The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #167906   Message #4122618
Posted By: Miles
11-Oct-21 - 11:54 AM
Thread Name: John Lomax's credibility, an example
Subject: RE: John Lomax's credibility, an example
Hi Joseph,

As someone not as expert as yourself on J. Lomax, I would say that I agree with all your points, save for your last hypotheses on dates - though I believe you were close.

If Dink did exist, which I agree is likely, Lomax almost certainly met her one Saturday between February 26 and July 23, 1910, likely not after June 11.

In a draft of Adventures of a Ballad Hunter—and possibly elsewhere, though I did not find it anywhere framed exactly this way—he writes: “Years ago while teaching English at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, Professor James C. Nagle, the head ofethe [sic] Civil Engineering Department, served as supervising engineer for a levee which was being thrown up just across the Brazos River from College Station. One Saturday he invited me down to record the singing of the Negro workers building the levee. There I met Dink of Mississippi, the “woman” of one of the mule skinners.”

Two points here help us narrow down the timeframe:
1/ The construction of the levee
2/ The fact that Lomax was still teaching at the A&M College – the syntax of Lomax’s sentence could be somehow confusing, but it is indeed Lomax, and not Nagle, who was teaching English.

1/ The levee Lomax refers to was known by various names, “Brazos levee,” “Burleson County levee,” and others. Being built on the southwest bank of the river, it belonged to Burleson County, when Bryan and College Station are in Brazos County.

Its construction began at some point between February 26 and March 1, 1910.
And it was completed at some point between December 19 and December 22, 1910

By May 30, 1909, Nagle had completed an estimate for the project:

“The report by Prof. Nagle of the Agricultural and Mechanical college, the civil engineer selected by the commissioners to survey and make estimate on the proposed Brazos levee, was filed with the county judge yesterday. The report shows the entire length of proposed levee to be twenty-seven and a half miles, estimated cost $220,000.” (The Eagle [Bryan, TX] June 1, 1909, p. 1)

By September 1909, the work was expected to start anytime soon:

“The actual work of moving the dirt will begin just as soon as the corps are gathered and out of the way, and this doubtless will be accomplished by the time the survey is completed.” (The Eagle, September 13, p. 1)

Yet, by January 1910, legal matters were still preventing the beginning of construction:

“Just a week ago was the day set for opening bids for the sale of the bonds and for the construction of the levee, but that morning they were served with an injunction forbidding them to sell the bonds or let the contract till further orders from the court. . . . It was agreed by both sides to the controversy last night that the injunction be dissolved and that the levee be constructed. . . . Work on the levee will begin as soon as possible . . . . Among those who attended [the meet]ing yesterday were: . . . Prof. J. C. Nagle, of Bryan . . . .” (The Eagle, January 28, 1910, p. 4)

On February 25, 1910, a special train arrived in Bryan:

A special train . . . pulled into the I. and G. N. station at 10 o’clock this morning, having just arrived from Memphis, Tenn., . . . . The train was forwarded from Memphis by Roach & Stansell, contractors for the construction of the levee along the Brazos river opposite Bryan in Burleson county. It brought as passengers 115 people, including the superintendent . . . and 90 negro laborers, several negro women and children . . . .” (The Eagle, February 25, 1910, p. 1)

Dink and her son may have been in the latter group, though there were also subcontractors with their own workers. That the train came from Memphis is consistent with Lomax’s claim that women on the camp had been brought from Memphis. Lomax also claimed that the men were from Vicksburg. Why a Memphis contractor would have brought men from Vicksburg via Memphis, is not totally clear, but Roach & Stansell had worked, it seems, on levees not far from Vicksburg, both on the Mississippi and Tensas rivers.

