East Texas Research Trip

Halloween tree at Kurth Memorial Library, Lufkin, Texas.

I spent the past weekend in and around Lufkin, conducting research and visiting family. I added an extra day to my usual weekend visits to fit everything in, and I still didn’t fit everything in!

Due to the size and complexity of the Pine Curtain Project, I have divided it up into a multi-year roadmap and what I hope are small, manageable chunks. The last time I visited for this work, I focused on some cemetery tours and family oral history. For this trip, I chose two local history centers and narrowed down my research to Old Homer History and the beginnings of a Huntington, Texas history that I am pursuing.

Researching takes a long time, longer than expected and longer than people realize. When I look through archives or do field interviews, I usually have one or two main points I want to explore, but I also have to leave time and “brainspace” for other ideas and topics that I encounter along the way, to either fit them into the narrative or file them away for later. Especially when I am interviewing or consulting someone. This is why you may notice that sometimes my art production goes dark for a few weeks – it is just hard to do everything at once. The past few weeks have been devoted to launching the podcast and preparing for this trip.


Because the Ora McMullen Genealogy Room hours aren’t compatible with my non-resident schedule, the Kurth Memorial Library team was kind enough to pull stacks of requested materials and set me up in a study room on Friday. I stayed for nearly three hours and only made it halfway through. I spent my time going through three large file folders: One on the historic role of the Masonic Lodge in Homer; one on general Homer history; and one on Huntington, Texas around the 1930s-40s. I have 347 photos from my trip, and most of them are of documents found in these folders, if that tells you anything.

Workspace view and archival documents, Kurth Memorial Library, Lufkin.

Saturday morning, I woke up early and drove out to Huntington, to spend some time talking to Darrell Bryan of the Huntington Genealogical & Historical Society. Darrell is a longtime Homer, Huntington and East Texas historian whose work focuses on armed conflicts, cattle rustling, racism and land disputes. He is also a friend of my father’s, and very nice.

Darrell gave me a tour of the historical society building in Huntington’s Centennial Park, and then spent most of the morning sharing his research finds and opinions; and helping me understand the bigger picture around the incidents I am learning about. I came away with a better idea of the “whys” around the “what happened,” and also new, bigger mysteries to contemplate.

View of Heritage Park from the Huntington Genealogical & Historical Society and Centennial Park, Huntington, TX.

Suite at the Courtyard Marriott in Lufkin.

Since most of my work was in Lufkin proper, I stayed at the Courtyard Marriott. I’m a frequent guest there, and this time they upgraded me to a suite! Score! So, I spent the evenings with lots of space to spread out, organize my notes and snack from the giant bag of gummy candy I bought at Target.

When I wasn’t working or in the hotel, I was at my parents’ house catching up with their animals, and that was pretty cool, too. Less cool is the blighted field across the street from them, that used to have horses, goats, tall grass and trees. Soon, the field will be an all-night gas station and truck stop. An infuriating but important lesson that nothing lasts forever.

Poncho!
Sweet NaNa.
Soon, the construction site here to the left will be an Exxon gas station in Homer. To the right is my grandfather’s front yard. Harder to see – a great big hole at the end of the street to catch groundwater and God knows what else that drains from the site.

Research Notes: “Consider the Wampus Cat”

The latest episode of Pine Curtain Confidential is less supernatural than “Ghost Story, Ghost Town,” but just as scary! Maybe even more so, as I am learning to add mood music! (:

An area with dense pine trees can hide all kinds of things, and local east Texas folklore has long used the Wampus Cat for scares and warnings to stay away from places you might not belong.

This standalone episode looks at this mythic creature in more detail…just in time for Halloween, in case you were planning to trick-or-treat too close to the forest!

Here are some of the interesting items I found while researching the Wampus Cat:

The Story of the Wampus Cat in Appalachian History

The Wampus Cat, via AmericanFolklore.net

Texas Folklore Society. Folk Travelers: Ballads, Tales and Talk, book, 1953; Dallas, Texas : accessed October 28, 2021), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History; crediting UNT Press. Here are the search results for Wampus Cat. This book also introduced me to the Taily-Po, which will really make you sleep with the lights on.

Learn more about Pine Curtain Confidential and listen to episodes here.

Dunbar Marching Band, 1965

This is another large piece in progress, inspired by a photo from The History Center, of Lufkin Dunbar High School’s marching band performing at a Christmas parade in 1965. So much to like about this photo that I wanted to capture – the uniforms, the mod-looking building behind the crowd. and while it is hard to see here, the Christmas decorations in the background.

This photo was taken in 1965, when Lufkin was still a segregated school district, and Black students attended Lufkin Dunbar High School. The school, named for *poet and writer Paul Laurence Dunbar, was known for excellence in academics, athletics and leadership.

After integration, Dunbar became the district’s middle school, and it now serves as both Dunbar Primary and the Lufkin ISD education center, as well as hosting the Dunbar Hall of Honor.

As with so many other subjects I have researched, this photo was a valuable if much, much belated opportunity to learn more about Dunbar High School and its legacy.

*Note: Paul Laurence Dunbar’s 1899 poem Sympathy inspired the title of Maya Angelou’s book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings!

