Research Ready: June 2012

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:

Lane-JohnsonResidence-Waco
Roy Lane was one of the most famous architects to have ever resided in the Waco area. The Roy E. Lane Collection contains various sketches and photographs of local houses that Lane designed.
    • William Cowper Brann Collection: The William Cowper Brann Collection contains secondary materials and a few primary sources detailing the career and death of influential journalist William C. Brann, editor of The Iconoclast.
    • Robert F. Darden, Jr. Collection: The Robert Darden, Jr. Collection contains correspondence, literary productions, and photographic materials belonging to Darden, a veteran of the Korean War and a resident of Texas.
    • De La Vega Land Grant Papers: This collection includes original correspondence, court documents, financial receipts, and newspaper clippings pertaining to the De la Vega Land Grant and Roger Conger’s research on the land grant.
    • Roy Ellsworth Lane Collection: The Roy Ellsworth Lane Collections consists of correspondence, literary productions, photographs, and blueprints highlighting Lane’s impressive career as an architect in the central Texas region.
Luper-BrazilMission-program
The Lupers were a Baptist missionary family who served in Portugal and Brazil during the 20th century. This program is indicative of their conscientious efforts to spread the gospel to the rural regions of Brazil.
  • Luper Family Papers: The Luper Family Papers are comprised of correspondence, literary productions, and other materials pertaining to a missionary couple and their experiences during the mid-1900s in Portugal and Brazil.
  • Greaver Lewis Miller Collection: The Greaver Lewis Miller Collection contains materials from an American pilot who trained at nearby Rich Field in Waco, Texas, during World War I. Materials include photographs, certificates, and artifacts from Miller’s time in the Army.

You can see how wide and varied The Texas Collection’s holdings are! These records—and the finding aids we have online—are just a small representation of the thousands of collections we preserve for future researchers. We’re working hard to make our collections more visible and hope that one of them will spark your interest!

The Most Horrible Storm: A Firsthand Account of the 1953 Waco Tornado

If you have lived in Texas for any amount of time, you’ve experienced a tornado watch, and maybe even a tornado warning. The TV program you were watching is interrupted with dire weather maps, the radio DJ advises folks out in their cars to take shelter, the whole family huddles up in the bathtub—it’s all a little scary, especially when the sirens start to go off. And if you think your town is immune to tornados—as Huaco Native American legend said about Waco—well, an actual F5 storm striking your town is downright terrifying.

"Evidence of the might of a tornado"
Some structures were flattened, some remained standing. Their fates were determined both by structural supports and the tornado's whim.

Harry Gillett’s letter to his mother, started on May 11, 1953, and continued the next day, brings to life that experience of waiting for the Waco tornado and then witnessing its aftermath. Sent home early from the school where he taught, Gillett put pen to paper to describe the storm as it escalated. First he writes of a driving rain, and then of hailstones the size of half dollars. “It has gotten so dark outside that it is practically night and it is only about 4:25.”

Then the hailstones increase to the size of baseballs, and one breaks a shingle of his roof. His father calls and tells him the hail downtown is the size of his fist. The phone lines go down shortly after their conversation. “I have never seen anything like this before. No telling how much damage will be done. There go the lights.”

How much damage will be done, indeed.  In the next paragraph, Gillett writes, “I am continuing this letter at 5:00 the morning after I started writing it. Waco had the most horrible storm you can imagine.” The tornado entered the Waco city limits at 4:32 pm, and the funnel cloud was downtown by 4:36. Gillett’s North Waco home is unscathed, apart from the broken shingle. He’s lucky. His letter describes the damage done to the homes of relatives and friends—from a flooded home to a house blown off its foundation, moved a few feet, and “simply ruined.”

Harry Gillett letter describing the 1953 Waco tornado, page 4
Harry Gillett's letter to his mother gives us insight into the before and after of the 1953 Waco tornado.

But other parts of Waco saw much greater devastation. Some houses were blown to bits. Gillett’s school in East Waco was destroyed, with his classroom the only one left standing on the top floor. And in downtown Waco, the toll, both property and human, was enormous. “R.T. Dennis [building] fell in completely and most of the buildings from there to the river were completely blown apart. Hundreds of people were killed…Downtown Waco has been put under martial law and Daddy will not be able to get to work. Many gas lines are broken down town and everyone is afraid of a terrible explosion.”

The Waco tornado is tied with the 1902 Goliad tornado as the deadliest in Texas history, and is one of the most deadly in US history. 114 people were killed, and property damage was in excess of $50 million—with inflation, that would be about $400 million today. The Waco tornado helped incite the development of a nationwide severe weather warning system. On this week of the 59th year since the tornado, we remember those who were lost.

You can read the complete letter at The Texas Collection in the Harry Gillett papers. Gillett also saved a few postcards depicting the 1953 tornado’s impact, which we’ve featured in the slide show below. If you’re interested in reading, watching, or listening to more accounts of the storm, check out Waco Tornado 1953: Force that Changed the Face of Waco (an oral history project by the Waco-McLennan County Library and the Baylor Institute for Oral History), “Living Stories: Radio and the 1953 Waco Tornado,” a collaboration of the Institute for Oral History and KWBU-FM, and the “Waco Tornado: Tragedy and Triumph” video at the Texas Archive of the Moving Image. The Portal to Texas History and Waco Tribune-Herald also have compelling images and contemporary news coverage of the storm.

We were not orphans — Stories from the Waco State Home

“We were not orphans. Our parents were living; they just couldn’t take care of us.” This poignant remark captures the heartbreaking reality faced by thousands of “dependent and neglected” children from the 1920s through the 1970s who grew up at The Waco State Home.

On Friday, February 25, 2011 at 3:00 p.m. in Bennett Auditorium (Draper Academic Building), TheTexas Collection presents an afternoon with noted advocate and former Baylor student, Sherry Matthews, author of We Were Not Orphans: Stories from the Waco State Home.

A book signing and reception will follow at The Texas Collection. The event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP to rsvp@wewerenotorphans.com or by calling 512.600.3711

Cameron Park: 100 Years


 

If you find yourself in Waco, come by and see us at The Texas Collection. We’re located in Carroll Library on the Baylor University campus. Visit before October 15th, and see our current exhibit: William Cameron Park: 100 years. You can learn more about the display on our Flickr page. Just click on any image in the slide show above to continue on to Flickr.