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Palacine Indian North, courtesy of<>

Palacine Station photo courtesy of Steven Harris, Ardmore, OK--collector of Palacine Indian Memorabilia

Photo of Indian sculpture, courtesy of Cinnamon Carter

In November 2008, sixth-grade reading teacher Cinnamon Carter challenged her students to investigate the history of Native Americans in their small West Texas community of Ballinger. Carter, a relative newcomer to the town, was surprised to learn that many of the students had collected photos and recollections of a long-lost Indian statue that had once graced a local park.

For nearly 20 years, "Chief Palacine" stood on Indian Hill in the Ballinger City Park. Ballinger city official Elmer Shepperd purchased the statue from the Wirt-Franklin Oil and Gas Refinery in Ardmore, Oklahoma, in 1939.

According to Shepperd's nephew, the Ballinger statue was one of two from a Wirt-Franklin gas station at the southeast corner of Main and D Street Southwest in Ardmore. One statue was mounted atop the station and the other stood on a pedestal out front.

According to National Petroleum News (April 24, 1929), the Indian statues were an advertising ploy developed by D. A. Corcoran, head of Wirt-Franklin's sales department. In order to get one of the 11 1/2-foot statues, gas station owners had to carry Wirt-Franklin's Palacine gasoline and oil brands exclusively.

The cast zinc-alloy statues, produced for about $200 each by a Dallas sign company, depicted an Indian chief standing with one hand raised in a gesture of friendship. He stood on a cast metal "rock" over the words "A Friend." The base displayed the words "Palacine - Motor Oil - Gasoline" on three sides.

While no one knows exactly how many statues remain, three have been on display since 1935 at Woolaroc Ranch, former home of Frank Phillips of Phillips Petroleum, in Barnsdall, Oklahoma.

A Wirt-Franklin employee named Eubanks reportedly hauled off 15 statues on Mr. Wirt's orders, around 1952, and buried them in a ditch beside his house on Hedges Road, southwest of Ardmore.

The statue in Ballinger was stolen by vandals sometime in the 1950s. Legend has it that the chief was thrown into the creek below Indian Hill "and never seen again."

Carter's sixth-grade class became fascinated by the Indian and the place that it held in their community's collective memory. Family and wedding photos were often taken with "Friend," and one woman said, "He was the holder of our secrets, because we knew he would never tell a soul."

Carter, who recently established the non-profit Friends of Ballinger Indian Statue to raise money for the project, reports that the City Council, civic groups, and many individuals support the placement of a new Friend statue in the Ballinger Park.

Since January 2009, the students and the "Friends of Friend" have raised $14,000 of the estimated $47,000 needed to commission a bronze replica of Chief Palacine. The statue is being created by local sculptor Hugh Campbell, who specializes in Western art, and it will be cast in bronze by House Bronze, a custom fine art foundry in Lubbock.

Carter and her students continue to hold fundraising events and are beginning to look for grant funding opportunities. For more information, please visit

Read what the Class of 2015 has to say about the project at

If you would like to contribute to the project, please send your tax-deductible gift to Friends of the Ballinger Indian Statue, P. O. Box 231, Ballinger, Texas, 76821.

Steph McDougal
McDoux Preservation

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(August 22, 2009) The prolific and highly respected Texas author Elmer Steven Kelton died in his sleep early this morning in San Angelo at the age of eighty-three years. Elmer was born April 29, 1926 on the Five Wells Ranch east of Andrews to Buck and Beatrice Kelton. He graduated from Crane High School and started classes at the University of Texas in 1942. In 1944, he put aside his studies to join the U.S. Army Infantry and saw combat in Europe during World War II. In 1947, Elmer married Anna Lipp of Edensee, Austria.

The couple returned to the United States where Elmer graduated from U.T. with a degree in journalism. Kelton worked as farm and ranch editor for the San Angelo Standard Times from 1948 to 1963 writing his first book "Hot Iron" in 1956. That same year Kelton penned "Buffalo Wagons" winning the Spur Award for distinguished writing of the Western Writers Of America. His 1973 "The Time It Never Rained" won the Western Heritage Award from the Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Tommie Lee Jones starred in and directed Elmer's "The Good Old Boys" Turner Classic Movie. The Western Writers Of America named Kelton the number one western writer of all time. During his career, Kelton wrote sixty-two books and was the only writer to win the Spur Award seven times. He served as editor of Sheep & Goat Raiser Magazine and associate editor of Livestock Weekly for many years. At the time of his death, Elmer has two books "Other Men's Horses" and "Texas Standoff" that are to be published posthumously. Even though Elmer has been ill for several months he was working on and hoped to complete a new Hewey Calloway "Good Old Boys" story.

