Waco during the Civil War: The Goode-Thompson Family Papers

By Julie Holcomb, Assistant Professor & Graduate Program Director of Museum Studies

Harboring Unionist sentiments, Richard N. Goode appears an unlikely candidate to serve as mayor of Waco, Texas, during the Civil War. A lawyer and a judge, Goode served as the fourth mayor of Waco from June 1862 to May 1865. Clearly, Goode’s pro-Union sentiments did not prevent him from serving the people of Waco, and his family’s papers document this aspect as well as other interesting tidbits on his life.

Letter from Richard N. Goode to Mary Virginia Thompson, Feb. 19, 1865
Letter from Mayor Richard N. Goode to his daughter, Mary Virginia, Thompson, describing the family’s embrace of spiritualism, or talking to the dead. Mayor Goode’s deceased daughter Calidonia “comes and converses with us frequently.” Goode-Thompson family papers, box 1, folder 3.

Goode moved to Waco in 1859.  He and his wife Elizabeth Mallory Goode were married in Hinds County, Mississippi, in November 1837. The couple had at least eight children: Mary Virginia, Richard, James, Robert, Ivonanna, Olivia, Ursula, and Blanche.  A ninth child, Calidonia, likely died in childhood.

The only reference to Calidonia in the historical record comes from Judge Goode’s letters to his daughter, Mary Virginia. During the Civil War, the Goode family participated in spiritualism, or talking to the dead, using various means of communication including seances and rappings. In his letters, Goode describes communications from Calidonia, Mary Virginia’s sister, even telling Mary Virginia at one point that Calidonia wished to send her a letter! Goode also consulted the spirits regarding the outcome of the war. The Goodes were not unusual in seeking guidance from the spirit world. Thousands, if not millions, of Americans participated in spiritualism in the late nineteenth century.

Letter from Richard N. Goode to Mary Virginia Thompson, dated November 27, 1864
Letter from Mayor Richard N. Goode to his daughter, Mary Virginia Thompson, reporting on the outcome of a recent murder trial and the progress of the Confederate war effort. Goode-Thompson family papers, box 1, folder 3.

Judge Goode’s letters also include references to his court cases, including a murder trial, the progress of the Confederate war effort, and the presence of wartime refugees in Waco. Judge Goode also described the hardships of war, asking his daughter to send goods from her home in Mexico.

In addition to his legal and mayoral careers, Judge Goode owned land just above the mouth of Barron’s Branch on the west bank of the Brazos River. In March 1872, John T. Flint, president of the Waco Bridge Company, tried unsuccessfully to convince Goode to close the ford, which was used to avoid paying the toll on the Waco Suspension Bridge. Finally, in 1877, four years after Judge Goode’s death, the Waco Bridge Company succeeded in purchasing the land from Elizabeth Goode for $350. Soon after, the company began a piling project to close off the ford.

“For an Album,” Poetry written by William Carson Stewart Thompson
Poetry written by William Carson Stewart Thompson sometime after the death of his father, Dr. — John Thompson. Goode-Thompson family papers, box 1, folder 5.

The Goode and Thompson families merged in July 1859, when Mary Virginia Goode, Judge Goode’s eldest daughter, married William Carson Stewart Thompson, son of Dr. John and Isabella Thompson. In 1864 and 1865, William and Mary Virginia resided in Mexico. There is no evidence that William Thompson served in either the Confederate or Union military during the Civil War. William and Mary Virginia had two sons: Edward Everett Thompson, born in Matamoras, Mexico, in 1865 and Rufus N. Thompson born in Waco, Texas, in 1868. Mary Virginia Thompson died of consumption in 1876.

Cabinet card photo of the Thompson brothers
Three of the Thompson brothers (from left to right): Rufus Andrew Thompson, William Carson Stewart Thompson, and Nathaniel John Thompson. Taken in 1889, the caption on the back of the photograph reads: “Three Brothers after a Separation of 35 years.” Goode-Thompson family papers, box 1, folder 7.

