Stephen F. Austin State University

How do you measure history? (March 2013)

How do you measure history?
By Marvin Mayer

Typically, history is measured in time, not distance. Among other definitions Webster defines history as (1) a chronological record of significant events (as affecting a nation or institution) often including an explanation of their causes, or (2) a branch of knowledge that records and explains past events, or (3) events of the past. Smith County's city of Tyler has a different idea; bring Smith County and Tyler history to life and do so in a way that makes it easy for everyone and anyone to honor the past. Introducing Tyler's "Half Mile of History."

The Half Mile of History is a cultural and historic landmark program paying tribute to people, places, and events that have contributed to the City of Tyler and/or Smith County. Physically, it is a permanent, outdoor walk-around loop in the heart of the downtown area known as the square. It draws its name from the approximate half mile stretch of sidewalk surrounding the square. From the corner of the intersection of North College and West Erwin streets, follow the sidewalk east, cross Broadway (U.S. 69) and continue east to North Spring Street. From there, turn left (north) and continue one block to East Ferguson Street. Walk west on Ferguson the 2 blocks it takes to reach North College. From there, conclude the half mile by walking south on College to the original starting point.

So what's that got to do with history? The square itself is an historic part of the city/county, but the half mile of history is more than that. Along the walk, one discovers 17" granite squares in which are imbedded circular markers commemorating a person, place, or event of significance in area history. Each marker

contains the Half Mile of History heading followed by the honoree's name and a short statement about what makes him/her/it worthy of being so honored. Twenty-nine markers adorn the sidewalks. On March 7, 2013, three more markers where unveiled: Italian immigrant and founder of Delta Drilling Company, Joe Zeppa; Sarah McClendon, newspaper journalist and White House reporter, and a proud WAC officer during WWII; and Mattie Jones, pioneer teacher, the only female member of the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce at that time, and a long-time member of the Carnegie Library Board. Their markers soon will join the existing 29 serving as permanent reminders of Smith County's rich history as displayed in Tyler's Half Mile of History.