Recipients of the 2022 TSLAC Research Fellowship in Texas History Announced

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) and the Texas Library and Archives Foundation are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2022 TSLAC Research Fellowship in Texas History. The $2000 fellowship is awarded to applicants with the best research proposals utilizing collections at the State Archives in Austin. Administered through the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), the awards are presented each year at the TSHA annual meeting.

The recipients of the 2022 fellowships are Caitlyn Jones with “Texas Women and International Women’s Year,” Andrew Busch’s “High Tech Texas: Public Institutions, Regional Economic Development, and the Myth of Free Markets,” and Christopher Phillips with “Dissent and Disorder in the Southern Confederacy.” Caitlyn Jones is a graduate student at the University of Houston interested in the Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee Records held at the State Archives. Jones will write a journal article that “analyzes the Texas Women’s Meeting through the lens of race and ethnicity” and may include the work as a chapter in her dissertation. Jones will also use her research to produce an essay as part of a digital humanities project at her institution about the National Women’s Conference, Sharing Stories from 1977. Jones’ research will raise awareness about this significant event and inform the academic community and the public about these key records at TSLAC.

Andrew Busch is an assistant professor at Coastal Carolina University wishing to conduct research at the State Archives as part of his forthcoming book project from University of Texas Press, High Tech Texas: Public Institutions, Regional Economic Development, and the Myth of the Free Market. Busch points to the collections in TSLAC’s holdings such as Texas Governor Mark White Records and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Records as being key to his research. The project offers potential insight into specific aspects of the history of the state in the twentieth century, including the history of technology, science and the political economy. Busch’s project represents a more current examination of recent Texas history and will help highlight collections used less often than others at TSLAC.

Christopher Phillips is a professor at the University of Cincinnati who has published extensively on Civil War topics and whose most recent book on the subject received numerous awards. While this era and the collections identified by Phillips are both quite popular with TSLAC researchers, Phillips has been looking at the diverse groups of dissenters and extracting interesting data from primary sources in a number of repositories, including TSLAC. Phillips’s work should offer new information about Texans and the Civil War.

“Each year, I am more impressed with the number of strong applications and the diversity of topics represented by the proposals,” said State Archivist, Jelain Chubb. “We are pleased to support projects that help students, the public and others form a greater understanding of the history of our state and the integral value of the primary sources.”

The Texas Library and Archives Foundation generously funds the fellowships each year. Those interested in submitting applications for the fellowship should check the TSHA listing in the fall when the next cycle begins. The 2022 TSLAC Research Fellowship in Texas History awards were announced Friday, February 25, at an awards luncheon at the TSHA annual meeting in Austin.

Freedmen’s Bureau Records and the History of African American Education in Texas

Prior to the Civil War, enslaved African Americans in the South were largely denied a formal education. Several states even passed legislation prohibiting teaching African Americans how to read, based on the belief that education would lead to “rebellion.”[1]  After the war ended in 1865, the federal government established an agency primarily to assist newly freed African Americans. The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, commonly known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, provided temporary relief and helped African Americans in the South with essential needs, including education. Despite epidemics, crop failures, natural disasters, and persistent local opposition, the Freedmen’s Bureau, in conjunction with various Northern missionary aid societies, managed to establish 66 schools throughout Texas. In July 1870, when the agency ceased operations, the freed African Americans owned 43 of the schools with 63 teachers and 3,248 students.[2]

Circular No. 20, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, Galveston, August 31,1866. Texas Adjutant General’s Department Reconstruction Records. TSLAC.

The crucial role the Freedmen’s Bureau played in the education of African Americans makes its records an important resource on this topic. While Bureau records have been duplicated on microfilm and are available in libraries and archives around the country, the nonprofit genealogy organization FamilySearch has digitized a significant amount of these materials and provides free access to them on their website. Their Freedmen’s Bureau Records of the Superintendent of Education and of the Division of Education contains images of scanned documents browseable by state or division. To help users navigate the site, FamilySearch also offers an overview of the types of documents and the kind of information one may find in these records. The collection contains monthly teacher reports and reports of the sub-assistant commissioners and agents. Reports include statistics about numbers of students and teachers and schools.

