By Brandon Cooper
Images of America: Flower Mound by Jimmy Ruth (J.R.) Hilliard Martin is, much like Robin Cole-Jett’s book about Lewisville published last year, about the history of smaller communities in North Texas that boomed in recent years to become their own metropoleis of sorts. The books share essentially the same basic structure: a few brief introductory paragraphs, followed mostly by archival photographs and captions. That’s about where the similarities end.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that local historians sometimes whitewash their community’s history. To some extent, I expect that in something like the Images of America series. That said, Cole-Jett’s portrayal of Lewisville is perhaps the most trustworthy in-print source of information about the history of the city. It isn’t perfect, but it makes for a great coffee table book. Better yet, it’s a great “glove compartment book”, something you can take with you around the city to compare photos with today’s buildings.
Admittedly, Martin’s book, released late last month by Arcadia Publishers, had less history to cover; Flower Mound’s history as an incorporated community only goes back to 1961. What little history the town has, however, is barely covered in the book’s 127 pages. Instead, the book is rife with random portraits of families, many of whom aren’t even identified. The pictures’ captions are of little help to the reader, often listing countless names instead of providing context for the photographs. Additionally, the author ends many of the captions with what could only be pure speculation on her part; assumptions about the photographs’ subjects–their feelings, preferences, and opinions–permeate almost every page.
Other selections for the book’s photographs seem even more dubious. On page 98, for example, are two photographs meant to relate information about a spot where parachutists used to land in the area: one of a blank field and another of the Kohl’s location in Flower Mound. The caption below the first photograph explains:
An open field similar to this one was used every Sunday by the Dallas Parachute Club to stage its practice jumping.
So not only are we looking at a photo of a blank field, we’re looking at a blank field that wasn’t even where these parachutists (who are not pictured) landed. The Kohl’s is apparently where the field is currently.
Contributions by minorities to the town’s history are completely ignored. Although the Craft, Rawlings, and Nowlins families are mentioned repeatedly, along with overflowing praise for their “tough life” and “love of God, country, and their families”, no mention is made of the fact that all three families owned slaves. The only black person pictured in the entire book is an unnamed suspect being arrested by one of the town’s well known lawmen.
Perhaps most importantly, either the author or editor chose to almost completely ignore the town’s history from incorporation onwards, including its massive (and, to me, fascinating) growth during the last few decades. Flower Mound’s explosive growth was fueled by many of the same events that Lewisville experienced, but these and other factors that figured prominently are almost entirely omitted from this narrative. Instead, the last 50 years are essentially covered in the last few pages by a few awkward photographs snapped by the author.
On the last page of Cole-Jett's book, there is a good photograph of Lewisville City Hall. This book's final image, however, is perhaps the greatest insult from the author. As our final image of Flower Mound, there is an unlevel photograph of a natural gas well, along with the following caption:
Gas wells dot the horizon, bringing financial support to the city, the country, and the schools. The gas drilling companies, as well as the leaseholders, pay city, county, and school taxes on every foot of cubic gas sold, thus contributing to a tax base that benefits every citizen of Flower Mound.
The awkward insertion of this blatant personal bias has no place in a history book. Martin and her brother Ron Hilliard have been directly involved in the gas drilling controversies in Flower Mound in recent years, and the author obviously wanted her anti-regulation stance front and center (she also mentions the issue on the first page of the introduction.)
Although I had not originally intended to write anything about this book, it was after reading that caption that I decided to write this review, to save other people like me from wasting $21.99 and a half hour of their time. Regardless as to the book's quality, it will most likely end up featured on the shelves in the Flower Mound Library. Sadly, it will remain on the shelves for future historians to mistakenly use it as a reference for their own works.
If you’re smarter than me, though, you’ll keep this from finding its way onto your coffee table.
Image by nfocusdesign on Flickr used under Creative Commons license.