The Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center maintains two extensive collections of Alabama-Coushatta craftwork. The Frances Broemer Collection of Alabama-Coushatta Indian Artifacts and the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Collection include rivercane baskets, long leaf pine needle baskets, beadwork items, pottery, wood carvings, and other craftwork. Basketry and beadwork make up the majority of the items, which were created by tribe members at the Alabama-Coushatta Reservation in Polk County, Texas. Items date primarily from the 1930s to the 1990s.
Cane basketry is an important aspect of southeastern Native American societies, including the Alabama-Coushattas. It is one of their oldest artistic traditions. These baskets are plaited from strips of rivercane, a large bamboo-like grass native to the southeastern United States. Some are used for gathering or storing plant foods, sifting grain, or other utilitarian purposes. Sometimes geometric designs created with dyes from plant or animal sources are added as decorative enhancements.
The Alabama-Coushattas are more closely identified with pine needle basketry. Needles of dried long leaf pine, common to East Texas, are coiled and sewn together with raffia (fiber from the leafstalks of the raffia palm). Finished baskets may then be decorated with pinecones, raffia flowers, or geometric patterns. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including animal effigies (whimsical decorative baskets in the shape of animals, birds, or insects).
The Sam Houston Center’s collections include decorative baskets as well as those for household or agricultural use. Many of the animal effigy baskets represent species common to East Texas. The armadillo and turtle baskets shown below also utilize pinecone sections to create portions of the bodies.
Many tribe members are also skilled crafters of colorful beadwork. Beadwork items in the Center’s collections include jewelry, purses, and bolo ties, as well as other personal accessories. Shown here are a necklace, bolo tie, brooch, belt buckle, coin purse, and earrings.
Selected items of Alabama-Coushatta craftwork are displayed in the Sam Houston Center’s museum as part of the permanent exhibits on the history of Southeast Texas, including a mat woven of Spanish moss, a moss spinner, and needle. The Center’s hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. No appointment is required to tour the museum. For more information, go to Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center | TSLAC (texas.gov) or call 936-336-8821.
Frances and Walter Broemer Archives, SHC. Alabama-Coushatta Indian Collection, SHC. Native American Basketry, 64parishes.org
Built by the Rotary Club of Hull-Daisetta in about 1930, this is one of the first and only buildings constructed and owned by a Rotary club and one of several historic buildings preserved on the grounds of the Sam Houston Center. The facility has recently been restored and will now be open to the public as a museum documenting the history of Southeast Texas Rotary clubs.
Chartered in 1926 when an oil boom was bringing people to the region, the Hull-Daisetta Rotary Club met in various locations around Hull for the first few years of its existence. A May 1932 article in The Rotarian described the building as “a log cabin, built, in part, by extra fifty-cent fees at weekly luncheon sessions.” The building’s unusual six-sided structure mimics the design of the Rotary International symbol, the wheel. Perhaps in part because of the cozy home-like setting, with a fireplace and kitchenette, the local residents also used the cabin for celebrations and special events. After the club disbanded in 1982, ownership changed hands and the condition of the building deteriorated over time.
In 2006, the community set out on a mission to recover the building and preserve its legacy in a historical context. Several individuals and organizations worked to move the structure to its current site and support its renovation. Many of the artifacts featured in the exhibit were recovered from the original Hull-Daisetta Rotary Building and are on display along with archival materials from the Sam Houston Center’s collections. The restored structure creates the ideal setting to reflect upon the mission of Rotary to inspire friendship and improve communities through selfless service.
The celebration marked the culmination of the decade-long effort to refurbish and open to the public this historic building. Those interested in visiting the site may learn more about the hours and location here https://www.tsl.texas.gov/shc or by contacting the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center by phone (936) 336-8821 or email SamHoustonCenter@tsl.texas.gov.
The Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center is a component of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission’s Archives and Information Services Division and serves as the official regional historical resource depository for the 10 southeast Texas counties of Chambers, Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Newton, Orange, Polk, San Jacinto and Tyler. The Center’s primary mission is to collect, preserve, and provide access to historically significant state and local government records and publications of the designated region and secondarily to serve as a library of Texana and genealogical resources. Through its collections, historic buildings, and educational exhibits and initiatives, it also honors the distinguished public service of former governors, organizations and citizens of the Atascosito District.
