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A People, A Place: The Story of Abilene. Volume 1: The Future Great City, 1881-1940 (review)

A People, A Place: The Story of Abilene. Volume 1: The Future Great City, 1881-1940 (review) 2010Book Reviews403 A People, A Place: TL· Story of Abilene. Volume 1: TL· Future Great City, 1881-1940. By Robert W. Sledge. (Buffalo Gap, Tex.: State House Press, 2008. Pp. 316. Illustrations, appendices, notes, select bibliography, index. ISBN 978 1 9333373 1 9, $24.95 paper.) Robert W. Sledge has made a significant contribution to the history of Abilene and Taylor County with this book, the first volume of a projected two-volume work. As the title suggests, he works the concept of people and places throughout the narrative. In doing so, he creates an effective sense of place for Abilene. The reader can almost feel the wind blowing across the prairie and see herds of tumbleweeds blowing across wagon tracks. Sledge structures the history of Abilene around the significant events of American history but focuses solely on the local events. Each chapter covers the local events of a given time period. For example, in the chapter called "Peril 191 1-- 1919," Sledge tells of a 191 1 rainstorm that did significant damage to the town, a 1913 dam failure on Lyde Creek, a drought from 1916 to 1919, the burning of the city's power plant in 1919, the effects of the United States entry into World War I, and finally the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. The drought inspired the creation of Lake Abilene as the cityjoined many others building surface reservoirs for water supply. The loss of students from Simmons College and the deaths of soldiers both before and during fighting in Europe are the main results of the war for Abilene. The Spanish flu outbreak of 1918 is detailed in two pages as Sledge tells of actions taken by the authorities and private efforts made by the people of Abilene to tend the sick and reduce the chances of contagion. The book has a nice feature at the end of each chapter, a "portrait," as Sledge calls them, telling of some person or event. None of these cover as much as a page, but all are interesting. For example, there is a story in which John and Clabe Merchant (often called the father of Abilene) escaped prosecution for alleged cattle theft on a drive from East Texas to Abilene when the witnesses could not distinguish one brother from another. Another tells ofthe controversy surrounding whether prairie dogs are pets or pests. The book is well done. It is readable, engaging, and full of important facts and interesting tidbits. Sledge provides both endnotes and a bibliography for the scholarly minded who seek more information. Numerous black-and-white photographs of people and events augment the information provided in the text. There are also appendices that provide informaüon such as listings of Abilene mayors, university presidents, members of the Texas Legislature, superintendents of Abilene ISD, rainfall totals, and population figures. A reader looking for local history of Abilene would do well to start with this book. It is recommended. University ofNorth TexasBruce Bumbalough http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Southwestern Historical Quarterly Texas State Historical Association

A People, A Place: The Story of Abilene. Volume 1: The Future Great City, 1881-1940 (review)

Southwestern Historical Quarterly , Volume 113 (3) – Jul 6, 2010

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Texas State Historical Association
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Copyright © The Texas State Historical Association.
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1558-9560
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Abstract

2010Book Reviews403 A People, A Place: TL· Story of Abilene. Volume 1: TL· Future Great City, 1881-1940. By Robert W. Sledge. (Buffalo Gap, Tex.: State House Press, 2008. Pp. 316. Illustrations, appendices, notes, select bibliography, index. ISBN 978 1 9333373 1 9, $24.95 paper.) Robert W. Sledge has made a significant contribution to the history of Abilene and Taylor County with this book, the first volume of a projected two-volume work. As the title suggests, he works the concept of people and places throughout the narrative. In doing so, he creates an effective sense of place for Abilene. The reader can almost feel the wind blowing across the prairie and see herds of tumbleweeds blowing across wagon tracks. Sledge structures the history of Abilene around the significant events of American history but focuses solely on the local events. Each chapter covers the local events of a given time period. For example, in the chapter called "Peril 191 1-- 1919," Sledge tells of a 191 1 rainstorm that did significant damage to the town, a 1913 dam failure on Lyde Creek, a drought from 1916 to 1919, the burning of the city's power plant in 1919, the effects of the United States entry into World War I, and finally the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. The drought inspired the creation of Lake Abilene as the cityjoined many others building surface reservoirs for water supply. The loss of students from Simmons College and the deaths of soldiers both before and during fighting in Europe are the main results of the war for Abilene. The Spanish flu outbreak of 1918 is detailed in two pages as Sledge tells of actions taken by the authorities and private efforts made by the people of Abilene to tend the sick and reduce the chances of contagion. The book has a nice feature at the end of each chapter, a "portrait," as Sledge calls them, telling of some person or event. None of these cover as much as a page, but all are interesting. For example, there is a story in which John and Clabe Merchant (often called the father of Abilene) escaped prosecution for alleged cattle theft on a drive from East Texas to Abilene when the witnesses could not distinguish one brother from another. Another tells ofthe controversy surrounding whether prairie dogs are pets or pests. The book is well done. It is readable, engaging, and full of important facts and interesting tidbits. Sledge provides both endnotes and a bibliography for the scholarly minded who seek more information. Numerous black-and-white photographs of people and events augment the information provided in the text. There are also appendices that provide informaüon such as listings of Abilene mayors, university presidents, members of the Texas Legislature, superintendents of Abilene ISD, rainfall totals, and population figures. A reader looking for local history of Abilene would do well to start with this book. It is recommended. University ofNorth TexasBruce Bumbalough

Journal

Southwestern Historical QuarterlyTexas State Historical Association

Published: Jul 6, 2010

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