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Today in Texas History - 10/14/2011

One of the more invaluable tools to the Texas history student can be found at the Texas State Historical Association's website. There you can find the Handbook of Texas which has an article on everything from Abilene to zydeco music in a handy online form. Be glad it's online because the print edition is a six volume behemoth. I keep the print edition around because number one, I have the room, and number two it's nice to have a physical book to flip through. However, the print edition can't be updated which the online edition is constantly.

The Handbook was started by someone familiar to anyone who has been on a tour of the State Cemetery, Walter Prescott Webb. Webb was a Texas history dynamo, an untiring author and student of the state. One of his books, The Texas Rangers:A Century of Frontier Defense is still the seminal work on the Texas Rangers and has a foreward by Lyndon B. Johnson. As much work as Webb did, the modern TSHA does much more. One of my favorite features is the day-to-day archive. It is sort of a 'This Day in Texas History' site. If you go there today, October 14, you will discover it was a pretty important day.

On October 14, 1843, a man named Ole Ringness was born in Norway. Ringness invented an early version of the disc plow and disc harrow. While important, not very exciting, I know. However, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Allied Supreme Commander in Europe during World War II and President of the United States was born in Denison in 1890. Though his family moved to Kansas shortly after he was born, Eisenhower was a Texan by birth.

Then we come to the final entry for October 14 in Texas history. In a fit of frustration, Lt. James Pike of the United States Cavalry died when he smashed his rifle against a rock. The rifle discharged and poor Pike died as a result. It happened as Pike and his fellow cavalrymen were attacked by Indians while at their dinner. Pike was a pretty remarkable man, a Texas Ranger and Civil War veteran, he wrote The Scout and Ranger: Being the Personal Adventures of Corporal Pike, of the Fourth Ohio Cavalry, a book that J. Frank Dobie quite enjoyed. It's just too bad Pike will always be remembered for accidentally killing himself.

- Will Erwin