Stilwell, Hart (1902–1975)

By: Patrick Bennett

Type: Biography

Published: July 1, 1995

Updated: April 23, 2019

Hart Stilwell, writer, the son of Hartwell and Anna Belle (Poole) Stilwell, was born on May 13, 1902, at Yoakum, Texas. His hot-tempered father was never able to readjust his frontier ways and kept the family on the move along the back roads of the less civilized sections of Texas. Hart, Jr., escaped to the University of Texas and graduated in 1924 with a degree in journalism. In 1925 he married Mary Gray Seabury. Their first home was at Brownsville, where he worked as a newspaper reporter. Their daughter, Mary Gray Stilwell Hughes, became a successful fiction writer and poet; their son, Arthur Evans Stilwell, wrote a newspaper column for a time. Stilwell moved to Austin in 1946. Stilwell wrote stories and articles for Esquire, Field and Stream, Outdoor Life, Sports Afield, and other publications. A liberal Democrat, he wrote during the 1940s for the Texas Spectator, forerunner of the Texas Observer. Stilwell's first novel, Border City (1945), explores the difficulties faced by an Anglo newspaperman in Brownsville who falls in love with a Hispanic girl. Uncovered Wagon followed in 1947. Campus Town (1950), his last novel, depicts education and politics at the University of Texas in the 1920s. His works of nonfiction include Hunting and Fishing in Texas (1946) and Fishing in Mexico (1948). Stilwell published an oral history of pioneer aviator Floyd H. (Slats) Rodgers, Old Soggy #1, in 1954. Although Campus Town sold well, Stilwell's reputation rests most firmly on Uncovered Wagon, which under a thin guise of fiction, is actually the story of Hart's upbringing by his patient mother and cantankerous father. Stanley Walker, writing in the New York Herald-Tribune, called the book "a sort of `Life With Father' in a particularly lowdown setting." Jacques Barzun wrote in the New York Times that the book put Stilwell in the company of J. Frank Dobie, Charles William Goyen, Katherine Anne Porter, and Preston Jones. A. C. Greene includes it in The Fifty Best Books on Texas (1982). After divorcing his first wife in 1955, Stilwell married Anne Stone, a public-school social worker. He published Looking at Man's Past in 1965 and collaborated with his wife on The Child Who Walks Alone (1972). He died on May 13, 1975, in Austin and was buried in Austin Memorial Park.

Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Patrick Bennett, “Stilwell, Hart,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 18, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995
April 23, 2019