Archive for November, 2010

Above: Booth Mooney (and Harold Preece) at a Lone Scout Conference in August 1927. Photo from

One of the more interesting folders in the Tevis Clyde Smith collection (housed at Texas A&M’s Cushing Memorial Library and Archives) contains Booth Mooney’s letters to Smith. The letters are undated, but since they all appear to have been written while Mooney was the editor of The Junto, they are from between April 1928 to May or June 1929. There’s plenty of internal clues to give some of the letters more specific dates (for example, one of them mentions a national election; so that one is circa November 1928), but I haven’t gotten around to all of them yet.

Anyway, I thought readers of this blog might find some of the following mentions of Bob Howard interesting. So, without further ado, here are the good parts:

From Mooney’s first letter to Smith, probably circa March or April 1928:

Bob says that he considers you [Smith] the coming poet of the age. He further informs me that you have the true fire. Also, he says you wish to receive The Junto. You will. NOW: I want you to contribute.

The next letter in the stack mentions the death of Herbert Klatt, so it’s circa May 1928:

Bob Howard tells me that you are going to enter the First Novel Contest conducted by Dodd & Mead. Good luck to you. Bob also inquired whether I should enter; I shall not. I am much too lazy to write a novel—it requires enough energy to hammer out short articles and poems.

The next letter mentions the return of the “June issue” of The Junto; since Mooney was only the editor for one June issue, this letter must be circa June/July 1928:

I received the June issue (in which your “Collegiate” was featured) of The Junto back today. Some of the comments proved rather interesting. For example: Bob Howard—”Let’s have more by Smith; the rougher, the better; every man for himself and Hell for all.”


Howard’s “Dust Dance,” Sandburg’s “Chicago,” and others of like type kindle within me a consuming fire, an irresistible thrill to the words and the meaning and the wild chant of the work.

Based on Mooney’s comments about college, and a mention of a meeting “next spring,” the next letter is probably circa early fall 1928:

I, too, find that college is a terrible bore, and I’m not learning a damn thing. I don’t think that I shall go next term. As Bob says, “about the only thing colleges is good for is that they enable one to get a line-up on semi-humanity.” Hell, I don’t see why I ever wanted to attend a Baptist college, anyway.

Finally, based on when the Howard material mentioned was published, the following is circa October 1928:

I suppose that you have seen Bob recently, as a letter which I received from him yesterday was sent from Brownwood. Bob’s a genius. He sent quite a lot of material for The Junto. A poem, “Swings and Swings,” was very good, as were also several articles, principally about him, you, and Truett.

“Swings and Swings” was published in the November 1928 issue. The articles mentioned are probably “To a Man Whose Name I Never Knew,” also published in the November 1928 Junto, “The Galveston Affair,” published in December 1928, and “Ambition in the Moonlight,” January 1929.

As the old adage goes, some things never change.  Such is the case today with our celebration of Thanksgiving that begins with a parade, then a huge feast, followed by watching back to back football games.  It was pretty much the same routine in 1932 when Howard celebrated this traditional American holiday.  Here, in a December 1932 letter to H. P. Lovecraft, details how he spent the recent Thanksgiving holiday.

You struck a responsive chord in me when you mentioned turkey dinner. Thanksgiving! Baked turkey, with dressing made of biscuit and cornbread crumbs, sage, onions, eggs, celery salt and what not; hot biscuits and fresh butter yellow as gold; rich gravy; fruit cakes containing citron, candied pineapple and cherries, currents, raisins, dates, spices, pecans, almonds, walnuts; pea salad; pumpkin pie, apple pie, mince pie with pecans; rich creamy milk, chocolate, or tea — my Southern ancestors were quite correct in adopting the old New England holiday.

I hope you had as enjoyable Thanksgiving this year as I did. I don’t know when I enjoyed a holiday more. Early that morning, the chores being done, my friend “Pink” Tyson and I drove to Brownwood, forty miles to the southeast, to see the football teams of Howard Payne College and Southwestern University battle it out for the championship of the Texas Conference. Arriving there we went to the leading hotel and looked over the Southwestern boys, and a bigger, more powerful team I haven’t seen in years. With them we listened awhile to the broadcast of the Colgate-Brown game, and I thought about you, and wondered if by chance you were seeing the game. After dinner at the home of a friend we helped him unload a bunch of steers, in order to facilitate an early arrival at the game. They were the finest, fattest, big Hereford critters I’ve seen in a longest time; and one of them was the meanest and wildest I ever saw. The three of us fought him all over the hill (on foot), and after we got him in the corral, we couldn’t get the ropes off. We had two ropes on him, or he’d have killed some of us. When he’d plunge at one of us, the other would haul him back, and so on. As it was both of us had some narrow shaves. We finally got one lasso off his horns, but to save our necks, we couldn’t get the other off. We had him hauled against the corral fence, and every time we slacked the rope, he took every inch of it, and tried to murder us. At last I threw a doubled lariat around his huge neck and snubbed his head down against the fence, and held him there while the rope was cast off his horns. Then it was every man for himself! After that we picked up another friend and repairing to the stadium, witnessed one of the fiercest, closest and hardest-fought games I have ever seen, in which a comparatively light, but hard-fighting Howard Payne team triumphed for a fifth straight championship. After the game we returned uptown, got a table at a window through which we could watch the shirt-tail parade and the other antics of the celebrating collegians, and while we watched and gorged ourselves on roast turkey and oyster dressing and ice cream, we decided international championships, selected All-Americans, and agreed that Colgate would be the choice for the Rose Bowl game with the University of Southern California. After that Pink and I drove back through the forty miles of hill country, through one of those still, clear, crisp star-filled nights that you enjoy only during good football weather. Simple and unsophisticated enjoyment, yet somehow I got more kick out of the whole affair than I’ve gotten out of more expensive and less innocent pleasures. We didn’t even take a drink of liquor.

Clearly, Howard  enjoyed this American holiday, which originated in 1621.  In the early decades of the celebration, it was held sporadically and only in certain areas of the country. But Thanksgiving was destined to become an annual occurrence, with a designated day set aside for everyone to celebrate. After American won its independence from England, there was movement toward creating a formal holiday, but it was not until the middle of nineteenth century that the idea really took hold.