Notification from the Freedmen’s Bureau announcing tuition fees. Texas Adjutant General’s Department Reconstruction Records. TSLAC.

Researchers hoping to focus on Texas may select that state from the menu and view images specifically from that collection. An in-depth description of the Texas records was produced for the microfilm in the pamphlet, “Records of the superintendent of education for the state of Texas, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1870,” which is linked from the site as a PDF available for download. According to the pamphlet, records “include letters and endorsements sent, registers of letters received, and record books pertaining to schools, teachers, and educational expenditures of the Bureau.”

Since the federal government oversaw the Freedmen’s Bureau, that agency’s official records are managed by the National Archives and Records Administration. The Texas State Archives also contain collections with items related to the Freedmen’s Bureau. For example, the Texas Governor James Webb Throckmorton Records includes “Letters of Major Generals Philip H. Sheridan, Charles Griffin, J.B. Kiddoo, and S.P. Heintzelman concerning the activities of federal troops and the Freedmen’s Bureau constitute a large portion of the materials.” The Texas Adjutant General’s Department Reconstruction Records have “a sizable number of circulars and general orders [that] were issued by the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (commonly known as the Freedmen’s Bureau), both the central office in Washington, D.C. (1865-1867) and the regional office(s) in Texas: Galveston (1865-1867), Brownsville (1867), and Austin (1867-1868).”

When searching the archival collections with the TARO search tool, try using the term “freedmen” to catch references to both the common name and official name of the agency. In addition, researchers may be interested in collections related to the history of education more generally in Texas. Please note that not all collections have descriptive guides available online. Contact the reference staff at to assist with locating materials on topics of interest.

Those interested in the history of African American education in Texas may wish to consult our library collections for titles related to education, African Americans in Texas, and the period following the Civil War known as Reconstruction (1865-1877). Anyone hoping to learn about the history of African American education in Texas will find the story of the Freedmen’s Bureau essential.

Select publications:

Select archival collections:

County Records Available on Microfilm

We have identified the following counties as having school related records: Anderson, Bell, Blanco, Bowie, Brooks, Brown, Caldwell, Colorado, Collin, Cooke, Coryell, Ellis, Falls, Fayette, Gillespie, Gonzales, Guadalupe, Haskell, Henderson, Johnson, Kaufman, Leon, Llano, Marion, McLennan, Milam, Navarro, Parker, Robertson, Shackelford, Smith, Willacy, Wise, Young, Van Zandt, Waller, and Washington

Resources for Further Research

[1] Federick Eby, The Development of Education in Texas (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1925), 263.

[2] Alton Hornsby, “The Freedmen’s Bureau Schools in Texas, 1865-1870,” The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 76, no. 4 (1973): 416.,

A note about terminology: Some TSLAC library and archival holdings may contain language, imagery, attitudes, and/or perspectives from the past that may be offensive today. TSLAC does not endorse the language, imagery, attitudes, and/or perspectives presented in the content but provides it as a historical document.

For more information about the collections at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, contact our reference staff at or 512-463-5455.

New Year, New Titles and More at the Texas State Library and Archives

Traci Reece, Reference Librarian

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) Archives and Reference staff are pleased to welcome researchers back to our research rooms on Second Saturdays and throughout the week at our Lorenzo de Zavala building in Austin! We have exciting changes to share and look forward to helping with your research needs.

Home of the Texas State Library and Archives at 1201 Brazos St. in Austin.

New Titles at the Library

Our staff have been busy processing new books and adding them to the catalog and the shelves at TSLAC. While many may know us for our historical collections of original documents in the State Archives, we are also home to the Texas State Library’s book collections. We regularly acquire titles about Texas, family history, US government documents, periodicals, and more through state and federal depository programs, librarian selections, and donations. The books in our library collections are available for on-site research, with many titles also available for checkout from our library and through interlibrary loan (ILL). Contact your local library about ILL or contact the Reference Desk for availability. Typically, books that are not available for check-out will have a note in the catalog record that reads “non-circulating.” Our staff is happy to provide information about circulation procedures and other library services.

