Friday, February 28, 2014

Texas Independence Day Celebration

On March 1-2, 2014, the Star of the Republic Museum at Washington-on-the-Brazos will host a celebration to commemorate the signing if the Texas Declaration of Independence on March 2, 1836.  Free family entertainment with live performances, music, historic craft demonstrations, and more will take place from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM each day!

For more information about this wonderful museum, which does a great job of telling the history of the Republic of Texas, visit the following link:

And to see the schedule of events for this weekend, go to:

Sunday, February 23, 2014

2014 Annual Membership Meeting Held

On February 22, 2014, the Brazos Heritage Society held its annual membership meeting at the Brazos Center in Bryan, Texas.  At 2:00 PM President Dan Beto called the meeting to order, and immediately called on Deborah Cowman, Executive Director of the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History, with whom the Society has enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship over the years.  Dr. Cowman provided a few welcoming remarks and shared information on some of the exciting things going on in the Museum.

The program for this year’s meeting was delivered by Randy Haynes, a Senior Planner with the City of Bryan and a past President of the Society, who spoke on “Preservation Partners.”  This thoughtful presentation, which generated quite a bit of discussion, identified a number of organizations and agencies involved in historic preservation and the extent of their involvement.  Mr. Haynes also discussed the work of the City of Bryan Historic Landmark Commission and some of the topics under consideration.

Following Mr. Haynes presentation, Mr. Beto provided a few remarks on what had transpired over the past year, citing both progress and disappointments.  As for the disappointments, Mr. Beto said:

On August 13, 2013, the Society lost Floyd M. Jones, a past President.  For those of you who don’t recall, Dr. Jones attended last year’s membership meeting and had a great time sharing stories during the reception.

Then on January 2, 2014, Dorothy Van Riper, a founding member and a generous supporter of the Brazos Heritage Society, unexpectedly passed away.

And on January 18, 2014, former Brazos County Commissioner Billy Beard died.  Now Billy was not a Society member, but we all owe him a debt of gratitude, because he is responsible for cleaning up the Boonville Cemetery.  Before he made this one of his projects, the cemetery was a disgrace.

Now I don’t want to dwell on the passing of these three wonderful people, but they each left a legacy that warrants recognition.

On a more positive note, Mr. Beto reported the Society has a new website, thanks to Vice President Isabel McPartlin and her husband.  The Society’s electronic newsletter – Heritage Brazos – continues to carry information relevant to the mission of the organization and the interests of the membership.  The Astin Clothing Collection, entrusted to the Society many years ago, now has a home with the Heard-Craig Center for the Arts in McKinney, which is the repository for many Astin family items.  In addition, the Society provided financial support to the A&M Garden Club for the Richard Carter Park restoration project and to the Brazos Valley African American Museum.

Following his remarks, Mr. Beto began conducting the business of the organization.  The first order of business was the approval of the minutes for the 2013 Annual Membership Meeting.  Sheila Fields moved that the minutes be approved, and Nat Hilliard seconded the motion; the motion carried.

The Treasurer’s Report, prepared by Beverly Myers, who was unable to attend due to illness, was presented by Mr. Beto.  Briefly summarized, the Society has $1,952.61 in a checking account and $8,400.23 in a certificate of deposit, for a total of $10,352.84.  As for membership, there are 37 member units in the Society: six individual members ($10.00); 20 family members ($15.00); 10 heritage members ($100.00); and one life member (honorary).  Mr. Beto noted that 2014 membership dues are now being accepted.  Stephanie Hilliard moved that this report be accepted, and Sheila Fields seconded the motion; the motion carried.

Tom McDonald, Of Counsel to the Executive Committee and who is involved in a number of activities and organizations that share a common purpose – the preservation of our heritage – provided a detailed report on the progress of the restoration of the Queen Theatre and a list of individuals and businesses providing in kind support.  He also discussed activities of the Downtown Bryan Association.  Judge McDonald reported that St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church will celebrate its 100 anniversary of its worship facility on April 27.  He advised the William Joel Bryan Chapter No. 14 of the Sons of the Republic of Texas has finally secured permission from the state to move the Turner-Peters Dogtrot Log Cabin from Grimes County to Brazos County, and that once restored it will be placed adjacent to the Boonville Cemetery.  Judge McDonald reported that most of the funds for this project have been raised but that more is needed.  He concluded his remarks with a discussion of the restoration of Temple Freda, which has just been deeded to the City of Bryan.  Randy Haynes also joined in on this discussion.

Next on the agenda was Stephanie Hilliard, Co-chair of the Events Committee, who spoke about past and planned activities.  Upcoming events include the Spring Tea, the Museum of the American G. I. Open House, several proposed day trips for members of the Society, Independence Day festivities in Heritage Park, and Boonville Days.