In celebration of Newton County’s 175th anniversary, the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center (SHC), part of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC), has digitized records salvaged from the 2000 Newton County Courthouse fire and made them freely available online.
The records were donated to the SHC, located in Liberty, for professional conservation treatment after being damaged. Although the records survived the flames, the water used to fight the fire left them moldy, covered in dirt and soot and, in some cases, torn and unbound.
Around 200 volumes of Newton County government records, totaling more than 40,000 pages of information, had to be treated. Staff vacuumed each page by hand to remove mold spores and debris. After careful cleaning, staff and volunteers gently packaged each volume for transport to Austin, where they could be inspected by TSLAC’s professional conservator and receive further treatment if needed. Finally, the surviving records were transported back to the SHC, where an archivist began creating descriptive guides to the collection for researchers.
This multi-year project saved all but nine of the original volumes. Those volumes were so extensively damaged by mold that keeping them would have been hazardous to the rest of the collection, so TSLAC staff digitized the volumes to preserve their contents and make them available online instead. The first batch of these scanned volumes is now available on the Texas Digital Archive.
“The Center’s primary purpose is to preserve local government records from Southeast Texas for future generations, but it’s rare for that service to involve something as devastating as a courthouse fire,” said Center Manager Alana Inman. “Being able to help save records from Newton County is one of the most historically important projects I have worked on while leading the Center.”
The full collection of Newton County government records at the Center includes a variety of documents, such as land and school records, tax rolls, marks and brands, and probate files. Online guides are currently available for two government offices: district clerk, ranging in date from 1847-1898, and tax assessor-collector, dating 1846-1936. These series include court records, women’s voter registration receipts, poll tax receipts and other items of significant historical interest.
Three volumes, a 1912 tax roll, 1847-1852 district court minute book and 1852-1884 record of jurors, are available online:
Tax Roll: Tax roll, 1912, Assessment and rendition of property (tax rolls), 1846-1932, Newton County (Tex.) Tax Assessor-Collector records. Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, Texas State Library and Archives Commission. View online in the TDA.
Minute book: Minute book, district court, volume A, 1847-1852, Newton County (Tex.) District Clerk records. Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, Texas State Library and Archives Commission. View online in the TDA.
Record of Jurors: Record of jurors, 1852-1884, Newton County (Tex.) District Clerk records. Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, Texas State Library and Archives Commission. View online in the TDA.
The effort to create online guides to all Newton County government records continues. Next, staff will release scanned volumes and a guide to the records of the county clerk. In the meantime, anyone interested in accessing the records can contact SHC staff or visit the Center.
A component of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center houses local government records, rare books, manuscripts, archival materials, photographs and other media formats covering a wide range of Southeast Texas history. In addition to the archives and museum, four historic buildings and the Jean Price Daniel Home and Archives are located on the Center’s grounds.
The Center is located at 650 FM 1011 in Liberty, Texas. Operating hours are Tuesday to Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., and Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Visits to the research library may be set in advance by appointment. For more information, please contact Center staff at 936-336-8821, firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting www.tsl.texas.gov/shc.
The nineteenth century colony of Champ d’Asile became more than a short-lived community of refugees from the Napoleonic Wars who settled in what is now Texas in 1818. The “Field of Refuge,” located for about six months near the present-day city of Liberty in Southeast Texas, grew in the imaginations of the French back in Europe and spawned paintings, novels, historical texts, and a song, along with a romantic link to the state. The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) is home to archival collections, publications, and works of art related to Champ d’Asile that should be of interest to those curious about the settlement. TSLAC’s Sam Houston Center (SHC) in Liberty collects materials documenting the history of the region and invites researchers to explore the legendary colony through theses resources. In the spirit of discovering the big picture of history by placing together the various pieces scattered about, have a bit of fun and relax with an online puzzle depicting Champ d’Asile.
Champ d’Asile (“Field of Refuge”) was a short-lived colony of French Bonapartist exiles founded in 1818 on the Trinity River near the present city of Liberty, Texas. This collection consists of correspondence, publications, research material, manuscripts, maps, and articles pertaining primarily to the history of the Champ d’Asile colony and persons associated with it. Subjects include biographical information on Napoleonic generals Charles Lallemand and Antoine Rigaud, the issue of the precise location of the colony on the Trinity River, and pirate/privateer Jean Laffite’s involvement with the French exiles. Material dates 1817-1818, 1990-2008, and undated, bulk 1993-2008. Information dates from 1682 to 2008. Material consists of original and photocopied items.