In 1842, before Texas was a state, Sam Houston, who was president of the then Republic of Texas, named his own day of Thanksgiving in the spring, declaring March 2, 1842 as a day to be thankful and to celebrate Texas’ independence from Mexico. The date was close to March 6, the date the Alamo fell, which to lead to a quick chain of events that ended with Santa Anna’s defeat at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), March 2 was also Houston’s birthday.

Fourteen years before President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national holiday be established on the last Thursday in November for “thanksgiving,” Texas Governor George Wood, declared a state holiday for Thanksgiving.  Of course, being Texas, the Governor had his own idea as to when the new holiday should be observed – declaring in 1849 that the first Thursday of December be set aside to give thanks.

But the December Thanksgiving holiday didn’t last too long. When Governor Peter Hansborough Bell, succeeded Wood in 1850, he picked up on Houston’s idea and moved the holiday to the first Thursday of March. That particular day in March, 1850 just happened to be the sixth – yes, date the Alamo fell.

Following the Civil War, most Texans were still upset about the outcome, but they went along with Lincoln’s selection of the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving. The season of autumn, the Texans conceded, was a good time for the celebration, coming toward the end of the year and after harvest season.

From 1864 through 1938, each president would have to issue a formal proclamation designating a Thanksgiving holiday, typically celebrated on the last Thursday of November.

In 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt formally declared the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day, dispensing with the “last Thursday” observance (occasionally, November has five Thursdays). However, only twenty-three of the then 48 states went along with Roosevelt’s proposed date of November 23, 1939 as Thanksgiving, while an equal number decided the last Thursday, November 30, was good enough. The remaining two states – Colorado and Texas – played it safe and celebrated both days as Thanksgiving that year.

Two years later, Congress passed a law and Roosevelt signed it, making the fourth Thursday of November the official federal holiday. But those contrary Texans, seemingly perpetually burdened with a predisposition to be miffed by Washington’s machinations, decided to stick with the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving. Each year the president still issues a ceremonial Thanksgiving proclamation.

In the 1950s, Texas remained the last state still observing the “final Thursday” of November as Thanksgiving. Finally, in 1957 the Texas Legislature passed a bill making the fourth Thursday of November the state’s official Thanksgiving holiday.

At the beginning of 1936, when Hester’s health took a turn for the worse, Isaac and Robert drove her 100 miles southwest from Cross Plains to the town of San Angelo for treatment. This was shortly after they had returned from hospital trip to Marlin. Robert outlines the San Angelo visit for H. P. Lovecraft in this letter dated February 11, 1936.

After our return from Marlin we stayed at home for about two weeks, and then my mother’s pleura filled again, and we took her to a hospital in San Angelo, 105 miles southwest of Cross Plains. After a few days then we put her in a sanatorium about seventeen miles northwest of San Angelo,  where she stayed for six weeks, when her condition got so bad we put her back in the hospital at San Angelo. She remained there twelve days, and then we brought her home, since it seemed they had done all they could for her. Her condition is very bad, and she requires frequent aspirations, which are painful, weakening and dangerous. It is wonderful with what fortitude she endures her afflictions; in every hospital she has been, the doctors and nurses speak of her cheerfulness, her nerve, and her steadiness in the highest terms. But it is only what can be expected in a woman of the old pioneer stock.

This was the beginning of a slow decline for Hester and the desperation Robert expressed in this correspondence with HPL, having knowledge of the impending end of her life, is almost too devastating to read. Isaac was aware of this desperation as well, as he recounts Hester’s San Angelo stay and Robert’s frame of mind to Lovecraft in a June 29, 1936 letter.

[T]his year in February, while his mother was very sick and not expected to live but a few days, at that time she was in the Shannon Hospital in San Angelo, Texas. San Angelo is something like one hundred miles from here. He was driving back and forth daily from San Angelo to home. One evening he told me I would find his business, what little there was to it, all carefully written up and in a large envelope in his desk. Again I begged him not to do it but he possitively [sic] did not intend to live after his mother was gone.

The sanatorium where Hester stayed for six weeks was the State Tuberculosis Sanatorium, which was located sixteen miles northwest of San Angelo on U.S. Highway 87 in an incorporated town known as Carlsbad. The facility was so large, it had its own post office designated as “Sanatorium, Texas.”

Pulmonary tuberculosis caused more than 4,000 deaths a year in Texas during the first decade of the twentieth century. This led to the Texas Senate to pass a bill in 1909 creating a TB colony, but it was defeated in the House. Two years later, when the state congress met again, both houses passed a bill creating two colonies – one for advanced and one for early cases – dedicated to the treatment and education of people infected with TB.

Although plans for the former were abandoned, 330 acres was purchased near Carlsbad for the location of the Anti-Tuberculosis Colony No. 1. This colony was the first institution of its kind in Texas and provided the isolation to calm the fears of the public, as well as rest and clean air, the only known cure for TB sufferers. Admission to the facility was restricted to patients between the ages of six and sixty for a period no longer than six months.

On July 4, 1912 the fifty-seven-bed sanatorium opened with a cookout and celebration. The following year the facility was renamed the State Tuberculosis Sanatorium, and in 1914, Governor Oscar Colquitt named Joseph McKnight resident superintendent. Under McKnight’s guidance, the sanatorium expanded for the next thirty-five years.

In addition to low wages, and geographic isolation, the fear of TB made it difficult to recruit employees for the facility. To counter these issues, the Sanatorium School for Nurses in Texas was created in 1915 to train the needed staff. Nearly all the students who attended two-year training course, which focused on tuberculosis treatment, were recovering TB patients. The first class of four graduated in 1917 with a R.T.N. degree (Registered Tuberculosis Nurse).

