Sometimes, it seems, all of history happened mere moments before I was born.
Not even thirty-years-old, quite yet, and it is a very humbling experience when my boss, Jim Davis, pulls me aside in his office one day and tells me it is time to prepare for the centennial celebration of this little town. A million questions race through my head. A million concerns pulse through my body but I just breathe deep and say, “Well, lets get started.”
When history begins is a question that has daunted me since that moment. I could easily begin at the point when the deeds of Slaton were signed over in 1910, which would make us one-hundred already. Of course, I must also give respect to the people who first settled the land in the 1540’s which history has shown that the Apache, Comanche and Kiowa people once roamed this area.
Didn’t those people matter? They were, after all, partly responsible in helping make this land inhabitable. Because of the intense heat, lack of water and extreme weather patterns, as well as the continual tribal warfare, this land was no place for European settlers.
Of course, the area is part of the vast south plains and our fare town is merely a very minuscule part of the land. A tiny dot on a map of a town, Slaton is located in north central Texas. It is on the Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos River near the eastern edge of the Llano Estacada. It is considered one of the world’s flattest areas.
Fast forward – centuries later into the early 1900’s – and throughout the sprawling country people continued to move westward-ho; finding their way by buggy, train and the newly invented automobile to California and all points in between, including a rumor that a new town was forming by the Santa Fe Railroad Line, Slaton. It was the turn of the century and some time between 1909 and 1910 tents sprung up along the railroad on the north end of where the present day square now sits. For months, people waited as a town began to form. Waited for new opportunity and a new future, never truly knowing what may come out of this barren land that was once considered squalid by Spaniards standards. Never knowing, as they sat waiting, of all the stories, achievements, successes and, of course, tragedies that generations would squander away in little boxes, scrapbooks, yearbooks and letters that would be left behind for me to discover more than one-hundred years later.
Of course, everything I’ve ever known about history has only been passed down to me from stories told, pictures shown, and distilled images of the small arsenal of video footage that has been shot throughout even modern day history. Tent City of 1910 is just a grainy image as are the yearbooks of the Class of 1970. Everything in the past, it seems, happened merely moments before I was born. I must trust the people that were there, the people that saw it happen and lived it. I have nothing else.
So as Jim told me my responsibilities of documenting a town’s history, I sat back and thought about how this year, this tiny year of the past one-hundred, just may be larger than any of us can realize and we are extremely lucky to be here, at this moment, remembering the one’s that brought us to this place. Honoring the one’s that made this happen.
Lets get started.