The Champ d’Asile research collection was created in-house at the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center from donations by various individuals and in-house photocopies. The purpose was to gather all research material in the Sam Houston Center collections on Champ d’Asile into one collection for the benefit of patrons as it is a frequent topic of research.
Notable items include an 1818 letter from Bonapartist exile Joseph Lakanal to French patriots intending to settle the Vine and Olive Colony in Alabama (image below); 1817-1818 correspondence from Marshal Emmanuel, Marquis de Grouchy, a Bonapartist exile and officer in Napoleon’s army; and two 1818 issues of the newspaper Weekly Auroraof Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, containing articles about the Champ d’Asile settlement (close up).
John Clay collection, 1818, 1843, 1850, 1963, undated, about 0.75 cubic ft.
Our Don Kelly Southeast Texas Postcard Collection offers the ideal imagery for the meditative pastime of assembling jigsaw puzzles. The collection captures the scenery of twentieth century life in that region of the state and adds a bit of nostalgia to the pleasure of piecing together a moment in time. Choose your favorite postcard and start your online puzzle. Come back when you feel like taking on another scene!
By Lisa Miesch, Archivist/Museum Curator, Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center
Over a period of many years, Liberty, Texas resident and avocational archeologist Andrew James “Andy” Kyle (1915-2014) collected prehistoric artifacts from numerous sites in southeast Texas. He eventually amassed a collection of more than 30,000 prehistoric artifacts from 95 southeast Texas surface sites in nine counties, including Liberty, Polk, Jasper, Tyler, and Hardin Counties. In 1977, he donated his collection to the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center.
Surface collections such as Kyle’s make up much of the archeological record in Texas. Because of erosion and damage from modern construction activities, there is little information available from stratified or buried sites. While not as complete as that from stratified sites, data from surface sites can still be significant. This is especially the case with Kyle’s collection, as he painstakingly documented and recorded his discoveries by site. The sites represent an area between the Trinity and Sabine Rivers and are representative not only of southeast Texas archeology, but include Louisiana influences as well.
In 2017, as the Sam Houston Center was planning the renovation of its museum, the Center requested the Houston Archeological Society (HAS) to examine the Kyle collection and assist in identifying and selecting artifacts for a new exhibit on the prehistory of the Center’s ten-county region. During this process and during subsequent examination of the collection, HAS made numerous discoveries that have increased our knowledge of the earliest inhabitants of southeast Texas, and their investigation continues.
The majority of the artifacts consist of projectile points (stone tools used for arrows, spears, and darts and commonly known as “arrowheads”), but also included are cutting and scraping tools, drills, grinding stones, and pottery. A significant number of items were constructed from heat-treated petrified wood. They range from the Paleoindian (ca. 13,500-8,000 BP*) to the Late Prehistoric periods (ca. 1,400-500 BP).
One of the most significant discoveries from the collection was the presence of Paleoindian projectile points, including the bases of two broken Clovis points. These points are from the Wood Springs site, only 0.4 mile southeast of the Sam Houston Center. (Wood Springs is a minor tributary of the Trinity River). This site was likely a seasonal site for Clovis-era nomadic hunters following big game animals, as opposed to a permanent campsite. The site’s abundant water would have been attractive to humans and animals alike.
The points represent the first reported occurrence of the Clovis culture in Liberty County, documenting the earliest occupation of the area to at least 13,000 years ago. Seven additional artifacts of Clovis affinity from the Wood Springs site were also identified as well as two tooth fragments from a mastodon and a mammoth. Large mammals like mammoths and mastodons were hunted for food by the Clovis people. These animals went extinct about 10,000-11,000 years ago. The larger fragment is highly polished and may have served as a tool. All of these artifacts may be viewed in the museum’s prehistory exhibit.
[Images are taken from The Prehistory of Southeast Texas: Observations from the Andy Kyle Archeological Collection, Power Point presentation by Wilson W. “Dub” Crook III, Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, October 2, 2018.]
