For decades, the life that Robert E. Howard lived in Cross Plains was a footnote in literary history. A handful of scholars and a few area historians recognized the work of this author, but it wasn’t until a movie — Conan the Barbarian, starring a future governor of California — that the interest of the general public was stirred.
Cross Plains residents who saw the growing interest in the works of Robert E. Howard formed Project Pride, and restored the home where Howard lived with his parents from 1919 until his death in 1936. And every year, over the second weekend in June, several hundred fans and students of fantasy literature arrive to explore this author, the works he left the world before taking his own life, and wonder what might have been had he lived longer than 33 years.
Cross Plains residents are doing a great service to those who study popular literature of the era by hosting the annual Robert E. Howard Days. But they are also helping to put their community on the map for positive reasons by capitalizing on a unique aspect of their city’s history. Not every community, much less one with the small population of Cross Plains, can boast of having had a resident with such a legacy — an author who seven decades after his death attracts fans from every state of the union as well as several foreign countries.
They come especially during the June observance, of course. But Cross Plains is a destination for some of them throughout the year. The visits of these tourists benefit Brown County, because Howard attended Howard Payne. His grave is one of several historic sites in Greenleaf Cemetery.
The welcome mat is out in Cross Plains, but that welcome is also extended in neighboring communities — especially in Brownwood — where many of this weekend’s guests have found lodging. Hopefully, the events planned this year will be rewarding and enlightening as Howard’s works continue to find new fans.