Monday, October 18, 2010

Fantastic historical resources available online for free!

Originally publsihed in the Kerrville Daily Times, October 16, 2010

Kudos to my friend Kathleen S. Walker, Director of Instructional Technology at Schreiner University, for sending along information that the "Southwestern Historical Quarterly" is now available online.
The announcement I read says "The Southwestern Historical Quarterly is an indispensible resource for Texas history researchers and enthusiasts. The Portal now has 87 issues, dating back to 1898. Articles written by noted scholars cover all aspects of Texas history, including Texas' military brigades and battles, history of the Texas Rangers, Native American tribes of Texas, colonization, and industrialization of Texas."
An image I'd never seen before,
found quickly online.
A quick look at the site was quite impressive. I entered "Kerrville" in the search box and came up with hundreds of pages of information, from a long article about the "Kerrville Axe" to stories about Harry Lee Marriner, the "Staff Poet" of the Galveston-Dallas News, who happened to die here.
Similarly, you can enter a family's name, or a neighboring community, or even a community which no longer exists -- and instantly find all the articles in this esteemed journal about the subject. The site is part of the University of North Texas' "Portal to Texas History," and can be accessed by visiting
There was a time, Gentle Reader, when one interested in history had to travel many miles to visit distant libraries to find information now available immediately to anyone with access to the Internet. Mind you, I enjoyed my travels to those far away libraries. I met some real characters -- grouchy librarians, sanguine fellow-researchers, crouched in tiny rooms that were both cold and smelled of molds yet unnamed.
Yet in a few clicks of the mouse, I found a booklet by J. E. Grinstead (who was the publisher of the Kerrville Mountain Sun at the turn of the last century) with the title "South-West Texas, from the Mountains to the Sea."  Grinstead published the little booklet in 1904, and though it claims to follow a course from here to the gulf, most of its pages are devoted to the Texas hill country, and Kerrville in particular.
Published by J. E. Grinstead
in 1904
I had never heard of this little booklet, though glancing through a few of its pages I immediately recognized the writing style of J. E. Grinstead.
Technology is changing the way I do research for this column. When I started, in November 1994, I came down to the newspaper office, sat at a vacant desk, and entered my column into a computer there. Later I would put the column on a disk and drive it over. It was a happy day when I could email my column; it saved a small car trip. I bring this up to say there was no way to research local history without making a trip. While the Internet existed in 1994, I suppose, I had no access to it. And even had I, there would have been none of the research resources available.
When I learned from Kathi Walker about this latest resource -- a venerable historical journal online -- it reminded me how far this business has come in the few years since I started.
It's a new day, Gentle Reader. It's a new day every day.
Until next week, all the best.

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