1883. Part 1 of 2.

1883! Boy howdy, was 1883 rough.

In 1883, Austin College was struggling. After 34 years of Civil War, Yellow Fever, and relocation to Sherman, financial stability was still in the future for AC. Nevertheless, an official 1883 Austin College catalogue miraculously survives.

In 1883, Fort Worth was struggling. The chaos and violence of “Hell’s Half Acre” in Fort Worth dominated life in the town. Claude Webb’s daughter Jessica, a former student of Dr. Light Cummins, wrote her Ph.D. on Hell’s Half Acre.

In 1883, America was struggling. The grand democratic experiment that was Southern Reconstruction violently ended, and Gilded Age business interests threatened ranchers out west. Those interests were furthered by the administration of Chester Arthur, the first U.S. President to set foot in Yellowstone National Park. Arthur arrived in 1883.

Many of you have been enjoying the TV Series “Yellowstone.” Kevin Costner plays a cattle rancher near Yellowstone National Park who is threatened on all sides, including by modern day Gilded Age developers. In the series, the amcestors of the family traveled to Yellowstone from Texas in 1883.

The show is a mega hit. So much so, that a prequel series by Paramount+ has been released. “1883,” which kicked off last night, tells the story of the family in Texas before their journey northwest to Yellowstone. It stars Sam Elliott, Tim McGraw, & Faith Hill. Hell’s Half Acre in Fort Worth makes an appearance in Episode 2, which aired on December 19th.

And Episode 2 includes a Roo. G.w. Melton, Roo basketballer during Claude Webb Jr.’s days, is an extra in “1883.” Melton is also a coach, high school history teacher, and quite likely a former pupil of Dr. Light Cummins. The Episode 2 scene, alongside Billy Bob Thornton, is not surprisingly a violent one……in a Fort Worth saloon within the Hell’s Half Acre of Jessica Webb.

See the comments for more on Melton’s dream come true of appearing in an American “Western.” While you are reading, think I’ll go watch “1883” and thank my lucky stars I’m not a Fort Worth Texan attending Austin College in the difficult year of 1883.