Belvin Dorm, October 1935

Belvin Hall, built 1935, was the first dorm built on the Sam Houston State University Campus. Built as the girls’ dorm, it was financed by a $150,000 loan and grant by the Depression Era New Deal program called the PWA, Public Works Administration. Click on the photograph at right to see the construction and vehicles of the early 1930’s.

Belvin Hall was named for Caroline Belvin who was an alumnus of Sam Houston Normal Institute (the original name of SHSU), class of 1882, and SHNI professor of primary and interpretative reading from 1903-1916, and Dean of Women on the Sam Houston State Teachers campus from 1917 until her retirement in 1929.

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Marines in WWI Display at the NGL

This week’s blog post comes from Special Collections/Archives Intern this summer, Charlesetta Hubbard, History Major here at Sam Houston State. She used materials from the Special Collections/Archives to study WWI to create the blog post and display for the 100th anniversary of the Great War. The above image is from Charlesetta’s WWI display on the second floor of the Newton Gresham Library.

At least five centuries before the Christian era, the use of fighting men to complement ships engaging in war was common to the Phoenicians and to all costal states of Greece. Marines then were first to fight in naval engagements to protect their own ships, could capture and maintain occupation of the land by harbors, and were able to gather the fleet to execute offensive blows on land. The Marines of today are no different due to the Act of July 11, 1798 that established the foothold for the Marine Corps to grow and become their own operative branch. Although they lent combat aid in the Naval War with France and actively engaged in the War of 1812, the recognition of the tenacity will, and steadfastness of the Marines was not realized or given until they fought off the Germans and halted their progress into France during the Battle of Belleau Woods. Despite lacking an adequate supply of artillery, being outnumbered in manpower, and having a small likelihood of success, the 4th Marine Brigade came out victorious. Their contribution to the war effort in the Battle of Belleau Woods is significant because after its conclusion, the Marine Corps became a recognized member of the United States Armed Forces, it highlighted how essential their role in the war effort was, and it exemplified the reputation for the toughness and dedication that is associated with Marines today.

When the United States declared war on Germany, April 6, 1917, the Marine Corps consisted of 462 commissioned officers, 49 warrant officers, and 13,214 enlisted men on duty for only 13,725. Several weeks later, one-sixth of enlisted marines were sent overseas. This formed one-fifth of the first fleet of American troops for service in France. Later, they were joined by the 6th Regiment and the 6th Machine Gun Battalion and combined; they became the 4th Brigade under the 2nd Division of Regulars. General Pershing believed that American troops could win the war single-handed, but not without being trained in more than just the essentials of trench warfare. He wanted emphasis put on marksmanship and bayonet drill, open warfare, war of maneuver, and training behind enemy lines. The Marines were sent to boot camps located at Parris Island, South Carolina, and Mare Island, California where they completed eight- week courses in physical training, drill, close-quarters combat, and marksmanship. The Swedish system was also adopted as a part of the training and hardening process. Marines exercised with the nine-pound Springfield rifle. This included vertical and horizontal swings, lunges, rifle twists, and front swings. They shot from distances of 200, 300, 400, 500, and 600 yards and practiced rapid fire shooting. After completing volunteer training, they were sent to Quantico, Virginia where they received more extensive training in skills acquired from the boot camps. The training was tough, but it gave the 4th Brigade the backbone they would need in France. It proved both purposeful and valuable, especially in the Battle of Belleau Wood.

Between March 21st and July 15, 1918, the Germans had launched no less than five major offenses to solidify a win for the Central Powers and to the dismay of the Allied powers, many of their offenses had been successful in achieving their objectives. In late April, General Ludendorff had approved Operation Blucher and continued the push to Paris. The rapid German push towards Paris, paired with French troops fatigue, lead to the immediate need of alleviation for the Allies. Not as experienced in real time war participation but eager to put what they had learned to use, the AEF deployed the Fourth Brigade.

The commander of the French XXI Corps ordered Brigadier General James Harbord’s 4th Marine Brigade to retake Belleau Wood. This task seemed impossible because of the 461st German Infantry’s strategic location on top of Hill 142 and their locations throughout Belleau Wood. They could carry out assaults without exposing themselves to the enemy and dug in to secure these locations. When the battle broke out June 6, 1918 at 3:45 a.m., the Fourth Brigade was welcomed with machine gun fire from all around. The trek through the wheat fields to get to Belleau Wood left them open to enemy fire and the machine gunmen of the German Infantry took full advantage of the opportunity. The 4th Brigade suffered over 1,000 causalities in dead or wounded after the day. Despite heavy losses, they still secured the hill. Next was the task of clearing the woods and pushing the Germans back east. On June 9, 1918, after the heavy artillery bombardment, the marines pressed hard into the woods despite having their allies retreat. The protection provided by Belleau Wood made it difficult for the 5th and 6th Regiments to locate and attack the Germans. They had to launch offensives against an enemy that they could not see. They fired artillery into the woods with no clear site of their target. The leveled trees hindered the rate of marine progress into the woods but also provided the perfect protection. When enemy machine gunmen fired off shots, they gave up their positions allowing American snipers to pick them off.

