Saturday, September 25, 2021

Southlake Historical Society’s exhibit on Bob and Almeady Chisum Jones wins 2021 AASLH Award of Excellence

The Southlake Historical Society (SHS) was recently named the recipient of an American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) Award of Excellence for “Bob and Almeady Chisum Jones: A True Story of Resilience, Courage, and Success.” The AASLH Leadership in History Awards, now in its 76th year, is the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history.

The exhibit tells the story of former slaves who established a prosperous ranch, built relationships with white neighbors and townspeople based on friendship and respect, and valued church, education, hard work and family. The Joneses continue to impact Southlake today.

“Our goal was to make history real by connecting it to the namesake of Bob Jones Nature Center, park and road,” said Anita Robeson, SHS historian. “The Joneses’ remarkable story of perseverance and success in an uncertain world is often overlooked, but it is one everyone should know. It is part of the heritage of Texas.” See the exhibit virtually at www.SouthlakeHistory.org or in person at the Bob Jones Nature Center and Preserve visitor center when the building is open during programming hours.

“The Bob Jones family has left a lasting legacy for the city that will forever define Southlake,” said Southlake Mayor John Huffman. “We are grateful to the Southlake Historical Society for bringing their incredible story to life through this award-winning exhibit.”

This year, AASLH is proud to confer 38 national awards honoring people, projects, exhibits and publications. The winners represent the best in the field and provide leadership for the future of state and local history.

The Southlake Historical Society was formed in the early 1990s after Gary Fickes, a former Southlake mayor and now a Tarrant County commissioner, put an ad in the Grapevine Sun newspaper asking people interested in Southlake history to meet. The 2021 board members are Connie Cooley, president; Claire Johnson, secretary; Terri McAndrew, treasurer; Rebecca Utley, director of development; and Anita Robeson, historian. In 2013, the society received the AASLH’s Albert B. Corey Award, which recognizes “volunteer historical organizations that best display vigor, scholarship and imagination.”

The American Association for State and Local History is a not-for-profit professional organization of individuals and institutions working to preserve and promote history.

The City would like to extend its appreciation to the Southlake Historical Society for their partnership on this story and the virtual tour video that was created so people could enjoy the exhibit online. The City’s collaboration with the Historical Society goes back to the early 1990s.

Exhibit Tells the Story of Bob Jones, a Well-Known Name in Southlake

In Southlake, Bob Jones’s name is on a park, nature center and road, but who was he? An exhibit now open through September 4 at Southlake Town Hall, presented by the Southlake Historical Society, will tell the remarkable story of Bob Jones (1850-1936) and his wife, Almeady Chisum Jones (1857-1949). It’s called “Bob and Almeady Chisum Jones: A true story of resilience, courage and success.”

The exhibit will be displayed in the lobby of Town Hall and in the Southlake Public Library during regular business hours. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

Both Bob Jones and Almeady Chisum Jones, had white fathers and mothers who were slaves and grew up on the Texas frontier. Bob’s father brought him to southern Denton County in about 1860. After the war, Bob drove cattle along the Chisholm Trail and later built a prosperous ranch and farm on the Denton-Tarrant County line. In 1858, Almeady and her mother and sister were given to cattle baron John Chisum as collateral for $814 worth of cattle being driven to California. She thought of Chisum as her father.

Bob and Almeady married in 1875 and had 10 children.

“Bob and Almeady were exceptional people, able to make their way through a difficult world. They earned the trust and respect of all who knew them,” said historical society president Connie Cooley. “They valued God, family and education. They took pride in who they were.”

Today, most of the couple’s 1,000-plus acres are under Lake Grapevine, which was built between 1947-1952. In 1948, their two youngest sons, Jinks and Emory, established Grapevine Auction Sales at the southeast corner of Highway 114 and what was then called White’s Chapel Road. Their wives, Lula and Elnora, ran a cafe that is thought by historians to be the first integrated cafe in Texas. For years, the auction barn was the largest business in Southlake.

Bob Jones Road was named in the 1970s. In 1988, the City annexed land up to Lake Grapevine that included former Bob Jones property. Bob Jones Park opened in 1998 and the Nature Center & Preserve opened in 2008. Much of the original Jones homestead that is not under water is part of the nature center.

In gathering information about the Joneses, “We were lucky that amateur historians had interviewed Jones family members over the years,” said Anita Robeson, SHS historian. “This year the Jones family has shared with us memories, pictures, clothing, letters, legal records and other items that give fresh insight into the family’s story.”

“Letters written to Bob by his father, clothing Bob wore at his wedding, a lovely hand-sewn dress worn by one of his daughters, a poll tax receipt and other items will be on display,” she said.

This is the sixth summer exhibit presented by the Southlake Historical Society. Past topics have included old Southlake photos and the stories they tell; private airstrips in Southlake from about 1950-1980; Denton County history through the eyes of a cattle baron, outlaws, lawmen, church ladies and former slaves; How the War “over there” (World War I) impacted now-Southlake and Texas; and the Centennial of Carroll Hill School, the Birthplace of Carroll ISD and the City of Southlake. Each topic is chosen a year in advance.

To read more about the Jones family, see www.southlakehistory.org.