TEXAS STATE HISTORICAL MARKER
The Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball Association is proud to announce that the Texas Historical Commission has designated the legendary Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball and Pioneer Hall as an Official Texas Historical Event and Site to promote historic preservation and the celebration of Texas history.
The Texas Historical Marker Reads:
“In 1885, M.G. Rhodes hosted a wedding party and dance at his Star Hotel in Anson. One guest was Larry Chittenden, a salesman and writer visiting his uncle in Jones County. He was so inspired by the dance held that night for the cowboys and ladies that he composed a poem commemorating the occasion, “The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball.” The poem, first printed in Anson’s Texas Western newspaper in 1890, also appeared in Chittenden’s 1893 poetry collection Ranch Verses. Over the years the poem was remembered and anthologized many times in print and song.
In 1934, Lenora Barrett and Hybernia Grace revived the historic ball and its folklore. Their group performed during the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas and at the National Folk Festival in Washington, D.C. in 1938, when they danced on the White House lawn. As annual interest increased, the group copyrighted the event and named a board of directors for the Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball Association. A new venue, Pioneer Hall, was built in 1938-40 with help from the Work Projects Administration. The dance has been a three-day event since 1940, and the following year Jenne Magagan’s mural in the Anson Post Office depicted the historic “Cowboy Dance.” Chittenden’s poem records real people and ranches of 1880s Jones County, along with observations of dress and customs which influence some of the formal rules and decorum of the ball today. Ladies must wear dresses and gentlemen must check their hats, and some attendees dress in period clothing. The event draws national and international visitors, while some participants are direct descendants of those immortalized in the poem. With such 19th century dances as the Grand March, Waltz, Cotton-Eye Joe, Polka, Virginia Reel and Schottische, this Anson tradition helps perpetuate an important aspect of life in frontier.