(Mason, Texas, April 19, 2013.) The Mason County Historical Commission will host a symposium, “Comanches of the Texas Hill Country,” on Sunday, May 19, 2013, at 2:00 P.M. at the Mason High School Auditorium, 1105 West College Avenue near the intersection of Avenue F (R.R. 1871). The varied and distinguished lineup consists of Glenn Frankel, Daniel J. Gelo, Esther Lehmann, and Donaly E. Brice. The moderator will be Commission member Scott Zesch. The program is open to the public free of charge.
Pulitzer-winning journalist Glenn Frankel has received accolades across the country for his new book The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend, which explores the saga of Comanche captive Cynthia Ann Parker, her uncle’s search for her, her son Quanah’s rise to power, and the intertwining of these facts and legends in John Ford’s classic film. The Washington Post called the book an “impeccably researched” and “fascinating journey from fiction to fact,” and USA Today praised it as “a nuanced, ambiguous portrayal of heroes and hypocrites.” Glenn was a longtime Washington Post reporter, editor and foreign correspondent who served as bureau chief in Jerusalem, London and Southern Africa. A former Professional Journalism Fellow at Stanford University and an Alicia Patterson Fellow, he is currently director of the School of Journalism and G. B. Dealey Regents Professor in Journalism at UT Austin.
UTSA anthropologist Daniel J. Gelo is a recognized authority on the culture of the Plains Indians. He has conducted fieldwork with the Comanche people of southwest Oklahoma since 1982. His books include Indians of the Great Plains, Texas Indian Trails (with Wayne L. Pate), Comanches in the New West, 1896-1908 (with Stanley Noyes), and Comanche Vocabulary. He also researched and co-wrote three award-winning film documentaries on Texas Indians for public television: Circle of Life: The Alabama-Coushatta Indians; Big City Trail: The Urban Indians of Texas; and People of the Sun: The Tiguas of Ysleta. He was a Henry Rutgers Scholar, was named Ambassador to the Comanche Nation, and won the University of Texas System Chancellor’s Council Outstanding Teaching Award. Dan, currently the Stumberg Distinguished University Chair and Dean of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts at UTSA, has also been analyzing some newly-discovered photographs from Fort Sill and Fort Griffin.
Mason County native Esther Lehmann grew up with her well-known uncle Herman Lehmann, author of Nine Years Among the Indians, who came to live with Esther’s family in Loyal Valley when she was three years old. Her uncle Herman and her father Willie were both captured by Apaches in 1870. Willie was able to escape four days later, but Herman spent his adolescent and teenage years with the Apaches and Comanches. Esther heard these riveting family stories firsthand. Throughout her adult life, she has entertained appreciative audiences with tales of her father and uncle. Countless visitors, including Comanches from Oklahoma, have traveled to her home and viewed her collection of Herman’s Plains Indian memorabilia. She has also spoken at schools in the Texas Hill Country. Esther and her sister Gerda Kothmann are believed to be the last living children of an Indian captive in North America.
Donaly E. Brice started working at the Texas State Archives in Austin in 1977 and retired in 2003 as the Reference Archivist. During that time, he became intimately familiar with the collection’s holdings. He has written several books on Texas history, including The Great Comanche Raid: Boldest Indian Attack of the Texas Republic and, most recently, The Governor’s Hounds: The Texas State Police, 1870-1873. A native Texan, Donaly was born in Austin, raised in Lockhart, and holds an M.A. in history from Sam Houston State University. While serving in the U.S. Navy, he gained his first experience in archival work at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. Donaly was president of the Genealogical and Historical Society of Caldwell County and was chairman of the Caldwell County Historical Commission. He has gone back to work with the State Archives on a part-time basis and is currently the Senior Research Assistant.
Moderator Scott Zesch is the author of The Captured: A True Story of Abduction by Indians on the Texas Frontier, which won the TCU Texas Book Award and was listed in True West Magazine as one of the books “you absolutely must have in your western history library.” Scott and Dan Gelo also annotated Bianca Babb’s captivity narrative for Southwestern Historical Quarterly.
The audience will have a chance to ask these speakers questions at the end of the program. A book signing will follow.
One of the early historians of the Comanches, Rupert Norval Richardson, wrote this romantic tribute in 1933: “They were finally defeated in the unequal conflict, but what a magnificent fight they made! Even yet, if we look by the light of an August moon across a Texas prairie dotted here and there by gnarled mesquite and mottes of scrubby oak, surely we shall see phantom warriors riding as of old—Comanches.” Come to the Mason High School Auditorium on May 19 to learn more about these remarkable Lords of the South Plains.
For more information, contact:
Jan Appleby, Chair
Mason County Historical Commission