Mineral Wells Area News

The Tragic Story of a Young Girl Whose Written Words are Still Sung in the Community Almost a Century Later

The Tragic Story of a Young Girl Whose Written Words are Still Sung in the Community Almost a Century Later
October 09
08:44 2022

Written by Kelly North

Dorothy Westbrook (1932)

MWHS Alma Mater

The current Mineral Wells High School Alma Mater appeared in the May 18, 1934 edition of the school paper, “The Tattler.” It was penned by Dorothy Margaret Westbrook. She meant it to be sung to the tune of Maryland’s state song, “Maryland, My Maryland”.

Dorothy Westbrook (1932)

Dorothy was born in Fort Worth in 1913 to William and Nyda Westbrook. Her father died in 1919 and her mother re-married. Dorothy attended high school in Mineral Wells, beginning as a freshman in 1929 and graduating in 1932.

She was an honor student and a member of the Burro yearbook staff. She was also a poet. A number of her short poems appeared in both the yearbook and the school newspaper.

A fellow student, Roy Storey, wrote that he felt Dorothy’s “poetry…so good that she’ll probably go down in history as one of the greatest poets the Southwest has ever produced”. Dorothy’s own ambition was “to be someday called “The Spirit of the South.”

Regret

There are a few things I shall not forget,
When my school life is done-
The little kindnesses to those I met;
The few true friends I may have won;
The burdens I may have helped to bear
Throughout each trying day;
The troubles I may have helped to share
For comrades along the way.

Then there are a few things I may regret,
When my school life is o’er
The lessons there that I didn’t get;
The days I should have studied more;
The honor rolls I didn’t make
By not doing the best I could;
The kindly advice I didn’t take
In using my talents as I should.

-DOROTHY WESTBROOK

Sadly, Dorothy Westbrook’s life came to an abrupt end on Christmas Eve, 1935 at age of 22 and there would be no more poems.

For 10 years, it had been a Christmas Eve tradition for the high school band director David Burnswick to play “Silent Night” on his bugle at midnight from atop West Mountain. It was also customary to fire a cannon.

“Silent Night” would not be heard that Christmas Eve in 1935. Nor would it be heard again from West Mountain for nearly 40 years.

As Burnswick was eating a quick midnight meal, two men were loading the cannon in preparation for the event. His daughter Elsie Faye Burnswick (11) and Dorothy Westbrook (22) were watching nearby. Tragically, the cannon suddenly exploded into flames and steel fragments.

Dorothy was killed immediately. Little Elsie lay in the hospital that night with a fractured skull. She died overnight.

David Burnswick never again played his bugle at Christmas Eve from West Mountain. Although he continued as the high school band director, it is said that he never visited West Mountain again.

There was not another “Silent Night” serenade from West Mountain on Christmas Eve until the tradition was revived in 1974 by A F Weaver and the Mineral Wells Heritage Association.

Dorothy never had the opportunity to fulfill her dream of being the “Spirit of the South” but her gift of an alma mater to Mineral Wells High School endures and so, perhaps she can be called “the spirit of the Mineral Wells High.”


Be sure to follow Kelly North’s Blog, Mineral Wells: The Carlsbad of America for an incredible look at the history of Mineral Wells.

About the Author: Kelly North began her journalism career as a photographer for DFW bands, then started a self-published alternative music fanzine in the 1980-1990’s. She had a local music TV show and eventually wrote a blog called Texas Tails, Trails and Rails before being captivated by Mineral Wells in 2018. North moved to MW in 2022 and after briefly living at the Crazy Water Hotel, she bought a house and became an official resident of the “Crazy” Community.

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