In 1889, William Thompson and his younger brothers, Rufus and Nathaniel, were reunited after a 35-year separation. The Thompson brothers were born in Ohio in the 1820s and 1830s.  William had moved with his parents to Texas in the 1850s while Rufus and Nathaniel remained in Ohio. At the time of their reunion, William resided in Waco, Rufus in Illinois, and Nathaniel in Colorado. William Carson Stewart Thompson died in Waco in 1895.Richard N. and Elizabeth Goode as well as Mary Virginia and William Thompson and their sons Edward Everett and Rufus N. and their spouses are all buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Waco.

Although a small collection, the Goode-Thompson family papers provide an important glimpse into life on the Texas homefront during the Civil War.

Research Ready: June 2014

Each month, we post a processing update to notify our readers about the latest collections that have finding aids online and are primed for research. This month, all of our new finding aids are products of the Archival Collections and Museums class that worked on archival processing projects with us here at The Texas Collection…and there will be still more of this student work in upcoming months! Here’s the scoop for June:

Excerpt from Maudie Fielder's notes on serving as a missionary in Asia, circa 1962
Excerpt from Maudie Fielder’s notes on serving as a missionary in Asia. (Click on the image to see a transcription of the page.) Maudie Ethel Albritton Fielder papers #2241, box 2, folder 11.
  • Grace Noll Crowell papers, 1904-1958, undated (#3359): Crowell was the third poet laureate of Texas (from 1936-1939). Scrapbooks, correspondence, and photographs document Crowell’s family and her career as a poet. (Archives class)
  • Maudie Ethel Albritton Fielder papers, 1821-1987, undated (#2241): Includes correspondence, literary productions, and printed materials related to Maudie and John Wilson Fielder’s lives and their time as missionaries in China. (Archives class)
  • Goode-Thompson family papers, 1837-1993 (#2794): Correspondence, a diary, and other records documenting the history of the Richard N. Goode and John Thompson families in Waco, Texas, with the bulk of the materials dating to the Civil War era. (Archives class)
  • Meusebach-Marschall family papers, 1847-1986 (#277): Correspondence, research materials, and notes for the publication John O. Meusebach: German Colonizer in Texas. The collection also contains other correspondence and collected materials related to Marschall family members (including Irene Marschall King and Cornelia Marschall Smith). (Archives class)
Cameron Park Zoo promotional piece, 1988
Before there could be a Cameron Park Zoo, the people of Waco had to support it! Waco Parks and Recreation Commission collection #2871, box 1, folder 8.
  • W.A. Holt Company records, 1925-1949 (#159): Holt’s was one of the largest sporting goods stores in Texas when it was sold in 1968; its records consist of several business record printing requisition orders, various sporting and academic ribbon printing orders, and approximately 60 Holt’s sports catalogs. (Archives class)
  • Waco Parks and Recreation Commission collection, 1987-1992, undated (#2871): Administrative documents collected by Georgette Covo Browder Goble during her service on the Commission from 1987-1992. Includes information on many important decisions that were made during Goble’s tenure, such as the construction of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial and the early planning of the Cameron Park Zoo. (Archives class)

Before Baylor: A Brief Story of Waco University

By Brian Simmons, Archival Assistant and Digital Input Specialist

Waco University pamphlet
Pamphlets like this were written by Rufus C. Burleson to inform interested parties about developments at Waco University and appeal for support. Waco University collection #169, box 1, folder 6.

Baylor University’s Waco roots are tied to the somewhat short lived Waco University. Originally founded as an all-male high school in 1857, the institution eventually came under the control of the Waco Baptist Association, which gave it the name Waco Classical School. In the 1860s, amid internal administrative issues, school management decided to seek new leadership to take the school in a new direction. The trustees offered then current Baylor University President, Rufus C. Burleson, control of the institution. Burleson, who at the time was clashing with faculty in Independence, accepted the offer from the Waco Classical School. He resigned from Baylor in the spring of 1861 and moved to Waco, taking with him many Baylor professors and students.

Waco University catalogue, 1877-1878
Annual catalogs created by Waco University not only listed that year’s course offerings, but also described the guidelines and culture of the university. Waco University collection #169, box 1, folder 3.

