years of History" by Glenn Justice. The book is available at Cactus Book Shop in San Angelo see and online at just in time for pre-Christmas delivery. Signed and personalized copies are available by request.

The 192-page coffee table sized edition tells the story of Ector County from its earliest days with the July 1881 arrival of Texas and Pacific track construction crews at the site of the future city of Odessa. Known for a time as Milepost 296 somebody named the place Wells Point and a tiny track side tent city got its start. Wells Point became known as Odessa in 1885 when the community got its first post office. In 1891 Ector County became formally organized with the village of Odessa being named the county seat. Odessa existed a small cow town and rail shipping point until 1926 when Josh Cosden struck oil in the western part of the county. From that time until the end of the twentieth century Ector County oil wells have produced some two billion barrels of oil. Ector County, Texas: 125 Years of History chronicles Ector County's fascinating past with superb historic photographs.

I owe a very special thanks to the book's photo editor Martha Edwards of Cinema Station in Odessa for her fine work researching, selecting and captioning the photos for the book. It is an exceptional collection of photos made by master photographers such as Jack Nolan and Bill Shoopman from the archives of the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum. Also, thank you so much to the many Ector County business folks whose support made this book possible. Also, thanks to Dr. Terry Shults at the University of Texas Permian Basin as well as Doris Baker at the Southwest History Department of the Ector County Library.

ISBN# 9781935377580. Free shipping. Justice's hardback edition Ector County history book is $34.95 plus $3.06 Texas sales tax for a total 38.01. If you wish to pay by check make your check for 38.01 payable to Rimrock Press, 14339 Oak Ave., Millersview, Texas 76862. Remember to request any signed or personalized copies with your order. Working to get Papal for credit card or bankcard orders, the page at should have books online in just a few more days.

Order online at or call telephone orders to 325-483-5406.


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The little foot bridge at Candelaria has been gone for some time now. Here is a very interesting Utube video update. Take a few minutes and check it out.


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Photo by Bill Dawson

After publishing one of the last interviews given by Elmer Kelton in the December / January 2009 issue of American Cowboy, I realized that Kelton's former hometown of Crane, Texas, which is my hometown as well, had yet to truly honor the man whom the Western Writers of America branded the "All-Time Best Western Author." With this in mind, I approached the Crane Historical Society and Elmer Kelton. I proposed the idea for creating a large billboard sign to educate travelers heading south on Highway 385 that Crane does indeed have a famous son the best in his field, as a matter of fact!

The Crane Historical Society loved the idea, and Kelton, humble as always, accepted the proposal, but with a couple of conditions: "Whatever you do with the sign, please make sure you put a cowboy hat on me to cover up this bald head, he said. Secondly, I would like ya'll to put on there that I was a student of Paul Patterson, because I never would have become a writer if not for that man!

In the December / January 2009 issue of American Cowboy, I explored the relationship between Kelton and Patterson; the kinship the two shared as student and mentor. At the time of the interview, Patterson had just passed away and Kelton had a lot to say regarding his mentor's death. My questions to Kelton aimed at helping me understand the unique relationship that the two men shared, and Kelton choked up several times throughout the course of the interview. Little did I know then that the man grieving the loss of his friend would himself be gone from the face of the earth in just a few short months.

After the idea was approved, the Crane Historical Society contacted Ray Ifera of Ray's Signs, in Crane, about creating the large billboard sign. Ifera quickly began work on the project, creating, in the end, a beautiful piece of artwork that dresses up the cleared desert background near the Crane County Airport. When I last spoke with Kelton, I informed him the project was in gear and would be completed in short time.

As much of the news comes one's way nowadays, I found out about Kelton's death through a text message stating, I just thought you should know: Elmer died this morning. The message was from my uncle, a commissioner in Crane who knew the Kelton family. I had heard about Kelton's health issues from his own lips recently, and just like that he was gone. I was instantly blue in spirit; my feelings of his death mirroring, in a way, those Kelton had felt when Patterson passed. In many ways, I consider Kelton to have been my own writing mentor. And while we did not have the opportunity to grow our friendship more over time, I feel that in the time I knew him, we managed to share a great deal.

