The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 77, July 1973 - April, 1974 Page: 153
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and career of C. L. Sonnichsen, professor of English and dean of the Grad-
uate School at the University of Texas, El Paso, and, more important still,
a grassroots historian who has made an invaluable contribution to the his-
torical literature of Texas and New Mexico.
The study divides rather naturally into three main sections: the first is
biographical; the second, an examination of Sonnichsen's methodology and
style; and the third, a survey of his principal writings. In the first section,
Walker traces Sonnichsen's family background; his childhood in the small
prairie community of Hancock, in Stevens County, Minnesota; his under-
graduate days at the University of Minnesota and his graduate career at
Harvard; his first teaching jobs at St. James Schooland Carnegie Tech;
and his distinguished forty-one year career at the Texas School of Mines,
later Texas Western College, and still later the University of Texas, El Paso.
Sonnichsen is accurately pictured as a member of "the species of his-
toriographer to whom tombstone inscriptions, wills, land records, and
cracker barrel testimony are essential tools for the writer of today seeking
to illuminate the immediate past" (p. 3). Walker also reports that according
to Sonnichsen's "definition of what he jokingly calls Historianus herbidus,
the grassroots historian recognizes that 'the original researcher would be an
old plainsman lying in a buffalo wallow standing off a bunch of Coman-
ches-and too busy to write any of it down' " (p. 27). The grassroots man
then takes up where the pioneer left off, listening, extracting, evaluating,
and finally writing a story that can be compared to "a sort of conversational
dentistry, every fact wrenched out by the roots" (p. 27). Walker describes
Sonnichsen as a man who has made the unwritten history of the West his
special domain; a man who maintains that the difference between the
grassroots man and the pure historian is "that the former listens as well as
reads, while the latter reads-and reads" (p. 28). Sonnichsen depicts him-
self as "a popular historian as opposed to the pedagogic historian, and as a
man who believes that history, to be interesting, has to have a connection
with the adventures of the human spirit" (p. 30). In searching for an answer
to the question of whether there is any place in history for the imagination,
Sonnichsen points out that the key to the answer lies in correcting "the mis-
taken belief that facts and truth are synonymous" (p. 30). Truth is made up
of facts, he points out, "but if we stop with the facts, we do not have the
truth. The best part of history is where the facts leave off-when we begin
to consider meanings" (p. 30). Walker's evaluation of Sonnichsen's major
works is followed by a Sonnichsen bibliography prepared by Bud Newman.
As everyone knows, Texas and southwestern history owes an immeasur-
able debt to Charles Leland Sonnichsen; now all of those interested in the
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 77, July 1973 - April, 1974, periodical, 1973/1974; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117148/m1/171/: accessed July 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.