So, what’s new? Here’s a brief sample of some of the recently added titles currently on display in our Reference Reading Room:

Display of recent titles added to the Texas State Library collections.



Call number


African American lawmen, 1867-1877. Volume 1

Mboma, Lievin Kambamba

363.23089 M459a


The art of Texas : 250 years

Tyler, Ronnie C.

709.764 AR75 ARTS OVER-T


Bluffing Texas style : the arsons, forgeries, and high-stakes poker capers of rare book dealer Johnny Jenkins

Vinson, Michael

381.45 V786BL


Cult of glory : the bold and brutal history of the Texas Rangers

Swanson, Doug J.

363.209 SW24c


Don’t count the tortillas : the art of Texas Mexican cooking

Medrano, Adán

Z TT422.8 M469do

Texas Documents

Friday night lives : photos from the town, the team, and after

Clark, Robert

Z UA380.8 C549fi

Texas Documents

Gone at 3:17 : the untold story of the worst school disaster in American history

Brown, David M.

373.764 B812g


The heartbeat of Wounded Knee : native America from 1890 to the present

Treuer, David

970.004 T726h


How Myth Became History: Texas exceptionalism in the borderlands

Dean, John Emory

810.9 D345h


Let the Lord sort them : the rise and fall of the death penalty

Chammah, Maurice

364.66 C357L


Lone star vistas : Travel writing on Texas, 1821-1861

Haas, Astrid

Z UA380.8 H111Lo

Texas Documents

Reverberations of racial violence : critical reflections on the history of the border

Hernández, Sonia

Z UA380.8 R323

Texas Documents

The southern exodus to Mexico : migration across the borderlands after the American Civil War

Wahlstrom, Todd W.

Z TA475.8 W127so

Texas Documents

Explore more new titles at TSLAC by browsing our online library catalog. The catalog includes a link to Newly Added Titles with a list of recent additions to the collections.

The TSLAC library catalog links to a list of newly added titles.

Second Saturdays

Beginning in January, TSLAC will welcome patrons into the Reference and State Archives reading rooms each second Saturday in 2022. Second Saturdays are a great opportunity to catch up on your genealogy or research projects, and our staff are here to help. Both reading rooms will be open to the public from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on the following days:

2022 Second Saturday Dates

January 8

April 9  

July 9

October 8

February 12

May 14

August 13

November 12

March 12

June 11

September 10

December 10

Reading Rooms

The State Archives and Reference reading rooms are open to the public from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and for our Second Saturday hours. Library materials and public computers with internet access are available in the Reference Reading Room. No registration or appointments are required, but we do appreciate advance notice and scheduling an appointment if you will be accessing archival materials. We have an FAQ on our website for standard questions about research at TSLAC and the Before You Visit page contains a lot of helpful information.

New Topics and Time for the Friday Research Webinars in 2022

Our Research Webinar series continues every fourth Friday of the month, with a new slate of topics for 2022 and a new time. Research webinars on newspapers, African American genealogy, maps, the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, the Texas Digital Archive, and the Republic of Texas will take place via Zoom at 3:00 p.m. on scheduled Fridays. The first webinar of 2022 will take place on January 28 on the subject of newspapers. Join our Reference staff as they present these 20-minute live webinars or view recorded sessions on our webpage and YouTube channel. Sign up in advance and come with your questions! Visit our Research Webinars page to preview the schedule, register to attend, or to watch past recorded sessions.

Robust Remote Services

If you are unable to visit us on-site, our digital collections and databases are available online 24/7.  Reference staff are also available to provide remote reference services via phone at 512-463-5455 and email at Many of the TSLAC resources available to you from home are listed on our website. An Out of the Stacks blog post from 2020 offers a closer look at our remote services with the article, Reference and Research Assistance at the Ready: Remote Services Are Here for You.