Anna Kelton, his wife of sixty-two years, sons Gary Kelton of Plainview and Steve Kelton of San Angelo and daughter Kathy Kelton and their spouses survive him. Elmer and Anna have four grand children, five great-grandchildren and one great grand child. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to a favorite charity, or to the Tom Green County Library Elmer Kelton Statue Fund at the San Angelo Area Foundation, 2201 Sherwood Way, Suite 205. Elmer Kelton's funeral is to be held Thursday at 2:00 pm at the First United Methodist Church, 36 E. Beauregard, in San Angelo.

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Charles H. Harris III and Louis R. Sadler have given us a history tour de force with their new book "The Secret War in El Paso: Mexican Revolutionary Intrigue, 1906-1920". Published by University of New Mexico Press, this recently released 488-page study is much more than simply an El Paso history as the title suggests. It is Texas history and Mexican history skillfully blended with U.S. diplomatic history as well. Secret War is for anyone interested in the Texas border and the Mexican revolution in those dangerous but intriguing times. The 107 pages of notes, bibliography and index is a valuable scholarly resource by itself. The research in Secret War is stellar and the book is so well written it is impossible to discern that two writers actually penned it. Secret War isn't one of those books the reader cannot put down before finishing. When I picked up my copy at Cactus Book Shop in San Angelo, I told Felton Cochran I would read it and have a review posted in a few days as is usually the case with a new read. Two weeks and more than one yellow highlighter later, I finished Secret War and find it not easy to express how impressed I am with this work. Perhaps I should simply say I think it the best and most finely detailed Texas-Mexican history I have ever read.

Secret War is fascinating with all the exciting elements of a world-class work of fiction but this is not an invented story. Here you will find real Texas Rangers, Federal agents, inventive smugglers, filibusters, spies and counter spies, traitors, thieves and murderers, gunrunners, secret codes, counterfeiters, shyster lawyers, and Mexican revolutionists from Victor Ochoa to Pancho Villa. It should be the goal of quality historians to interpret the past to the issues of today and inform the reader of why the past cannot be ignored. In this, Harris and Sadler truly demonstrate their work to be outstanding.

While the book offers an impressive bibliography, one most important collection of documents in the National Archives has finally emerged as being vital to the study of Texas and the Mexican revolution. This is RG 65, the Records of the [Federal] Bureau of Investigation, 1908-1922. It contains some 80,000 pages of documents.

I first encountered these documents many years ago when I had the opportunity to do some research at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Thanks to some funding from the Permian Historical Society, I went to D.C. in 1988 to research the records of the Big Bend Military District in RG 391, the Records of the United States Army Mobile Units 1821-1942. These include the official reports and records of the U.S. Cavalry stationed in the Big Bend during the so called "bandit raid" years. In the first few days of my D.C. research, I went through the Big Bend records in some ten or so boxes and made copies of those things I found of interest. But keep in mind, these are the official records that include things like troop movements and dates, logistical records such as the construction of the border outposts, and returns and casualties. My gut said there must be more and thanks to the advice of a astute archivist, I traveled to the Washington National Records Center in Suitland, Maryland. It was here that I found the classified and secret documents concerning the U.S. Cavalry actions in the Big Bend. At the time, many of these documents were classified even though more than seventy years had passed. While I was permitted to read most of these documents, each individual piece of paper I wanted to copy had to be examined and declassified by a military officer. The first day, a U.S. Army Captain only approved for copy a very few documents probably because he didn't want to make things known that might be embarrassing to the army. My luck changed the following day when a U.S. Navy officer approved everything I found. I came back to Texas with two suitcases full of documents that have been the basis of my research of Big Bend military since that time.

