Tag: Hockley County

Colorful mosaics visually represent Hockley County

Speckled around the quiet streets of Levelland are various works of art that collectively come together to paint a visual history of Hockley County and the people who worked to make it what it is today.

Levelland is known as the “City of Mosaics.”  A mosaic is an ancient form of art that is comprised of small fragments of glass, stone, or a number of other materials that come together to form a large mural.

Each mural holds its own importance to the city that surrounds it.   There are about a dozen pieces scattered throughout Levelland, and the South Plains College campus is home to five of these finely pieced installations.  Ever since Don Stroud, then an art professor at South Plains College, installed the first mosaic in Levelland, “Wild Mustangs” in 1968, the city has steadily continued to add to their collection of public montages.

Two very meticulous local artists have worked diligently to ensure that the mosaics are in pristine condition.  John Hope and his wife, Bette, not only make sure the pieces are well taken care of, they also have installed their own work for the city of Levelland.

The Hopes see the value in preserving the city’s installations.  They know how to make and take care of mosaics, which as it turns out, is quite tedious.

The Hopes have been involved in the city’s art since John Hope attended South Plains College.

The couple installed two smaller murals at the Hockley County Courthouse.   The courthouse’s sign that sits on Avenue H holds a two-part piece called “Hockley County: Past and Present.”  These two pieces are highly intricate, even though they are smaller in size compared to some of the bigger pieces around the city.

“They still took over 2000-man hours to construct and install,” according to John Hope.

The painstakingly precise placement of such small pieces of glass is truly mesmerizing.  Each piece is carefully selected to ensure the right color matches its surrounding shards.IMG_6594

“A half-inch by half-inch square around the bison’s eye alone contains 35 individual pieces of glass,” says Bette Hope.

  Seeing the amount of detail put into these two small displays is captivating.  An eagle-eyed passerby may notice a number of subtle nods to Levelland’s past, with each hint representing something important to the region’s past and future.

In addition to the two pieces the Hopes were commissioned to install, there are a number of other installations, all of which they watch with a close eye.

“Throughout all the years, none of the pieces have been vandalized,” said Bette Hope.  “They might mark on the wall next to a piece, but never on the actual mosaic.”

Bette Hope says that she feels a special connection between the collection of art and the city of Levelland itself, as it is something the town can be proud of.

Near the intersection of MLK Jr. Street and Jackson Avenue is the “Chain of Life” mosaic. The 60-year-old piece was constructed to show the unity between all the races. The piece sadly sits on a “cinderblock wall that is beginning to deteriorate,” according to Bette Hope. Since the 1960s, the piece has been a symbol of togetherness and love.

One of the pieces that many students have seen while traversing between classes is located on the west end of the Administrative Building on the Levelland campus, called “New Morning.”  The montage is a depiction of a field with a windmill and a grouping of trees.  While art is a subjective media, and the viewer is complety in control of what he or she takes away from it, John Hope describes “New Morning” as “trees representing professors and students, to the windmill representing South Plains College itself, and the open field representing the future.”

The mosaic “New Beginning-New Life,” is located on the northern wall of the Science Building. This piece is visually striking as well as one of the bigger mosaics in Levelland. The piece was originally a painting by Ford Ruthling, but converted to a mosaic by Burl Cole.  The piece displays a wide variety of colors and patterns that collectively form a story.  The egg on the mural represents the start of life, in its simplest form.  Inside the egg are multiple forms of life, from basic plants to what appears to be a velociraptor.  Outside the egg is a somber dark blue background speckled with golden tiles, to “represent firmament,” also known as “the heavens,” or the sky.

Levelland houses a total of 12 mosaics, and for this it is know as “The City of Mosaics.”  Other mosaics are:

  “Hockley County Schools & Your Children’s Children,” a second pair of large mosaics, at the corner of Avenue H and Austin Street. It is a sincere tribute to the educators and teachings of Hockley County’s forefathers; “Land of Soil, Oil, & Education,” sits at 1101 Avenue H, and as the name suggests, honors the fruits of the surrounding lands that helped Levelland grow into the town it is today; “Through the Ages,” located near 1101 Avenue H, while not a true mosaic, is a stoneware clay collage that takes a different approach to telling a history of Levelland.

Also, “Tree of Life” stands at the Levelland Clinic and expresses the importance of the all the professionals in the medical field that provide their services to the public; “Arms of Care,” situated at the Levelland Hospital on College Avenue, displays the connection between doctors, nurses, and the families they look after.

“Wild Mustangs,” inside the Fine Arts Building on the South Plains College, is the forefather of all of Levelland’s mosaics. The mural is a callback to the once wild and untamed mustangs that drew settlers from miles around to call this area their home.

Mosaics can be traced back to the dawn of humanity.  They first appeared in Mesopotamia and have been improved upon ever since.  The techniques are being constantly fine-tuned to ensure that these works of art will continue to captivate our minds.  With proper care and public support, these magnificent collections will stand the test of time and be around long past the artists who assembled them.

Hidden History: Local historian sheds insight on Hockley County settlement

by MATT MOLINAR//Editor-in-Chief

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Hockley County has been the site of many historic events that have left a mark on its thriving culture.

According to Dr. Sharon K. Bogener, professor of History and Government at South Plains College, the settlement of Levelland dates back to the 1800s, at a time when Native American civilization was compressed into small reservations.