Although Kelton did not survive to see the project reach completion, I sent him an email with photos of the sign and its beautiful artwork before it went up, and he promised to attend any ceremony in the future, if he felt up to traveling. He said he wasn't "feeling great these days." I could hear in his voice a weakness that was nearly absent in the prior conversations we had shared. He died on Aug. 22, 2009, at the age of 83. The song "Happy Trails" was played at his funeral.

Kelton was a self-deprecating man, the type any person would be glad to know. He expressed a deep, humble thanks when he saw the photos of the sign. The world is a smaller place without him, and I regret that he didn't get to see the finished project. But, much like the great storytellers of old, Kelton will be remembered for all of the wonderful characters he created and developed within the pages of contemporary western literature. He was a great man, and people build monuments to great men. Perhaps a highway sign is a fitting memorial, and it's certainly a great way for the people of Crane to reach out and honor one of their best and brightest brothers, but people will surely remember Kelton not for a billboard but for the legendary cannon he left behind. His words are his legacy!

Author's Note: (Crane, Texas, is a small town with a population of approximately 3,000 people. Crane is indeed the place where Kelton did a large part of his study of the rugged west-Texas land and its people. The people of Crane, as well as the rugged land of the town itself, did indeed provide some of the loveable personalities and scenic backdrops to the locales and characters that populate many of Kelton's novels. In fact, when Kelton came to Crane in the late nineties to sign copies of "The Good Old Boys, he wrote in each book autographed to a Crane citizen: "To one of the real good old boys." In truth, Paul Patterson and the people of Crane played a sizeable role in the formation of Kelton as a writer and person. So, if you're ever traveling Crane way, make sure and take a look at the road-side memorial dedicated to one of western literature's greatest icons. And do take a moment to say "howdy" to the good folks of Crane!)

By Bradley D. Pettit
Midland, Texas

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I love old maps and over the years have collected more than I can count. Old maps offer no small amount of little known information about people and places of the past. Sadly many old maps end up rotting away, their value as a historical research tool lost. My friend Charlie Angell is also an avid map collector. Sometime back, Charlie purchased a finely detailed 1850 map of Chihuahua by M. H. Du Pasquier De Dommartin. Despite its age, it is in pristine condition. The map is in the French language, the title translating in English to "Map Of Land Grants Obtained In Chihuahua by Decree Of April 11, 1852". It notes the locations of abandoned and inhabited presidios and villages, military colonies, "Routes de Ventures" or Roads to ventures and "Routes de Mulets" or mule routes. It is a truly fine map, beautifully detailed even showing latitudes and longitudes, remarkable for its time. Not a lot is known about the map maker, De Dommartin, The Frenchman may have written a book, titled "The United States and Mexico, European Interest In North America" but as yet I have been unable to locate a copy anywhere but still looking.

I found of particular interest the section of the map running along the Rio Grande from Paso del Norte to Presidio del Norte. In this section De Dommartin notes the locations of the 1850 occupied presidios along the Rio Grande including Guadalupe a short distance downriver from Paso del Norte. The Ysleta, Sorocco and San Elizario villages on the western banks of the Rio Grande are shown. This is a map of Chihuahua and does not extend to anything east of the Rio Grande in present day Texas. Guadalupe appears on the map with a symbol indicating it to be a military colony founded, according to De Dommartin, in 1850. Further downriver is Pilares noted to be on the map as being the location of the "Nonville Couonie" shown to be an occupied colony.