Over the years, I have made every effort to encourage our Texas universities and archives to obtain the now declassified and available on microfilm RG-65 for study. Usually the only response I get is a blank stare from a professor or archivist who explain there is no funding available for such and must have thought, what is he talking about? Harris and Sadler have made it obvious they have access to RG-65. I know of no institution in Texas that has or is interested in RG-65.

"The Secret War in El Paso" is in stock and available at Cactus Book Shop in San Angelo and Front Street Books in Alpine. For more information or to purchase Secret War go to:


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Dear WTHA Board members and friends,
Tai (who is temporarily out of the office) has asked me to contact you and let you know that our esteemed friend and dear colleague Professor Fred Rathjen passed away, apparently of liver cancer, yesterday around 2pm. Member Christena Stephens passed the word to me and Tai from member Brenda Haes. Fred evidently had been under Hospice care for about a week. I know that this is yet another shock to our Association, especially on the heals of the recent news about two other of our giants B.W. Aston and Elmer Kelton.

Our Year Book review editor Jean Stuntz sent along the following relating to wishes from the family. Jean has promised to send along additional information about potential services as soon as she hears of something.

Fred Rathjen's family wants any memorials to be given to the Forman/Rathjen scholarship which Fred created years ago. People can give online at or by mail to WTAMU Foundation, WTAMU Box 60766, Canyon, TX 79016, or by calling (806) 651-2070. They can designate the Forman/Rathjen scholarship when they donate.

David Murrah just sent the following as I was crafting this letter:
I just talked to Fred Rathen's son Kurt.

The graveside service will be at 9:30 am Thursday at the St. Paul Lutheran Cemetery on the Palo Duro Canyon highway in Canyon. The memorial service will be at the Trinity Lutheran Church, 5005 W. I-40 (between Bell and Western on south side of I-40) at 11:00 am Thursday.

David Murrah
I'm sure each of you join us here at the headquarters in sending our deepest sympathies to Betty and the family. I will keep you posted and will send a general announcement to the membership when I gain access to the email list.

Contact Information:
Monte L. Monroe, Ph.D.
Southwest Collection Archivist/Adjunct Professor
Texas Tech University
Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library
Box 41041
Lubbock, TX 79409-1041
(806) 742-3749 WK
(806) 742-0496 FAX

For more on Dr. Rathjen see:

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Can you tell me anything about Judge Edwin H. Fowlkes? He was a friend of John Prude's. He had a ranch and a home around Ft. Davis. He named one son after John Prude and another after Dr. Coleman. Any help would be appreciated.

See:"History Of Marfa And Presidio County" by Cecilia Thompson. Much must have come from "Marfa New Era" that burned sometime in the 1930's. It is obvious Ms. Thompson has or had some surviving copies. Barker Texas History Center in Austin has a few years of New Era on microfilm. I am sure New Era has articles about the judge, if you can find them. Also search Several articles there. Don't overlook Archives of the Big Bend, Sul Ross, Alpine. They probably have a file.

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On Saturday, July 4, 2009, 10:23 AM, Felix Boniulla Salmeron wrote:

I am amased at the lack of history in the West Texas region. I am a desendent of the Benavidez-Ortiz-Bonilla families of the Van Hron, Valentine, Ruidoso, Ft Davis, Alpine Toya Kent areas. Muy Great Grandmother was born in Valentine Texas in feb 1883 and Married Antonio Bonilla in 1895. They wnet on to rais e a big family. That is only one side of the family. Nestora's parents were Juan Benavidez and Petra Ortiz whoi lived in the Van Horn area early on. We have had a long tradition of veterans from WW1, WW2,Korea, Vietnam and now in Iraq. Muyy great Grandfather owned Mules which he usedwhen he worked on the rail road to move cross ties for the rail road. His son's were leneros or wood salemen as they gathered and cut wood to seel in Ft Davis in the early 1900. Back min those days, there was no electricity to go around or fuel for heating. Everyday they would go to the mountains and gather wood for sell to the people in the Ft davis town. They later got married and started families which now reachs into the 2000 mark. I have enjoyed you information and wish that there was more on the impact that hispanics had in West Texas

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I am Joe Sitters great granddaughter, Sylvia. I would also like to receive a copy of the photo of my great grandfather.

I would be more than happy to pay for any printing and shipping costs!

Thank you for all you are doing!

