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History in the making
By Randy Bryan Bigham   - 02/25/2008

Ennis Daily News

In Ennis all roads lead to history.

At least that’s the idea behind a book project that Laurie Wilson has taken on, together with fellow local historian Peggy Rankin.

The proposed book, a pictorial history of Ennis, is scheduled for release later this year by Arcadia Publishing, which specializes in regional photographic studies.

“I’m excited to work on this project,” said Rankin, a longtime Ennisite and member of the Ennis Heritage Society. “I think it will be great for the citizens and the city of Ennis.”

Wilson said she’s equally thrilled and has high hopes that the book –– the first full-scale photo history of Ennis –– will be a credit to the city.

“I really hope this is something the community can be proud of,” she said. “And it is really a joint effort. Peggy has been in on this from almost the beginning, and I’m so happy she agreed to be part of the project.”

Wilson is no stranger to researching history. With her husband, Michael Wilson, a former member of the Landmark Commission, she’s been scoping out Ennis’ past since moving with her family to this city a decade ago. The Wilsons are proud guardians of their own significant piece of local heritage –– their W. Tyler St. home was once the residence of noted architect Hix McCanless who built many of downtown Ennis’ signature structures, from City Hall to La Galleria, all dating to the early 20th century. Michael Wilson is also responsible for the Templeton-McCanless District’s website, the first online resource for Ennis history.

Laurie Wilson said she has seen the world and enjoyed the adventures that come with travel but that she loves Ennis more than any other place she’s lived.

Wilson added she hopes the book she and Rankin are working on will do justice to the passion they share for the rich history of Ennis. Their plans are that the volume will not only record events and personalities of Ennis through the years but aid in promoting cultural interest in the city. Already Ennis Mayor Russell Thomas and Tourism Director Gina Rokas are enthusiastic about the potential for the book as a first rate advertisement for Ennis, Rankin said.

The picture book, expected to feature from 180 to 220 images from public and private archives, will also benefit two leading local historical organizations, the Ennis Heritage Society and the Ennis Czech Heritage Society.

“I’ve met with members of both groups,” Wilson said and royalties will be split between the Heritage and Czech Heritage societies. They will also appear as honorary authors of the book.”

Wilson, a member of the board of the Friends of the Ennis Public Library as well a library volunteer, is a natural for the job of collating items for inclusion in the proposed tome.

But she said the initial concept wasn’t hers.

“Arcadia Publishing contacted me, so I can’t take credit for the idea,” she said. “The company called me late last year to ask if I would consider putting a book together. After looking over my material and researching the business, I thought it really would be a great opportunity for Ennis. And the first person I thought of was Peggy Rankin to help me.”

Rankin, whose family has deep roots in Ennis and Ellis County, said as a lover of history the project is an ideal outlet.

“I’m having a wonderful learning experience,” she said. “Collecting pictures and stories of our community is great fun.”

Their book doesn’t have a working title yet but Rankin and Wilson said there will likely be from five to eight chapters covering such subjects as “Early Years,” “Stories We Tell,” “School Bells,” “Church Days,” “Growing a Community” and “Then and Now.”

All major aspects of Ennis’ past will be touched on in the upcoming book, ranging in date from the 1870s to the 1960s –– the early railroad and cotton industries, civic life, cultural events, celebrities, etc.

Photographs and other artwork for the book are being drawn largely from the Ennis Heritage Society’s extensive collection at the Ennis Public Library although some private resources are being tapped as is the limited but interesting archive of the Ennis Daily News, itself a part of local history, founded in 1891.




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