The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 44, July 1940 - April, 1941 Page: 353
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E. L. Shettles, Man, Bookman, and Friend
What a picture it gives of the Flatwoods country, the trees
and bushes, the game, the birds and attempts at farming! Mr.
Shettles was a big boy before he saw his first foreigner, an
Italian with a hand organ and a monkey. In time to come he
saw many foreigners; he saw his land fill up with foreign
elements supplanting in many ways the ideals and the cultural
outlook of his own people, but he towered through life as an
unshaken representative of the primitive American stock that
made America what it is.
To get back to the autobiography. We see here the youth
learning to pay the fiddle and fiddling for old-time break-down
dances. We see him walking thirty miles to buy a pair of shoes.
He borrowed books and read. He studied McGuffey's readers
and a long life-time later could have recited much of their con-
tents. When he was twenty-one years old, he saw his first
variety show and as a country school teacher the following year
gave his patrons a free minstrel show of his own. In 1875 he
got together his belongings, "which consisted of a little paper-
covered trunk, a fiddle, a brass horn, and a change or two of
clothing," and left home to seek his fortune in the west. He
landed in Arkansas, where he found relatives and good land to
plow. It was characteristic of him that he should have been
drawn into the powerful but short-lived Grange movement; and
here it is not amiss to observe that half a century later he
procured for the library of The University of Texas perhaps the
most extensive single collection of materials in the nation on
He had made a trip or two into Texas, but in 1881 he came
to stay and to gamble on cards. This is a part of his life that
he was always reluctant to talk about. He hated notoriety and
sensationalism; he never ceased regretting the years he wasted
in riotous living. But when he came to chronicle the story of
his life, he felt it obligatory on him for truth's sake to include
his career as a gambler. He told me again and again that
despite the fictionizing of gamblers, there was never a profes-
sional who did not play tricks and cheat. I believe it was hatred
of violating the truth, as much as anything else, that turned
E. L. Shettles from gambling. While he was still shuffling cards,
he read law. He was not a two-bit card shark; he hunted big
games, going from place to place. He was now flush and now
If you ever read the Shettles autobiography, you will share
with its author the release and burgeoning of life that came
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 44, July 1940 - April, 1941, periodical, 1941; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth146052/m1/392/: accessed December 14, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.