A Girl Named Loise: 19th Century Documents Record Hidden Lives

By Richard Gilreath, Reference Archivist

Historical records at the State Archives provide insight into the lives of enslaved African Americans residing in Texas in the 19th century. Various government documents available through the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) provide dates, names, and geographic locations important to family historians and other researchers hoping to identify individuals who may have lived in bondage. Deeds, wills, court cases and tax records are some of the evidentiary documents establishing intermittent timelines of those whose lives intersected with legal transactions, including those considered, under the law, as property. One such individual was a young African-American girl known as Loise. Loise makes several appearances in records dating from 1848 -1851. By using the names and locations mentioned in a single document as leads, we may follow Loise’s path for several years through the historical record.

We locate Loise on an 1849 Harris County tax-assessor’s deed which states that her owner, C. W. Bassett, owed the state back taxes. Loise was put up for auction. With no bidders, the State of Texas purchased her for $5.90.

This Harris County document reveals that C. W. Bassett owed back taxes for the year 1848. Tax Assessor and Collector, John N. Reed therefore levied “upon the following property of said C.W. Bassett to wit: One negro girl named Loise about ten years old slave for life.”
John N. Reed Deed, July 25, 1849, Miscellaneous File, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

In our Texas Treasures online exhibit, we noted that Loise’s fate is unknown. However, by using other resources available at TSLAC, we can develop a better understanding of the life of Loise after this point. Loise’s own voice and words are not reflected in the records, but we are able to reconstruct an incomplete timeline of her life through the probate records of Harris County. These records, which have been microfilmed, are part of our county records on microfilm.

The probate record refers to Loise as “Louisa.” These similar but slightly different names add an additional layer of uncertainty. However, we believe – based on the locations and times in which these individuals lived – that Loise and Louisa are the same individual.

Loise is first referred to in the Harris County probate record on August 28, 1848 with the assigned value of $100.00 and as the legal property of Adam Erastus Cloud. Cloud, a minor, was represented by his guardian, James Walker. However, the probate record shows Loise under the possession of Harris County Sheriff, D. Russell, not Cloud. Walker sought to acquire physical possession of slaves that Cloud claimed.

On July 25, 1849, records reveal that the tax assessor and collector for Harris County, John N. Reed, put up for public auction in Harris County the young girl named Loise. She was described as “about ten years old” and “a slave for life.” As no one bid on her, the state purchased Loise for $5.90. Her purchase by the state is listed in a Comptroller’s Office register of tax sales. The finding aid for these records is available online. Although the finding aid references the sales of land, sales of slaves are also included in the volumes.

In an entry in the probate record dated June 27, 1850 – nearly a year after the auction – James Walker and Adam Cloud continued to claim Loise as Cloud’s property. The record noted that she was gifted to Cloud by his grandfather’s will. Several other slaves claimed by Cloud were found in Brazoria County, on property owned by F.J. Calvit. James Walker filed a lawsuit against Calvit to claim the slaves on Cloud’s behalf.

Texas Supreme Court document M-2980 – part one. James Walker filed a lawsuit against F.J. Calvit to claim slaves on behalf of Adam Cloud.
Texas Supreme Court document M-2980 – part two.

This court case ultimately went to the Texas Supreme Court. The case file went missing, but TSLAC recovered a portion of the file in 2008. The portion of the case file recovered does not mention Loise. (You can read more about TSLAC’s replevin efforts here.)

The probate record also reveals some of the circumstances of the death of Clement N. Bassett. A petition by August C. Daws, dated November 11, 1850, averred that Bassett died in 1848 (though it did not provide the exact date). This petition noted that litigation was ongoing between Adam Erastus Cloud and Bassett regarding the ownership of Loise. Daws applied to be the administrator of Bassett’s estate and swore that Bassett died without writing a will.

Bassett’s widow, Julia, protested Daws’s application on November 16, 1850. In response to her protest, Loise was mentioned by name, and appraised at $375.00 by the court. She was noted to be “about thirteen years of age.” On January 28, 1851, Daws submitted a motion to withdraw his application for administration of the Bassett estate. He cited a decision against him in a lawsuit, which also referenced Loise, as his reason for withdrawing the application. The other party in this lawsuit is not mentioned, but may have been Julia Bassett.

