Robert E. Howard,
creator of Conan the Barbarian moved to Cross
Plains in 1919. It was while in Cross
Plains he started writing for pulp magazines for a penny a word.
His first story was sold when he was 18 and he died only 12 years
later at the age of 30.
Robert was cursed with an easily forgettable name. Even if he had
been named something exotic, say "Conan" for example - it wouldn't
have helped him make friends since his strange behavior prevented
that. His neighbors never quite knew what to make of a handsome young
man who sometimes wore Mexican sombreros on his way to the store.
This just wasn't done in Cross
| His father was
a doctor and his mother was devoted to her only child. Robert had
the build and look of a fighter but the melancholy loneliness of a
poet. No one knows how this tiny town so far from exotic places (unless
you count Abilene)
inspired young Robert to write such vivid fantasy. It's possible that
Plains didn't inspire him at all - that his drive came from the
fact that other boys his age were picking cotton.
After reading everything in the town's small library, Robert (allegedly)
entered the libraries of neighboring towns and took books without
a valid library card. This was done without regard to hours of operation
and was frowned upon by law enforcement; but since the books were
always returned, no one pressed charges. (Librarians in the old days
used to like to hush things up).
The pennies he earned for his words added up to a respectable income
- when you consider how hard times were. He made $2,000 in 1936 alone,
which allowed him to pay cash for his car - the nicest in town. The
millions made on his characters were made by people who never knew
him. They were not even family members, but people who had simply
inherited the material.
After reaching adulthood, he had a romantic interest in a former teacher.
It was a mutual attraction, but Robert's mother stood in the way -
sometimes literally - by sending the woman away when she called. Mrs.
Howard discouraged any contact, although she was very supportive of
The woman, Novalyne Price Ellis moved to Louisiana where she
taught school for many years. She wrote about Howard in her 1986 book
He Who Walks Alone. The book was made into the 1996
movie The Whole Wide World.
The Weird Works Of Robert E. Howard ...
The Whole Wide World
Conan - The Complete Quest
For all the killing and mayhem in his pulp adventures, Robert was
extremely sensitive. When his beloved dog was dying, Robert left town
- returning only after the animal had died. This inability to accept
death contributed to his suicide. After learning his mother had slipped
into a coma, he went to his car, got his gun from the glove compartment
and shot himself in the head.
His mother died the following day and both were buried in nearby Brownwood.
The name Conan (after becoming an international household word) has
returned home to Cross
Plains. After many years, the old Howard home was bought, painted,
furnished with period furniture and put on display as the home of
Conan's creator in 1991 - the same year the Howard Festival
Plains has also instituted a Barbarian Festival held in
Treadaway Park each Labor Day weekend. 2001 will be
Our thanks to Bobbye Hinkle of the Cross Plains Library for generously
sharing her knowledge of Cross Plains and details of Robert Howard's
More on Robert
by Robert E. Howard
Coming of Conan the Cimmerian
Savage Tales of Solomon Kane
on Conan's Father,
Gunsmoke's Sam the Bartender,
and life in Cross Cut and Cross Plains, Texas
Norris Chambers, former citizen of Cross
Cut, Texas. Norris knew Robert Howard and typed many of the Conan
stories. He also wrote a few of his own. We were fortunate to have
Mr. Chambers write us.
The following is Mr. Chamber's second letter:
"... I have had interviews from several writers in the past few years.
It is amazing how the interest in Robert's stories continues. A writer
from Paris, France came last week. Dr. Howard, Robert's father,
was a regular visitor at our house. Robert came with him occasionally.
My father was a doctor in the late 1800's and early 1900's and was
a friend of Dr. Howard. My father had a drug store in Cross
Cut and lived next door to Dr. Howard in that town. Later Dr.
Howard moved to Cross
Plains and my dad started farming. (After his drug store burned).
This was before my time - I was born in 1917.
We visited the Howards in Cross
Plains many times during the late 20's and early 30's. I stayed
with Dr. Howard for two weeks and helped him get Robert's things in
order and write Robert's friends and associates about the tragedy.
My brother and sister, who were much older than I, knew Robert as
a boy. Robert was about ten years older than I. My mother and Mrs.
Howard were good friends.
John Limmer wrote a history of Cross
Cut and he quotes Louise Newton, wife of Ross Newton, saying this
about Robert: "Ross played with Robert Howard, Conan author. He told
her Robert was weird even then and he was a little afraid of him as
he was making up queer stories - way back then. Dr. Howard, Robert's
father, wasn't happy about the stories his son wrote. Dr. Howard delivered
most of the babies in town." Ross Newton was the youngest son of pioneer
You have a very interesting site.... I happened across it when looking
for articles on Cross
Cut. Found some pretty interesting things about the old town.
Its closest call to fame, other than Robert, was Glen Strange
and Curtis McPeters, who left Cross
Cut in the late twenties and worked in the movies. They came back
in about 1928 and did a program at the school. They had a band in
Arizona and later got in the movies. Glen was Sam the bartender in
Gunsmoke in later years. He also did a Frankenstein. McPeters was
Cactus Mack and did 167 bit parts in old westerns. They were cousins
and were part of the Byrd family.
When Lake Brownwood was built and it closed the road to Brownwood,
a new road was built farther west. It was not paved until after the
war. The road by-passed Cross
Cut and left it further isolated. The main road originally was
the main street of the little town. ..... - Norris Chambers