 

With Burleson as President, the Waco Classical School was transformed into Waco University over the summer of 1861. The University officially opened as an all-male institution on September 2 of the same year. The venture was moderately successful, but the momentum of the Civil War took a toll on the development of the fledgling university. Although it remained open throughout the war, Waco University faced budget shortfalls and periods of low enrollment.

After the war, the University began to flourish with increased matriculation and an expanded curriculum. The creation of the female department in 1866 made Waco University among the first coeducational universities in the United States.  Although men and women attended the same university and were taught by the same professors, gender segregation was not uncommon.

Waco University diploma for Josephine Ann Corley, 1870
An example of Waco University’s gender sensitivity is found on Josephine Ann Corley’s 1870 diploma. At the time, women were awarded “Maid of Arts” degrees, whereas men were awarded “Bachelor of Arts” degrees. Waco University collection #169, box 4, folder 1.

As Waco University matured, it began to compete with Baylor for potential students. This complication was further compounded by the fact that two different Baptist organizations supported the universities. Both universities existed alongside each other for a number of years. The arrival of train service to Waco would be the beginning of the end for Baylor in Independence. Without a major source of transportation, Baylor began to decline. Later in 1885, the two Baptist organizations that supported the universities joined together and decided to support only one university. It was decided that the organization would consolidate both universities to form Baylor University at Waco. Waco University’s Board of Trustees held their final meetings in 1887 to transfer all assets to Baylor.

Former site of Waco University (now First Baptist Church of Waco)
The 500 block of South Fifth Street is the approximate area where some of the Waco University buildings were located. First Baptist Church of Waco now occupies this site.

Waco University ceased operations at the end of the spring 1886 term.  Baylor University at Waco was not much of a change for students of the defunct university. The same curriculum, faculty, facilities, and polices were retained for the first few years. That would soon end as Baylor gradually shifted away from what was established at Waco University. Baylor began to build new buildings to the south and altered the curriculum. After the completion of buildings on the new campus, the remaining Waco University structure became the Maggie Houston Hall dormitory before eventually being phased out. Waco University was Baylor’s entry to Waco, but it is more than just a footnote in Baylor’s history. Visit the Texas Collection to view the Waco University collection and see its digitized catalogs to explore this institution’s own rich history.

References:

Baker, Eugene W. To Light the Ways of Time: An Illustrated History of Baylor University, 1845-1986. Waco: Baylor University, 1987.

Bragg, Jefferson Davis. “Waco University.” The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 51, no. 3 (January 1948): 213-224.

Guemple, John Robert. “A History of Waco University.” Master’s thesis, Baylor University, 1964.

“Waco University.” Handbook of Waco and McLennan County, Texas. Ed. Dayton Kelley. Waco: Texian Press, 1972.

Research Ready: January 2014

Each month, we post a processing update to notify our readers about the latest collections that have finding aids online and are primed for research. Here’s the scoop for January:

Detail of Sneed-Patton divorce settlement, 1860 January 10
Detail of 1860 Sneed-Patton divorce settlement. The legal document provides a detailed plan for the separation of Mary Sneed and James Patton’s property, and the future yearly annuities that James was to pay. In this excerpt, the kitchen furniture is addressed–Mary keeps all that she brought to the marriage, and half of what they acquired during their short union.
  • Sneed-Woodward-Patton family papers: Correspondence, legal documents, financial records, and literary productions produced by the extended Sneed-Woodward-Patton Family in nineteenth century Texas.
  • Reverend Samuel Pascal Wright papers: Legal and personal documents pertaining to the family of Reverend Samuel Pascal Wright, a Texas pastor and president of Waco Female College from 1883-1887.
Samuel Pascal Wright family, 1930s (see Ford Model A in the background)
Descendants of Samuel Pascal Wright pose for a family photo, circa 1930s. (See the Ford Model A in the background.)