As part of earning her PhD, Dr. Bogener meticulously studied the history of Levelland, where she was born, raised, attended high school, and currently resides. She agrees that she has studied Levelland her whole life.

An inventor by the name of Charles William Post founded the county with Oxsheer Ranch in 1906. He later surveyed the town of Post, named after him, in 1912. Two years after platting Hockley City, Post committed suicide after suffering an ongoing stomach illness.

The town later became the county seat in 1921, and a year later was renamed “Levelland,” an homage to the land’s topography, according to Dr. Bogener.

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Before the town’s current courthouse was built, a temporary house with a jail was built a short distance away, northeast of where the current building stands.

“After that, it just grew,” Dr. Bogener said. “The railroad came in 1925, and it was a huge deal. The railroad prompted the town to survive. It also grew primarily because of farming, up until about 1938, when oil was discovered in the Sundown area. South Plains College also greatly contributed to the growth of Levelland, 60 years ago.”

 

According to Dr. Bogener, her father, Charlie Sanders, was a member of the first Board of Regents at the college, where he helped gain legislative approval in 1957.

“There are tons of stories that happened throughout the history of Hockley County, ” Dr. Bogener said. “They’re all linked to the ‘Casas Amarillas.’”

According to Dr. Bogener, the Casas Amarillas, or Yellow Houses, are linked to many historical tales, including that of Quanah Parker, a Comanche Indian chief, and Nicolas Noland of the Tenth Calvary, a United States Army Major during the Civil War.

“In 1877, there was a group of Comanche Indians who left the reservations and raided down into Texas,” Dr. Bogener said. “They raided into a buffalo camp called Rath City. They stole some horses and killed a man. Of course, the other buffalo hunters were not going to let the Indians get away with this.”

According to Dr. Bogener, the buffalo hunters began to chase the Indians. As the chase went on, Parker, along with the other Native Americans, came across a group of soldiers at Fort Concho. The soldiers were part of Troup A of the 10th Cavalry.

“The hunters and soldiers joined forces,” she said. “They met up at the Double Lakes, south of Lubbock. If you go by now, you can’t see the lakes at all. And they’re on private property.”

At the Double Lakes, the soldiers and buffalo hunters met Parker and a group of other Native Americans, who had permission to leave the reservation. At the lakes, Parker deterred the soldiers to allow the Native Americans who raided the hunters to escape.

“They sent them to Cedar Lake, close to Seminole, while the Indians could go somewhere else,” explained Dr. Bogener. “When they ended up not finding the Indians, Noland sent out scouting parties. One of them went out to the west to a salt lake called Rich Lake, in Terry County.”

 

At Rich Lake, the surveyors found signs of the Comanche Indians and reported back to Captain Noland. He then ordered the soldiers to saddle up and head to Rich Lake.

According to Dr. Bogener, after seeing signs of the Native Americans at Rich Lake, Noland and his troops followed the signs northwest, into Hockley County, where they camped. The troops realized that they had not filled their canteens at the Double Lakes.

“They get out here, and they’re essentially out of water,” Dr. Bogener said. “None the less, they went on. They rode horseback all the way into Cochran County and into Roosevelt County, New Mexico.”

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At this point, the troops were completely out of water and set up camp on a hill named “Buffalo Soldier Hill.” In the distance, Parker and the other Native Americans watched from afar as the troops began to become dehydrated.

“These men were suffering now from the lack of water,” Dr. Bogener said. “The Indians are back in the sand dunes watching these guys with a pair of high-powered, government-issued binoculars, and I’m sure they thought it was hilarious. In the morning, they head to the northeast and stop because they have to make a decision.”

The men decide to head to another salt lake called “Silver Lake,” before moving on to the Casas Amarillas, where they thought a spring would run. However, Captain Noland disagreed with the soldiers. He suggested they head back to the where they knew there was water, the Double Lakes.

“So, he makes his men continue on down until they are in the middle of Hockley County, just south of where we are now,” Dr. Bogener said. “Now this was 1877. It was July, and they were having temperatures of over 100 degrees every day during a drought. Other than the Double Lakes, there really wasn’t water anywhere else.”

According to Dr. Bogener, the soldiers, who were dressed in heavy, wool, navy blue uniforms died off one by one until four soldiers were dead. The men who survived did so by taking extreme measures.

“They lived primarily because every time the horse or one of the men urinated, they would catch it, and drink it,” she said. “When the horses became too dehydrated to urinate, when the horse would falter, they would slit the throat of the horse, and drink its blood. When the horse’s blood became dehydrated, they would chew on the blood clots of the horse to ingest whatever moisture they could.”

The remaining troops made their final trek toward the Double Lakes, ending a week-long chase. Once they arrived at the salt lake, the soldiers consumed as much water as they could in relief. However, due to the amount of salt in the lake, the men threw up much of what they consumed, but slowly regained hydration.

“The four soldiers that remained were court marshaled,” Dr. Bogener added. “The person who should have been court marshaled was Captain Noland. It was his responsibility to tell his men that they may need extra canteens.”

Many of the events that occurred throughout the history of Hockley County are marked with placards placed throughout the area. Many stand alone on barren land, while others remain on private property.

Dr. Bogener says that there are many historic events that took place in Hockley County. She says that stories like this show that “we have history in our backyard.”

[Photos by TOVI OYERVIDEZ/PLAINSMAN PRESS]