Visit our website for information about reference services at our library. Check our Agency Calendar for special events and dates our building will be closed.

We look forward to seeing our visitors in person! / 512-463-5455 /

New Online: Recent Updates to Finding Aids and Digital Images Available Online

As our archives staff work on an ongoing basis to arrange, preserve, describe, and make available to the public the materials under our care, we spotlight new additions to the website in a regular feature from Out of the Stacks. The column lists new and revised finding aids recently made available online, along fresh uploads to the Texas Digital Archive, our repository of electronic items.

New Finding Aids


Harry Lund Photograph Collection:

Harry Lund Photograph Collection on TDA:

Nicolas Lopez posed with daughter for first communion, undated. Harry Lund photograph collection,1964/263-34. TSLAC. View on the TDA:

Abstract: The Harry Lund photograph collection consists of commercial views and portraits photographed by the Morales Studio of Brownsville, Texas. Although mostly unidentified and undated, the photographs were taken in Brownsville and Harlingen, Texas; Matamoros, Mexico; and the surrounding Rio Grande Valley area in the early part of the twentieth century. The images primarily reflect aspects of Mexican-American life in the Brownsville area, including family, social, and religious activities such as weddings, funerals, and communions; commerce, agriculture, and railroads; interiors and exteriors of homes and businesses; activities of the Woodmen of the World, a fraternal benefit organization; and people, fortifications and sites associated with the Mexican Revolution. Photographs date 1900 to 1955, bulk 1900 to 1930.

State Records

Texas Governor Allen Shivers Legislative Files (series removed from the overall Governor Shivers records finding aid, which will be updated later for this change)

Abstract: Legislative staff of the Texas Governor’s Office advised Allan Shivers on legislative matters and assisted in developing and promoting the governor’s legislative goals. Records are the legislative files for Governor Allan Shivers and consist of bills, clippings, related records, dated 1950-1956, bulk 1951-1953. Topics commonly mentioned in these files include, but are not limited to, the Democratic party, oil conservation, and segregation. There is also a significant amount of correspondence from Shivers’s constituents expressing opinions on legislation.

Texas State Library and Archives Commission Lorenzo de Zavala Building Literary Landmark Commemoration Materials

Literary Landmark Materials on TDA:

 Laura Bush at lectern, December 3, 2009. Texas State Library and Archives Commission Lorenzo de Zavala Building Literary Landmark commemoration materials. TSLAC. View on the TDA:

Abstract: The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) appoints the state librarian and assistant state librarian; approves the State Library’s strategic plans, policies, appropriations requests, and operating budgets; and develops rules for administering the State Library’s legislative mandates. December 3, 2009, marked the 100th anniversary of TSLAC. In commemoration, an event was held at which a Literary Landmark designation was issued to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission for the use of its library resources and archives for the research and inspiration of prominent Texas authors. Speakers included State Librarian Peggy Rudd and former First Lady Laura Bush. These records consist of one Mini-DV, two digital photographs, one printed program, and one printed mailer that document this event, dated November-December 2009.

Revised Finding Aids

State Records

Texas Capitol Building Commission Administrative Records and Architectural Drawings (a portion of the records have been digitized and are available on the Texas Digital Archive; and now, names of workers on the payroll for the Texas State Capitol abstracted onto index cards are also available on the Texas Digital Archive as one of its Reference Tools).

Fragment of Goddess of Liberty statue, 1880s. Architectural drawings and derivatives,1948/003-148, Texas Capitol Building Commission administrative records and architectural drawings. TSLAC. View on the TDA:

Abstract: The 16th Texas Legislature, Regular Session, 1879, created both the Texas Capitol Building Commission (CBC) and Texas State Capitol Board (SCB) to oversee the construction of the Texas State Capitol. The CBC and SCB worked together to manage the construction of the Capitol. The SCB managed the survey and sale of public domain lands used to fund construction and took care of legislative matters while the CBC managed day-to-day construction activities and reported progress and problems to the SCB. After the 1853 Limestone Capitol burned in 1881, these entities also oversaw the building of the temporary Capitol. Records date 1879-1890 and document the planning and construction of the temporary Capitol (completed 1883) and the Texas State Capitol (completed 1888). Drawings include the winning competition drawings, dated 1881, used to select an architect for the Texas Capitol Building and the original architectural drawings used in the construction of the Texas State Capitol, dated 1882-1888. Also included are derivative images of the drawings, dating 1980-1997. 