Research Ready: November 2013

Each month, we post a processing update to notify our readers about the latest collections that have finding aids online and are primed for research. Here’s the scoop for November:

Broadside, decree from Jose Gomez de la Cortina, following Santa Anna's capture, 1836
Decree by Mexican Secretary of War Jose Maria Tornel, via District Governor  Jose Gomez de la Cortina, regarding Mexico’s response to Santa Anna’s capture at San Jacinto: while Santa Anna remains in prison, a bow of black crepe was to be placed on all flags and standards, and the national colors were to be flown at half mast. Jones Texas Broadsides, box 1, folder 11.
Program, Woodrow School of Elocution and Physical Culture presentation, 1916
A program from a 1916 presentation by the younger girls attending the Woodrow school. The school used the White system of expression, a noted methodology to teach students how to best utilize gesture, emotion, and voice in public. Woodrow School of Expression and Physical Culture, box 1, folder 1.

Research Ready: October 2013

Each month, we post a processing update to notify our readers about the latest collections that have finding aids online and are primed for research. Here’s the scoop for October:

Colégio Batista faculty, Porto Alegre, Brazil, 1927
As part of their missionary work, the Bagby family founded many schools, such as the Colégio Batista in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Here Harley and Alice Bagby Smith (center) are pictured with faculty in 1927.
Fairfield Confederate Reunions, 1890-1933, by P.D. Browne
P.D. Browne wrote at length about the Val Verde Battery, a Civil War military unit from Central Texas. Browne also wrote a lot about post-Civil War veterans’ reunions in Fairfield, Texas, where he taught school before becoming a professor at Baylor University.
  • P.D. Browne papers, 1860-1986: Materials reflecting Browne’s work for Baylor University, his involvement with Seventh and James Baptist Church, and his research interests in Freestone County, Texas.
  • Luther-Bagby collection, 1821-2001: Consists of correspondence, literary productions, financial documents, photographs, and scrapbooks generated or collected by Luther, Bagby, or Smith family members, primarily pertaining to the Baptist mission experience in Brazil and throughout South America.

Behind the Names of Baylor's Newest Residence Halls: Exploring the Papers of Hallie Earle and Gordon Teal

By Adina Johnson, Graduate Assistant, and Thomas DeShong, former Archival Assistant

About 700 students recently moved in to Baylor’s new East Village Residential Community, which features Hallie Earle Hall and Gordon Teal Residential College. These buildings honor two prominent Baylor alumni who you might have read about already, but did you know that The Texas Collection houses their papers? Read on to learn more about Earle and Teal, and discover how you can learn more about their contributions.

Leading Texas Women in Medicine—Hallie Earle

Dr. Hallie Earle, First Female Physician, Waco, Texas
Photograph of a young Hallie Earle, undated

Dr. Hallie Earle was the first female doctor in Waco, and the first female graduate of the Baylor College of Medicine. However, many do not know the fascinating history of her entire family. The Graves-Earle family papers in The Texas Collection chronicle the history of this influential McLennan County family, including the life and work of Major Isham Harrison Earle and his daughter, Dr. Hallie Earle.

Isham Harrison Earle became a major in the Tenth Texas Infantry during the Civil War. His experiences and those of his extended family are intimately documented in a large collection of correspondence. This correspondence, ranging in date from 1848-1960, tells the history of the Graves-Earle family before the Civil War and for many years afterwards.

Major Earle was also Central Texas’s first official weather observer, creating a National Weather Station in Hewitt in 1880. Included in the collection are his detailed and comprehensive weather observation journals began in 1870. These journals were continued on by his daughter Hallie, who was appointed as Cooperative Weather Observer by the U.S. government in 1916.

Major Isham Harrison Earle’s weather observation journal, March 1870
Major Isham Harrison Earle’s weather observation journal for Central Texas, March 1870. His daughter, Hallie, continued weather observation work, in addition to her medical practice.

In addition to her contributions to weather observation, Dr. Hallie Earle kept a daily diary from 1895-1963, and all of these are preserved in the collection. Dr. Earle’s medical career is documented by a large series of medical documents, various diplomas, and correspondence.

Finally, the papers contain a large, unique collection of photographs. These include 19th century daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes, and a scrapbook made up of candid photographs of the family in the early 20th century. The Graves-Earle family’s world comes to life in these images.