Sylvia Sitters


Sorry I took so long on this, have two books on the burner and it took me a while to find the photo in my files. I am emailing you a jpeg. Joe Sitters is on the left, Jack Howard standing next, unknown person next and Luke Dowe on the right. Photo made in front of Presidio County Court House, sometime before 1913. This is the photo third from the left at the top of the blog. Im writing a chapter about Joe Sitters in my forthcoming book, "More Little History Of The Texas Big Bend" and really need copies of any other photos or documents the Sitters family may have or know of.

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On Friday, June 26, 2009, 04:48 PM, David Tiller wrote:


I am very interested in finding the grave site of my Great Grandmother Jettie Smith who was related to the Prude Family and lived in Ft. Davis until her death around 1988. I believe that she was buried in Marfa. I can find no death records of her and remember her 100th birthday party at the Prude Ranch. To be honest, I'm not sure that her first name was Jettie or if that was her proper first name. She lived for many years at the Hotel Limpia. Any information you may have would be appreciated. Thank you, David Tiller

You must know your Grandmother's full name, when and where she lived to start. Smith can be very hard to trace. is great for this sort of thing. Maybe John Robert can help. Seems like I remember Big Spur mention Aunt Jettie once.

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On Tuesday, June 30, 2009, 07:39 PM, Derrick Perrin wrote:

I found your story on line about the old ranch and rail line near Valentine. Do you have any other information on the location. I love the history of the area and I am in search of stories about the area.

Derrick Perrin

My "Englishmen, Railroads and the San Carlos Coal Mine" is to be published in the Journal Of Big Bend Studies" in the fall. Also is a chapter in my forthcoming book "More Little Known History of the Texas Big Bend".

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I recently picked up and read your book Cattle and Dudes... a most enjoyable read. My reason for picking it up was because I am interested in John and Amanda Prude, so I found myself quickly turning to Chapter 4 and trying to learn more about this couple. The reason for my interest is that I am descended from them through their elder son, Claiborne Gentry Prude.

I would like to comment however on some of the information presented about John and Amanda Prude. prior to them relocating to McCulloch Co. from Colorado Co., TX. I have spent a lot of time tracking this family between 1850 and 1880 and I'd like to offer some of that information to you as follow up to what you presented in Cattle and Dudes.

As best as I can tell John Prude was the first person with the surname Prude in Louisiana (De Soto Par). He is listed as a single man in the 1850 federal census as a laborer in the household of Thomas Weaver. For the last 10 years or so, I have debated whether or not this John Prude was the John Prude that came to Texas. Whether he moved there as you say to follow a relative, I have no idea. A 2nd or 3rd cousin does move to Louisiana and is listed in the 1860 census, but during the 1850 census is located in Pickens Co., AL. The children of this cousin do relocate to Texas in and around Ellis Co. sometime later (after 1870). In any event, John in 1850 is a single man having left his family in Pickens Co., AL to arrive in Louisiana by 1850 and then quickly departs for Texas sometime between 1850 and 1851.

In 1851, on Nov 26th, John Prude marries Amanda Jane Maxwell of Fayette Co., TX. Amanda Jane Maxwell is the daughter of Thomas Maxwell who arrived in Texas about 1834. Thomas Maxwell served as a private under William Kimbro during the Battle of San Jacinto and for his services he was given a League and a labor of land which was on the shores of Plum Creek in Gonzales Co., TX. (now part of Caldwell Co., TX). He was also granted 320 acres of land in Fayette Co. for having served in the Texas Army. He sold a quarter of his League and labor to Josiah O'Daniel (his brother-in-law). Josiah died before ever receiving the deed and when Thomas Maxwell died intestate in 1852, the estate of Josiah O'Daniel was suing the estate of Thomas Maxwell for the deed (I must admit here, I don't read legalese all that well, but I think I got the gist of the precedings of the probate court). In Dec of 1852, the wife of Thomas Maxwell, Elizabeth died and it's here we see the first mention of John Prude in the probate records of Fayette County. John Prude is serving as surity for the administrator, George Dismukes, of what is now the Thomas and Elizabeth Maxwell estate. George Dismukes is Amanda's brother-in-law via her eldest (known) sister.

So in brief, 1851ish, John shows up in Fayette Co., marries Amanda, and is quickly embroiled in the probate affairs of the Maxwell estate.

