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Books | Texas History

Hidden History of the Llano Estacado

Paul H. Carlson and David J. Murrah, editors

(Charleston, SC: History Press, 2017)
Pages 224. Illustrated. Paperback.
ISBN: 978-1-62585-886-3. $21.99.

Review by Dr. Kirk Bane

January 10, 2018

Dr. Paul H. Carlson, Emeritus Professor of History at Texas Tech University, and Dr. David J. Murrah, former archivist and Director of the Southwest Collection at Texas Tech, have assembled a fascinating anthology on the Llano Estacado. Consisting of approximately sixty brief essays written by an impressive team of twenty-three contributors, their compendium examines this unique region from prehistoric days to the present. Also known as the Staked Plains, the Llano Estacado is "a treeless, high flat mesa that ranges from about three thousand to four thousand feet above sea levelů[stretching] through parts of eastern New Mexico and western Texas."

Carlson and Murrah divide their publication into seven segments: "A Deep Past" (which discusses the ancient history of the region), "Ranches and Roads," "Town Builders," "Legend Makers," "Tough Times," "Landmark Places and Events," and "Bright Lights of the Llano." A host of intriguing characters populate the pages of this book, including Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, the mysterious Lady in Blue (Maria de Jesus de Agreda), Comanche leader Quanah Parker, U. S. Army officer Ranald Slidell Mackenzie, pioneer Elizabeth Boyle Smith (often called "the mother of the plains"), assassin "Deacon" Jim Miller, cattleman Murdo Mackenzie, businessman George Singer, Lubbock founders Frank E. Wheelock and Whit E. Rayner, philanthropist Mollie Abernathy, educator Mae Simmons, aviator Clent Breedlove, politician Preston Smith, and legendary musician Buddy Holly.

This volume, Carlson and Murrah assert, offers "interesting and lively but sometimes unfamiliar and remarkable little tales of the Llano Estacado and its eastern caprock escarpment... Collectively, they reveal plenty about the region's past, its people and its colorful places. Chronologically, the 'hidden histories' range from an ancient, deep past to a modern, almost contemporary present." A Selected Bibliography provides suggestions for additional reading. In short, Hidden History of the Llano Estacado will appeal to students of the Lone Star heritage, especially those interested in regional studies and the history and development of West Texas.

Dr. Kirk Bane,
Book Review Editor,
Central Texas Studies

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