The influence of this family continues today with the opening of Hallie Earle Hall at Baylor, and continued preservation of the historic Earle-Harrison House in Waco. These papers will provide an excellent research opportunity for anyone interested in studying Victorian and Edwardian Waco, medical history, agricultural history, meteorological history, or cultural history.

Revolutionizing Technology—Gordon Kidd Teal

Gordon Kidd Teal-Portrait
This image illustrated a “The Baylor Line” article about Teal, “Baylor’s Gift to Twentieth Century Scientific Technology,” September-October 1964.

“We can envisage clearly the contributions of electronics to the lives of our children living in 2012 A.D. They will be highly educated by electronic teaching machines…communicate by means of satellites instantaneously to any part of the solar system… voice opinions on national and local government policies by voting electronically from their homes…” Fifty years ago, Baylor alumnus Gordon Teal made these predictions. While some are more accurate than others, technology definitely has enjoyed immense progress thanks in large part to Teal.

Gordon Kidd Teal was a product of Texas and of Baylor. Born in Dallas in 1907, he graduated from Baylor with honors in 1927 with a bachelor of arts in mathematics and chemistry. While at Baylor, he served as president of the Scholarship Society and Latin Club, vice president of the senior class, member of the Baylor Chamber of Commerce, and ran with the track team. For those interested in what chemistry classes were like during the 1920s, some of Teal’s lab notebooks can be found in his papers.

Gordon Kidd Teal: "The Role of Materials in the Electronics World of 2012 A.D., written 1962
On May 5, 1962, the 50th anniversary of the Institute of Radio Engineers’ (IRE) publication, Dr. Gordon Teal composed a prophetic article in which he predicted what life would be like 50 years later in 2012. See how close his predictions were!

After earning a master’s degree and a PhD from Brown University, Teal worked at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey. For nearly 22 years, Teal accumulated patent after patent with his ground-breaking research in germanium and silicon. These crystals, which had once been deemed useless by the greater part of the scientific community, proved to be anything but. Teal, as evidenced by the extensive research he accumulated in his papers, was determined to use these elements to perfect the transistor.

In the early 1950s, Teal returned to his home state with a position at Texas Instruments (TI). In 1954, Teal and his team revealed the first commercial silicon transistor, which revolutionized electronics in the military, industry, and space exploration. The excitement that this invention created among the public can be witnessed in the news releases and clippings found in the Teal papers. Teal worked at TI until 1965 when he was appointed the first Director of the Institute for Materials Research at the National Bureau of Standards. He served a two-year term and then returned to TI, where he remained until retirement in 1972.

Teal gave back to the Baylor community by serving on the Board of Trustees from 1970-1979. Today, Teal’s love of science lives on through the Gordon K. Teal Scholarship in the physics department, and now with the Teal Residential College for Engineering and Computer Science.  His papers are a helpful resource to those interested in Teal, the development of the silicon transistor, uses of germanium and silicon, science and engineering history, and the history of science education.

Interested in learning more? Check our our Flickr sets below showcasing a few items from the Graves-Earle family papers and the Gordon Kidd Teal papers, and of course, come see us at The Texas Collection!

Research Ready: August 2013

Each month, we post a processing update to notify our readers about the latest collections that have finding aids online and are primed for research. Here’s the scoop for August:

Maggie Welch Rose Akin, circa 1945
Born on 1868 June 12, Maggie Welch Rose Akin primarily grew up in Texas. This photo is a part of the Akin-Rose papers, which consists primarily of over three hundred letters written between Maggie and Joseph W. Akin during their courtship from 1887 March to 1889 December. Photo circa 1945, box 14, folder 16.
  • Akin-Rose papers, 1819-1981, undated: Correspondence, diaries, financial and literary manuscripts, and photographs of members of the Akin and Rose families from Virginia and Texas in the early nineteenth century to the late twentieth century.
  • Joseph Martin Dawson papers, 1826-1989: Personal papers and published works of Dr. Joseph Martin Dawson, a Baptist preacher who was influential in the public debates concerning religious liberty and the separation of church and state in the early twentieth century.
  • BU Records: Erisophian Literary Society, 1853-1961, undated: Administrative records, literary productions, and correspondence related to this student organization at Baylor that existed between 1853 and 1932 at both the Independence and Waco campuses.
  • Graves-Earle family papers, 1848-1963, undated: These papers chronicle the history of this influential McLennan County family, including the life and work of Major Isham Harrison Earle and his daughter Dr. Hallie Earle, the first female doctor in Waco and the first female graduate of the Baylor College of Medicine.
  • William E. Moore papers, 1901-1979, undated: The bulk of this collection is the Postcards series, consisting of more than 400 postcards. The collection also contains more than 100 letters written to William E. Moore between 1902 and 1918.
Erisophian Literary Society membership certificate, 1859
The Erisophian Literary Society was the second literary society formed at Baylor University in Independence, Texas. This membership certificate (box 3, folder 1) is one of the oldest pieces in the organization’s records.