On July 31, 1851, Adam Erastus Cloud appears again in the probate record. He reached 21 years of age and asked to receive property held by James Walker as his guardian. In this entry in the record, Loise is assigned a value of $400.00. An entry in the probate record on October 2 of that year reveals that legal difficulties still surrounded Loise. She was excepted from the property returned to Cloud by Walker, due to “the prosecution of the suit in the District Court … in favor of said Cloud against Clement N. Bassett for a negro girl Louisa, commenced by said defendant as Guardian of said Cloud.” It appears, at this time, that Loise worked for a man named James W. Henderson, also in Harris County.

The probate court ordered Loise be returned to Cloud, but that she would remain in Henderson’s possession until the conclusion of the suit in District Court. The probate record noted that Loise was hired by Henderson, rather than owned by him.

After October 1851, we did not find further reference to Loise in the probate record. Her exact fate remains unknown, but the probate record allows us to reconstruct claims over her ownership and have a sense of what may have happened to her. After Bassett died, she was moved to the property of Henderson. It appears that several of Cloud’s slaves were sent to work on others’ property during this time period, and that Cloud took legal action to attempt to recover them.

Loise and the other slaves owned by Cloud were discussed as property, and the impact these decisions would have on their lives was never considered in the record. We do not have documentation of the hardships Loise experienced and survived during this time. However, these records provide us with the opportunity to understand a little more about the lives of slaves like Loise, who, to the best of our knowledge, left no written record of her own experiences.

Additional records at TSLAC and other institutions may provide more of the story. Harris County District Court records might provide the court case records of Adam Cloud’s and James Walker’s efforts to claim ownership of Loise. Her descendants may know the rest of the story. If you have additional information regarding Loise, please contact us at: ref@tsl.texas.gov.

Setting the Texas Table: “Dishing” on the Artifacts Collection at the Texas State Archives

By Rebecca Romanchuk, Archivist

[Texian Campaigne plates, 1840-1850. ATF0031b, Artifacts collection. Archives and Information Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.]

Some of us are enjoying the cooler weather we’ve been having in Austin lately and the way it makes us feel the holiday season has really arrived. For most, the holidays are made more festive and meaningful by the foods we prepare and share with others: traditional dishes at family dinners, potluck parties with friends and coworkers, cookie exchanges, and volunteering for or contributing to organizations that provide meals to those in need. Food truly connects us all.

At the Texas State Archives, we’re putting the spotlight on the history of Texas agriculture and foodstuffs in our lobby exhibit Setting the Texas Table, on view through May 2019. You’re cordially invited to visit in person to see this diverse and professionally curated exhibit of original archival materials and selections from our library collection, or take a virtual tour through the online version linked in the logo below. Be prepared to have your appetite whetted!

Of course, you can’t set a table without dishes and various other tableware items. The State Archives’ Artifacts collection includes a number of such pieces, many with connections to the family of Texas Governor Elisha Marshall Pease. These are easily searched for in the Texas Digital Archive; go to the Artifacts collection main search page and enter keywords in the “search within” box, or begin filtering using the options on the left sidebar. You can search for soup bowls, saucers, coffee cups and teacups, demitasse and sake cups, coffee pots and pitchers, plates and platters, and even a chafing dish (anyone hungry yet?). Or, note the artifact number (ATF0###) of an item that interests you in the finding aid and use that as your keyword to go directly to digital images and description of that item.

Many of the Pease table items are of two different Victorian-era designs: floral flow blue and what may be pink Sunderland lusterware (described as “orchid pink and white” in the Artifacts description). Both are varieties of transferware pottery made in England and commonly exported to the United States in the 19th century. The designs were produced by inking a copper plate onto which the design had been engraved, pressing paper onto the inked plate, then applying the still-wet inked paper onto the ceramic piece to transfer the design to it. This process was much less expensive than hand-painting. Imagine the dining table at the Governor’s Mansion or at Woodlawn, the Pease family mansion, laid out with a full set of either of these designs. Victorians adored vibrant color!

floral flow blue soup bowls

[Floral flow blue soup bowls, 1850-1900. ATF0232, Artifacts collection. Archives and Information Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.]

floral flow blue covered tureen dish

[Floral flow blue covered tureen dish, 1890-1900. ATF0227, Artifacts collection. Archives and Information Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.]

coffee pot with lid

[Coffee pot with lid (possibly Sunderland lusterware), 1850-1900. ATF0236, Artifacts collection. Archives and Information Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.]