The Savoy site is another of the more prolific sites represented in the Kyle Collection. It is located about 2.6 miles southwest of the Moss Hill community in north-central Liberty County. Among the significant items from this site discovered in the collection by HAS members were 58 sherds from a large oval-shaped vessel, that Andy Kyle had bagged separately from all the other sherds he collected at that site. The sherds have sweeping curvilinear designs made by a bone or wood tool (“stamped”). Two large sections of the vessel were retrofitted by HAS members, which indicated a large oval-shaped bowl about 12 inches across.
The sherds are from a “Mabin Stamped” vessel, an early ceramic type from the Woodland Period (2,000-1,400 BP). After extensive examination of the sherds’ decoration, the piece has been tentatively identified as “Mabin Stamped, var. Joe’s Bayou,” a rare variety of ceramics previously found at only five sites in eastern Louisiana and western Mississippi, adjacent to the Mississippi River. This marks the first known occurrence of this type outside the Lower Mississippi Valley as well as in the state of Texas. In each of the other cases, only a single sherd was found. Considering the number of sherds found and the likely size of the vessel, this piece in the Kyle collection represents the best-known example of this type of pottery. It is the only decorated piece of pottery in the entire Kyle collection. It was likely made in the Lower Mississippi Valley and traded or exchanged between various groups before ending up at the Savoy site. (This item is not currently on exhibit.)
[Images are taken from The Prehistory of Southeast Texas: Observations from the Andy Kyle Archeological Collection, Power Point presentation by Wilson W. “Dub” Crook III, Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, October 2, 2018.]
The Sam Houston Center’s museum is currently open by appointment only. Please call 936-336-8821 to reserve an appointment. For more information, please visit the Center’s web page at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/shc/index.html.
Crook, Wilson W. III, ed., The Andy Kyle Archeological Collection, Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, Houston Archeological Society, Report No. 29, 2017.
Crook, Wilson W. III et al., “A Rare Mabin Stamped, Var. Joe’s Bayou Vessel from the Savoy Site (41LB27), Liberty County, Texas,” The Journal 141: 53-61, Houston Archeological Society, 2019.
The Prehistory of Southeast Texas: Observations from the Andy Kyle Archeological Collection, Power Point presentation by Wilson W. “Dub” Crook III, Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, October 2, 2018.
While our Sam Houston Center exhibit, Atascosito: The History of Southeast Texas is not currently open due to the coronavirus, we are offering a bit of off-site fun and games for kids with a museum activity book available for download. Atascosito chronicles the region’s past through informative displays from the Center’s collections of artifacts, photographs, maps, and historical documents. Although the exhibit appeals to an audience of all ages, the displays serve as engaging educational tools for teaching the history of the area. Interactive devices built into the exhibit are aimed at capturing the attention of younger visitors. TSLAC celebrated in 2018 the museum renovation with a “grand reopening” party and tours. View images of that event here.
The exhibit showcases the developments of this corner of Texas, including its river economy, timber industry, rice agriculture, and expansive oil fields, while also sharing stories of the thousands of years of growth and movement of people through what has become the ten-county region of Jasper, Jefferson, Hardin, Liberty, Orange, San Jacinto, Polk, Newton, Chambers, and Tyler. Two bases of Clovis points dated to around 11,000 B.C.E. that offer the earliest evidence of human activity in the region are highlights of the exhibit, along with a tooth fragment from a Columbian mammoth. More recent items on view are an executive record book kept by Texas Republic President Sam Houston and artifacts from 19th century steamboats. The museum activity book references subjects covered in the exhibit and other Texas themes in word puzzles, coloring pages, and more.
DIY Museum Activity Book
Explore themes related to the Atascosito District of Texas with the puzzles, games, and coloring pages inside. Click on the image or the link below and print out your own color copy.
Dachau was the first regular concentration camp set up by the Nazi government. It was located on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory near the northeastern part of the town of Dachau, about 10 miles northwest of Munich, Germany. The internees were initially political opponents of the Nazi regime, such as German Communists, Social Democrats, and trade unionists. Over time, other groups including homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Gypsies, and Jews were also interned there. The number of prisoners incarcerated in Dachau between 1933 and 1945 exceeded 188,000, and the number who died there between January 1940 and May 1945 was at least 28,000. It is unlikely that the total number of Dachau victims will ever be known.