Originally beginning with four buildings constructed at a cost of $10,000, the facility grew to thirty-five buildings valued at $1.5 million. In 1930 there were thirteen buildings with 662 patient beds, including 162 beds in the children’s Preventorium, and over 13,000 patients had received treatment. The grounds tripled in size to nearly 1,000 acres and included barber and beauty shops, a post office, library, dairy, hog farm, butcher shop, bakery, power plant, laundry, printing press with its own newspaper, four water wells, and a school for the children. Other on-site amenities included church services and organized meetings for the Masons, Order of the Eastern Star, bridge club, sewing club and stamp collectors’ club. Indeed, the complex had grown into a virtually self-sufficient community known as Sanatorium.

Sanatorium continued to grow to 970 beds with 300 patients on the waiting list. In 1949 McKnight proposed additional expansions, including a new seventy-five bed dormitory, increased space for employee living quarters, and a twenty-five bed surgery unit to supplement the existing surgical building constructed in 1947–48. Surgeon Raymond F. Corpe, who was on loan from the United States Public Health Service, had begun to perform thoracoplastic operations.

The 1950s brought dramatic change to the institution. McKnight, who had become synonymous with the battle against TB, retired in 1950. In June 1951, the Texas legislature renamed the institution the McKnight State Sanatorium in his honor. The ancillary operations such as the dairy, hog farm, and the Preventorium were systematically closed during the decade.

The nursing school was renamed the State Tuberculosis School of Nursing in 1938 and continued operating until 1961, graduating a total of 501 nurses.

The number of TB beds was gradually reduced to 550 and the length of treatment continued to shorten due to new drugs and surgery techniques. Unfortunately, Hester lived in a time before the development of anti-tuberculosis antibiotics, which did not come into the picture until the late 1940s.

From 1912 through 1969, approximately 50,000 adult and 5,000 juvenile patients were treated at the McKnight State Tuberculosis Hospital. By 1969 medical techniques and drugs were successful in more than 90 percent of tuberculosis cases, making Sanatorium and related TB institutions unnecessary. So the institution was tasked with a new mission — serving the needs of mentally challenged men and women, which it continues to do today.

Following the killing of Wohrle, Cooley was an outlaw, a wanted man. As if he weren’t dangerous enough, he soon surrounded himself with a band of other desperadoes. Among them, George Gladden, who was a known gunman in the area, Moses and John Baird, who were two cowboys of dubious reputation from Burnet County and a self-educated drifter named Johnny Ringo.

The outlaws set up a hideout at Gladden’s place in Loyal Valley (ironically, named for the Germans’ loyalty to the Union during the Civil War) and proceeded to terrify the surrounding area, threatening a saloon owner and wounding a prominent German statesman in his store. Cooley’s behavior during some of these incidents might be described as bizarre – he was given to openly displaying Wohrle’s scalp and waving it the faces of persons he was terrorizing.

Cooley’s gang soon targeted Carl Bader. Carl was Peter Bader’s brother and it is not clear whether his murder was an act of revenge for Williamson’s death or a simple case of mistaken identity. On August 19, 1875 Cooley’s band showed up at Bader’s farm in Llano County and located him working alone in his field. Before Bader had a chance to make a run for it, Cooley, Gladden and Ringo shot him dead. There was at least one report that he was also scalped.

In Mason, Clark, his allies and the Hoodoo Mob, were trying to determine what their next move should be, when word of Bader’s death reached town. It was decided that they could no longer wait to take action. Clark hired a local gambler named Jim Cheney to go to Gladden’s place and try to convince the band to come peacefully to Mason. Cheney was able to locate George Gladden and Moses Baird, and the two agreed to make the trip to Mason. Cheney left the two riders behind and raced ahead of them up the road.

When Gladden and Baird stopped at Keller’s Store in Hedwig Hill for a drink, they saw Sheriff John Clark standing outside. Not wanting to take any chances with the outlaws, Clark had brought sixty men with him, all of them hiding out of sight. A gun battle ensued and shots began pouring at Gladden and Baird from behind a stone wall. The two men were badly wounded but managed to ride about a mile back up the road to Beaver Creek with Clark’s posse in hot pursuit. There Moses Baird died and Gladden was found too badly wounded to fight. Peter Bader was ready to finish Gladden off, but John Keller swore he’d kill anyone who attempted to shoot the wounded man. Keller was a supporter of Clark, but did not approve of the ambush. That act of mercy saved Keller and his family from any reprisals from the Cooley gang. Bader had to satisfy his vengeance by removing a gold ring from the finger of the dead Moses Baird, along with the finger itself.

The shoot-out at Keller’s Store was the final straw for the citizens of Mason, who had attempted to remain neutral during the feud. The townspeople’s desperation was evident in a letter published in the San Antonio Herald which read “All Hell has broken out up here … We fear this is but the beginning of a bloody solution to the stock problems which have become so serious as of late.” Petitions began circulating requesting that Governor Richard Coke send state troops to put a stop the killing and restore law and order. In another newspaper, a reporter sarcastically wrote “Law and order once more prevail in Mason County, almost as completely as it does down in DeWitt County – that is to say, that the people are shooting each other with renewed energy.” De Witt County was the location of the infamous Sutton-Taylor Feud, the bloodiest feud in the history of Texas.

In September of 1875, help was finally sent to the beleaguered citizens of Mason. A company of Major John B. Jones’ Frontier Ranger Battalion was dispatched from their Ranger Camp to Mason County. But upon their arrival, the Rangers were met with the next wave of violence.

By September 24, Gladden had recovered from his wounds and was able to ride again. Cooley’s band quietly slipped into the town of Mason as Johnny Ringo and a man named Williams rode north to Comanche Creek and the home of Jim Cheney. Cheney nervously greeted the men, uncertain of what they knew of his involvement in the Keller Store ambush. He invited the two to join him for breakfast and began to wash his face. When his face was covered with a towel, Ringo silently pulled his gun and shot Cheney off the porch. Meanwhile, Cooley and the others appeared that same morning at a store owned by David Doole. Doole was an Irish merchant friendly with most of the Germans in the area. When Doole saw the men, he greeted them at the door with a rifle and refused to come out. The band then rode to the west side of town and settled in at Tom Gamel’s saloon. They had nothing to fear from the law – there was none.