Take a close look at the transfer pattern on the pink dessert dishes below. This is the Mother’s Grave design, featuring a boy and girl, with an accompanying small child, gazing mournfully at a gravestone in a picturesque churchyard setting. Mourning pieces such as these were commonly used by Victorian households to memorialize a departed family member. These dishes honor the daughter of Governor and First Lady Pease, Carrie Augusta Pease Graham, whose children came to live at Woodlawn to be raised by their grandmother and aunt, after their mother’s death in 1882. Descendants of those children donated the Pease tableware to the State Archives. They said Carrie Graham’s children hoped that all these dishes would be broken so they wouldn’t have to eat from them any longer. It’s easy to empathize with that wish, though we’re lucky to have these objects survive to provide a glimpse into the personal experiences of the Pease/Graham family and the traditions of the time.

dessert dishes

[Dessert dishes (possibly Sunderland lusterware), 1850-1900. ATF0241, Artifacts collection. Archives and Information Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.]

You can learn more about one of the Graham children, businessman and prominent Austin citizen R. Niles Graham, and his extended family from his collection of papers and photographs at the State Archives. Several dozen items once belonging to the Graham family are also part of our Artifacts collection.

Enjoy exploring all the charming tableware in the Artifacts collection and setting your own table to welcome others during the holidays.


Military Rolls Reflect Alliances Between American Indian Tribes and the Republic of Texas

By Caroline Jones, Reference Archivist

Some may be surprised to know that during the Republic of Texas era (1836-1845), American Indians served as Texas Rangers. Here at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC), we have military rolls for three American Indian units: Mounted Rangers 3rd Brigade, Texas Militia, commanded by James H. Durst; Company of Shawnee Indians, 3rd Brigade, Mounted, commanded by Panther; and volunteers (against Comanches) commanded by Lipan Apache Chief Castro. Letters from the Andrew Jackson Houston collection provide background and context for the arrangements.

Under a September 1836 agreement between President Sam Houston and the Cherokee and Shawnee chiefs, the tribes were to provide 25 rangers to patrol the northwest regions of their villages in order to keep members of the Caddo and Wichita tribes away. The Texas government would pay each ranger $10 a month and they would also be allowed to keep any goods they acquired from assaults on tribes that were considered “wild.” For others to distinguish these rangers from the “wild Indians,” they were instructed to wear a white feather on their head. Such arrangements are detailed in the letters of Sam Houston, part of our Andrew Jackson Houston collection at TSLAC. During the Second Congress of the Republic of Texas on June 12, 1837, lawmakers authorized the hiring of members of the Shawnee, Delaware, Cherokee and other tribes as scouts and spies for the Texas government.

Letter from Sam Houston to Captain of the Cherokee Rangers, September 23, 1836, authorizing him to recruit 25 Cherokees to range for $10 a month, Page 1. Document 548, Andrew Jackson Houston collection. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

At the age of 20, James H. Durst led a company of 58 Anglo-European and American Indian Texas Rangers into battle against the Cherokees. Durst’s unit of mounted Texas Rangers was mustered into service December 1, 1838 and mustered out January 25, 1839.  Durst is considered to be among the first official Texas Rangers.

Muster Roll of Capt. James Durst Company of Mounted Rangers. Durst, James H.–Mounted Rangers [3rd Brigade, Texas Militia]: [Indians] December 1, 1838-January 25, 1839, Republic of Texas Militia military rolls, Republic of Texas military rolls, Military rolls, Texas Adjutant General’s Department. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Within our Andrew Jackson Houston Collection, we have several letters between Sam Houston and young James H. Durst, his uncle John Durst, and his father Joseph Durst who was serving as Indian Commissioner at the time.

Letter from James Durst to Sam Houston regarding dealings with members of American Indian tribes. Document 2637, Andrew Jackson Houston collection. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

A leading member of the Shawnees, Captain Panther also led a unit of mounted Texas Rangers. They were mustered into service November 25, 1838 and mustered out January 25, 1839. Panther served alongside Durst and fellow Shawnee interpreter Spy Buck. These Shawnee mounted rangers were paid $25 a month, the same as other Texas Rangers. Panther was paid the same rate as other captains at $60 a month.

Panther–Company of Shawnee Indians [3rd Brigade] [mounted]: November 25, 1838-January 25, 1839, Republic of Texas Militia military rolls, Republic of Texas military rolls, Military rolls, Texas Adjutant General’s Department. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Castro’s volunteer unit of Lipan Apaches served between January 25 and February 25, 1839. The unit was organized specifically to fight against Comanches. Lipan Apaches were often involved in military campaigns of the Spanish, Mexican, Tejano, and Anglo groups. Castro and Lipan Apache Chief Flacco helped Captain James H. Moore destroy a Comanche village in 1840. The Lipan Apache had been pushed out of the Texas prairies by the Comanche and were seeking revenge.