Pilares, its location and history has long been confused with Porvenir, Texas. Pilares, Mexico lies on the western side of the Rio Grande in Chihuahua not far downriver from Porvenir on eastern side of the river. More than a few maps show, in error, the location of Pilares to be on the Texas side. According to the Handbook of Texas, Pilares was the site of a presidio, penal colony and silver ore smelter. While several other accounts confirm document this, the Handbook article places Pilares on the Texas side of the Rio Grande.
see: ... hrp87.html

The Handbook article notes a Spanish Viceroy designated Pilares to be a Presidio, penal colony and silver ore smelter in the 1750's. Both convicts and soldiers worked on farms at the colony. Although I have made several unsuccessful attempts to get this error corrected, the online Handbook continues to state that Pilares is in Texas. No houses or other structures stand at the site today. Only a few foundations mark the former locations of the adobes and jacales that the some 140 Mexican residents living there in 1918 called home. Porvenir had a school but no store, the closest mercantile being at either at the Brite Ranch or in Candelaria some thirty miles distant. Although many of the residents were U. S. citizens, a sizeable number had fled the Mexican Revolution from Chihuahua trying to find a more peaceful life along the river in Texas. Other Porvenir villagers, according to the 1910 U.S. Census were U. S. citizens. Several had recently moved to Porvenir from Pecos, Texas to farm cotton. About 1916, Hawkeye Townsend built a cotton gin at Porvenir utilizing old railroad timbers taken from the abandoned roadbed of the Rio Grande Northern Railway running from Chispa to the San Carlos Coal Company camp at Newman Springs.

Today an extinct community, Porvenir had only short life as a farming village that existed on and off for only a few years. It first appeared in the early 1900's when good cotton prices and the fresh plentiful water of the Rio Grande offered the promise of better times. According to Fred I. Massengill in his "Texas Towns: Origin and Location of Each of the 2,148 Post Offices in Texas" Porvenir got its name from early settlers and the name origin is from Spanish meaning "land of plenty". Massengill does not list a Pilares, Texas in his 1936 book. Porvenir was a peaceful border farming community composed of adobes and jacales. Porvenir had a school. In January 1918, forty mounted U.S. cavalry troopers, some five Texas Rangers and an unknown number of ranchers surrounded Porvenir and after searching the place took fifteen men and boys out into the darkness and shot them to death. The next morning, the cavalry troopers burned most of Porvenir to the ground. The survivors of the massacre fled to Mexico and Porvenir, Texas was abandoned for a time. Charles Deaton's "Texas Postal History Handbook" lists Porvenir, Texas, Presidio County, as having a post office established in 1926. Also, it is known that a ranch school operated at Porvenir in the 1940's. It has been speculated that some of the confusion between Pilares and Porvenir started after the village was abandoned and someone took the postage cancellation stamp to Pilares where letters continued to be stamped as being from Porvenir, Texas.


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Photo by Jack Nolan of old Ector County Courthouse. Nolan came to Odessa in the mid-1920's where he operated a photo studio. In 1936 Nolan established the Odessa Daily News

Under the hot July sun of 1881 a Texas and Pacific railroad construction crew pitched their tents at Wells Point not far from Monahans Draw. Today the location of that encampment lies in the southwest corner of the City of Odessa. However, in 1881 there was no bustling oil patch city, only seemingly endless rolling, grass covered prairies as far as one could see. Monahans Draw offered the only available shade and water. Wells Point resembled a hundred other T&P camps that rapidly appeared as the steel tracks of the railroad moved westward. The camps were shantytowns, tent cities that sprang up seemingly over night. Some grew to be the future towns and cities of West Texas while others simply withered away. A number of them earned well-deserved reputations of being rowdy wide-open places full of railroad workers, saloon keepers, drifters, gamblers and painted ladies.

Shortly after Wells Point came into being, an enterprising whiskey merchant unloaded his saloon from a railroad flatcar and opened for business. U.S. Marshals and buffalo soldiers kept a watchful eye over Wells Point for a time before moving on with the T&P crews. In 1881, the Texas and Pacific built an amazing 382 miles of track across West Texas from Baird to Sierra Blanca. As the crews moved on, they left behind rail station operators and their families in the camps. Many of the station operators lived in converted boxcars until section houses and better quarters could be completed. It is said the first permanent structure erected at Wells Point happened to be the T&P section house.