John appears in the tax lists of Fayette county beginning in 1852 through 1856. By 1859, John Prude is found on the tax rolls of Colorado County. In 1860, The Prudes are listed in the 1860 census for Colorado County. Their eldest son Thomas (presumable named for Amanda's father) has died of typhoid (Jun 1859) and the youngest of the orphaned Maxwell children is living in the Prude household. The enumerator for this census, completely misspells their name as "Boreds". From 1859 through 1878, the Prudes reside in Colorado County and nearby Lavaca county. During the civil war, John Prude and the orphaned son of Thomas Maxwell, Robert G. Maxwell, enlist in a reserve company of the Confederate Army known as the Colorado Grays. Other research suggests that Robert G. Maxwell enlisted and served in the 27th Regiment, Texas Cavalry (Whitfield's Legion) (1st Texas Legion), Co D. Entered as a Private and Ranked out as a Private and promptly disappears from the record. As best as I can tell, the Colorado Grays never saw any action and it's highly unlikely that John Prude did anything other than serve as a militia force for ColoradoCounty.

Sometime between 1878 and 1880, the Prudes relocate to McCulloch County where I lose their specific trail to the Davis mountains and southern New Mexico, other than land grants here and there and the gravesite in Weed, New Mexico. In fact I often wondered why Weed? I've visited the site and I can certainly see the appeal of the east New Mexico prairie (Is that still Llano Estacado?). But it never made sense to me why they would leave the Davis Mts., unless it was a second feeding ground. My ancestor, Claiborne Gentry Prude, John's elder son, planted his family in those mountains about 1884 (the time of the big cattle drive) and maintained a ranch southeast of Weed for three generations. In fact, Claiborne's first wife Tennessee Donathan is buried in the same plot underneath that big pine next to Amanda Jane Maxwell Prude in the Weed Cemetery.

John Prude died in 1893 and was buried in Mitchell Co., TX. (I presume he died in Mitchell Co., as well.) His stone can be found in the Colorado City Cemetery.

Anyway, that's the history as I've discovered it. Most of the documents I used were the probate and tax records of Fayette and Colorado County census and land grant records. I still need to scour the earlier Colorado County records and the Gonzales County records for a few more details, but don't have as much time as I would prefer to do so.

I really appreciate your book, it's a fascinating story and really filled in the gaps of the more recent history for me. The sad thing is, I grew up in El Paso, have made many trips to Big Bend, had friends and neighbors that went to summer camp at the Prude Ranch and I have never even visited much less contacted any of my distant cousins

I do have two questions for you. The first is in regards to those persons in the Prude picture found on the cover of Cattle and Dudes. Do you happen to know who all the people are? Is the man sitting in the middle with the beard John Prude (above)? Second, is there anyway I can get a decent copy of that picture be it through the Jeff Davis Archives or some other source? My second question is concerned with reference #174 in your text. Where did you get a hold of a copy of that genealogy text. When I was about 15, a copy was shown to me by my grandmother, but it was quickly returned to it's original owner. I have searched high and low for a copy to examine and short of visiting the Alabama State Archives or the Library of Congress, it is not likely that I will ever see that ancient family history book. Is that a book in the possession of the Prude family or is that found in the archives of Jeff Davis County or something in your own private collection?

Maybe some day, you might be interested in hearing about some of my other ancestors, in particular the Casners, one of whom served as a Texas Ranger and also served in the Texas War of Independence. He sold his League and labor for a horse and saddle. Palm + forehead. Several members of that family wound up in Brewster and Presidio Counties. My direct ancestors moved west to New Mexico.

Chad Wayne


I believe Andrew G. Prude to be standing fourth from the left in the above photo. Sorry I do not have a better print in my files and the photo had no original captions. The genealogy text mentioned came from John Robert Prude. Suggest you contact him for a copy. Also, I did several oral interviews with John G. Prude and some years ago donated all of my Prude files and the interviews to Archives of the Big Bend at Sul Ross University in Alpine. Perhaps they can help in your research. If memory serves me correctly, you will find some of the tapes mention the Weed, N.M. Prude relatives. John G, John Robert and I made a trip to Weed and the Prude ranch and graveyard where John G. told the story of that branch of the Prude family on the tapes. Not sure if the tapes have been transcribed.

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