Friday, September 23, 2016

This Week in Texas Methodist History September 25

Temple Houston Excoriates Homer Thrall in Galveston News, September 26, 1880

Homer Thrall was not only the most famous historian of Texas Methodist history in the 19th century; he was also a noted historian of Texas history in general.  In the preface to his History of Texas, Thrall boasts that his interest in Texas history was stirred by his personal acquaintance with many of the heroes of the Revolution and Republic eras whom he personally met after his arrival in 1842 from Ohio.  

His first work was A History of Texas from the First Settlements to 1876 (1876) sometimes called A School History of Texas.  It was followed in 1883 by A Pictorial History of Texas from the Earliest Visits of European Visitors to A. D. 1883.  

Both volumes are available at Google Books.

On Sept. 26, 1880 Temple Houston published a long, scathing denunciation of the History and of Thrall.  Temple Houston was the youngest child of Sam and Margaret Lea Houston, born in the Governor’s Mansion in 1860. He was orphaned as a child and lived with his sister in Georgetown.  He joined at cattle drive at age 13, was a page in the U. S. Senate for three years, and in 1877 entered the newly-established Texas A&M.  He transferred to Baylor at Independence and graduated in 1880.  He was admitted to the bar and became a widely known, flamboyant lawyer. 
His 1880 excoriating review was thus written by a very young man.  

His review begins with obvious criticisms of error.  The publisher used stock illustrations from previous travel books, with nothing changed but the captions.  Thrall’s history thus shows mountains in Matagorda County and palm trees around Liberty.  

Thrall included about 200 biographical sketches of prominent Texans.  Houston’s next criticism was really petty.  He objected to the omission of some Texans and the inclusion of others.  

Houston, though, saved his greatest criticism for Thrall’s treatment of his father.  A modern reader would find that Thrall was actually fairly favorable toward Houston, but Temple Houston demanded more—complete adulation.  When Thrall provided a balanced view, based on his sources, Houston replied

I denounce his work as stigma on the name of history, as a fraud on the people of Texas,  as an insult to their intelligence, and as containing libelous attacks on the character of one of her dead soldiers. 

From the deep veins of prejudice traceable through the entire system of his work,  I judge I have provoked a venomous reptile and suppose the public will soon hear him hiss. But when he defends even his name he will be engaged in a task less base than slandering the silent and defenseless dead. 

Houston moved to the Panhandle. He held a variety of public positions,, became a famous defense attorney, and eventually moved to Woodward, OK.  He died at age 45 of a brain hemorrhage.  


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