I must admit that I had never heard of Hallie Stillwell (or Miss Hallie as I first heard her called) until I married into the Jones family and learned that her name was a common word, at least among the bunch that traveled time and time again to the Big Bend. When Gary Elliott decided to share his story with me about Miss Hallie, I went on the hunt for information about the amazing woman.
Hallie Marie Crawford, born in 1897, was from Waco, Texas; however, an apparently restless father kept his family moving from place to place. As a young girl of thirteen, Hallie Crawford drove a wagon into the town of Alpine, Texas, Big Bend country and the family’s last move.
When six years later Hallie earned her teaching certificate, she grabbed her guns and struck out for a position in Presidio, her father objecting to her “wild goose chase.”
“Then I’ll Gather My Geese,” Hallie shot back.
In 1918, Hallie married Roy Stillwell, a man old enough to be her father, and she moved to his ranch, not too far north of the Rio Grand and forty-five miles from the nearest town, Marathon. From the beginning, Hallie’s life was full of changes with the change from schoolteacher to rancher being one of the biggest.
In an age when few women were involved in business, Hallie worked right beside her husband in their ranching business, doing everything required to be a successful in that part of Texas: riding, wrangling, fighting bankers, sharpshooting, fighting bankers, and, of course, rearing the three children she bore.
In 1948, Mr. Stillwell was killed in an accident, and the weight of the ranch fell upon Hallie’s shoulders. When drought threatened her ranch, Hallie was forced to look for outside work to supplement her income.
She worked in a cafe, a beauty shop, and a flower shop. She worked for the Alpine Chamber of Commerce, and she worked for the city of Alpine. And…as you already know…she eventually became Miss Hallie, the Justice of the Peace in Alpine.
Then, in 1955 her first column, “Ranch News,” appeared in the Alpine Avalanche, and it was an instant success, appearing in newspapers statewide. Before long, the speaking engagements followed and Miss Hallie joined the circuit, describing the life of a Texas ranch woman, the title by which she always referred to herself.
All of the above offered Miss Hallie the chance to become an author, and her books today can be found in various online bookstores. She was named a Yellow Rose Of Texas by the governor, and Texas Monthly bestowed the title of Texas Grande Dame upon her for her contributions to the state. She was also inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.
Hallie Stillwell and her children also established a trading post and RV park adjacent to Big Bend National Park, and it was here that Missy and Darrell Jones and family met the woman whom they never forgot.
Miss Hallie Stillwell died in August of 1997, two months and two days short of her 100th birthday.