The Upshaws of County Line: An American Family

Scroll down to see some of the images from this show.

Grandfatherly Advice (1998)
Cover of book, The Upshaws of County Line: An American Family

January 18–March 24, 2019

In 1988 photographer Richard Orton began what would become a 25 year project documenting life in the African-American community of County Line in deep East Texas. Known as a “freedom colony,” County Line came into being when, in the 1880s the Upshaw brothers, Guss, Felix and Jim, brought their families there to create a community of their own.
The exhibit was organized by Stephen F. Austin State University.

Friday, January 18, 6:00-8:00 PM  Exhibit Opening
Members of the Upshaw family and photographer Richard Orton will be in attendance for the opening weekend of The Upshaws of County Line: An American Family.

Saturday, January 19, 10:00 AM  Gallery talk at the Museum of the Big Bend with Mr. Richard Orton, Ms. Elia Ali, Ms. Beatrice Upshaw and Dr. Savannah Williamson of SRSU. In addition, Mr. Orton will have his book The Upshaws of County Line: An American Family available for signing and purchase.

Check out this article on the Tour Texas website about the Museum of the Big Bend and this exhibit:

Monel and Leota Upshaw were the folks that made Richard Orton welcome in County Line back in 1988. Beatrice Upshaw is the 12th of the 13 children born to Monel and Leota. Elia Ali, 26, is the youngest granddaughter of Monel and Leota Upshaw.

Richard Orton was born in Nacogdoches and raised in Midland. He became mesmerized by photography after seeing an image materializing in a development tray. After two years in the Peace Corps, he settled in Austin, Texas, where he worked with nonprofits before becoming a photographer for the Texas House of Representatives. He moved back to Nacogdoches in 2007.

About the book The Upshaws of County Line: An American Family:

“Richard Orton’s camera has caught the culmination of 150 years of East Texas history in his Upshaws of County Line. This Nacogdoches family of Upshaws lived through the violence of slavery and Reconstruction, and all the indignities of Jim Crow times and integration to maintain an independent Freedman’s Settlement in the Angelina River bottoms. Richard’s photographs reflect the Upshaws’ strength and endurance necessary for the survival of the County Line community through these harsh and bitter times. Richard’s pictures more importantly reflect the decades of love and respect that held that colorful family together for 150 years.”
— F. E. Abernethy, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Stephen F. Austin State University

 “There are giants in the earth and other ‘presences’ at County Line, and when you look closely at the photos of Orton perhaps you can sense some of them.”
— from the Foreword by Thad Sitton

Click on any image for a larger view.