front cover of Every Sun That Rises
Every Sun That Rises
Wyatt Moore of Caddo Lake
Edited by Thad Sitton and James H. Conrad
University of Texas Press, 1985

“What I done and what I been accused of covers everything, you put ’em both together.” Wyatt Moore of Caddo Lake exaggerates, but perhaps not very much. During his long life at Caddo Lake, Moore was at various times a boat operator, commercial fisherman, boat builder, farmer, fishing and hunting camp operator, guide, commercial hunter, trapper, raftsman, moonshiner, oil field worker, water well driller, and mechanical jack-of-all-trades. Still, he always found time for his lifelong study of the natural and human history of Caddo Lake. Here, in words as fresh and forceful as the day they were uttered, is his tale.

Moore, who was given the gift of a unique story to tell and great power to tell it, was the historical interpreter of his strange homeland of Caddo Lake. Twenty-three miles long, some forty thousand acres at high water, stretching across two Texas counties and one Louisiana parish, Caddo Lake’s fresh waters merge into a labyrinthine swamp punctuated by inlets, holes, and geological oddities like Goat Island, Whistleberry Slough, Whangdoodle Pass, and the Devil’s Elbow. Here among these lost reminders of steamboats and old bateau men is Moore’s world.

Born in 1901 at Karnack, Texas, Moore grew up in a time when kids wore button shoes and in a place where pigs and chickens roamed the backyard. He drank his first whiskey at age eight, gigged fish, trapped, and hunted for pearls as a boy, and grew up to an easy assurance on the lake that comes only to those long accustomed to its ways. A walking library of the history of Caddo Lake, Moore delved into almost every nook and corner of it, and wherever he went, whatever he did, he sought to learn more about his subect. Sought out by writers and journalists—among them James Michener and Bill Moyers—because of his laconic wit and remarkable command of the region’s story, Moore became known as a resource as precious as the lake itself. Moore’s story is eloquently introduced by Thad Sitton in an opening essay that chronicles the history of Caddo Lake. Striking photographs of Moore at home and at work on the lake beautifully amplify his life story, and an exuberant word-and-picture essay of Moore expertly building the traditional boat of the region, a bateau, reinforces the vivid image we have of this remarkable man.


front cover of Freedom Colonies
Freedom Colonies
Independent Black Texans in the Time of Jim Crow
By Thad Sitton and James H. Conrad
University of Texas Press, 2005

Friends of the Dallas Public Library Award, 2006
Best Book on East Texas, East Texas Historical Association, 2007

In the decades following the Civil War, nearly a quarter of African Americans achieved a remarkable victory—they got their own land. While other ex-slaves and many poor whites became trapped in the exploitative sharecropping system, these independence-seeking individuals settled on pockets of unclaimed land that had been deemed too poor for farming and turned them into successful family farms. In these self-sufficient rural communities, often known as "freedom colonies," African Americans created a refuge from the discrimination and violence that routinely limited the opportunities of blacks in the Jim Crow South.

Freedom Colonies is the first book to tell the story of these independent African American settlements. Thad Sitton and James Conrad focus on communities in Texas, where blacks achieved a higher percentage of land ownership than in any other state of the Deep South. The authors draw on a vast reservoir of ex-slave narratives, oral histories, written memoirs, and public records to describe how the freedom colonies formed and to recreate the lifeways of African Americans who made their living by farming or in skilled trades such as milling and blacksmithing. They also uncover the forces that led to the decline of the communities from the 1930s onward, including economic hard times and the greed of whites who found legal and illegal means of taking black-owned land. And they visit some of the remaining communities to discover how their independent way of life endures into the twenty-first century.


front cover of Nameless Towns
Nameless Towns
Texas Sawmill Communities, 1880-1942
By Thad Sitton and James H. Conrad
University of Texas Press, 1998

Winner, T. H. Fehrenbach Award, Texas Historical Commission

Sawmill communities were once the thriving centers of East Texas life. Many sprang up almost overnight in a pine forest clearing, and many disappeared just as quickly after the company "cut out" its last trees. But during their heyday, these company towns made Texas the nation's third-largest lumber producer and created a colorful way of life that lingers in the memories of the remaining former residents and their children and grandchildren.

Drawing on oral history, company records, and other archival sources, Sitton and Conrad recreate the lifeways of the sawmill communities. They describe the companies that ran the mills and the different kinds of jobs involved in logging and milling. They depict the usually rough-hewn towns, with their central mill, unpainted houses, company store, and schools, churches, and community centers. And they characterize the lives of the people, from the hard, awesomely dangerous mill work to the dances, picnics, and other recreations that offered welcome diversions.


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