The Papers of Captain Robert G. Carter: Frontier Soldier

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The Southwest Collection is located on the Llano Estacado, also known as the South Plains. Folks have been visiting the region for more than a century in a half, which in those early years resulted in no small amount of conflict. One, the Battle of Blanco Canyon near the Brazos River in 1871, occurred between U.S. Soldiers and a Comanche raiding party. A survivor of that conflict, Captain Robert G. Carter, was awarded a Medal of Honor for his conduct in the fight. The Southwest Collection is fortunate to have his correspondence and related materials dating from the years after the fight, and we’re going to share some of it with you in this very blog!

The image at the top of this post is of a letter from Carter’s extensive correspondence with fellow veterans of the “Indian Wars.” Carter had served under Ranald Mackenzie both in that conflict and later along the Mexican border at the end of the 19th century. So, too, did this letter’s recipient, Col. R. P. Smyth. In this letter, Carter regales Smyth with some of the facts. Sadly, we do not have Smyth’s original or subsequent letters.

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Carter became well-known through his published memoirs, such as On the Border with Mackenzie (1935). He also sold maps of the conflict, such as the one referenced by renowned Texas historian J. Evetts Haley in the letter above. In another collection, we even have a copy of the map, which you can see below.

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History was Carter’s passion, and he promoted it not only through his publications, but also through participation in various organizations dedicated to preserving it. The 1932 newspaper clipping above (culled from a newspaper we unfortunately haven’t been able to identify) celebrating his elevation to commander of the Order of Indian Wars, an organization serving veterans of that conflict.

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And yet some of his papers are banal. Here we have a dispute with a bank over miscalculated interest. It rings as true then as it does for some of us today. In fact, Carter’s papers contain at least 14 pages of his back and forth with the Union Trust Company, full of pithy responses to their incorrect claims: “According to the mathematics taught me, two items of the same amount, one subtracted from the other, leaves 0.” Carter, telling it like it is!

The Robert G. Carter Papers comprise only a single archival box, but are packed with unique material like this, documenting Carter’s recollections of service, as well as his day-to-day life in the years following. They’re available in their entirety among our digital collections, and we’d love for any interested researchers (or the generally curious) to take a look through them.

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The West Texas Historical Association

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The Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library has long been proud to house the offices of the West Texas Historical Association (WTHA.) Organized in 1924 in Abilene at Simmons College (now Hardin-Simmons University), the WTHA arrived at the SWC in 1996. The organization has two hallmarks. The first, its annual meeting, a conference at which lay and professional historians share their research over the course of two days, will be held for the 90th time in Odessa, Texas this April. The second is its annual publication, the West Texas Historical Review (formerly West Texas Historical Association Year Book), the most recent cover of which can be seen above.

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The WTHA also partners with other local and regional organizations to preserve the history of West Texas. Most recently it has worked with the Quanah Parker Trail to promote that organization’s installation of “Giant Arrows” marking locations of historical significance to the life of late-nineteenth-century Comanche chief Quanah Parker. The image above comes from the ceremony celebrating the arrow that was planted at the American Museum of Agriculture in Lubbock, Texas in July 2012.

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Although the West Texas Historical Review—which we’ll tell you more about below—is the repository of the WTHA’s scholarship, its newsletter The Cyclone is the main method through which it shares information about upcoming events, related organizations, and various other topics. The most recent issue of The Cyclone can be found here.

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The most significant contribution made by the WTHA to the preservation of West Texas history is the West Texas Historical Review. Its first volume appeared in 1925, and has continued publication to the present day. The forthcoming 89th volume will contain articles on a host of topics, including depictions of West Texas on television, reexamining accounts of Civil War battles in the region, and the unexpected connections between San Angelo, Texas and Africa’s 19th century Boer War. Reviews of books about West Texas history as well as a thorough bibliography listing books and periodicals published about the region’s history in the past year are also included.

So head on out to Odessa this April to attend the WTHA Annual Meeting. At the very least, take a look at the WTHA on Facebook to see the images documenting West Texas History that they regularly share. And if you’re interested in becoming a member of the organization (which includes a subscription to the Cyclone and the Review!), don’t hesitate to do so.