Castro (Captain)–Indians who volunteered (against Comanches): January 25-February 25, 1839, Republic of Texas Militia military rolls, Republic of Texas military rolls, Military rolls, Texas Adjutant General’s Department. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

These are only a few examples of the complex relationship between local tribes and Texans during the Republic era. For more reading on American Indian Rangers and Texas politics, see the following list of resources available through TSLAC:

The conquest of Texas : ethnic cleansing in the promised land, 1820-1875 Anderson, Gary Clayton 305.8 An235c Main (non-circulating)
The Armstrong chronicle : a ranching history Smith, Diane Solether 929.2 AR57S Main (non-circulating)
Indian exodus: Texas Indian affairs, 1835-1859 Neighbours, Kenneth F. 970.464 N316 Main (circulating)
Texas Indian papers Texas State Library. Archives Division. 970.5 T31 V.1-4 Main (circulating)
Tracking the Texas Rangers : the nineteenth century Glasrud, Bruce A. editor of compilation. Z N745.8 G463tr Texas Documents (circulating)
Savage frontier : rangers, riflemen, and Indian wars in Texas Moore, Stephen L. Z N745.8 M786SA V.1-2 Texas Documents (circulating)
Single star of the West : the Republic of Texas, 1836-1845 Howell, Kenneth Wayne Z N745.8 Si64 Texas Documents (circulating)

Andrew Jackson Houston collection legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/tslac/30197/tsl-30197.html

Texas Comptroller’s Office, Republic Claims Index: www.tsl.texas.gov/app/arc/repclaims/

“Native American Relations in Texas”: www.tsl.texas.gov/exhibits/indian/index.html

Outside Sources:

Hispanic and American Indian Texas Rangers: www.texasranger.org/texas-ranger-museum/researching-rangers/hispanic-and-american-indian-texas-rangers/

James H. Durst: tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fdu54

Chief Castro: tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fca92

Shawnee Indians: tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/bms25

Apache Indians: tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/bma33

Indians: tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/bzi04

State Archives Resources Contribute to the Rediscovery of San Felipe de Austin

By Michael Rugeley Moore

Stephen F. Austin founded San Felipe de Austin in 1823 with high ambitions. He laid out an expansive town plat that he intended to one day serve as the capital city of Texas.Thirteen years later, his village lay as smoldering ashes, completely destroyed during the “Runaway Scrape” in the Texas Revolution (1835-1836). Another town named for Austin ultimately became the capital.

The significant story of San Felipe, the Villa de Austin, became lost as did the evidence of the town itself. Blocks that once housed hotels, stores, workshops and houses reverted to cattle pastures. San Felipe’s municipal archives were destroyed or dispersed in the evacuation and burning of the town. Recovering that story and identifying specific locations for those buildings have occupied more than two decades of my research efforts.  Resources of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) have been key to many of my discoveries.

The new museum at the San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site, Courtesy of the Texas Historical Commission.

The new museum at the San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site, Courtesy of the Texas Historical Commission.

In 2018, the Texas Historical Commission opened a new museum and expanded interpretation for the San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site. Items from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission are prominently featured in the exhibits and programs.  More critically, TSLAC resources helped recover the site’s story and have led to exciting archeological finds. I am very grateful to the Archives staff for their help in my research visits and requests for scanning of illustrations and archival items used in the exhibits.  I encourage everyone to visit the new museum and experience this rediscovered story of the life and cataclysmic death of San Felipe de Austin.

I wanted to share a few anecdotes that demonstrate how TSLAC resources make a critical difference in the understanding of San Felipe’s story and significance.


The Texas Revolution was governed from San Felipe’s Council Hall that served the San Felipe Committee of Safety, the November 1835 Consultation, and the Provisional Government established by the Consultation.  Until the discovery of a rental receipt in the State Archives collection, it was not known where these governmental bodies met.  The Council Hall, it turns out, was a rental building owned by San Felipe merchant Joseph Urban.

Rental receipt for use of the council hall, dated February 7, 1836. Records of the Quartermaster General, 1835-1836, Army Papers, Texas Adjutant General’s Department. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

The most dramatic month in the history of San Felipe began with the receipt of William Barret Travis’ “Victory or Death” letter from the Alamo.  This document, perhaps the most famous single item in the TSLAC collection, was addressed “To The People of Texas and All Americans” with Travis’ instructions to “Send this to San Felipe by Express night & day.”