Sheila Fields, Chair of the Research Committee, recalled the Society’s work in creating a community marker for the old Boonville Jail site; she advised that while there was no current project in the works, she was receptive to considering other community markers for appropriate sites.

Linda Roberts, Char of the Eastside Historic District Committee, was unable to attend the meeting due to a conflict.  She provided a written report, which each member received.  Mr. Beto advised that this report required no action but encouraged those present to read it.

In the absence of Beverly Myers, Chair of the Nominating Committee, Mr. Beto gave that report.  It was the recommendation of the Nominating Committee that the following slate of officers be approved:  Stephanie Hilliard for President; Isabel McPartlin for Vice President; Sheila Fields for Secretary; and Beverly Myers for Treasurer.  Mr. Beto asked for nominations from the floor, and there were none.  Judge McDonald moved that the slate be approved by acclamation, and Randy Haynes seconded the motion; the motion carried.

Mr. Beto congratulated the newly elected officers.  He encouraged anyone interested in serving in a leadership role to speak to the new President.  He closed the meeting by thanking the members of the Executive Committee for their conscientious service during his term.

The meeting adjourned at 4:00 PM, after which a reception was held in the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Battleship TEXAS: Commemorating 100 Years

Life on board the USS TEXAS and the ship’s 100-year history are revealed in a special exhibition that opened on February 1, 2014, at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, Texas. 

Battleship TEXAS: Commemorating 100 Years marks the centennial anniversary of the commission of the TEXAS, the only surviving battleship that endured two world wars.  The exhibition is a collaboration between the museum and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.  It will be located in the third-floor Rotunda Gallery and will continue until April 13, 2014.

Additional information about this exhibit may be found by going to:

For more information about the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, visit this link:

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Museum of the American G.I. 2014 Open House

The 15th Annual Open House of the Museum of the American G.I. will take place on Friday, March 21, and Saturday, March 22, 2014, from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, at 19124 Highway 6 South in College Station, Texas.

Military vehicle and living history displays will occur on both days.  There will be small arms weapons demonstrations on Saturday at 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM.  Also on Saturday there will be a World War II Battle Reenactment at 3:00 PM.

Admission to the Open House is $10.00 for adults and $5.00 for children; admission for children under age 5 is free.

In addition to the Open House, on Friday at 6:00 PM there will be a Fundraising BBQ Dinner benefitting the Museum of the American G.I.  Tickets for the dinner are $25.00 for adults and $15.00 for children under 12. 

At the dinner there will be a special viewing of the Kenneth Michael Absher Collection of Robert Taylor WWII Aviation Art Prints.

For additional information about the March 21-22, 2014, events, visit the following link:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Billy E. Beard, Rest in Peace

Over the past two days the Bryan-College Station Eagle has carried the obituary of former Brazos County Commissioner Billy E. Beard, who passed away last month.  The obituary, which also appears on the Hillier Funeral Home website, reads as follows:

Billy E. Beard, 96, of Deming, NM, and formerly of Bryan, went to be with his Lord on Saturday, January 18, 2014.  A time for family to receive friends will be from 9:30 am to 10:30 am with a funeral service beginning at 10:30 am on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at Bethel Lutheran Church, 4421 Boonville Rd., Bryan, TX, with Pastor Randall Bard officiating.  Interment will follow at Rest-Ever Cemetery.

Billy was born on December 28, 1917; to Lena May (Walker) and Joseph Aaron Beard in Liberty, Texas.  He graduated from Liberty High School.  He served in the Army Air Corps from 1941-1945.  In 1942 he married Edna Catherine Williams.  Billy attended Hinds Junior College, and was admitted to the School of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M in 1947.  He served as an appraiser for the Texas Veteran’s Land Board, ran for Texas Agricultural Commissioner in 1952.  Billy farmed and ranched in Brazos County in the late 50’s, drilled for oil in Guatemala until 1962, owned Beard Pump Service from 1962-82, and served as Brazos County Commissioner from 1980-88, after which he retired to Deming, NM where he raised horses, pigs, quail, rabbits, emus, gardened and had a small pistachio orchard.

Billy was an active member of First United Methodist Church, Bryan. He was also involved with the Historical Society-Boonville Cemetery, Keep Brazos Beautiful, Humane Society, Shriners, Kiwanis, American Legion, VFW, Lions Club, and loved to hunt and fish.

He is preceded in death by his wife Edna, and son Billy E. Beard, Jr.

Billy leaves behind his loving wife of nine years, Maria J. Beard; a son, Robert and daughter-in-law Fran; two stepdaughters, Erica and Marisol, two stepsons, Angel and Chano; and eight grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be sent to Hospice Brazos Valley.

Please share your memories and tributes to Billy at

While Billy was not a member of the Brazos Heritage Society, he certainly was a supporter of its mission.  In June of 1982 Billy, who also served on the Brazos County Historical Commission, took on the task of saving the Boonville Cemetery, which had become a “countywide disgrace” due to neglect.