Four days later, Scott Cooley and John Baird killed German cowboy Daniel Hoerster, and wounded Peter Jordan and Henry Plueneke. The German cattlemen then retaliated, hanging two men they suspected had assisted Cooley with the shootings. The next day the Texas Rangers finally arrived, finding the town in chaos. But Cooley and his band were nowhere to be found.

Major Jones set about working to restore the faith of the citizens while trying to determine who he could trust. He quickly sent out three parties of Rangers to pursue Cooley’s band. Each party returned empty handed. Meanwhile, Sheriff Clark and his posse were up to their old tricks. The next day they captured Bill Coke, an alleged associate of Cooley, on Mill Creek. He was sent back to Mason accompanied by six deputies. Coke was never heard from again. The deputies said he had escaped, but it was suspected that he had suffered the mob justice that still had a stranglehold on Mason County.

Charley Johnson, a friend of Bill Coke’s, rode into town looking for blacksmith William Miller, who had been a member of the posse that arrested Coke. Finding Miller at his workplace, he repeatedly shot him. A seriously wounded Miller was saved from a coup de grâce from Johnson by his wife, who threw herself between Coke’s vengeful friend and her wounded husband. At this point, Johnson just turned and walked away.

Sheriff John Clark, who had been in hiding from Cooley, resigned his position on October 5, 1875, fled Mason and disappeared from the state. He later turned up in his home state of Missouri where he kept a low profile and lived out his days farming. By this time, the killings were almost random. There was no local law enforcement to speak of and the Texas Rangers were also doing little to remedy the situation, since many were friends of Cooley. Finally, a frustrated, Major Jones asked his men if they could not perform their duty by pursuing Cooley, they should step forward. Seven Rangers did so, willing to accept discharges rather than to pursue a former Ranger and friend. Only three of them were actually discharged, but there is little doubt that those who remained were loyal to Cooley. By this time, the Texas Governor’s office was receiving letters in support of Cooley, stating the local sheriff was siding with the German cattlemen to the detriment of the Anglo stockmen. Once this information found its way back to Major Jones, he acted swiftly.

The New Year of 1876 rang in with Cooley and Ringo locked up in the Travis County jail. They had been arrested by Sheriff A. J. Strickland for threatening the life of a Burnet County, Deputy Sheriff.  With the Rangers on the hunt for the others, it appeared as if the violence was at an end, but one more killing was coming. Peter Bader had been hiding out on San Fernando Creek in Llano County. When Gladden and John Baird found out where he was, they prepared an ambush on the road between the town of Llano and Castell. On January 13, 1876, as Bader traveled up the road, the two waited behind a granite outcrop and Baird got his revenge for his brother’s death. He later proudly displayed the gold ring Bader had taken from his dead brother saying “Bader cut my brother’s finger off to get it, and I cut Pete’s finger off to get it back.”

In early February, Cooley and Ringo’s incarceration was cut short. They had been transferred to the Lampasas County jail prior to the start of their trial, the result of a venue change – clearly the pair could not get a fair trial in Mason County with its large German population. The pair were freed by a group of fifteen men led by John Baird, who met little resistance when they showed up at the jail to spring the pair. Ringo and Cooley were once again at large with the law in hot pursuit.

But Cooley’s life of freedom after the Hoodoo War proved to be extremely short. He took sick while staying at the Nimitz Hotel in Fredericksburg and died on June 10, 1876 at the young age of 24, with Wohrle’s scalp still in his pocket. The cause of death was reportedly “brain fever,” perhaps explaining the bizarre behavior he exhibited during the later days of his short life. Rumors persisted that he was poisoned by vengeful Germans, but this was never proven. Cooley is buried in Miller Creek Cemetery in Blanco County. A plain granite tombstone adorns his grave, the epitaph recognizing his better deeds. It reads simply “Scott Cooley – Texas Ranger.”

In November, 1876, Johnny Ringo was recaptured, along with George Gladden. Ringo was held for the murder of Jim Cheney until late in 1878, but was eventually acquitted. He quickly left Texas and drifted to Cochise County, Arizona, where he found himself involved in another famous feud with the Earp Brothers and Doc Holliday in Tombstone. However, Gladden was brought to trial for his crimes. He was found guilty of the murder of Peter Bader and sentenced to ninety-nine years in prison. Gladden was pardoned in 1884 and moved out of state. Another member of Cooleys’ band, John Baird fled from Texas to Lincoln County, New Mexico, where he met with a violent end. Another casualty of the war was The Mason County Courthouse, which burned to the ground on January 21, 1877 – an obvious case of arson. The fire took all the official records of the Hoodoo War.  No one was ever apprehended for the arson.

When Ringo, Cooley, Gladden and John Baird were out of the picture, the feuding in Mason County area ceased. The terror in the Hill Country had ended. The hatred between the Anglos and the Germans, lingered for another twenty years. During that time, several more men lost their lives in killings that some say were linked to the Hoodoo War. Indeed, the war left a bloody legacy that still stirs the blood of the descendants of those who fought and died in that deadly feud that ended only after 14 men had lost their lives.

Read Part I

This entry filed under Howard's Texas.

Jim and Ruth Keegan have completed the cover for Steve Harrison’s Casebook. This collection of all the Harrison stories is a companion volume to Tales of Weird Menace. Both volumes are due out soon from the Robert E. Howard Foundation Press. Here are Jim and Ruth’s thoughts on the cover from their blog.

This is the companion volume to Tales of Weird Menace — whose cover appears in our previous post. Since together these two books collect all of REH’s weird menace/yellow peril stories — subjects that are probably most comfortable in their own era — we decided to create a lurid pulp-style cover for the first volume, and a pseudo paperback-style cover for this one. The original is painted 11¾" × 18″, in oil on an Ampersand Hardbord panel.

While we impatiently wait for Rob to announce he’s ready for pre-orders,we’ll have to be content to peruse the contents of the Casebook.