Portrait of William B. Travis by Henry McArdle, McArdle Notebooks. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Texas had no functional government at the time, with the Provisional Government adjourned until the March 1836 Convention at Washington gaveled into session. San Felipe’s citizens responded immediately, forming a militia company under Moseley Baker, and having them march to help defend the Alamo. Printer Gail Borden, joined by the ladies of the town, presented the company a flag based on Stephen F. Austin’s design.  Baker’s company, however, had only made it as far as Gonzales when news arrived of the fall of the Alamo.

Austin National Flag, Historic flags collection. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Gail Borden and his partners had established a printing office in San Felipe de Austin in the fall of 1835. Issues of their Telegraph and Texas Register and separate broadside imprints from their press documented the Texas Revolution. Much of their printing was done for the Texas government.  A list of their most famous imprints of February and March of 1836 are listed on an invoice to the Government of Texas, including “Travis letter” on February 29th, the “Declaration of Independence” on March 5th, and a broadside announcing the fall of the Alamo on March 16th.

Baker & Bordens Invoice, Texas Secretary of State public printing records. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

San Felipe merchant Nathaniel Townsend wrote “in haste” on March 16th saying “We have recd [received] intelligence which can be relied on that the Alamo is taken and every man in it massacred, and that our forces are retreating from Gonzales.”  Throngs of families fled their homes in the Runaway Scrape to escape along with the army.

Nathaniel Townsend, Photograph of portrait, Margaret Robertson Collection 1962/279, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

On March 28th, Houston’s army arrived on the outskirts of San Felipe.Texian officers came into town to requisition supplies for their men. Juan Seguin received round jackets, vests, trousers, and shoes to outfit several of his men. Captains Baker, McIntyre and Eberly also supplied their men from the stores, as did the army’s quartermaster, Major Edward Winfield.

Requisition by Juan Seguin from P. B. Dexter’s San Felipe store, Republic Claims #1246 025:647.

Having resupplied from San Felipe’s stores, Sam Houston’s army marched northward toward Groce’s Ferry. Two companies refused to follow, and Houston ordered each to defend their  local Brazos River crossings. Moseley Baker’s San Felipe company was ordered to burn the town on sight of the Mexican Army to deny them the logs that could be used to build rafts to cross the Brazos. On the night of March 29, 1836, Baker’s company burned San Felipe to the ground. Houston later disclaimed having given the order, but the “Board of Examination” paid most claims for the destruction of San Felipe property as an official act of the army. Nathaniel Townsend, for example, had a claim of more than $11,000 paid for the value of his buildings and store merchandise.

Republic Claims, Nathaniel Townsend, Audited Claim, #9172 106:179.

Perhaps the single most important discovery in the TSLAC Republic Claims receipts was a request by San Felipe merchant Joseph Urban for reimbursement of his losses in buildings, furnishings and merchandise amounting to more than $8,500.  His claim provides important details of building sizes and functions in the village. Of particular importance was his claim for the burning of “The Courthouse 26 feet by 22 feet.”  Two witnesses who testified to his loss added that this building was the one “in which Court was held in said town and in which the convention was held….”

Republic Claims, Joseph Urban, Unpaid Claim, 257:463.

This claim also provided important clues about Urban’s own dwelling house and its brick cellar. It had begun its life as the Farmer’s Hotel, with a cellar used for storage or perhaps brewing. Because of the resources of the Texas State Archives, the buildings on this one lot are now some of the best documented of any in the village. Archeological excavations are adding to that knowledge and will form the basis for many future exhibits and educational programs.

Interactive mural of the village of San Felipe de Austin, with Joseph Urban’s buildings depicted on the right.

Interactive mural of the village of San Felipe de Austin, with Joseph Urban’s buildings depicted on the right. Courtesy of Cortina Productions.


Excavation of the brick cellar of the Urban dwelling,

Excavation of the brick cellar of the Urban dwelling, Courtesy of the Texas Historical Commission.

During my research at the Texas State Archives every member of the staff proved helpful, particularly Tonia Wood, who helped coordinate the scanning requests for items to be used in the exhibit design process. I would also like to acknowledge the important role of the Summerlee Foundation of Dallas, who provided grant funding to TSLAC to digitize and host the Republic Claims in an online database. This one resource was one of the most critical in rediscovering San Felipe’s story and built environment.

