Hallie Crawford Stillwell was a rancher, teacher, writer, and lecturer. The oldest of five children of Alvin Guy and Nancy (Montgomery) Crawford, she was born at Waco, Texas, on October 20, 1897. Hallie’s family moved around Texas and New Mexico due to her father’s changing desires and determination to find a better life and education for his children. Alvin Crawford tried ranching and homesteading to support his family. Eventually the Crawfords settled in Alpine, Texas, where Hallie’s father opened a grocery store in 1910. At the age of nineteen, with teaching certificate in hand and her father’s gun strapped to her side, she started her first teaching position at Presidio, Texas; a year later, in 1917, she transferred to Marathon, Texas. At the time, the Mexican Revolution was heating up, and Pancho Villa was beginning his series of raids into the Big Bend.
Hallie Crawford married Roy Stillwell, twenty years her senior, on July 29, 1918, and moved into his primitive small one-room cabin, which was said to be about the size of a formal dining room in a modern home, on the Stillwell Ranch. She became a ranch hand working alongside her husband. She later wrote in her memoirs that she learned to live, work, and act like a man. Hallie branded and herded cattle, mended fences, and hunted game, all while raising two sons and a daughter. The drought of 1930 almost destroyed the ranch, but through determination and assistance from the Drought Relief Service, the Stillwells were able to avoid bankruptcy. In 1948 Roy was killed in a roll-over truck accident. Hallie continued to run the ranch until 1964, when she turned it over to her sons.
Hallie became a correspondent for the Alpine Avalanche in 1930. After Roy’s death she began her career as a lecturer while continuing to run the family ranch. She coauthored a book, How Come It’s Called That? Place Names in the Big Bend Country, published in 1958 by the University of New Mexico Press. She wrote a ranch news column and also became a stringer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and later for the El Paso Times. In 1964 she became the first woman elected as justice of the peace for Alpine, in Brewster County; she held this office until retiring in 1978. When family members occasionally came before Hallie’s court, she showed no favoritism. Declaring that her family had been brought up to behave properly and obey all laws, she gave them maximum fines. Hallie’s favorite part of being justice of the peace was conducting wedding ceremonies. Texas A&M University Press published her memoirs, I’ll Gather My Geese, in 1991.
Hallie Stillwell was a member of numerous organizations. Among them were the Alpine Pilot Club and Pilot International, Daughters of the Republic of Texas, United Daughters of the Confederacy, American Legion Auxiliary, Marathon School Board, Texas Press Women, Big Bend National Park and Development Committee, West Texas Historical Society, and Brewster County Historical Society. Texas Monthly magazine called her the “Grande Dame of Texas.” During her lifetime she had also earned the title of “Queen of the Big Bend.” The Hallie’s Hall of Fame Museum was built in 1991 near her daughter’s Stillwell RV Park and Store in Alpine. Stillwell was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 1994. She was also honored by the Texas Press Association with its fifty-year achievement award. She died on August 18, 1997, two months and two days short of her hundredth birthday. She was buried in Elm Grove Cemetery in Alpine. Posthumously Stillwell was inducted into the Texas Heritage Hall of Fame in 1998. Her second memoirs, My Goose is Cooked, was published in 2004.