Introduction by Don Herron
“Lord of the Dead”
“People of the Serpent” (aka “Fangs of Gold”)
“Teeth of Doom” (aka “The Tomb’s Secret”)
“The Black Moon”
“The Voice of Death”
“The House of Suspicion”
“Names in the Black Book”
“The Silver Heel”
“Graveyard Rats”
“The Mystery of Tannernoe Lodge”
Untitled synopsis (“Steve Harrison received a wire. . .”)
“The Silver Heel” (synopsis)
“Graveyard Rats” (draft)

UPDATE: Pre-orders are now being accepted for shipping in late January 2011.

A small but enthusiastic group of Howard fans gathered at the Monument Inn restaurant just east of Houston this afternoon. This famous restaurant is adjacent to the historical San Jacinto battleground, overlooks the Houston Ship Channel and is in the shadow of the San Jacinto Monument.

The reason for get-together was to celebrate Glenn Lord’s 79th birthday. The Big Kahuna of Howardom was accompanied by his wife Lou Ann, and both were looking well and in good spirits.

Besides myself and my wife Alma, Paul Herman, Rob Roehm, Dave Hardy and Dennis McHaney were in attendance. We all enjoyed excellent food, good company and engaging conversation. A good bit of the conversation revolved around a number exciting Howard books and projects that are in the works for the upcoming year.

After everyone enjoyed Glenn’s birthday cake, we all reluctantly said our goodbyes and headed out. It was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Next up is Glenn’s 80th and you can bet that will be one grand celebration.

This entry filed under Glenn Lord, Howard Fandom, News.

At 12:30, Central Time, a bunch of Howard Heads will gather at the Monument Inn near Houston to celebrate Glenn Lord’s birthday with the man himself. I missed last year’s party, but decided the budget could afford another trip to Texas this year. So here I am, with a couple of hours to wait before the party. Maybe a little blog post will kill some time. As long as I was going to Houston, I figured I should stop in Bagwell. I know, I know, Houston is way down south and Bagwell is almost in Oklahoma: Details.

About the only thing Bagwell has going for it these days is a post office. There are a couple of small churches and a community center, too, but these were all closed yesterday morning. Bagwell is important because it was the first place Robert E. Howard went to school; it’s also in the “Piney Woods” region of Texas, which serves as the setting in many of Howard’s yarns: “Pigeons from Hell,” etc. The school itself is long gone; the community center stands there now. Off in the brush which must have been a playground at one time, stand two basketball hoops. They’re rusted and without hoops, but the names of the sponsors are still legible on the backboards.

Like the schoolhouse, the “old Baker place” where the Howards lived is long gone. If I followed the directions given to me by Rusty Burke correctly, all that’s left of the old abode (below) is dirt.

As a matter of fact, there was nothing that dated back to 1913-15, the time when the Howards lived there. That is, almost nothing. Thanks to the previous visits of Mr. Burke, as well as that of Christopher Fulbright and Angeline Hawkes, all of whom wrote about their experiences in the pages of REHupa mailings, I knew there was at least one old building in town: the former Church of Christ building. I talked to an old guy, born in 1914, and he confirmed that the building below has been around longer than he has.

After finishing my tour of Bagwell, rather than start south, I headed further east to look around Clarksville, the County Seat of Red River County. But that’s a story for another day.

Howard was an aficionado of the Bloody Lincoln County War, even traveling to New Mexico to see where it all happened.  A bit of that violent conflict even ended up in “Red Nails,” his final Conan yarn. Range disputes were pretty common in Texas during the 1870s to the 1890s and odds are Howard heard first hand accounts of these deadly conflicts from some of the participants and bystanders.

The violence created in the range wars and related feuds often occurred where there was no law, the law was too weak to enforce any type of change, or the law sided with one faction over the other. The conflicts also gave rise to vigilante groups who felt they were unduly wronged, so they were prone to take the law into their own hands.

Here are some general thoughts on range wars and western feuds that Howard expressed to Lovecraft in a letter written in December, 1934.

Concerning the problems which I mentioned as often causing warfare and bloodshed in the old West, you still miss the point, which is that frequently range-wars and feuds and fights were the result, not of deliberate aggression on either side, but simply because of economic, climatic and even geographical conditions beyond the scope of human control. I will admit that it is probably difficult, even impossible, for a dweller in an old, long-settled, industrial district to understand that statement, and I will not try to enlarge upon it. When you travel in the West, you’ll see what I mean, and realize that often enough wars and feuds were not caused by wanton encroachment on either side, but simply by inexorable natural conditions. You can hardly pick out a western feud and say definitely that one side was “right” and the other “wrong.” In almost every case right and wrong were about evenly balanced; and usually the moral question was beside the point, any way.

There was a range war right in Howard’s backyard that was almost as bloody as New Mexico’s Lincoln County War. However, he makes no mention of the Hoodoo War of Mason County, even though it happened just 100 miles due south of Cross Plains, in any of his letters, so it is unknown if he was aware of it. Due to the viciousness and violence of the war, I can’t imagine him not taking note of it if he knew about it.

During 1874, in the rural Hill Country county of Mason, bad luck was on the horizon – indeed, a war was brewing, a conflict that would come to be known as the “Hoodoo” War. Hoodoo is an archaic term used in the 19th century, often to describe the members of a vigilante committee. It also is said to have a relation to voodoo and the bad luck that can come with it. In some parts of the state, African-Americans applied the term to Ku Klux Klan members. The war started when large numbers of cattle began to be killed or go missing. Soon murderous combat raged in Mason County, the combatants being German immigrants and native born native Texans. For years, relations had been tense between the two groups. The tension got its start during the early days of the Civil War. The German immigrants felt a fierce loyalty to their new country and supported the Union cause.  However, they were living in Texas, deep in the heart of the South, and Texas was voting to secede from the Union and to join the Confederacy.  Due to the large German population, Mason County voted to stay in the Union, a fact that stuck in the craw of the non-German Texans. Although there were no reprisals in Mason County, Germans in other parts of the state suffered reprisals and the German population of Mason County harbored deep resentments toward the Anglos.