Although there a quite a few different stories about how Odessa got its name, several accounts have links to the Wells Point camp. One version states that Russian members of the construction crews said the place reminded them of their native steppes of Odessa, Russia. Another story says that Irish workers named their camp Odessa in honor of another town they recalled. Perhaps they referred to Texas communities in Cooke and Wise counties that had post offices with that name in 1855 and 1866. And then there is the story of Odessa Brockett, a runaway girl who wondered into Wells Point in search of her mother's family. According to this chronicle, the rail workers felt sorry for the young girl and renamed their camp for her. Another version says that Odessa was named for a little girl who came to Wells Point or perhaps to an earlier cowboy camp after she escaped an Indian massacre.

While it is not clear exactly when or how Wells Point became known as Odessa, the town was probably called by that name at least by 1885 when seventy residents petitioned for a post office. In January 1888, the Odessa Land and Town Site Company advertised, "The New Town of Odessa" to prospective buyers. Four years later, Odessa became the county seat of Ector County so named for Mathew Ector, a Confederate general during the Civil War.

During the 1890's, Odessa grew slowly from 224 residents in 1890 to 433 by the turn of the century. The 1900 census records the most common occupation in Odessa that year to be a "cow man". In 1904 a new red stone courthouse replaced an earlier wooden structure in Odessa. Jesse Frame, the T&P agent in Odessa, a group of documents to be preserved for future generations sealed in a tin box in the cornerstone of the new courthouse. According to Frame, Odessa offered few opportunities in 1904 because as he put it, "nothing here but some stock raising, though it may be a farming or granger country some day." Frame saw limited prospects for the town to grown although he also placed into the cornerstone a copy of the Odessa News Times dated July 29, 1904 that said, "Prof. V.D. Gassoway of the U. S. Geological Survey, while prospecting in the Odessa territory, has discovered unmistakable evidences of petroleum and natural gas that will doubtless developed in the future". Gassoway's prediction did come true for another twenty-five years, however, and Odessa remained a dusty little cow town.

In 1912 a Midland blacksmith by the name of John Pliska offered the citizens of Odessa a show, the like they had never seen before when he brought his hand built twin prop biplane to a main street Fourth of July celebration for an exhibition flight down Grant Street. Practically all of Odessa turned out for the event. The Odessa Band, directed by a Professor Beck, added to the festive atmosphere.

A native of Austria, Pliska's interest in aviation began when he studied at a military glider and balloon flight school in Bavaria. After emigrating to the United States, his interest in flying was rekindled when he saw a Wright brothers airplane land in Midland on a cross county flight about 1909. Plishka was so impressed with the Wright broghers flying machine that he decided to build his own airplane. With the exception of the engine, Pliska and his assistant, Gray Coggin, hand built their airplane in Pliska's blacksmith shop in Midland.

Before bringing their flying machine to Odessa for the July Fourth celebration, Pliska and Coggin successfully test flew the craft to respectable altitudes at the polo grounds near Midland. But their luck in Odessa proved to be less than hoped for. In preparation for the exibition, mesquite trees lining the road to Andrews now Grant Street had to be cut back. Pliska and Coggin arrived on the appointed day, hauling their flying machine on the back of a wagon. Somehow they got it unloaded and cheers arose when they got it unloaded and started the engines. With Pliska at the controls, the crowd loved it when he taxied the aeroplane up Grant Street. Then came time for Pliska to make a take off attempt, he throttled the engines and the dirt flew. Because of underpowered engines, the soft condition of dirt in the street, and the heat of the day, Pliska only managed to make a series of short hops into the air, unable to fly the aircraft to the satisfaction of a number of cowboys in the crowd who demanded more or their money back. Later that night, Pliska and Coggin loaded up the flying machine and took it back to the blacksmith shop where they stored in the rafters of the building. When Pliska's shop was torn down in 1962, the Pliska family donated the aircraft to the City of Midland. Today, the blacksmith's flying machine hangs on display from the ceiling of the Midland International Airport for all to wonder at the genius of his craftsmanship.