On behalf of the San Felipe de Austin project team, we say “thank you” to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission for preserving these important items of Texas history and making them available for the Texas Historical Commission to feature in the exhibits at the San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site.

About the Author:

Michael Rugeley Moore served as project historian for the San Felipe de Austin development as a volunteer and contractor to the Texas Historical Commission.  He wrote the exhibit narrative, assembled graphic support for the exhibit and authored the San Felipe de Austin Site Guide.  His connections to the Texas State Archives go back almost 50 years, where his first training in primary source research was provided by his grandmother, Helen Rugeley, who served for more than 20 years as editor of the Austin Genealogical Society Quarterly.

What’s New (and Revised) at the Texas State Archives?

By Rebecca Romanchuk, Archivist

The Zavala Building as seen from San Jacinto Street. Now easily accessible by scooter.

If you drive, cycle, scooter, ride the bus, or walk past the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building often enough, you might have noticed that this large, pink granite edifice stays the same size year after year, nestled in its spot next door to the Capitol. Next time you go by, think again. The Texas State Archives located within constantly grows and evolves, and the archivists at the State Archives continually receive historically valuable materials—primarily records from state agencies. We already provide online descriptions about our state and local records and our manuscript and photograph collections: Check out the finding aids we contribute to Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO) and view or download digitized and born-digital materials on our own Texas Digital Archive (TDA). But what if you want to know what’s been recently inventoried and described at the State Archives?

The answer: Go to Archives: Finding Aids (New & Revised) to browse a list of all archival materials we’ve created a new finding aid for or that have been updated in the last 90 days. This list is pulled from our online public access catalog, and each item has a can’t-miss-it red link that goes directly to the TARO finding aid. The blue title link takes you to the full item information and catalog record, both of which also feature the TARO finding aid link. And if any of the materials are available in the Texas Digital Archive, a link for that will be there, as it is in the TARO finding aid (we do our best to make sure you really can’t miss these links!). We also maintain a list of anything new and updated in the TDA, if your focus is on the digital world.

Say you already knew that the State Archives has Texas Supreme Court records from the earliest days of the court in the 1840s through the 20th century. That’s true, but we’ve recently revised our description of these records to include cases through 2004. And you might be excited to learn that we’ve begun digitizing the earliest cases, which are becoming available here on the Texas Digital Archive, along with Supreme Court indexes and registers. The image below is an example of an early court document now available online and is the first Texas Supreme Court case that concerns a murder.

So keep checking back to keep up with the latest additions to the Texas State Archives!

M is for Murder: The first Texas Supreme Court M case file that concerns a murder is a charge made against a man named Pleasant I. Slaughter in 1848. M-275, M case files, Case files, Texas Supreme Court records. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission. (Click the image for zoom features offered in the TDA.)

Archivists Recover Stolen Documents

Archivists at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) recently recovered legal documents stolen years ago. The Archives and Information Services Division of TSLAC maintains a webpage detailing the types of documents known to be missing from the State Archives, and a Houston lawyer contacted Assistant Director Laura Saegert to notify her of the six-page item for sale through an online bookdealer. Archivist Tiffany Criswell was tasked with investigating the online images and comparing the descriptive information to in-house databases listing Texas Supreme Court files. The red “M number” stamp was the key detail in identifying the papers as state property.

The documents are from the 1845 state Supreme Court case, James M. Johnston v. James Perkins.

State Archivist Jelain Chubb notified the bookdealer of the status of his merchandise, citing Texas Government Code §441.192 that allows TSLAC to demand the return of items removed from state agencies in an unlawful manner. (More information about the sale of government records is available here.) The bookdealer was very cooperative and quickly returned the documents to the archive. After receiving the package, Tiffany began the process of restoring the papers to their rightful place in the repository.

Archivist Tiffany Criswell opens the package containing recovered legal documents from a bookdealer.

Archivist Tiffany Criswell with a recovered legal document. She will prepare the papers for storage in the repository.

Legal documents from nineteenth century court cases are typically folded, sealed, and tied with ribbon. In order to flatten the documents without damaging the paper, Tiffany will humidify them in a crate placed over a pail of water. After humidification, she will carefully smooth out the pages and place them in a press for about a month.

Typical court case document packet from the 1800s.

This simple humidification chamber will loosen the folds in the paper and allow the archivist from to flatten the pages for storage in archival boxes.

