Report on a meeting with the Director for the Central Texas Historical Association

Written by Brazos Heritage President on . Posted in Blog

One of my goals as President of the Brazos Heritage Society has been networking with other historical groups in the area. In particular, I hoped to make some connections with the Blinn and Texas A&M history departments.

Yesterday, I had a meeting with Dr. Kenneth Howell, a history professor at Blinn and the recently hired Director for the new Central Texas Historical Association. This is a non-profit organization that will cover the central part of our great State, joining the already extant Western, Eastern, and Southern Historical Associations.

We discussed at some length ways in which CTHA and BHS might be able to collaborate in the future, including cross-advertising for each others’ events and even gaining access to potential speakers for future talks. We also talked about CTHA utilizing the wonderful historical resources (our people!) that can be found in Brazos County. We have multiple folks who are a treasure trove of local historical information.

While it may be a bit before we see any active collaborations, given that CTHA is just getting started, I wanted to let everyone know that I am making good on my goal to network and start connecting BHS into the larger historical community in order to further our ability to pursue historical preservation and education.

On a side note, Dr. Howell is heading up the Webb Society, a school-based historical student group that was recently re-instituted at Blinn. One of their projects is capturing oral histories. This is something originally suggested by my VP, Isabel, and it would be a fantastic resource for visitors to the BHS website. It would be even better if we can provide a link to a video archive rather than having to do this work ourselves. I will try to keep up with the progress of this project.

With the help of Stephanie Snyder who joined BHS in the past year, we are also working on taking the newsletter to a quarterly publication schedule and including what I hope will be informative articles/information on a number of topics.

Last but not least, I hope to post some photos in the near future that Randy took of the work in progress on the Turner-Peters Dogtrot Cabin.

Until next time.

Stephanie Hilliard

President

2015 Annual Meeting Report

Written by Brazos Heritage President on . Posted in Blog

Brazos Heritage Society met on Saturday, February 21 from 3-6 p.m. at the Brazos Center in Bryan for our 2015 Annual Meeting.

Here are the highlights of that meeting:

We had approximately 10 members and several guests form the community join us for the meeting.

Mr. Casey Eichhorn, Education Director for the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum gave an excellent, and very well-received, talk on the history of the Rangers. In fact, the talk ran long because everyone was so engrossed in the topic and asked a lot of questions. We were very glad to have Mr. Eichhorn join us. He enjoyed his visit with us (he’s an Aggie!) and expressed an interest in future collaborations with BHS.

After Mr. Eichhorn’s talk, Mr. Randy Haynes presented on the history and current status (as much as known) of the Cavitt House. With the uncertain state of the house’s future, this was a timely and appreciated talk.
 

After Mr. Haynes’ presentation, I gave a short update on the Turner-Peters Dogtrot Cabin project and Temple Freda.

I then led a short discussion about doing a future symposium on buying and preserving historic homes. This idea was proposed by Mrs. Mary Wells of College Station. I believe this is an excellent idea and this will be one of the ventures we’ll be working on this year.

We then held a short business meeting. I read the report from our Treasurer, Mrs. Beverly Myers, who could not attend. The organization currently has just over $7000 in funds available, including an $800 donation from Hochhein Prairie Branch #219. I can provide you with an exact dollar amount if you would like the numbers.

While our bylaws do not require us to maintain a written budget in order to operate, I believe that this is a good idea and I will be working on pulling one together over the next couple months. Several times in the past we have had one, so I will build off the information I’ve received from Mrs. Nat Hilliard and Mrs. Colleen Batchelor to develop what I hope will be a permanent working document. While a budget makes good business sense, it is also crucial if we want to pursue any outside grant funding.

I also read the report from our Events Chair regarding the outcomes of last year’s 4th of July in Heritage Park, Boonville Days, and our Liendo Plantation day trip. This coming year, we will not be doing any day trips due to low attendance, but we are already gearing up for 4th of July. We also plan to participate again in Boonville Days as this is a good public relations event for us. Our other proposed event will be the symposium that I mentioned earlier.
 

Finally, we held our yearly elections. Our nomination committee met and the current slate of officers agreed to serve for another year. We opened up the floor for nominations at the meeting. Not receiving any further nominations, Mr. Randy Haynes moved that the slate of officers be approved. This motion was seconded and passed with no dissent.

After the meeting, many of us stayed around and chatted while enjoying a nice variety of finger foods and punch.

I want to personally thank everyone who was able to make the meeting. For those who could not, we missed you. I hope to see you at other events through the year.

As always, if you have any questions, concerns or ideas please feel free to contact me. I value hearing from our membership in order to best represent your interests in how we pursue historic preservation and education in Brazos County.