Texas Department of Criminal Justice Building Construction Project Files (includes records available on the TDA)

Abstract: The Texas Department of Criminal Justice provides for the confinement, supervision, rehabilitation, and reintegration of the state’s convicted felons. These records are the department’s building construction project files for 22 prison units, dating 1982-2010. Types of records include proposals, bid documents, progress reports (daily and monthly), change orders, proposed and pending change orders, logs, transmittals, submission of transmittal forms, requests for information, punch lists, requests for equitable adjustments, test and balance reports, claims against contracts, contracts, photographs and negatives, meeting minutes, correspondence, memoranda, field orders, requests for time extensions, vouchers, schedules, cost estimates, pay estimates, a few detail drawings, inspection reports, project budget worksheets, and project manuals.

Texas Education Agency Legal Counsel Records (formerly a typed finding aid, new to TARO)

Abstract: The Texas Education Agency legal counsel provided legal advice and recommendations for the commissioner of education and the State Board of Education. Chester Ollison served as legal counsel from September 1952 to May 1976. Records of the legal counsel comprise case files, correspondence, and oil and gas lease files, dating 1941-1976, bulk 1950-1976.

Texas State Board of Control Building Records and Contracts

Texas State Board of Control Records (one report added)

Abstract: The primary functions of the Texas State Board of Control were the control and supervision of the state eleemosynary institutions (state schools, hospitals and sanatoriums, orphanages, juvenile training schools), the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation, the Confederate Homes, and the State Cemetery; serving as the purchasing agent for state institutions and agencies; having joint supervision and maintenance of certain historical parks; and having charge of the custody and maintenance of the Capitol and other state office buildings and grounds. Types of records present include specifications, bid proposals, blueprints, original contracts, bonds, deeds and easements, reports, legislative bills, correspondence, contractor’s estimates, receipts, job orders, and photographs. Records are dated 1854, 1885, 1909-1950, 1967, and undated, bulk dating 1920-1950.

Texas Racing Commission Meeting Files, Press Releases, and Hearing Notices

Abstract: The Texas Racing Commission was created by the Texas Racing Act in 1986; an agency of the same name had existed from 1933 to 1937 and was abolished after the state repeal of legal horse racing and pari-mutuel betting. These Racing Commission meeting files, press releases, and hearing notices document the work of the agency to ensure the safety, integrity, and fairness of Texas pari-mutuel racing and wagering through enforcement of the Texas Racing Act and rules of racing, dating 1988-2012.

Local Records

Bexar-Medina-Atascosa Counties Water Control and Improvement District No. 1 (Tex.) survey maps and plats (new to TARO)

Abstract: The Bexar-Medina-Atascosa Counties Water Control and Improvement District No. 1 (Tex.) (BMA) is a conservation and reclamation district that supplies water resources to residents and provides for future utility needs. Records are maps, plats, and related records produced by the BMA, dated 1909 to 2002 and undated, with the bulk of records dating from 1912 to 1930.

Contact our reference staff with your questions about these and other collections at the State Archives at or 512-463-9807.

THRAB Offers Free Registration to Basics of Archives Online Course

The Texas Historical Records Advisory Board (THRAB) is pleased to offer an educational opportunity free of charge to individuals working with historical collections and who lack a background or formal training in archives. Through funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), THRAB has partnered with the American Association of State and Local History (AASLH) to reserve a select number of spots in their upcoming beginner’s online course, Basics of Archives.