Research Ready: June 2013

Each month, we post a processing update to notify our readers about the latest collections that have finding aids online and are primed for research. Here’s the scoop for June:

Sul Ross as a young man, undated daguerreotype
The Barnard-Lane Papers contain materials from many of Waco’s oldest and most influential families, including this daguerreotype of Lawrence Sullivan Ross, a former governor of Texas and brother-in-law of Barnard Lane (found in box 28, folder 7).
  • Gladys Allen papers, 1882-1893, 1913-1952, undated: Gladys Allen was a teacher, served on the Baylor University Board of Trustees, and was a member of Seventh and James Baptist Church. Includes correspondence, personal notes, genealogical research, newspaper clippings, and photographs.
  • Lyrics to “America” manuscript, 1895: This manuscript contains a handwritten copy of the song “America” or, alternatively, “My Country Tis of Thee,” by the composer Samuel Francis Smith.
  • Barnard-Lane papers, 1800-1983, undated: George Barnard was one of the early Waco pioneers. The collection contains personal materials as well as those related to his trading post.
  • Ava Storey and Dixie Anderson Butcher collection, 1903-1998, undated: Contains documents and photographs from the Storey and Butcher family, as well as photographs of the affluent Waco drug store chain, Pipkin Drug Store.
  • Newel Berryman Crain papers, 1858-1948, undated: The Crain papers chronicle the experiences of a young man from Texas during the beginning of the twentieth century, from his time at Baylor through his various jobs and military service. It also includes correspondence from Crain’s grandfather, Newton M. Berryman, about his studies at Baylor University at Independence in 1858.
  • BU Records: Dean of the Union Building (Lily Russell), 1936-1966: Administrative
    records related to Baylor’s Union Building, as well as some of Russell’s personal
    records and materials from when she was Director of Public Relations at Baylor.
  • [Edcouch] First Baptist Church records, 1941-1974, undated: [Edcouch] First Baptist Church, originally named Los Indios Baptist Church, was organized during the summer of 1924 in Los Indios, Texas. It has undergone a few name and location changes since then. Records consist of manuscripts pertaining to administrative operations of the church.
Telegram from Mary Jane Hannah to her husband, Robert Lee Hannah, following the loss of their son, Bob, 1927
Telegram from Mary Jane Hannah to her husband, Robert Lee Hannah, following the loss of their son, Bob. Bob Hannah was one of what Baylor calls the Immortal Ten who died in a train/bus collision en route to a basketball game in Austin. Hannah-Wiley papers, box 1, folder 5.
  • Hannah-Wiley Family papers, 1909-1930, undated: The Hannah-Wiley Family papers contain correspondence, legal documents, financial documents, and literary production relating to the family of Baylor student Robert “Bob” Lee Hannah Jr., who was one of the “Immortal Ten” who died in a tragic bus/train collision.
  • Independence Baptist Church records, 1873-1918: Independence Baptist Church was one of the first Baptist churches in Texas. Contains one bound minute book that describes church activities, finances, and disciplinary issues from 1873-1918 and also includes a condensed history of the church from 1839-1873.
  • Colonel Chris H.W. Rueter collection, 1927-2004, undated: Consists of correspondence, certificates, postcards, artworks, photographs, and biographical information collected by Baylor alum and WWII veteran Colonel Chris H.W. Rueter and his family.
  • BU Records: Rufus C. Burleson Society, 1900-1919: Documents the operations and activities of one of Baylor’s women’s literary societies that was most active in the early 1900s.
  • James Anderson Slover papers, circa 1907-1913, undated: Copies of a manuscript written by Slover, Minister to the Cherokees: A Civil War Autobiography, describing early family history on the frontier in the United States and Texas.
  • Thurmond-Tramwell Slave papers, 1857: These papers include a document originating from Gonzales, Texas, which gives an account of a legal dispute between Thurmond and Tramwell over an enslaved woman.
  • Frank L. Wilcox Papers, 1923-1966, undated: Contains the personal and professional materials of Frank Wilcox, a former mayor of Waco and the son-in-law of former Texas governor and Baylor University President Pat Neff.