Regards,

Stephanie Hilliard

President

President’s Message – November 2014

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EVENTS
We’ve had a busy summer and fall. In July, of course, we put on our annual 4th of July in Heritage Park. It was very successful; we had a great turnout both in terms of exhibitors and guests.

Our next event was the first weekend in October with Boonville Days. Unfortunately, because we were somewhat short-handed for that booth, we didn’t get any photos.

Finally, we did a day trip to Liendo Plantation’s Civil War Re-enactment Weekend on Sunday, November 21. As always, members enjoyed viewing the pre-Civil War plantation house, the many display booths, and the
afternoon re-enactment of what a Civil War battle might have looked like.

PROJECTS
Brazos Heritage Society is currently involved with two preservation projects: the Turner-Peters Dog-Trot Cabin project that will form the center of the new Boonville Historic site and the restoration of Temple
Freda, the area’s first Jewish synagogue.

UPCOMING
Mark your calendars for Saturday, February 21, 2015 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. for our BHS annual meeting. Our guest speaker will be from the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum. A reception will follow.

FOR THE FUTURE
What I particularly wanted to cover in this issue is our future focus. The organization has a rich history spanning several decades. We’ve seen both ups and downs in terms of membership, community involvement, etc.

One thing that any organization must deal with as they reach maturity is maintaining relevance for the audience that they serve. Brazos Heritage Society is no different. Over the past few months, the Executive Committee has been discussing ways to increase our visibility and relevance within the community, as both have diminished over the years. Because of this diminishment, our resources are also less, forcing us to reassess what activities we can realistically support.

Our July 4th event is a foundational, and growing, opportunity for community outreach and one we fully plan to continue. Unfortunately, due to a variety of circumstances, we are not currently able to continue putting on our annual Tea or the Christmas Stroll. The Tea in particular is very cost- and labor-intensive to hold. While at times it has functioned as an effective fundraiser, in recent years it has not brought in enough money to justify the expense and time.

One thing that the Executive Committee did vote to continue was our Day Trips. For those who don’t know, we organize group trips to area historical events such as the Camp Hearne Open House, Liendo Plantation’s Civil War Re-Enactment, and the Museum of the American GI Open House. We are always on the lookout for additional trips/venues. Typically, members receive a discount on admission (if there is a charge to attend), or on food if the event itself is free. Typically, attendees meet at the event, gather long enough for either a meal or to hand out tickets, and then are free to explore the event on their own. These trips provide a benefit to members at a modest cost to the organization.

Obviously, our involvement in the two preservation projects mentioned earlier in my message fulfills our mandate for historic preservation and provides yet another opportunity to increase our visibility on top of our social events. Additionally, all of our events and projects let us network with not only the general public but with other organizations in the area that contribute to preserving local history. We will continue leveraging both of these to our fullest advantage. Specifically, networking with other organizations will allow us to effectively liaison with the public and direct them to the appropriate resource for their needs.

One area receiving far too little attention in the past few years has been our educational focus. While we once had a presence in the local school districts, that is no longer the case. Although we cannot do as much in terms of events as we once did, the advent of modern technology WILL allow us to bolster our educational presence at a minimal cost. To that end, one thing that came out of our Board discussions was a consensus that we increase our educational efforts via technology through our web page plus interactions on social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

If you look at our website, you’ll see that we’ve already begun this process by posting information about the Tuner-Peters Dog-Trot Cabin project, including providing an opportunity to donate to the project through our website. If the Temple Freda page is not up by the time you receive this newsletter, it will be shortly after.

Furthermore, we plan to provide a variety of other resources on the website, such as genealogical links, historical links, etc. This project is underway and will be ongoing as we are able to pull together information. Sheila Fields (Secretary and Research Chair) will be assisting with this, as will our new member, Stephanie Snyder, who recently joined the Research committee.

Long story short, our current circumstances in terms of membership numbers and involvement, as well as our finances, are requiring us to rethink where we focus our time and energy. Ultimately, this may not be a bad thing because it will let us re-balance our efforts. Additionally, a greater educational profile may very well increase our public visibility to the point that we gain members. AND, we hope that this focus will also position us to successfully compete for grant funding which will, in turn, increase our financial resources and allow us to return to providing social events at a later date.

So, that was the bad news – which is really a mixed bag of both limitations and opportunities.

The good news is that the Brazos Heritage Society recently received a donation from Hochheim Prairie Insurance Branch #219, a farm mutual insurance company that has been serving Texans since 1892.* They recently sent us a check in the amount of $800! It was a very pleasant surprise and will provide some much-needed cash to help us keep moving forward. I am deeply grateful for their support and want to express my gratitude to President Dwight Miller, in particular, for this windfall.