Designed for those with little to no archival experience, the AASLH instructor presents modules online over five weeks from January 10 – February 13, 2022, with lessons covering the essential components of archives work from acquisition to outreach. Registration preference will be given to employees or volunteers of smaller institutions and those that receive little or no funding for professional development. THRAB may limit registration to one person per institution to allocate space equitably. Please note that THRAB supports Texas repositories.

To apply for this opportunity, visit:

Apply by December 15, 2021.

Battleship Texas Plans and Records Now Online at the State Archives

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) is pleased to announce a major digitization effort that provides online access to more than 3,000 ships plans and records from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (TPWD) collection documenting the USS battleship, Texas. Also known as BB-35, the dreadnought was commissioned in 1914 and participated in both World War I and World War II, including as flagship during the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. USS Texas went on to become the first memorial battleship in the United States and serves as a national historical landmark.

State Records Center Imaging Specialist, Melanie Saegert prepares to digitize materials from the TPWD battleship Texas collection. Thousands of plans and records from the collection are now online in the TDA.

The recent addition to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Battleship Texas ships plans and records online collection is the culmination of a multi-faceted initiative involving conservation work, preservation, processing and archival housing of oversized materials, and a successful collaboration between TSLAC’s Archives and Information Services Division (ARIS) and the State Records Center (SRC) to engage in a mass digitization initiative together. SRC staff converted the thousands of blueprints, documents, manuals, booklets, and other paper materials into digital files for ARIS staff to organize, manage, describe, and ultimately upload to TSLAC’s digital repository, the Texas Digital Archive (TDA). Visitors to the site will find information about the battleship in the finding aids and an extensive series of detailed images of plans and records from the entire lifespan of the Texas.

TSLAC Conservator, Heather Hamilton demonstrates the protective measures the State Archives staff are employing to preserve oversize materials from the battleship Texas collection. Learn more about the State Archives’ conservation efforts on this project on the Conservation blog.

The battleship Texas records include oversize schematic drawings up to six feet long. Conservator Heather Hamilton analyzed the preservation challenges the size and nature of the drawings presented and determined the best solutions for repair and housing. Tears in the plans had been taped in the past and the paper was breaking along the creases created when folded and stored in boxes. The new housing employs archival quality plastic sheeting and the plans will be rolled as opposed to folded to help prevent further damaging the paper. Read more about the project on the Conservation blog.

While the State Archives is taking care to preserve the original plans and records for the battleship Texas, the digitization project has opened access to the collection for anyone with an internet connection. No need to pull the enormous plans from the stacks if one is able to click on a link to a digital image and download as needed. The partnership between the Archives and the SRC on this effort offers a model for future mass digitization projects.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Battleship Texas ships plans and records, 1900-1990s, undated

Creator: Texas. Parks and Wildlife Department.
Title: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Battleship Texas ships plans and records
Dates: 1900-1990s
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) manages the conservation of the state’s natural and cultural resources, conservation education and outreach, and interpretation of cultural and historical resources. The USS battleship Texas served in both World War I and World War II and was decommissioned in 1948 in Texas to become a memorial and exhibit. The ship was first managed by the Battleship Texas Commission, then in 1983 administration transferred to TPWD with input from the Battleship Texas Advisory Board.

In 2019, the ship closed to the public for a major restoration effect. These records document the ship during both active duty and as a memorial and exhibit. Materials consist of original ships plans and plans reproductions, prints, posters, audiovisual materials, and records of the Battleship Texas Commission and the Battleship Texas Advisory Board. Records are dated 1900-1990s, undated. Most of the original ships plans, as well as all of the reproductions, prints, posters, and audiovisual materials have been digitized and are part of the Texas Digital Archive.

Click here to enter the records

Click here to access the online finding aid

Native American Heritage Month Collection Spotlight: James Ludwell Davis Sylestine and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas

Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation, about 1970 to 1980. Color slides and transparencies,1991/077-110-8. Texas Tourist Development Agency Photographs and Audiovisual Materials. TSLAC. View in the TDA.