By June 11th, the 5th and 6th Regiments were tired and under-strength but launched an aggressive attack into the middle of Belleau Wood. This attacked changed the tide of the war in in the favor of the Allies and most importantly the Marines. They pushed deeper into the woods changing the fighting into close combat. Here, the Marines showed their advantages in weapon skills, small unit leadership, and morale. By June 15th, the 4th Brigade had secured the southwest side of Belleau Wood. The 7th Infantry was sent to relieve the 5th Regiment, but after failing to clear the remaining portion of Belleau Wood, on 23 June, the 5th and 6th Marines were ordered to go back and finish the job. By June 25th at dawn, 3/5 held all edges of Belleau Wood that faced the enemy and the Germans fell back. On June 26th, Belleau Woods was completely free of German troops.

The 4th Brigade proved that they were a force to be reckoned with. They continued to display fortitude and determination despite losing a large portion of troops during the first day, being given sporadic orders by their generals, and engaging in close quarter combat with a formidable opponent. They came out victorious with a win for the Allied forces and a win for the Marine Corps. The Fighting Devil Dogs of World War I embodied the Marine motto, “First to Fight”.

For a complete list of footnote references, contact the Special Collections/Thomason Room at the NGL. speccoll@shsu.edu

1943 Library Stamp, POWS, and SHSU’s Country Campus

#TBT – In recent months the Newton Gresham Library has started to weed through the collection of books in the library.

This 1943 library stamp found in a book called, Stories for Men an Anthology by Charles Grayson, 1925, played an important part in the history of Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, and Walker County.

The seventy-four year old library stamp was used to identify books that were from the library of the Station House Hospital in the Enemy Alien Internment Camp, Huntsville, Texas. Commonly known as the Huntsville Alien Internment Camp or the Huntsville Prisoner of War Camp. Built in 1942 the camp held German POWs and later on Japanese prisoners of war. POWs and servicemen who were there were allowed to borrow books from the library while they were in the hospital.

In 1946, the camp was closed and then SHSU President Dr. Harmon Lowman acquired the camp, later reopening it to house returning veterans who would receive the G.I. Education Bill that enabled them to go to college or vocational school. Renamed, “Country Campus,” in 1946 the camp became a small city and housed classes for the Josey Vocational School. The “CC” had its own post office, church, baseball diamond, and food facilities.

The University owned the, “Country Campus,” until 1993. Country Campus was than purchased by a SHSU alumnus whose family was one of the original landowners who sold the land for the internment camp to the US government in 1942. A small plot of land donated by this same family to SHSU holds the university’s observatory used by students to observe the stars and night sky events. #SHSULibrary

The Boys of Summer, SHSTC Baseball, March 1949

One of the most recent acquisition of the SHSU University Archives is this 68-year-old baseball program from March 18-19, 1949. The BearKats played their first two home games against the TCU Horned Frogs. The final score for the games was March 18, 8-5 to the Frogs and March 19, 9-8 to the Frogs.

Although they did not win, the BearKats were playing on a brand new baseball diamond. The Josey Vocational School dirt moving class who called the job, “Operation “fill-up,” constructed the field. This swampland turned baseball diamond later became Dewitte Holleman Field where the BearKats would play until the Don Sanders Baseball Complex was finished in 2006.

To find out more of the history of SHSU Baseball or Dewitte Holleman Field come visit the SHSU University Archives.

Sam Houston Normal Institute and WWI

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“Throughout the history of Sam Houston Normal she has been an institution of service-never has she failed to take part in any worthy movement or fallen down in any great undertaking.” From the The Alcalde, 1918. World War I was no different from 1917-1919 Sam Houston sent 200 of the finest young men “over there”; to Europe to fight for the great struggle of Democracy.

At home, the Sam Houston Normal Institute established a unit of the SATC, Students Army Training Course, where students could enlist as privates and continue their education. These soldiers/students bunked in the Austin Hall Building; sleep on mattresses bought from the Texas Penitentiary, and did drills and exercises as if they were in boot camp.

The above photographs shows the SATC on campus. Note the bottom right photograph of the campus. In front on the left is the Manual Training/Agriculture Building. In the middle with three floors is Austin Hall. In the back photograph, there are the spires of the Old Main Building. The top middle photograph shows the back of Austin Hall before the new columns and extra door, were added later as the college grew to the south.

To see more WWI materials in the archives come visit us in the Newton Gresham Library, room 400.

Moving History: The Roberts/Farris Cabin, Sam Houston Memorial Museum, and a few thoughts….

Standing by the Reynolds/Farris cabin on the grounds of the Sam Houston Memorial Museum.

Standing by the Reynolds/Farris cabin on the grounds of the Sam Houston Memorial Museum.