Seventy-five years ago, on April 29, 1945, as World War II was drawing to a close in Europe, the Dachau concentration camp was liberated by the United States Army. In early May, Army medical corps units entered the camp to care for the ill and emaciated survivors, many of whom were suffering from typhus, tuberculosis, or other diseases. One of the first such units was the 116th Evacuation Hospital, to which Liberty, Texas, native Thomas Samuel (Sam) Partlow was assigned.
Sam Partlow compiled a scrapbook documenting his military experiences in Europe, including his unit’s time at Dachau. It includes numerous photographs along with details of his service and some clippings concerning the Nazi concentration camps. Entitled “Snaps and Scraps: My Life in the Army,” the scrapbook is one that was created especially for service members. This scrapbook is housed at the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center.
Meet the Staff is a Q&A series on Out of the Stacks that highlights the Archives and Information Services staff of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
In 50 words or less, describe what you do. I am the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center’s maintenance worker responsible for cleaning the archives, museum, and historic buildings. I make small repairs, from replacing doorknobs to toilet handles, and maintain the grounds so visitors can enjoy them, trimming trees, mowing, weed-eating and more.
Why did you choose your profession? I chose my profession because I enjoy working on multiple things. My job always keeps things interesting.
What is your favorite document, photo, or artifact in TSLAC’s collection? My favorite building is the Jean and Price Daniel Home and Archives, with all its beauty and history. The home and its contents document the Daniels’ lives and years of public service.
The Texas State Archives maintains a wealth of material relating to the Native American peoples of Texas. The holdings, which range from the colonial era of Spanish rule during the eighteenth century through the years of the Republic and to the present day, depict the cultures and histories of those tribes which once resided, and in some instances still live, in Texas.
Rich collections such as the Nacogdoches Archives and the Texas Indian Papers provide narrative and statistical evidence concerning the encounters and varied relationships that colonists, settlers, and well-known historical figures had with the indigenous peoples of Texas. Other collections from the nineteenth century such as the Mirabeau B. Lamar Papers and the Andrew Jackson Houston Papers contain plentiful correspondence that details the differing perspectives of Mirabeau Lamar, Sam Houston, and other leaders concerning the status of Indians during and after the Republic.
Records produced by state agencies that provided economic and material aid to those
tribes remaining in Texas following the nineteenth century are especially
informative. The assistance provided by the State Board of Control and its
successor, the Board for Texas State Hospitals and Special Schools, to help the
Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation gain economic sustenance and political control
of their affairs from the early through the middle of the twentieth century is well
documented, with correspondence and reports providing daily snapshots of the
challenges and achievements stemming from this era.
Management of Native American reservations and other affairs in Texas during the later twentieth century can be found in the administrative, financial, and legal records of the Texas Indian Commission. The political emergence of the Tigua and Kickapoo Indians in Texas after decades of political neglect and administrative oversight, as well as the timely assistance provided to these tribes by the Commission, are just two of the compelling events recorded within the agency’s history.
Other collections in the State Archives provide records and materials that give glimpses into the cultures of the state’s tribes. One of the goals of the Texas Tourist Development Agency was to make various tourist attractions and facilities more widely known to the general population in and out of Texas; its visual records of Alabama-Coushatta and Tigua villages are instances of such an effort.
Another collection, the James L.D. Sylestine papers, contains considerable amounts of stories, legends, and songs from the Alabama and Coushatta tribes in both textual and audio form. Lastly, the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, a branch of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in Liberty, Texas, has a large collection of arrowheads and spear-points from tribes that once lived in southeastern Texas; there are also collections of handcrafts and baskets made by the nearby Alabama-Coushatta tribe.
These collections and others with entries in this guide are just some of the larger and well-known holdings in the State Archives pertaining to Native American tribes in Texas. Additional collections are available at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC), most available through this website, for those interested in accessing material not mentioned in this guide. A “Subject Guide to Native American Holdings at the Texas State Archives, about 1700-2004” is available in full online at https://txarchives.org/tslac/finding_aids/90021.xml.
Artifacts at the Texas State Archives, pre-1900
Nacogdoches Archives, 1736-1838, bulk 1820-1836
The Indian Papers of Texas and the Southwest, 1825-1916, bulk 1838-1870