By Nikki Velarde, The Belton Journal
A group of about 15 students from the Honors Program at Northeastern Community College are in Salado this week creating a film on the lives of Miriam and James Ferguson. Their filming sites include several locations, such as the Inn on the Creek.
“This is our fifth year doing a film,” explained Dr. Andrew Yox, Honors Professor at Northeastern Community College. “We have done several feature length films as well, and we tend to get bigger as we go along.”
Recently, Dr. Yox and student Morgan Capp went to Corpus Christi to attend the C. M. Caldwell Memorial Awards for Excellence in History. Capp won second place in the lower division for her paper Political Pa and Mindful Ma Ferguson: The Charismatic Commensal Couple of Texas Governorship, for which the film is based on. The Caldwell award, sponsored by The Walter Prescott Webb Society and The Texas State Historical Association, recognizes excellence in historical research and writing.
“A lot of history about the Fergusons is really skewed and biased because the only information we previously had was from a book that their daughter Ouida wrote, which turned out to be pretty false,” explained Capp. “We went to Austin and spent about four days doing research about the Fergusons and tried to put together more of a real picture about them.
“From what we found, they were very corrupt, there was a lot of underhand dealings, taking a lot of money from the state and the people. James was the first governor to be impeached, and he used Miriam as a front, and she became the first woman elected governor.
“We decided to do a film about this particular story based on the information I found for my research paper. They were really interesting characters, and I really wanted to know how people would allow them to run for office again and again and how they were able to get by with what they did. People saw my paper, and it sparked an interest in them as well.”
Capp’s research paper focuses on the Fergusons as a symbiotic super couple who used that as an asset of their corruptive regime. The honors group began working on a film based off of these characters, but as they did more research, the focus of the film moved into focusing more on the aspect of the family as well as other major historical figures, such as Dan Moody and William Hogg.
“We kind of integrated them into the story as we found more and more corrupt things the Fergusons did,” explained Capp. “The film focuses a lot on family as part of the story but also a lot of the other big things that they were a part of.”
“The film, in a way, is about the corruption of Ma,” explained Dr. Yox. “She was a church-going temperance woman, and James gets her to gradually accept the idea that they can finagle things in such a way financially that they are basically stealing from people.”
“This is our biggest and most involved film yet,” commented Capp. “Most of them have been based in Northeast Texas, so this is the furthest we’ve had to travel.”
Local author Carol Wilson, writer of In the Governor’s Shadow: The True Story of Ma and Pa Ferguson, was a major help in the researching process for the film. By her urging, the honors group are looking at giving a premiere of the film in Belton once completed.