An East Texas Stories Podcast!

The first two episodes of Pine Curtain Confidential Season One, Ghost Story, Ghost Town are available now!

These two short east Texas history podcast episodes introduce us to Homer, Texas and one of its haunting mysteries, using folklore and community stories to tie a Texas ghost story to real events. New episodes drop the week of Oct. 11.

Listen on Buzzsprout, Spotify, Google Podcasts, I Heart Radio, Amazon Music or Stitchr. New platforms, including Apple Podcasts coming soon!

Research notes for this season are available here!

Waves

Waves,” by Stephanie Khattak, Acrylic Monotype on paper, 12X16.

This piece was taken from a vintage photo of my great-aunts and one of their daughters playing at the beach in the early 40s. The young woman to the far left, in the pink dress died of appendicitis in 1944 at age 18, which is probably not too long after the photo was taken. Our family has always been close to our “aunties” and this one has been a bit of a mystery to us. Her sisters had “flower” names, Myrtle, Lila, Viola, Lucille Lilly…her name was Letha, perhaps after the town of Oletha where her father was born. Very few photos of her exist, and this is the only one I have seen, shared with me by my cousin. But this is a great one, capturing what I imagine was a nice day at the beach with her sisters and little niece.

East Texas Christmas Gifts

Christmas Cat says that it feels early, but it’s actually the right time to be thinking about holiday gifts from Khattak Studios and the Pine Curtain Project. Getting commission requests to me by October 15 best ensures that your gift will be completed and delivered in time to frame (if necessary), wrap, and give to your loved one. Commissioning cards by Oct. 15 helps me produce and get them to you in time to send holiday greetings.

I have five commissioned original slots open, and you can also commission prints and postcards from completed work, starting at size 5×7 and going up to size 18X24. Items ship unframed and envelopes aren’t included, but a retailer like Paper Source has many envelope color options for size 5X7.

If you’re looking for holiday themed prints, these are very popular:

Lufkin Rudolph”

“Merry Christmas (Vintage Truck)

East Texas Church, 1930s” This is an image that I could add Christmas lights or other holiday elements to, to make it more personalized for the occasion.

Commissioned originals and commissioned, hand-embellished studio prints are made to order. Please allow up to six weeks for production, shipping and handling, and delivery of holiday orders. Please contact me for pricing and other details. More recent work can be found here.

Future Cat Lady

Cat Lady in Training,” by Stephanie Khattak

If you have been connected with me for any amount of time, you know I am a cat lady. Here is the kitty that started it all, Baby Kitty in my arms, in this print based off of a 1979 photo. Baby Kitty was a gray striped tabby who lived in the barn between my house and my great-grandmother’s house. I don’t remember her being an inside cat, but she was always around and a really good sport while I learned to love animals. Baby Kitty was a beloved member of our family, to be cherished and pampered as such. As has been the case with every cat, dog (and in my cousins’ cases – horse, snake, parakeet and Galapagos turtle) since then.

Research Notes: “Ghost Story, Ghost Town”

Hopefully, you will be or were able to tune in to my 2021 Folklore in the Archives talk, “Ghost Story, Ghost Town,” covering a pivotal moment in Homer, Texas history and one of East Texas’ many ghost stories that has endured through the years. Here are a few supporting resources along with links to relevant archive collections for further independent exploring.

Archival information:
The History Center, Diboll, Texas
The Ruth Grant Homer History Collection, The History Center, Diboll, Texas
Portal to Texas History, The Banner, Homer, Texas


Photos:

Sarah Scroggins (right) with her parents and children in Old Homer, 1900. Shortly after Robert Scroggins was murdered.
Robert and Sarah Scroggins (seated) with their children and Sarah’s mother.

Digitized Newspapers:

Witness Testimony: Angelina County Press, May 4, 1900 via The History Center

Addendum:

This information appears in episodes 1-4 of Pine Curtain Confidential Season 1, an expansion and continuation of this story.

Prohibition and Temperance in Texas, Texas State Historical Association

“In the nineteenth century a movement against alcoholic beverages arose when some Americans, appalled by the social damage and individual wreckage that alcohol consumption too often seemed to cause, sought to persuade citizens to refrain from drinking liquor. This “temperance” movement enjoyed considerable success and continued parallel with the prohibition movement.”

Prohibition Party (PRO), Wikipedia

The Big Thicket of Southeast Texas, TexasHistory.Com

“These were pioneers that were looking for land of their own and looking for privacy. They were individuals that didn’t come to join the chamber of commerce. They were people who lived off the land and whatever they crops they could raise and whatever game they could hunt.” – Dr. Francis E. Abernethy

Contact Information:

Please get in touch if you have questions or comments, or if you would like for me to speak to your group on this or related topics. If you are interested in other topics like this, I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter to learn when my podcast launches later in September.

All archival images, digitized newspapers, etc. are used courtesy of their holding institutions. Please do not copy or publish my presentation, slides or research notes pages without permission. This content is is free to share on social media with credit to Stephanie Khattak, Pine Curtain Project and a link back to this Website or the appropriate social media platform.

Stephanie Khattak, info@khattakstudios.com