Putting together the pieces of the Cabin on the Square

SHSU students help in putting together the pieces of the Cabin on the Square, The Houstonian, 9/11/2001

On Sunday, my daughter, granddaughter, and your SHSU University Archivist headed to the Sam Houston Memorial Museum Park to run off some of my 2-year old granddaughter’s energy.

Heading up the driveway by the Steamboat House there in front of us on a trailer was the Roberts/Farris Cabin; also known as, “The Cabin on the Square.” Fighting the crazy wind blowing I immediately walked towards the cabin and realized two things: I never knew just how small the 176-year-old cabin was and how sad I felt for the little cabin. Taken apart in pieces in 2001, than put back together by history students from Sam Houston State on the square where it finally found a new home only to move again 15 years later. Thankfully, all in one piece this time. Sitting there on a trailer besides the Woodland Home, Bear Bend Cabin, and the old Exhibit Hall, the cabin just looked tired and unhappy.

Not to worry little cabin, you are in BearKat country now. Here we take our motto seriously, “The Measure of a Life is It’s Service.” The people, who work at the Sam Houston Memorial Museum, know how to treat historic buildings big and small. They will have you settled in no time and once again, there will be all kinds of visitors to come visit you to ooh and awe over your simple beauty.

To see more history about the Roberts/Ferris cabin come and visit the Special Collection Department in the Newton Gresham Library.  You can also read, Cabin Fever: The Roberts-Farris Cabin: A Campus, A Cabin, A Community.” A brief account of the Life and Times of the Builders and Residents of a Small Log Cabin in Walker County. This title is available at call number: F392 .W24 C75 2002.

Happy Holidays To All BearKats!

xmas-1974The Sam Houston State University Archives would like to wish all BearKats a Happy Holiday and a great New Year!

This cover is from The Alumnus, the Alumni Magazine of Sam Houston State University, December 1974 issue. Here in the Archives we refer to it as the “Elvis” cover. This image was used for the next two December issues of The Alumnus.

SHSU University Archives would like all BearKats to make a New Year’s resolution to visit the University Archives and say Hi!

Be happy, be safe, see you next year!

Veterans Appreciation Week

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This art supplement from The Galveston Daily News, September 29, 1918 is a newspaper edition of an original poster by Joseph Pennell Del. called, “That Liberty Shall Not Perish from the Earth – Buy Liberty Bonds, Fourth Liberty Loan.” The image on the poster shows the Statue of Liberty in ruins, and the New York City skyline burning.

The image and words were meant to invoke patriotism so that Americans would buy $6 billion in Fourth Liberty Loan bonds. These bonds would pay for supplies for the soldiers that were still fighting in Europe. In less than two months on November 11, 1918, the Armistice would be signed and the War to End All Wars would be over.

Sam Houston Normal Institute sent many students to become soldiers and fight in WWI. When the fighting was over and the students came back the tradition of observing Armistice Day was begun. In 1954 Armistice Day was renamed to Veterans Day. This Veterans Day celebration is still observed today.

To see the original poster and learn more about posters from WWI that are held by the Library of Congress, click here: https://www.loc.gov/item/2002712077/

To see more about Sam Houston State University’s history of honoring the Armed Forces come visit the Special Collection, Thomason Room (named for John W. Thomason, artist, Marine, SHNI graduate) and the University Archives.

Homecoming Old School: 1966 Homecoming Images

These images of the SHSU Homecoming in 1966 are from the University Archives.

Fifty years ago rain poured down on Pritchett Field as the BearKats battled in the mud to defeat the East Texas Lions. The BearKats fell to the Lions 17-14.

Scroll down and enjoy a look at the past….

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The traditional bonfire was followed by a pep rally. (later it would become known as FireFest!)

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Rain, Rain, go away,                    Nothin’ can stop a                   BearKat Game Day.

 

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1966 Homecoming Queen, Judy Robbins, a senior Elementary Education major from Dallas. She was also a cheerleader, in Who’s Who;  Alpha Chi; Orange Keys; Kappa Delta Pi; Alpha Delta Pi; Inter-House Council, and Sigma Phi Epsilon Sister of the Golden Heart.

Now that’s one busy BearKat!

 

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Sammy the BearKat like most Kats doesn’t like the rain. Note how much difference 50 years makes in the image of our beloved Sammy BearKat.

 

 

ZZ Top takes over the SHSU-LSC Ballroom, 1971

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On August 24, 1971, 45 years ago, ZZ Top, the hottest super-group in Houston at the time, came to Sam Houston State University. They came to play their breed of hard-rock in the Lowman Student Center Ballroom. (the room where the Barnes and Noble Bookstore is now).  The images above are from the 1971 The Alcalde and The Houstonian.

The LSC Ball Room was the site of many 1970s concerts featuring groups or singers such as Cheap Trick, CowSills, Manhattan Transfer, Climax, Mac Davis, Mel Tillis, and more.

For more information come visit the SHSU University Archives in Room 400 of the Newton Gresham Library.