Ultimately, continuing as a successful organization in the 21st century will require us to shift our paradigm in certain areas of operation. However, as I promised in my initial President’s Letter, any changes made in function or focus will always seek to honor both the original purpose of the Brazos Heritage Society, its rich history, and the hard work of all the members – and leaders – who came before our current team.

BHS does not consist of just its Executive Committee. We depend on our members for their support, their enthusiasm, and their ideas. I am always open to questions, ideas, and even criticism. Hopefully, we will manage your organization in such a way that criticism will be few and far between! Either way, please take the opportunity to dialogue with us and let us know your thoughts and ideas. Sometime early next year, I hope to develop a survey that will give us a more formal avenue for member input. I’ll keep you posted on this project.

In the meantime, you can reach me by email at brazos.heritage@gmail.com or by phone at 979-777-4924. You can call or text me at that number. I’m also always happy to make time to meet in person if needed or if you would just like to chat.

 

(*Disclosure: I am a board member for Branch #219. However, I was not directly involved in the final
decision to donate to the Brazos Heritage Society, nor did I determine the amount of that donation.)
_________________________
Website: brazosheritage.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brazosheritagesociety?ref=hl (Facebook)
Twitter: @BrazosHeritage (https://twitter.com/BrazosHeritage)
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/brazosheritage/
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+BrazosheritageOrg/posts

President’s Message

Written by Brazos Heritage President on . Posted in Blog

On Saturday, February 22, 2014, the Brazos Heritage Society held their annual meeting. Randy Haynes, Project Planner for the City of Bryan, gave an excellent presentation titled “Preservation Partnerships,” that highlighted historical organizations in Brazos County.

After hearing reports from officers and committees, the Society held their annual elections for a new slate of Executive officers. I am honored to have been chosen as the next president of the organization, along with Isabel McPartlin returning as Vice President, Sheila Fields joining us as Secretary, and Beverly Myer serving again as Treasurer. I am looking forward to working with my executive board members, as well as our various committee chairs over the coming year.

For the benefit of members that I might not have met yet, I’ll provide a brief bio. My husband, Randy, and I have lived in Bryan several different times since I started at Texas A&M University in the fall of 1985; our daughter was born here in 1991. We moved back permanently in 1998, buying a brick cottage in the Eastside Historic District in 2002. I have worked at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine as staff support since 1998. Randy has worked for Saint-Gobain Norpro, first in maintenance and later as an industrial controls programmer, since 2003.

As most of you know, Randy’s mother, Nat, served as President of the Brazos Heritage Society for two years. We joined in 2012, during her first term, serving that year as Co-Chairs for Heritage Park and the next year as Events Co-Chairs.

Randy is a native Texan and has lived in the state most of his life. While I’m not originally from Texas, history is a strong interest of mine, and I’ve enjoyed learning more about both Texas history and local events over the past couple years while serving in the Society. I especially appreciate talking with Society and community members who are wonderfully knowledgeable about the area’s historic past.

I am dedicated to helping the Brazos Heritage Society preserve our local and regional heritage, and to educating future generations about the value of history and historic preservation.

Over the past couple years, I’ve developed a vision for the Brazos Heritage Society that — while serving our mandate of historic preservation and education, and valuing the spirit of the organization’s past efforts — will hopefully help raise community awareness of who we are and what our organization can offer.

To that end, I plan to focus on four main issues this coming year:

  1. I want to continue developing programs, such as our recent day trip to the Museum of the American GI, that benefit current members while also encouraging new members to join the organization.
  2. I plan to actively pursue strategic partnerships with other historical preservation organizations in Brazos County to create a synergistic preservation effort for the area.
  3. I would like to see the organization involved in one or more significant preservation projects, including seeking outside funding for these projects.
  4. I want to revitalize our educational outreach to the local community, using both standard methods such as our books as well as newer avenues like our web site and social media.

While pursuing some newer initiatives, I fully intend to continue supporting time-honored traditions such as our old-fashioned 4th of July in Heritage Park and the Christmas Stroll. These are wonderful community-wide events that are fun for the whole family.

All of these activities, future and current, cannot succeed without valuable input and support from the organization’s talented Executive Committee, and from our membership. I hope that my vision for the Brazos Heritage Society resonates with you and that you will join with us in actively promoting historical preservation and education throughout Brazos County.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at stephanie.hilliard@gmail.com. I love to talk with members, or anyone interested in what we are doing through the Brazos Heritage Society. I am here to serve our membership, and the people of Brazos County.

Stephanie Hilliard, President

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