Odessa ceased being only a cow town in 1926 when the Cosden Petroleum Company struck oil on the A. B. Connel ranch setting in motion a series of oil booms and busts. Twelve years later, the old red stone Ector County courthouse was torn down and its cornerstone opened in a public ceremony. Jessie Frame's son, Paul Frame, who was then the T&P agent, attended the ceremony to retrieve the contents his father had sealed away many years before. In addition to two poker hands, several letters and newspapers, the younger Frame found a letter from Kelley Hogg, written in 1904, that offers a glimpse of Odessa in its cow town days. Kelley Hogg knew Odessa well before it became an oil town. He worked for the T&P railroad for three years when he penned his letter to future residents.

Kelley was nineteen years old when he wrote "Hi, it is possible that when the corner stone of the courthouse is removed and this little tin box opened again, the town of Odessa instead of being what you might call a village may be a large city and a great railroad center, but old head please remember that I have born the same burdens that you are now bearing and had the same hell that you are now having. As I have long since been laid away, and my days and nights of loading trunks and carrying the U.S. mail are over, in other words, my race is run. I plead to thee to accept my deepest sympathy in these, your days of trouble. I have been in the service of this company for about three years, under Mr. F. B. Gilbet, chief dispatcher, Big Spring, Texas. Was discharged once while working at the little town of Midland for getting "boozy" and trying to be a bad man. We have some of the damndest whiskey you ever flopped your lip over. I would put a half pint in the box with this letter but these rounders around this burg would tear the cornerstone out of they should happen to get on to it in a short time as there are some of them that could smell it."

Kelley closed his 1904 letter to future generations by saying, "Before this letter is read and many years before, I expect to be with my old friends, and the agent in heaven where there are no railroads, where we will be enjoying eternal bliss, while you are plunking away, filling the places we vacated."

Glenn Justice
Copyright 2010
All rights reserved
For permission to use contact:

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When Barney Hubbs came to Odessa in 1926 to start a newspaper most folks assumed he would go broke. After all, nobody in their right mind would try to get into the newspaper business in a little cow town populated by only 750 residents. Others had tried and failed. That same year, "Josh" Cosden struck oil a few miles southwest of town but it would be two years before Odessa experienced its first oil boom. When Barney arrived, Odessa had a drug store, a grocery store, a bank, one restaurant, a movie theater and no newpaper. But that didn't deter Barney, he know what it was like to be broke. His family had lost everything when their cattle ranch went under in 1908.

Barney grew up in Pecos where he got ink in his blood. In these years, Pecos was twice as large as Odessa and had two newspapers. He befriended Billy Leeman whose father owned the Reeves County Record. Barney worked for the Record before and after school and during vacation learning how to set type in the printing office. A few years later, the Record merged with the Pecos Times and Barney worked for them. After serving in the U.S. Navy in World War I where he worked on a newspaper in France, Barney returned to Pecos hoping to get his old job back. But the Times had no openings. So he found a job in the oil fields building wooden derricks for a while. One of the wooden derricks he built now sits on display in the Monahans City Park.

In 1921, Barney opened a print shop in Pecos and started publishing the Pecos Gusher to compete with his former employer. His venture prospered and in four years he bought out the Times and merged the two newspapers. In the process of the merger, he acquired more printing equipment than he needed. Henry Webb, manager of the Odessa Chamber of Commerce, knew Barney had spare newspaper equipment and convinced him to start a newspaper in Odessa. Previously, a string of Odessa newspapers had come and gone including the Odessa Weekly, The Times, the Ector County Democrat, and the Odessa Herald. Going broke with a newspaper was nothing new in Odessa.

At first Barney didn't have time to transport his printing gear to Odessa. Since he only one Linotype machine, he printed the Ector County News in Pecos before hauling the papers to Odessa in the wee hours before the heat of the day. The trip took four hours because of the deep, drifting sand that covered the road at Monahans. Within a few months, Barney changed the name of the newspaper to the Odessa News. He hired Ruby Webb, wife of Ector County Sheriff Reeder Webb, along with Mrs. Tom Harris to write for the paper.

Odessa got its city charter in 1927 and started collecting taxes. The town had hundreds of lots with delinquent tax bills and Barney agreed to print tax sale notices in the paper in exchange for the lots that hadn't sold. It proved to be a profitable venture. He became the owner of some 100 lots up and down Grant Street with an average tax bill of about $12.50 on each lot. He sold one lot at 3rd and Grant for $25.00 to George Elliot who who built a three story brick hotel that is remembered as an Odessa landmark before it was torn down in 1983 to make room for a new police station. Barney did well enough off the sale of the lots to build a new printing office on two lots just east of the Ector County Court House.

