Digging holes here and there in American history.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011



     The small pistol in Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site in Washington, D.C. seems suspended in mid-air in its display case. The subdued lighting dances off the barrel eerily as stone-faced statues of the Lincoln assassination conspirators hover nearby.  Under the golden light in its gilded case, the pistol appears as objet d’art rather than an instrument of murder and national tragedy.  

      The pistol John Wilkes Booth selected to murder President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865 is so small a man can hide it in the palm of his hand.  Civilians favored the “pocket pistol” produced by Henry Deringer, a Pennsylvania armsmaker, as a compact, concealable firearm for personal defense. Although the Deringer pistol was restricted by its single-shot capacity, its small size and weight often made it preferable over larger and heavier firearms.  Its “one and done” firing capacity could be overcome by carrying two pistols.   While there is

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Most people who know about Pearl Harbor, the battle that brought America fully into World War II, believe that the Japanese attack was completely without warning.  The common misconception is that the first indication of attack occurred when Japanese bombs starting raining from the skies.

But before the planes of the Japanese arrived, their midget submarines were attempting to penetrate Pearl Harbor.  One of these subs was spotted by a patrolling American warship.

On the morning of December 7, 1941, the U.S.S. Ward was conducting a precautionary patrol off the entrance to Pearl Harbor when crewmen spotted the submarine.  The Japanese were attempting to sneak through the submarine nets into the harbor in the wake of another American vessel.  A submarine inside the harbor could inflict horrendous damage, firing point blank into the moored battleships.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


(For the baseball and Louisiana Tech fans in the audience.)

Rebel Oakes led the way to the pros

When you think of Louisiana Tech athletes who went on to play professional sports in the "old days," stars like Terry Bradshaw, George Stone, and Mike Barber may come to mind.

Those Tech athletes from the 60's and 70's may not care to have their college careers viewed as ancient history, even though decades have passed since they donned a Bulldog uniform.

The old days—as far as the first time Tech sent one of its own to a pro ball club—go back nearly as far as the university itself.

The first steps in organizing a formal sports program at Tech were taken in 1901 when the first coach was hired. Coach Barber was responsible for all physical education on the campus, including the football, baseball, and basketball teams.

Baseball was one the first programs to get up and running at Tech and would be the first sport to send a player to the pros.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

RUSTON'S CHAUTAUQUA: Louisiana's Cultural Epicenter

     Toma Lodge in Ruston is a quiet upscale neighborhood of fine homes, towering pine trees, and well manicured lawns.  Right away, visitors note the subdivision is unlike most contemporary growth in which lots are razed to facilitate construction and then replanted with spindly trees and shabby shrubs, giving the landscape an artificial look.  In Toma Lodge, it is clear the homes were planted carefully around century-old trees in a park-like setting.  Toma Lodge looks like a park because it served as a semi-private natural sanctuary for decades.
     Toma Lodge Estates and the adjacent Christ Community Church lay on land with a history that would surprise most of the neighborhood’s residents and the church’s members.  Around the turn of the 20th Century, thousands gathered each summer on the grounds now occupied by expensive homes and a beautiful house of worship for sessions of the Louisiana Chautauqua.  Among them were the most prominent politicians, religious leaders and public speakers in the nation.

      The Chautauqua Society was founded in New York in 1874 with the goal of providing educational enrichment and inspiration in a picturesque natural setting.  It was much like a summer camp offering a mixture of education, religion and recreation.  The Chautauqua movement spread quickly across the United States as 45 states established Circuit Chautauquas that offered lectures, music, speeches and plays in rural and small-town America.  In 1889, the Louisiana Educational Association voted to establish a Louisiana Chautauqua on a 15-acre tract just north of the outskirts of the fledging railroad town of Ruston.
     Ruston was selected for the state's Chautauqua because of its gently rolling hills, forest scenery and peaceful setting as well as enthusiastic local support for the endeavor.  In a report of its 1889 decision, the leaders of the Louisiana Educational Association noted the “refined culture of [Ruston’s] people, their public spirit, their hospitality, their intense interest in all forms of thought and learning showed that they would give generous, united and untiring support to such an institution.”  When Ruston was founded in 1884 with the coming of the railroad, it had attracted some of the best educated community leaders from regional towns bypassed by the new line.  By the time the Chautauqua was created, Ruston already boasted a small college—Ruston College—an opera house, and other cultural endeavors.
     Thomas. D. Boyd, President of the Louisiana Educational Association, wrote in a circular letter in April 1891 that Northern Louisiana was renowned for its “healthfulness and pleasing rural scenery."  Since the Chautauqua programs were held during the summer, the region also offered an escape from the oppressive southern Louisiana heat. The Ruston site encompassed a number of “mineral springs,” offering visitors what were purported to be “healing waters.”  A large two-story hotel, named the Chautauqua Springs, was erected along with cottages and an outdoor auditorium with a capacity of 2,000.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


The American Civil War began in 1861.  Did you know 2011 was the 150th anniversary, or sesquicentennial, of the war?  Some states are marking the anniversary with special events.  What is your state planning?  There has been some controversy over how this significant historical event should be commemorated 150 years later.

A good link to learn more:  www.civilwar.org/150


We take photography for granted.  It has been around throughout our lives.  It's hard to imagine a time when family or special events could not be preserved permanently through photographs.

To some degree, photography has lessened our reliance on the written word.  We don't have to use descriptive terms when we can simply include a photo.  As they say, "a picture is worth a thousand words."

Long before photography, people had to use descriptive prose to "paint a picture" for the reader.  Take this description of one great American as written by a friend:

"Straight as an Indian, measuring six feet two inches in his stockings, and weighing 175 pounds. . . . His frame is padded with well-developed muscles, indicating great strength. His bones and joints are large, as are his hands and feet. He is wide shouldered but has not a deep or round chest; is neat waisted, but is broad across the hips and has rather long legs and arms. His head is well-shaped, though not large, but is gracefully poised on a superb neck. A large and straight rather than a prominent nose; blue gray penetrating eyes which are widely separated and overhung by a heavy brow. His face is long rather than broad, with high round cheek bones, and terminates in a good firm chin. He has a clear though rather a colorless pale skin which burns with the sun. A pleasing and benevolent though a commanding countenance, dark brown hair which he wears in a cue.

"His mouth is large and generally firmly closed, but which from time to time discloses some defective teeth. His features are regular and placid with all the muscles of his face under perfect control, though flexible and expressive of deep feeling when moved by emotions. In conversation, he looks you full in the face, is deliberate, deferential, and engaging. His voice is agreeable rather than strong. His demeanor at all times composed and dignified. His movements and gestures are graceful, his walk majestic, and he is a splendid horseman."

Any ideas who this might be?

See below...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Books Available

These are my books related to Louisiana history. 

Neither Fear Nor Favor:  Deputy United States Marshal John Tom Sisemore, $18.95

Fish Out of Water:  Nazi Submariners as Prisoners of War in North Louisiana During World War II, $10.95

Greetings from Ruston:  A Post Card History of Ruston, Louisiana, $14.95

Books can be ordered from amazon.com or by contacting campruston@gmail.com.
Also check out my articles in the bi-monthly MINUTE MAGAZINE.  http://issuu.com/theminutemagazine

My Favorites

Buy the best history books here... from amazon.com