A Day in the (Texas Collection) Life: Paul Fisher, Processing Archivist

Meet Paul Fisher, Baylor graduate (BA 2009, MA 2011), native Texan, and Processing Archivist, in our latest staff post giving you a peek into the day-to-day work of The Texas Collection:

From Civil War hospital records, to documents about Baylor’s activities in Independence, to old photographs of early Texans, The Texas Collection has a great deal of fascinating materials. My work preparing archival record groups (groups of records that share the same creator or collector) for researchers means that I get to see all the cool items we have on a daily basis. I have a BA in museum studies and an MA in history, both from Baylor, so “old stuff” definitely fascinates me, especially Civil War-related materials.

James E. Harrison report, 1861, Carter-Harrison Family papers
One of Paul’s favorite documents in The Texas Collection is this handwritten report by Waco native and Confederate general James E. Harrison. The full document tells of his journey to the American Indian tribes in present-day Oklahoma, to see whether they would side with the Confederacy in the American Civil War.

So how do I go about preparing archival record groups for users? This usually includes organizing the collection if needed, rehousing the materials in new acid-free folders and boxes, and writing documents called finding aids to help researchers locate and use them. An increasing part of my job is to help students discover how to do this work well, whether they are student interns, students in a class, or students who work for us.

Much of my work now is devoted to preparing our new archival software system, called Cuadra Star, for launch this summer. For the past 11 months I have led a team of staff and students on a number of projects to get ready for this launch. There have been some challenges to solve along the way, but we address them and continue to forge ahead. Cuadra Star will allow us to find information, organize our collections, and provide better archival service to you than ever before.

One of my favorite activities as part of working at The Texas Collection has been working with a class from the Department of Museum Studies here at Baylor. In fall 2012, Dr. Julie Holcomb taught her annual Archival Collections and Museums class to thirteen students, and as part of the class each student processed one archival record group for use by researchers. The class was taught here at The Texas Collection, and I offered special office hours every week when students would come to work with me on their assigned archives. The project gave them valuable professional experience, and also prepared thirteen of our record groups for use.

A Homegrown Vision: Robert L. Smith and the Farmers Improvement Society" exhibit
The Keeth display case, part of the February 2012 exhibit “A Homegrown Vision: Robert L. Smith and the Farmers Improvement Society.”

We also showcase exhibits on various interesting topics throughout the year, and I have helped with several during my time at The Texas Collection. One of the most interesting was our spring 2012 exhibit, which featured the Farmers Improvement Society (FIS) and R.L. Smith. The society was founded by Smith to help African American sharecroppers in the early 1900s have access to financing for their farms, life insurance, better farming methods, and an agricultural school. Such exhibits help increase awareness of the resources we preserve. More than year after this exhibit was over, we were still receiving questions about our FIS-related records on this blog, and we hosted a research fellow this year who came from New York to spend a week studying these records.

With all of these different projects to work on at The Texas Collection, from working on record groups to planning the next exhibit, every day is different. Yet some things remain the same day to day. Every day is a chance to do more than tell people about history—it is a chance to highlight rediscovered pieces of history from the actual documents written by Baylor and Texas people past and present.

The Texas Collection turns 90 this year! But even though we’ve been at Baylor for so long, we realize people aren’t quite sure what goes on in a special collections library and archives. So over the course of 2013, we are featuring staff posts about our work at The Texas Collection. See other posts in the series here.