Rivalry between Odessa and Midland existed even then. In recalling his newspaper experiences in Odessa, Barney told me in a 1991 interview that "Midland always looked down on Odessa as a stepchild in those days. Midland was regarded as a high-collared bunch and we were the poor boys over in Odessa, but it was friendly". When the Midland newspaper came out with a story announcing that the City of Midland had passed an ordinance outlawing the parking of oil field trucks on the streets of Midland, Barney saw an opportunity to promote Odessa. The Odessa News ran a special edition inviting oil field trucks to park anywhere they wanted to in Odessa. Barney distributed 5,000 copies of this edition.

By 1928 Odessa had grown considerably but Pecos called Barney home. He decided to sell the Odessa News because his family lived in Pecos. Barney found a buyer for the paper by the name of Frank P. Files. He sold the newspaper on credit with an escrow agreement that if Files missed a payment; the title reverted back to Barney. Then he ran into a political disagreement with the buyer. When Odessa's first mayor, Sam McKinney, tried to get re-elected, he found no support from Frank Files. Files supported a "newcomer" for mayor. Barney made an enemy of Frank Files when he went to Odessa to bolster Sam McKinney's campaign. McKinney won the election. Not long after that, Files defaulted on his note and Barney Hubbs found himself in search of a new owner for the newspaper.

Barney then sold the paper to Abe Whipkey from Colorado City. Whipkey wanted to his son Bob, and son-in-law, Rush Moody, into business. In later years, Bob Whipkey became editor of the Big Spring Herald. When the younger Whipkey and Moody had a falling out, they simply walked away from the Odessa newspaper. Abe Whipkey called Barney and told him he simply couldn't meet the payments and turned the newspaper back to him. Business in Pecos prevented Barney from running both newspapers so once again he searched for someone to take over the Odessa operation. Barney called Ralph Shuffler, a long-time newspaperman in Olney who had sold his paper and asked him if wanted to get back into the newspaper game. Shuffler accepted the offer and operated the Odessa News for several years before tuning the business over to his son. Henderson Shuffler ran the paper until 1945.

In the 1930s technology gave birth to a new competitor for the small town newspaper, when broadcast radio stations became reality. Until 1935, there were no radio stations between Fort Worth and El Paso but Barney changed that on October 23, 1935 when KIUN went on the air in Pecos. In Midland KRLH, later known as KCRS, began broadcasting two months later. This was the beginning of the Cactus Broadcasting network. Barny's first radio stations were primitive affairs. He hired engineers to build the transmitters. He fabricated radio towers out of drill-stem pipe, a considerable feat of West Texas ingenuity. To build the towers, Barney welded together 200 feet of drill-stem pipe, painted it, and installed warning lights before raising it, "like my dad used to raise windmills with a gin pole". A group of government engineers working in Pecos at the time to install a water system said it couldn't be done and stood in amazement as Barney raised the tower into the air. A short time later, a national engineering magazine published a story that the impossible had taken place in Pecos. Texas.

In 1946 Barney introduced broadcast radio to Odessa when KRIG went on the air. Barney's Cactus Network grew to include Pecos, Fort Stockton, McCamey, Alpine; Cortez, Colorado; Lyman, Utah and Tejas, New Mexico. When I interviewed him in 1991, Barney was 95 years old. In spite of his advanced age, he continued to spend several mornings a week at his desk in the Pecos Enterprise building on South Cedar Street in Pecos. His office was simple and unpretentious. On the walls hung photographs, newspaper articles and other mementos collected over the years. Barney sought no praise; he was a humble man in sprite of his many accomplishments. When I asked if he would do it all over again he was quick to point out that if he were a young man again he would, "get into newspaper work in some way". Barney Hubbs died January 7, 1993 in Pecos.

Glenn Justice
Copyright 2010
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