At this point, the construction of the Brazos levee was about to start:

“Mr. Bob St. John [one of the subcontractors], who has charge of the outfit that came several days ago, was in the city today and stated to the reporter that he had his camp all up and everything ready for business and would perhaps break the first dirt tomorrow. If not tomorrow, then Monday sure.” (The Eagle, February 25, 1910, p. 1)

By March 3, 1910, work had indeed been going on for a few days:

“Mr. Bob St. John, foreman of the first outfit that arrived to work on the levee, was in the city today. He stated to the reporter that he had been at work for several days and was making good progress.” (The Eagle, March 3, 1910, p. 3)

By September 1910, Nagle hoped the work would be finished within a few weeks:

“[Nagle] expects the Burleson county work to be finished about the middle of November” (The Eagle, September 28, 1910, p. 1)

But it was completed at some point between December 19 and December 22, 1910:

“BRAZOS RIVER LEVEE COMPLETED – MEETING HELD IN CALDWELL FOR ITS ACCEPTANCE . . . It was not completed until this week” (The Eagle, December 22, 1910, p. 3)

2/ J. Lomax resigned from the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas at the end of the 1909/1910 session, to join the University of Texas in Austin, for the next session:

“COLLEGE STATION, Texas, Jne 25,- G. H. Blackmon, who graduated this year in the agricultural and horticultural work of the Agricultural and Mechanical college of Texas, has been elected by the board to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of E. A. Miller . . . . Others of the teaching force who resigned were John A. Lomax of the department of English, who returns to the University of Texas, where he graduated.” (The Houston Post, June 26, 1910, p. 7)

The 1909/1910 session at the A&M College closed on June 14, 1910:

The thirty-fourth annual session of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas will close in the coming week. The annual commencement . . . will close with the final ball Tuesday night. . . . THE COMMENCEMENT PROGRAM . . . TUESDAY, JUNE 14. . . . 10 p. m.- Final ball.” (The Houston Post, June 12, 1910, p. 8)

If Lomax’s account is accurate in his draft, he met Dink after the building of the levee had begun (at some point soon after February 25, 1910, the first Saturday being February 26), and before the end of the 1909/1910 session at the A & M College (at some point soon before June 14, 1910, the last Saturday being June 11).

We may extend the timeframe since Lomax may have remained in or close to College Station at the beginning of the 1910 summer holidays, and still have somehow considered himself a teacher at the A & M College. However, he spent at least the second half of this vacation collecting cowboy ballads far from there. Being more than 650 miles away by August 1, it seems unlikely that he would have been on the Brazos levee on Saturday July 30, which brings us to Saturday July 23, 1910 at the latest:

“Prof. John A. Lomax . . . passed through Houston yesterday en route to College Station, where he has lived for the last three years. . . . Prof. Lomax will begin a vacation trip in the near future along the Texas frontier, where he will continue the work of collecting the songs of the days of the “long-horn” and the lariat.” (Houston Post, July 14, 1910, p. 7).

“Collecting Cowboy Songs and Frontier Ballads (. . .)
Deming, N. M., Aug. 1. – . . . . John A. Lomax, who is connected with the university extension work of the University of Texas, is in Deming. Mr. Lomax holds a traveling scholarship from Harvard university which enables him to travel over the west collecting cowboy ballads and frontier songs. . . . Mr. Lomax will spend several days in this vicinity before leaving for Arizona and the coast. He will return to Texas by way of Cheyenne, Wyo., where he will attend the great frontier reunion.” (The Sante Fe New Mexican, August 1, 1910, p. 6)

“John A. Lomax leaves Deming tomorrow evening for Cheyenne, Wyoming, to attend the frontier reunion at that place. He will go by way of California.” (El Paso Times, October 18, 1910, p. 12)

By about September 8, 1910, Lomax was in Austin, preparing the new session at the University of Texas:

(. . .)
Austin, Tex., Sept. 18 - . . . Mr. John A. Lomax, the assistant director of extension, and secretary of the faculty, has been in Austin for the last ten days and is beginning a publicity campaign in the interest of a greater university.” (The Galveston Daily News, September 19, 1910, p. 4)