Texas history comes alive at Symposium
By LPR Staff
Though there is nothing boring about Texas history, oftentimes its presentation can be yawn-inducing.
Taking a page out of the State’s pioneers’ playbook, though, a group of local artists, writers and researchers have taken an innovative, interactive approach to sharing Texas History. Through t
he use of music, prose and lecture, several presenters will bring Texas history back to life at the first-of-its-kind Plum Creek Symposium on Saturday.
The all-day event will focus on the struggles of early Texans, particularly the battles at the Alamo and at Plum Creek, as well as events that developed as a result of Texas’ fights for independence.
The Plum Creek Symposium will be held in the third floor meeting room of the historic Dr. Eugene Clark Library from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 13. Lunch will not be provided, but a break in the action will allow visitors to enjoy one of Lockhart’s many fine eateries – it is, after all, the Barbecue Capitol of Texas.
The Symposium, produced in connection with the Dr. Eugene Clark Library’s critically-acclaimed “Evenings with the Songwriter” series, will include presentations from local favorites Fletcher Clark and Donaly Brice, as well as Austin songwriters Kevin Fontenot and Craig Toungate. The four will present five separate, engaging presentations through the course of the day.
The morning session will begin with Brice’s review of the Battle of Plum Creek, which most agree is among Lockhart’s most significant historical events. The Battle of Plum Creek was the turning point in the struggle of frontier Texans against Comanche depredations, and the Symposium was scheduled to mark the anniversary of the event, which took place on Aug. 12, 1840.
Brice’s presentation, “The Great Comanche Raid” is based on his book, considered the definitive treatise on the subject of the battle that saw a volunteer militia gathered from across Central Texas beat back the forces of 600 Comanche and Kiowa on a war party, and marking a victory that sealed the defeat of what was thought to be the most hostile and violent Native American tribe in Texas.
After an intermission, the morning session concludes with Songs of Susanna, a program of lecture, verse and song about Susanna Dickinson (Messenger of the Alamo) presented by Brice and Clark.
The presentation will follow Dickinson’s journey from Tennessee to Texas, where she eventually survived the siege at the Alamo and was charged with bringing Santa Anna’s demand for surrender to Gen. Sam Houston. The young widow struggled through her life, eventually settling in Lockhart and later in Austin, where she finally became prosperous and respected.
After the lunch break, Brice and Clark will return to the stage with their unique brand of storytelling to share “The Runaway Scrape,” the tale of the frantic flight by Texians before the advancing forces of Santa Anna and his promise of no quarter.
As he moved across Texas, Santa Anna showed no mercy to the settlers, engaging in policies of cruelty and mass execution before the final defeat and capture at San Jacinto. Before that, though, Texians across the region attempted to flee in advance of the rising dark.
Next Kevin Fontenot presents “Stout and High,” which reviews the songs for which the Alamo has been the theme – and by extension the role ballads play in the telling of history.
The last featured program is about Craig Toungate’s In the Shadow of Giants, originally commissioned in its fully staged presentation by the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum: the dramatic/musical tale of Craig’s great-grandfather, young Meredith Toungate who first rode belatedly to relieve the garrison at the Alamo, then joined Houston in Gonzales for the Runaway Scrape, finally to find himself guarding the captured and disgraced Santa Anna. Toungate relates, “How I Met and Became My Own Grandpa,” recounting the uncovering of his family history through genealogy, and the unfolding of the creation of In the Shadow of Giants.
“It’s like being on a treasure hunt, combined with a mystery novel, interspersed with spiritual intervention from behind the veil, and all while doing your best to dance with the muses,” he said.
Registration for the Symposium is $20 at the door.
“It is an all-day event, but for folks who wish to attend only one of the sessions, or perhaps even only one of the programs, they will be more than satisfied with these extraordinary presentations of living history,” said Clark.
The Plum Creek Symposium is presented by Lockhart’s historic Dr. Eugene Clark Library (the oldest continuously operating library building in Texas) and its highly successful monthly series Evenings with the Songwriter, currently in its sixth season. Support from Library Director Bertha Martinez and her staff (with underwriting by “Friends of the Song,” Todd Blomerth and Patti Payne, Donaly and Clare Brice, and Bob and Esther Wilson) makes this local cultural oasis free to the public, while creating a national reputation within the wider community of professional performing singer-songwriters.
A Lockhart native, Brice, the Senior Reference Archivist emeritus for the Texas State Library, has written or co-written four books on Texas history, and a number of historical articles for the The Plum Creek Almanac and The East Texas Historical Journal. He is a Fellow of the East Texas Historical Association and the Texas State Historical Association, and is a member of the West Texas Historical Association and the Southern Historical Association.
Fontenot is a native of Oberlin, Louisiana. He holds degrees in history from Louisiana College and Tulane University, and taught Louisiana history and Southern cultural history for twelve years at Tulane’s School of Continuing Studies. He currently teaches at Fulmore Middle School in Austin, and lectures frequently on Texas music and history while working on an upcoming book.
Toungate, a professional songwriter, has been a featured vocalist for over 50 recordings released by Disney since 1977, and has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in the Austin music scene. Currently, Craig is writing the score for the new musical “Rosetta,” based on the life of legendary gospel singer Rosetta Tharpe.
A career musician, Clark, was an early principal in Austin’s legendary concert venue Armadillo World Headquarters, and is a performing and recording songwriter at select festivals and listening rooms. In addition to producing and hosting Evenings with the Songwriter in his hometown of Lockhart, he has written a personal hymnal and recorded a CD of the songs, presenting them for area congregations.
For additional information on the Plum Creek Symposium, find the event on Facebook, or call the Dr. Eugene Clark Library at (512) 398-3223.
courtesy of Fletcher Clark)