Hundreds of documents have been returned to the State Archives through this recovery process, legally referred to as replevin. If you discover documents that may belong to TSLAC, visit https://www.tsl.texas.gov/arc/missingintro.html to learn more. We are always eager to locate missing items and restore, preserve, and make them freely available to the public in fulfillment of our role as custodians of government records.

TSLAC Fellowship Recipient Researches the Experiences of Black Soldiers in Texas in the Late 1800’s

TSLAC Research Fellow Edward Valentin Jr. sits at a table in the State Archives reading room. Valentin is opening hand-written documents.

TSLAC Research Fellow Edward Valentin Jr. conducts research in the State Archives reading room.

Texas State Library and Archives Research Fellow, Edward Valentin Jr. visited the State Archives to conduct research on his dissertation topic, “Black Regiments on America’s Imperial Frontier: Race, Citizenship, and Military Occupation.” Supported by the Friends of Libraries & Archives of Texas, the Texas State Historical Association administers the fellowship with the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) for the best proposals incorporating research at the State Archives.  Valentin’s project explores the experience of black soldiers in Texas during the late 19th century, including their relationship with Texans.

Reference Archivist Richard Gilreath (left), Senior Reference Archivist Tonia Wood (center) and TSLAC Research Fellow Edward Valentin Jr. (right) in the State Archives Reading Room.

Reference Archivist Richard Gilreath (left), Senior Reference Archivist Tonia Wood (center) and TSLAC Research Fellow Edward Valentin Jr. (right) in the State Archives Reading Room.

Currently a doctoral candidate at Rice University, Valentin has been awarded their Fondren Fellowship, History Graduate Fellowship, and a Southern Historical Association Fellowship with the Journal of Southern History. The TSLAC award provides funds to travel to Austin and conduct research at the State Archives. Valentin is investigating papers from the late 1800’s, including the records of the adjutant general, the papers of governors Richard Coke and Edmund J. Davis, and military records from Fort Stockton, Texas.

Reference Archivist Richard Gilreath and Senior Reference Archivist Tonia Wood assist TSLAC research fellow Edward Valentin Jr.

Reference Archivist Richard Gilreath and Senior Reference Archivist Tonia Wood assist TSLAC research fellow Edward Valentin Jr.

We look forward to reading the compelling scholarship Edward Valentin will no doubt produce from his research at the State Archives. The Texas State Historical Association is currently accepting proposals for the 2019 TSLAC fellowship award. Follow the link for more information: https://tshaonline.org/awards-and-fellowships/2422.


Managing the Minutes

By Anna Reznik, Archivist

NOTE: In this article, we answer frequently asked questions state agencies may have about the transfer to the archives of meeting minutes.This post is aimed at those who manage such records and is published in conjunction with The Texas Record‘s article, Conversation with TSLAC Archivist About Meeting Minutes.

1856_minutes.jpg. Handwritten text of minutes from Texas School for the Blind, 1856.

Minutes to two Texas State Asylum for the Blind board meetings, August 1856. Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired meeting files, 1989/073-23. These minutes are some of the earliest state agency minutes in TSLAC’s holdings.

When others ask what I do at the State Archives, a task I highlight is my minutes duties. This record type may not seem flashy at first glance, but meeting minutes often contain a rich documentation of who, what, why, and when a government body took the actions that it did. Since minutes are a record of what transpired in a meeting, this series can provide the most information bang for one’s buck.

Due to the important documentation found in open top-level meetings, the minimum retention period for both Local Governments and State Agencies is permanent at the agency with a copy sent to the designated body. For state agencies, that body is the State Archives at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC). Note that meeting notes and minutes to staff meetings fall under different series and have a different retention period.

QUESTION: “I’m with a state agency and we’ve been sending copies to the Texas Legislative Reference Library (LRL). That’s enough, right?”

No, sending copies of minutes to the State Archives meets the record retention schedule requirement, while sending a copy to the LRL meets requirements outlined in that government body’s statute (Texas Government Code, Section 324.008). TSLAC keeps minutes permanently, but LRL does not.

QUESTION: “How do I transfer the minutes?”

The answer is “it depends.” To find the best fit for you within the range of acceptable transfer methods, I generally ask a few questions to provide the pros and cons of the available options.

My first question is “what is the format of the records?” Not surprisingly, the transfer options available for minutes in paper or microfilm form differ from those in electronic form. For paper and microfilm, the total extent affects your options. The easiest and simplest transfer method is interagency mail.  Cover letters and inventories assist with our documentation as well as help you identify what was sent to the Archives and when. I am the primary archivist working with minutes, so I am the point person for most minutes-related questions and transfers.

