A Letter from Eleanor Roosevelt

Parade on Texas Avenue - 1936

Within the red clay lands west of the Pecos River, a feisty young woman named Emma Lenorah lived in a half dugout with her husband A.B. Robertson.

This is where the story of one of Slaton’s first pioneering women begins.

Typical rural housing in the late 1800s consisted of small wooden cabins or dugouts built into the rough terrain of the rugged West Texas hills and canyons. The people who lived on this land were often ranchers who shared this piece of the Wild West with other species and cultures like, scorpions, diamond back rattlesnakes, and the last of the few remaining cowboys.

A Mexican cowboy, alone and injured on the range, knocked on the door of the Robertson’s dugout.

“She [Emma Robertson] bathed and doctored his wound,” it is written in Slaton’s Story. “She gave him food so he could continue on his way.”

The young cowboy wore a necklace with a, “crude carving of a human face.” In gratitude for her hospitality, he handed the necklace over to Mrs. Robertson.

“This is my God,” he said. “If you should ever be in any kind of trouble, all you have to do is show this God.”

Accepting the gift, Mrs. Robertson placed it and kept it in her handbag.

It was two months later, a short time before the young couple moved to Slaton, when they made their way to San Angelo for business matters.

“Mr. Robertson had just sold some cattle and was carrying some sizeable amount of cash,” the essay in Slaton’s Story stated. “As they approached a creek which they had to ford they were halted by a Mexican who was armed with a rifle.”

Not understanding what he was saying, Mr. and Mrs. Robertson stood frightened and confused. “While Mr. Robertson was trying to carry on a conversation with the man Mrs. Robertson reached into her handbag, took out the God and held it out to the Mexican,” the article in Slaton’s Story continued.

It is written that soon after seeing the necklace, the man bowed low, indicated with his hand for them to proceed, mounted his horse and rode away.

Years later, in 1910, Mr. Robertson acquired ranching properties in Lynn, Lubbock, Crosby and Garza Counties. In 1911, Mr. and Mrs. Robertson built a large two-story brick home eight miles east of Slaton.

As Slaton slowly became an established town, it was Mrs. Robertson who, according to an article in The Slatonite in March of 1939, helped in the erecting of many of the storefronts on Texas Avenue.

“No Alice-sit-by-the-fire, this tiny bundle of energy and high spirits, Mrs. A.B. Robertson’s thoughts are of the future,” the editor of The Slatonite wrote of the pioneer woman in 1939.

Of course, in 1939, Mrs. Robertson was not the only woman who was at the forefront of developing the small town into a productive city on the plains. The Slatonite also wrote of another organization that helped in the development of the community.

“In the early days of Slaton’s existence while men were getting established in their professions and occupations, the women desiring to contribute their bit to the town’s development, began promoting the social and civic life,” The Slatonite reported. “The first step in this direction was the organization of the Civic and Culture Club.”

This women’s only organization is credited with the establishment of home economics education in the Slaton public schools, planting shrubbery in the county park, led the project to construct a city hall, and conducted, “pretty lawn contests,” in order for Slaton to maintain its welcoming presence and beauty.

“Then came the World War,” the article stated. “Their time was devoted entirely to Red Cross work.”

The work of the Civic and Culture Club became such a vital part of the lifeline of the town that soon, their work became a dynamic foundation in the establishment of Slaton during the depression and following years.

The popularity of the group’s work spread throughout the region and, on March 13, 1939, the City of Slaton received a letter from one of the most powerful women in the world at the time.

I am very glad to send this note of congratulations and good wishes to the women of Slaton. I hope very much that they will be able to keep up the good work they have started.

Very sincerely yours,

Eleanor Roosevelt

With this kind of encouragement, the Civic and Culture Club thrived. Lead by Julia Ann Adams, the wife of the late Dr. Sam Houston Adams, the organization is also credited with organizing the annual Fourth of July Festival, establishing Triangular Park near the Santa Fe station, beautifying the Slaton school campuses, and raising thousands of dollars to send various Slaton students to college.

“The club’s interest turned to some of the outstanding needs of Slaton’s Young People,” it is written in The Slatonite. “Junior clubs were organized by committees from the Civic and Culture Club whereby more than one hundred girls have been directed in a worthwhile social and educational trend. A Student Loan Fund of $500 has been created, eleven Slaton boys and girls having already borrowed from this fund. Some of these young people are now teaching in Texas schools, others have entered the business world.”

Eventually the city moved beyond the hard days of the depression and the skies were again bright blue. Slaton citizens had survived the ravage of the dust bowl’s deadly grip. The people of Slaton found new forms of entertainment, bringing in carnivals to entertain the thousands of people who worked in the surrounding fields. Visitors came to the town for its movie theaters, shopping centers, bakery and festivals; the future of Slaton was bright.

Of course, in March of 1939, when television had not yet been introduced as a vital household product, the only means of news was produced over the radio. Yet only a few could afford the gadget. The Slatonite was the town’s main source for national and world events.

A small article in The Slatonite stated in a press release from Washington, “We, as a people, are angry about what Hitler has done. But again; we can do nothing more than protest, because the United States has no business going to war over some other nation’s troubles.”

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About slatontx

The ramblings of one of the few remaining small town newspaper reporters left in the world!
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