After the Civil War, the hardships of the reconstruction period did nothing to relieve the bad blood between the two groups. Texas had become a place where cattle was king and it was cattle that further aggravated the relations between them. Each Spring vast cattle herds were rounded up on the edge of the frontier and driven along the Chisholm and Goodnight-Loving Trails to the north where they were sold at high prices. The Anglo stockmen thought nothing of gathering herds from any “maverick” cattle they came across. There seemed to be an understanding among cattlemen that “if you brand some of my calves, I’ll brand some of yours.” This arrangement did not sit well with the Germans. Most of them held small gentle herds, but without fences it was impossible to keep strays from wandering off, and the loss of a yearling to these small spread “sodbusters” was a loss they could not afford.

In 1875, John Clark was the Sheriff of Mason County. He was elected in 1873, took the oath of office and got right to work. The problem was he was not working for all the people, just the Germans who voted him into office. Not much is known about Clark short of the fact that he enforced the law with an “iron fist.” Clark openly supported the lynching or shooting of anyone suspected of cattle rustling, even when there was little to no evidence to substantiate the charge. It was under Clark’s administration that the German faction and its Hoodoo mob struck first, eventually sparking the countywide conflict. Clark was assisted by a Deputy named John Wohrle, who was a German descendent. Wohrle helped Clark further the interests of the Germans, often at the expense of the Anglos.

On February 13, Sheriff Clark led a posse into McCulloch County, arresting nine cowboys he suspected of rustling, including brothers Elijah and Pete Baccus. Four of the cowboys made bail, while the remaining five cooled their heels in jail. Sheriff Clark then spread the word around town to several key people in the mob that he had no problems with the jailed men being lynched. Several days later, a young cowboy named Allen Bolt was found shot to death by the roadside just outside of the town of Mason. On his back was pinned a note saying “Here lies a noted cow thief.”

Three days after the death of Bolt, several masked members of the Hoodoo mob entered the house of Deputy Wohrle, demanding the keys to the jail. He handed over the keys and the men removed the five cowboys from the jail, took them outside of town, and lynched them. Texas Ranger Dan Roberts happened to be in town at the time and intervened, preventing the hanging of cowboy Tom Turley, while cowboy Charlie Johnson was able to break free during the chaos and flee into the night.

Realizing a Texas Ranger was present, Sheriff Clark also made an effort to stop the lynchings. But it was too late for brothers Elijah and Pete Baccus, who were both hanged. The fifth cowboy, Abe Wiggins, was shot in the head by unknown parties, and died the next morning. No arrests were ever made for the lynchings, and this fueled tensions that would eventually explode into violent retaliation by the Anglo settlers.

Shortly after the lynchings, former mob member Caleb Hall was arrested, allegedly for rustling, but many believed it was due to his objections to the lynchings on February 18. Placed in a cell with Turley, the two men tunneled their way out and fled town. Another former mob member Tom Gamel, who also had objected to the lynchings had received death threats. However, instead of fleeing, Gamel  rounded-up a band of some thirty riders, and they rode into town to confront Sheriff Clark. The sheriff hastily left town, but on March 24, 1875, he returned with an estimated sixty riders to confront Gamel and his band. It looked like the two factions would clash, but eventually they reached a truce, and both groups of men left town.

On May 13, Sheriff Clark and Deputy Wohrle rode out to the ranch of Carl Lehmberg, to speak with foreman Tim Williamson. A few months earlier, Williamson had been falsely accused and arrested for possessing an alleged stolen calf. However, he was well liked within the community and released. The German owner of the calf, Daniel Hoerster, pressured Clark to arrest Williamson, and Clark decided to comply.

After a brief parlay, Williamson agreed to accompany the two lawmen to town, but after riding some ten miles, the party was confronted by a band of a dozen masked men. Wohrle and Lehmberg bolted up the road, leaving Williamson to his fate. Some accounts state that Williamson recognized Peter Bader, a member of the mob. Upon being recognized, Bader shot and killed Williamson. In Bader’s mind, the only good cow thief was a dead cow thief. This single murder would change the course of the Hoodoo War, as Williamson was a mentor and close friend to a young former Texas Ranger.

The Mason County Grand Jury was conducting their inquiry in to Williamson’s murder when a young man appeared in Mason and quietly began conducting an inquiry of his own. The man kept to himself and wore his hat down low over his eyes, seeming to be in his own world. He refused to shake hands with anyone, not wanting his gun hand to stray too far from his holster. But he did take interest in what people had to say about Williamson’s death.  Ultimately, no one was indicted for the murder of Tim Williamson. The young man was seen taking his gun to the local gunsmith and patiently waiting while he had his weapon cleaned and serviced.

On August 10, Deputy Sheriff Wohrle was helping a man named Harcourt and a hired man dig a well on the west edge of town. The young man rode up and struck up a conversation with Wohrle. Shortly, he asked for a leather strip to tie his rifle to his saddle and Wohrle provided him with one. The two exchanged farewells and Wohrle turned around to help the hired man pull Harcourt up from the bottom of the well. As soon as Wohrle was occupied with his task, the mounted man pulled his gun and pointed it at the back of Wohrle’s head. The shot went through his skull, exiting near his nose. The hired man let go of the rope and dove for cover, causing Harcourt to fall to the bottom of the well, where he was knocked unconscious. The man then leaped from his horse and shot Wohrle five more times at point blank range before taking out his knife. He then went to work methodically mutilating Wohrle’s body and finishing by taking his scalp. The man then remounted and rode off, whooping and waving the scalp in triumph. The man was Scott Cooley.

William Scott Cooley was born in 1852 in Missouri and raised in Texas. During that period of time, the Comanches were wreaking havoc among the frontier settlers. While still in their teens, he and his brothers were known as ruthless and relentless Indian fighters who carried the fight to the Comanches.

In 1872 he was befriended by a Texas rancher named Tim Williamson, who hired him to work on two cattle drives to Kansas. After the drives were completed, Williamson took Cooley home with him to Mason County where he was treated like a member of the family by the rancher and his wife. When he was suffering from Typhoid Fever, he was nursed back to health by Mrs. Williamson. He was also known to suffer from fits, supposedly due to a snake bite.

