Sunday, December 29, 2013

Out and About: Old Boggy Depot

While returning home from Texas recently, my Mom and I took a side trip to Boggy Depot State Park, about 12 miles west of Atoka, Oklahoma. Although the park contains the Boggy Depot Cemetery and the site of what was once the town of Boggy Depot, it is a park for camping and picnicking. 

There is essentially no trace now of what was once the vibrant community of Boggy Station. Established in the late 1830s, the town became an important trade center and was on the road between Fort Smith and Fort Washita. According to Roscoe P. and Margaret Conkling, “By the year 1858, Old Boggy Depot had become the largest and most important settlement on the Butterfield [Overland Mail] route between Fort Smith and Sherman, Texas. The little town now comprised a number of substantial residences, a church and a school, several stores and warehouses, a hotel and livery, a blacksmith shop, a brick kiln and a grist mill” (The Butterfield Overland Mail, 1857-1869, vol. 1, p. 269). During the war years, Boggy Depot became an important Confederate supply center. In the 1870s, Boggy Depot became a ghost town when the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad built its line to the east, and this drew commerce away from the old town and to the railroad. Consult Muriel H. Wright’s 1927 article about Old Boggy Depot in the Chronicles of Oklahoma for further information. Here is a small selection of photographs taken last week at Boggy Depot State Park; for other recent photographs see the Civil WarAlbum.

Site of John Kingsbury’s house:

John P. Kingsbury’s grave site:

Old family plot:

Open area that includes part of the old town site:

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Confederate Calendar

Last week I did some shopping at Gardner’s used bookstore in Tulsa and was surprised to find two Confederate Calendars for sale—one from 1987 and the other from 1993. They were only $1.00 each so I purchased them to add to my modest collection of the Confederate Calendar. Lawrence T. Jones III published these calendars for many years, and I looked forward to receiving the latest edition for Christmas each year. Regrettably, I discarded at some point some of my older calendars.

Featuring wartime era photographs of Confederate soldiers, along with background information about the soldier (if available) and data about the uniforms and equipment, these were excellent reference sources. Jones resided in Austin, Texas, and he reproduced photographs from his own collection as well as photographs owned by other collectors. Although his calendars featured Confederate soldiers from across the South, there always seemed to be a special emphasis on trans-Mississippians.

Although the calendar is no longer published, the Lawrence T. Jones Texas Photographs collection can be viewed online. Owned by Southern Methodist University’s DeGolyer Library, the approximately 4,200 photographs have been digitized. During this Christmas week, treat yourself to viewing some of these fine photographs!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Trans-Mississippi Bibliography

In a November 27th posting on his excellent blog, Civil War Books and Authors, Drew Wagenhoffer highlighted an important bibliography compiled by Gordon Chappell. Maybe (probably) this makes me a geek, but I do enjoy a well done bibliography. It's helpful to see a listing of books and other materials on a topic, and I am often led to previously unknown resources.

Chappell's The Civil War in the American West Bibliography is an extensive listing of books, monographs, and pamphlets. Helpfully, the compiler also includes comments about many of the works. Check it out--I bet you'll find some surprises!

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Preservation Opportunity: Carthage, Missouri

It is cold and snowy in my Oklahoma town today, but I was cheered by the latest Civil War Trust preservation opportunity. Somehow, the organization has cobbled together a $30.53 to $1.00 match to preserve (hopefully) 1,573 acres on eight battlefields. Two-hundred acres of the Carthage, Missouri, skirmish on July 5, 1861, are included in this preservation deal. The Civil War Trust’s website has maps of each of the targeted properties and further details about each battle. If I did the math correctly, my $50.00 donation will be leveraged into $1,526.50!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Mr. Lincoln Visits the Kansas Territory

Abraham Lincoln achieved national prominence as a result of the series of debates with Senator Stephen Douglas in the fall of 1858. Lincoln was unsuccessful in defeating the Senator so why did he travel to four states and the Kansas Territory on speaking engagements in 1859? Again, it was to counter Douglas as he stumped for Democratic candidates. Lincoln arrived in Ellwood, Kansas Territory, on December 1st, just five days before the territorial elections. While in Ellwood, Lincoln gave a speech and purchased “12 pounds sugar and five pounds [of] coffee” according to Lincoln Day by Day (p. 266). The next day he gave speeches in Troy and in Atchison; he also purchased a peck of apples. On December 3rd, and again on the 5th, he presented speeches in Leavenworth and then left Leavenworth after the territorial elections for his return to Illinois. The December 1st date is notable as it was just one day before the execution of John Brown in the State of Virginia. According to biographer Ronald C. White, Jr., Lincoln “offered his first public comment on the former Kansan” in the Ellwood speech. Lincoln denounced the John Brown Raid as illegal and “ ‘futile’ in terms of its effect ‘on the extinction of a great evil’ ” (White, 304).

We are left with a bit of a mystery though…why did Lincoln purchase so many apples and so much sugar and coffee? He also purchased “hats, shoes, [and] comforters” on his Kansas trip…


Miers, Earl Schenck, ed. Lincoln Day by Day: A Chronology, 1809-1865. Dayton, OH: Morningside, 1991.

White, Ronald C., Jr. A. Lincoln: A Biography. New York: Random House, 2009.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Handwriting: An Historian Sounds An Alarm

The document below is admittedly a rather prosaic one drawn from the compiled service record of Theophilus Perry, a soldier in the 28th Texas Cavalry. It is included for a simple reason; namely, can you read it?

Some of my students this semester have stated that they find it extremely difficult to read handwriting, not because they have vision problems, but because they have little experience writing in cursive or deciphering cursive handwriting. On top of this, I have read recently that there are public schools that will no longer be teaching cursive handwriting. Regrettably, this means that future historians will have a difficult time if they wish to study our “early” history. Will the contents of handwritten documents be more likely to be ignored if they can’t be easily read? Will historians decide to concentrate on the more recent past as a result? Will history departments add a special course someday on how to decipher cursive handwriting? Perhaps special software will be developed to aid in the process of decoding that handwriting?