For larger physical transfers, let’s touch base. This happens more with the related meeting documentation series; however, larger transfers of minutes occur when there are gaps in the State Archives’ holdings.

inbox.jpg. Anna Reznik standing in her work area with her inbox full of minutes received through inter-agency mail.

My work area with my inbox full of minutes received through interagency mail.

QUESTION: “But the record copy is electronic, do we have to print a copy for the State Archives? Do you want me to kill all those trees?”

In the last few years, the State Archives has begun to accept records in electronic form. Our internal procedures for electronic are less tested than our practices with paper, so procedures will evolve. It’s highly recommended that you have a consultation with me before sending minutes in electronic form. I promise the chat is short and painless. Our Transferring Electronic Records resource provides guidance on acceptable transfer methods.

QUESTION: “How often should I send minutes?”

Another frequently asked question is how often agencies should be sending minutes. In other words, should minutes be transferred as they are approved or in bulk at a specific date (e.g., beginning of the fiscal or calendar year)? Again – “it depends.” For some agencies, the former is easier to integrate into current workflows. Other agencies like being able to see the entire year’s worth of minutes to make sure every meeting is sent. As my workflow is similar for both approaches, I defer to each agency’s preferences.

A peek at the “magic” used to make records accessible. Folders of minutes (left) store records, with a summary of the contents written across the top. Archivists create finding aids to provide the context on the who, what, and why of the records being described. They encode all of the information into an online document using a standard XML called EAD, depicted in the image in the center, with the resulting finding aid pictured on the right. Finding aids are used to learn about what is contained in any given collection and to request items from that collection. Call numbers are added for requesting items.

QUESTION: “Does TSLAC have all the minutes from my agency?”

An important part of my duties involves creating EAD finding aids, which includes an inventory for the records being described. If a finding aid has been created for your agency, it’s a good starting point to see what we have; however, finding aids with minutes are often out of date by the time they are uploaded online. Please contact us if you would like an updated list of our holdings.

I hope this post helps state agencies prepare to send minutes to the State Archives. Please contact me with any questions you may have about preserving your minutes!

Anna Reznik: areznik@tsl.texas.gov

Throwback Thursday: The Lorenzo de Zavala Building, Home of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission

By Steven Kantner, Digital Asset Coordinator

Austin neighborhoods around the Texas State Capitol changed tremendously since the 1950s as homes and businesses made way for various state office buildings and parking garages. Here are some before-and-after views of the areas surrounding TSLAC’s Lorenzo De Zavala building. These 1950s photographs were found in the Department of Public Safety Photograph collection, an ongoing digitization project at TSLAC.

View of the Lorenzo de Zavala Building from Brazos Street

View from the Corner of 13th Street and Brazos Street

View from the Corner of 13th Street and San Jacinto

View from San Jacinto Street

View from San Jacinto Street and 14th Street

View from San Jacinto and 12th Streets

View from San Jacinto and 14th Streets, Looking South

View from 13th and San Jacinto Streets

These and other photographs from the Department of Public Safety Photograph collection can be seen at: https://tsl.access.preservica.com/tda/texas-state-agencies/dps/photographs/


Monday Mystery – April 2017

The Monday Mystery posts continues the success of our posts with the Traces of Texas Facebook page on the new Out of the Stacks. We’ll be posting one image every month from our Prints and Photographs Collection in hopes of answering a new photo mystery. All of the images will be available on the Texas Digital Archive (TDA)  and we welcome folks to browse through all of the images available on this site. We’re looking to our community of patrons, which includes academic researchers, genealogists, photography historians, and Texas enthusiasts, to help us identify some of our photo treasures.

Black and white photograph of a group of people standing in front of a two story building.

Image: 1997.108-18

Description: “The Round Up,” Batson, Texas, about 1890-1910

TDA link: https://tsl.access.preservica.com/file/sdb%3AdigitalFile%7C1e486043-df23-4c03-80f5-c044a5221519/

Collection: L.J. Whitmeyer glass plate negatives collection

Question: We’re curious to know more about Batson, Texas and the Crosby House that is so prominently featured in the “Round Up” photo. What type of event would have drawn so many folks to gather for this image – was there a special event or just a normal market day in town? Or was the photograph itself the spectacle needed to gather such a crowd.

If you find an image on the TDA that you’d like to submit for a future Monday Mystery post please email archinfo@tsl.texas.gov and include “Monday Mystery” in the Subject line.