On May 2, 1874, at the age of 19, he joined the Texas Rangers and held the rank of corporal. During his service, he further enhanced his reputation as a fierce Indian fighter, giving no quarter to the enemy and expecting none in return. Standing just five feet five inches tall, he was not afraid of anything and was reputed to be one of the most dangerous men in Texas.  He was mustered out of the Rangers on December 4, 1874 after the state decided to reduce the amount of protection it was providing to the settlers.

He was working on his farm in Menardville when he got word of Williamson’s murder. Upon receiving the news, Cooley became emotional and vowed revenge on the parties responsible. He promptly saddled-up and left for nearby Mason County.

After the killing of Wohrle, Cooley was never the same man.

Read Part II

This entry filed under H. P. Lovecraft, Howard's Texas.

As everyone knows, Robert E. Howard and his parents are buried in Brownwood’s Greenleaf Cemetery. The cemetery is located on Highway 377 just south of Howard Payne University. It is named for Greenleaf Fisk, the founder of Brownwood. Fisk donated the land for Greenleaf to the city and is also buried in the cemetery.

On June 14, 1936, Robert and his mother Hester were buried side by side in plots located not too far from the cemetery’s entrance. Some eight years later, Isaac joined them, reposing next to Hester.

It is common knowledge that Robert bought the adjoining plots several days before his death. But is that indeed the case?

All known accounts of Robert being the purchaser of the plots likely arose out of these two paragraphs from Isaac’s letter to H. P. Lovecraft, dated June 29, 1936.

I buried both in the Greenleaf Cemetery at Brownwood, Texas. I selected caskets exactly alike. He had purchased a burial lot a week before this happened. This was in a restricted portion of the cemetery. The purchase carried with it a perpetual up-keep.

When he bought the lot, he went to the Sexton and wanted to know if it was a bonafide contract and if it would be taken care of. He said to the Sexton “I want to know if the lot will be kept in order. My father and I will go away and never come again. Mr. Bass, the Sexton, was under the impression that he contemplated something in which we would all go, but he did not expect to kill me, but knew the shock would kill me. He was careful to keep nurses and doctors around me, but no doubt I would die from shock … (corrected for spelling)

I wanted to verify if what Isaac wrote was indeed fact, so I contacted Vonne Cornett of Friends and Relatives of Greenleaf to see if she might be able to locate any records associated with the plots. She obtained this index card from the business records of Greenleaf Cemetery that records the transaction and subsequent updates for the Howards’ burial plots.

As shown above, Isaac is listed as the owner and purchaser of the plots and the perpetual care.  The three burial plots were paid for on June 14 and the perpetual care was purchased on July 12.

I suppose an argument could be made that Robert picked out the plots several days to a week before he died, but I just don’t see that being an option.  If he was going to the trouble of leaving his dying mother’s side and take half a day driving to Brownwood to buy burial plots, he would have bought and paid for them while he was there. Remember, according to Isaac, Robert expected him to drop dead from the shock of losing both his wife and son on the same day. If that scenario had played out, then who would have been left to pay for the family’s burial plots? Clearly, Isaac was the person who actually paid for them.

But why would Isaac tell Lovecraft that Robert bought the plots when it is apparent that he purchased them after Robert’s death?

As the newspaperman Maxwell Scott put it in the classic John Wayne western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, “This is the west, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

Isaac was doing a bit of legend making himself by embellishing the details surrounding Robert’s death. Much like his son, Isaac was doing some of his own exaggerating and storytelling in his letters to perpetuate a vision of Robert and the events of June 11 that best benefited him.

In the weeks and months following Robert’s death, Isaac destroyed Robert’s will, which left everything to his friend Lindsey Tyson. He also contacted Farnsworth Wright and submitted two stories, one of which was supposedly finished minutes before Robert shot himself. In fact, both stories (“Dig Me No Grave” and “The Fire of Asshurbanipal”) had been written years earlier and Robert had not completed a weird tale in nearly a year. Since Weird Tales owed him in excess of $1,300, he had shifted gears, submitting his yarns to markets that paid on time. Isaac also aggressively went about collecting the money Wright owed Robert and filed papers with the probate court in Baird naming himself executor since Robert died intestate (or so he told the court).

Howard scholar Patrice Louinet focuses in great detail on these actions and other aspects of Isaac’s behavior following the deaths of Hester and Robert in his “Grief & Greed?” essay, which I highly recommend. Also, both Rob and Brian have written about Greenleaf here on the blog.

Of course, we can never be 100% certain if Robert had anything to do with choosing the burial plots, but given the index card from Greenleaf Cemetery, it is evident  that Isaac made the actual purchase.  In the end, this is just another piece in the complex puzzle that is the life of Robert E. Howard.

During the 1930s, getting your story illustrated on the cover of Weird Tales by Margaret Brundage was a prize coveted by most of the magazine’s contributors, and Howard was certainly no exception. There is little doubt that he would purposefully insert a scene of a nude or nearly nude damsel in distress, often writhing at the business end of a whip, to give his story an edge in the race for the cover painting.  Other authors were also on the bandwagon  and  frequently hastily added or modified a scene just to catch the attention of editor Farnsworth Wright, who personally selected the scene for the cover illustration.

Howard was fan of Brundage’s work and she of his. Reportedly, she was deeply saddened upon learning of his sudden death. In these two short letters to Oriental Stories and Weird Tales, Howard expresses his admiration for her work.

Brundage did a fine job in the cover illustration for the current Oriental Stories. I have only had time to read “Jungle Girl” so far. It is needless to praise Miller; his stories speak for themselves. I used to read his earlier work in the American Boy, and never dreamed that some day I’d have the honor of seeing my name in a magazine alongside his. I have only a single kick to make about “Jungle Girl” and that isn’t to be taken as a criticism of the story’s merit or the author’s style. But Lord Bolton’s end, while dramatic and gratifyingly gory, was a bit too sudden and painless to satisfy me. He was too ornery to deserve an easy finish. I’d like to have let him kick and howl a while with a tulwar through his lower abdomen.

To Oriental Stories, ca. Spring 1932.