An editorial appearing in the Eagle on June 23, 1982, described this historic cemetery in these words:

Grave stones and markers have been upended – some broken – by vandals; weeds and tall grass have overrun the facility; the lack of management over the years makes it impossible for anyone to know just how many people are buried in the 10-acre facility, since many have been buried without any type of marker designating their grave.

Because of his interest in preserving this historic cemetery, Billy recruited the support of the two District Judges – Tom McDonald and Bradley Smith – and the Brazos County Adult Probation Department to require probationers ordered to perform community service as part of their sentence to work in the cemetery.  In addition, he got the county commissioners to agree to fence the cemetery.

A subsequent editorial appearing in the Eagle on September 10, 1982, commends Commissioner Beard and notes certain accomplishments in the preservation of this piece of Brazos County history:

Slowly but surely things are looking up for the future maintenance and care of Boonville Cemetery.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Billy Beard, the county’s two district judges and the Adult Probation Department have developed a plan for cleaning up the historic 140-year-old cemetery and maintaining it on an ongoing basis – all at little or no cost to county taxpayers.

Beard deserves much of the credit for instigating the project and getting the plan beyond the discussion stage.  Like many people familiar with the cemetery, he had been concerned for some time about the high weeds, broken tombstones and generally dilapidated condition of one of the county’s oldest landmarks.  Since the cemetery falls within his county precinct – and since no one else had stepped forward to maintain it – Beard several months ago decided to see what he could do to bring the facility up to par.

After Beard proposed the idea last June, county commissioners agreed to fence the cemetery as a first step toward cleaning it up.  While the first set of bids received for that project were rejected because commissioners felt them too high, a second set of bids are to be opened in about two weeks and work is expected to get underway shortly thereafter.  In preparation for the fencing, Beard and his Precinct 3 crew have cleared a fence line around the cemetery.

But perhaps the most promising development has been the agreement between Beard, the two district judges and the Adult Probation Department which will allow persons convicted of a crime and granted probation to complete their community service requirement by working at the cemetery.  While several details remain to be ironed out – such as determining the need for liability insurance, assigning a supervisor to monitor the work, and developing a specific work schedule – the plan appears to be on track.  An added benefit of the plan is that the local courts can now be certain that there will be enough sanctioned community service work available to justify including that stipulation when sentence is passed in criminal cases.

Beard also hopes to involve the county’s historical society in the project, and plans to seek assistance from landscaping experts at Texas A&M University in developing a site plan for the cemetery.

The public should begin seeing the fruits of all this labor within weeks, and the community as a whole will be the better for it.  Beard, the judges, commissioners court, Dan Beto and others who have been involved in developing the plan are to be commended for their efforts.  The approach taken in addressing this problem is a fine example of what can be accomplished with cooperation, creative thinking, and a little elbow grease.

Because of Billy’s leadership, his interest in the Boonville Cemetery, and his ability to generate support for a worthy cause, we are now able to take pride in this historic landmark.  We all owe Billy a debt of gratitude.  Billy was a dedicated public servant who has left a lasting legacy in Brazos County.

Our deepest sympathies are extended to Maria, Bob, and Fran, and to other members of the Beard family.

                                                                                              Dan Beto, President

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Making History Accessible:

Found on the electronic edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education is an interesting article about a fascinating website – – an online home for stories about slavery, told from the perspective of the slaves themselves.

And to access the website, which has both written and audio narratives, visit:

Newsletter from LBJ Presidential Library

The February 2014 issue of the Newsletter from the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, is now accessible online.

Featured in this issue is information about news and exhibits dealing with the following subjects: The War on Poverty; Sixty From the ‘60s; From Addiction to Recovery; and 1934 Courtship Letters.

To visit the LBJ Presidential Library website, go to the following link:  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

TSHA Riding Line Available

The Winter 2014 issue of Riding Line, the newsletter of the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), is now available online.

Featured in this issue is information on the 2014 Annual Meeting in San Antonio, events supporting the Texas State Historical Association, publications, and educational programs.

Additional information about the TSHA may be found at this link:

Monday, February 3, 2014

New Wildflower Wire Online

The February 2014 issue of Wildflower Wire, the monthly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas, is now available.  

This publication includes upcoming events, Center news, and membership specials.

To access this newsletter, visit the following link:  

Sunday, February 2, 2014

New Backroads Newsletter Available

The February 2014 issue of Backroads Newsletter, a product of the Rural Texas Tourism Center, is now available online.

Found in this electronic publication is information about a number of events that will take place in February and March in the surrounding area.

To read this informative newsletter, visit this link:

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Texas Ranger Hall of Fame Newsletter Online

The February 2014 issue of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame Newsletter is now available online.  Found in this informative publication are activities related to Texas heritage.

This informative publication may be accessed by going to the following link: