Who Was Miss Hallie Stillwell?

Texas Monthly

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.

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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.

About Fredda Jones

Fredda Davis Jones was raised “in the country” in Comanche County and learned very early that creativity and innovation are traits that can flourish even in small-town Texas and that with enough effort, indeed nothing is impossible, including being married to the same man for over 40 years! Rickey and Fredda have 2 children, 5 grandchildren, and a crazy life that includes sitting in the bleachers several times a week. The rest of her time is spent creating great content for texansunited.com and marketing small-town Texas.
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One Response to Who Was Miss Hallie Stillwell?

  1. missyjones says:

    Fredda, I can’t remember the year, but Darrell and I did know about Miss hallie and her ranch and trading post and rv park. This was on the road to the border, to Blackgap Wildlife Management, and we, Darrell and I and Geneva ( my sister) and her husband Alton Mercer and Darrell’s sister, Lou Newsome from Weatherford, Texas all decided to go. We parked at Hllie’s rv park for about a week. Her son and son-in-law (I hope I am right about this), took us all around the ranch in two jeeps. This was rough country, ranch country. This was private land, and they showed us lots of Indians sites, for instance, a cave up on the wall of rock, that we rapelled up to, about 12 feet, and there was a cave that had been used by Indians for thousands of years, and outside of the cave was paintings on the rock wall. Also, a handmade rock wall up against a cliff, that they supposed was used for rounding up horses, and the most important of all: a medicine wheel, made from rocks and about 25 feet across, with pie shaped sections, with the rocks placed by early day Indians, no rain to ever wash any of them away. I have many pictures of this trip. the Medicine Wheel is pretty unusual, in that it has survived so long. Experts think the wheel was used for religious ceremonies. This was the grandest time that we ever had. One night, we could see Miss Hallie sitting in her little store. We wanted to visit with her, but didn’t know whether or not to bother her. After all, she was about 80 years old. She had just had her book published: “I’ll Gather My Geese”. She was autographing her books, we went in and talked to her and stayed and visited with her for about an hour and a half. Believe me, she was THE QUEEN OF WEST TEXAS. And just to meet her, you would agree with that. Missy Jones

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