Enthusiasm impels me to pause from burning spines off cactus for my drouth-bedeviled goats long enough to give three slightly dust-choked cheers for the April cover illustration. The color combination is vivid and attractive, the lady is luscious, and altogether I think it’s the best thing Mrs. Brundage has done since she illustrated my “Black Colossus.” And that’s no depreciation of the covers done between these master-pictures. I must also express my appreciation to Mr. Napoli, who has done a splendid job of illustrating my serial [The Hour of the Dragon]. I hope the readers have liked the yarn as well as I liked writing it.

 To Weird Tales, ca. May 1936.

Margaret Brundage was born Margaret Hedda Johnson in Chicago, Illinois on December 9, 1900.  At age eight, her father died and her mother and grandmother were left to raise her. She was of Swedish and Irish ancestry and was raised as a Christian Scientist.

She attended McKinley High School in Chicago, where she was editor and art director of the school’s newspaper. Walt Disney was one of her classmates and drew cartoons for the school paper. She graduated, but Disney dropped out and tried unsuccessfully to join the Army (he was too young).  She then studied fashion design at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1921 – 1923, and Disney was once again her classmate. This time, he graduated but she didn’t. Brundage later said that her failure to graduate was due to her poor lettering skills. She soon found work as a freelance fashion illustrator for newspapers and the local fashion industry. 

In 1927, she married Myron “Slim” Brundage, a former hobo, who had an alcohol problem, dabbled in radical politics and was generally an oddball.  A house painter by trade, he didn’t work very often, leaving his wife as the primary breadwinner. Two years after they were married, she gave birth to their only child, a son named Kerlynn. She continued working off and on in the fashion field, but longed to make the leap from black and white illustration to color. During the depths of the Great Depression, Brundage was having trouble finding work and ol’ Slim wasn’t any help. So with a son and invalid mother to support, she decided to call on Chicago based periodical publishers. She hit pay-dirt when Popular Fiction Publishing Company, publisher of Weird Tales and Oriental Stories took note of her work.

Brundage got her chance to illustrate in color and did her first cover art, which appeared on the cover of the Spring 1932 issue of Oriental Stories (later known as The Magic Carpet Magazine). Soon she was doing covers for Weird Tales – the first one appeared on the September 1932 issue – and between June 1933 and August 1936 she drew 39 consecutive covers for the magazine, nine of them depicting Conan stories. Brundage did a total of 66 original Weird Tales covers (several of these were reprinted in the waning years of the magazine). She was paid $90 for each cover she did and those racy covers are credited with saving the magazine during the dark days of the Depression.

Her art usually featured “damsels in distress” in various states of undress, often with bits of gossamer fabric strategically placed. Her partially nude flagellation scenes were especially shocking and controversial. She considered the cover of the September 1933 issue of Weird Tales her most risqué. The scene depicted is from a Conan yarn, “The Slithering Shadow,” and risqué may be an understatement. Little wonder her covers were extremely popular with the male readers of Weird Tales.

Signing her work “M. Brundage,” readers believed she was man. In October 1934 Farnsworth Wright unwisely revealed that the “M” stood for Margaret, and suddenly his office was flooded with complaints.  It seems it was okay for a man to draw those nude women trapped in sexually vulnerable situations, but if a woman did, that was simply outrageous!

Our old friend L. Sprague de Camp often claimed in print that Brundage used her daughters as models; a myth that stills persists today. De Camp even wrote this passage in his 1975 biography of H. P. Lovecraft titled Lovecraft: A Biography.

From 1933 to 1938, Mrs. Margaret Brundage had a near-monopoly on painting cover illustrations for Weird Tales.Mrs. Brundage earned the title “Queen of the Pulps” with her pictures of naked heroines being tortured, raped, and disemboweled, Mrs. Brundage used her own daughters as models … Weird Tales never designated one of Lovecraft’s stories as the subject for a cover picture. Perhaps because there were practically no women in Lovecraft’s tales to be personated by the shapely Misses Brundage.

This was published after Chicago based pulp authority Bob Weinberg had set de Camp straight in a letter published in Savage Tales #5  (July 1974). He had personally interviewed Brundage and knew she did have not have daughters. In reality Brundage relied on her imagination, a personal library of clippings, and an occasional female friend. Her layabout husband served as a model for any masculine characters. She was also skilled in the art of anatomy and even taught a class at a local art school on the subject for several years.

Her status as premier cover artist for the magazine ended after 1938, when the Weird Tales offices moved from Chicago to New York and the magazine was bought by a syndicate. The great distance to the New York Weird Tales offices was one of the reasons for this change. While Wright was willing to accept her work, her chalk pastels smudged in postal transit – when the offices were in Chicago, she was able to hand deliver them. Another factor that caused Brundage’s nude paintings to disappear from the covers of Weird Tales was a decency standard imposed by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia that affected pulp magazines sold throughout New York City. In LaGuardia’s opinion, the lurid and violent covers were imperiling the morals of the citizenry. Virgil Finlay, who was primarily an interior artist, stepped-up and assumed the bulk of her cover duties. However, between 1940 and 1945, she did manage to do a handful of covers for The Unique Magazine, all of them considerably toned down in comparison to her 1933-1938 Weird Tales covers. Her last original cover was for the January 1945 issue.

In 1939, after suffering twelve years of her less-than-stable husband’s excessive drinking and neglect, she was granted a divorce. But her joy was short lived as her mother died in 1940. Tragedy struck again in 1972 when her only child passed away.

Brundage continued to draw after her long term stint at Weird Tales, often appearing at science fiction conventions and local art fairs. Unfortunately she was taken advantage of by dishonest Weird Tales fans at these events where some of her original period works were stolen. Needless to say, she never fully recovered financially from the loss of a steady paycheck from Weird Tales and her later years were spent in relative poverty. Still, she worked diligently at her craft until her death on April 9, 1976.

Acclaimed for her portrayals of the female form and her use of color and background, Brundage has been criticized for her shortcomings in depicting male heroes. But I suspect those critics are few and far between. She was a top pulp artist of her day and infused her work with a life all its own, bringing a style and aplomb to the covers of Weird Tales that was unmatched by any of her contemporaries or successors. Indeed, Margaret Brundage set the high standards for the portrayal of “women in peril” that still inspire the illustrators of today.