November is National Native American Heritage Month and the State Archives is spotlighting a collection that offers an in-depth profile of the Alabama-Coushatta Indians of Southeast Texas. James Ludwell Davis Sylestine (1925-1990) was the son of former Alabama-Coushatta Chief Bronson Cooper Sylestine (1879-1969) and compiled over the years research materials about the history of the combined tribes, as well as the contemporary conditions, traditions, and lifestyle of his people during the latter part of the twentieth century.

Table of contents, manuscript, undated. Alabama-Coushatta Indians, drafts. James Ludwell Davis Sylestine Papers. TSLAC.
Page one, manuscript, undated. Alabama-Coushatta Indians, drafts. James Ludwell Davis Sylestine Papers. TSLAC.

Sylestine wrote essays and historical pieces about the Alabama-Coushatta and was working toward writing a full history that he unfortunately never completed. His research notes and drafts are available in his papers. Sylestine’s records include publications, correspondence, minutes of tribal meetings, information related to federal and state oversight of the tribe, documents from the Indian Presbyterian Church, and a scrapbook of newspaper clippings. The finding aid describes the contents of folders contained in each of the three boxes that comprise the collection.

Sylestine interviewed members of the tribe and compiled their stories in a notebook. He also included a section on Indian medicines where he typed the various incantations used for treating wounds, crying babies, heart disease, and friendship. Recordings of stories and songs are part of his collection and have been digitized for research access.

Image: Pamphlet, Texas Indians: The Story of Indian Village and the Alabama Indians in Polk County, Texas on the Alabama-Coshatti Reservation by Anna Kilpatrick Fain, Livingston, Texas 1960. James Ludwell Sylestine Papers. TSLAC.

James Ludwell Davis Sylestine Papers [finding aid excerpts]

Biographical Sketch
James Ludwell Davis Sylestine was born on the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation, near Livingston, Texas. He was an Alabama Indian, the son of former Chief Bronson Cooper Sylestine and Mossane Sylestine. He entered the military in 1943, served 31 months and fought in several Pacific engagements, including the battle for Luzon. After the war he attended college (Austin College in Sherman and the University of Texas at Austin) then entered the Austin Presbyterian Seminary. He withdrew from the seminary after several years and re-entered the military, where he spent more than 20 years before retiring. He died on January 29, 1990, at the age of 65 and was buried at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.

Because James married a non-Indian (Mildred), he was not able to live on the reservation after his retirement (bylaws of the tribe state that if marrying a non-Indian you could not live on the reservation but were maintained on the off-reservation rolls). He maintained close contact with the tribes, serving as the secretary or chairman at some council meetings. He was also very active with the Indian Presbyterian Church, serving as an elder of the church. He periodically wrote articles concerning the tribes or reservation which were published in local newspapers, and he frequently wrote Congressmen or pertinent officials concerning legislation which would affect the tribes. He was a life-long student of the history of his people and spent a number of years compiling information to write a history on the Alabama-Coushatta, but he did not complete it before his death.

Folktales of the Alabama-Coushatta Indians by Howard Martin [1946]. James Ludwell Sylestine Papers. TSLAC.
“Constitution and By-laws of the Alabama and Coushatta Tribes of Texas,” August 19,1938. James Ludwell Sylestine Papers. TSLAC.

Scope and Contents of the Records
These records are the research files and writings of James Sylestine. They reflect historical and contemporary topics concerning the Alabama-Coushatta tribes and the reservation, including early interaction with white men, establishment of the reservation, tribal land claims, state and federal legislation affecting the tribes and/or reservation, state and federal trusteeship of the tribes, religion-including the work of early missionaries and establishment of the Indian Presbyterian Church, folklore, education on the reservation and in off-reservation schools, alcohol and health problems of the tribes, housing, tribal politics, military service of tribal members, oil and gas revenue, increasing the self-sufficiency of the tribes, and current issues facing other Indian tribes.

Minutes, tribal meeting, November 5, 1956. James Ludwell Davis Sylestine Papers. TSLAC.

These records consist of published and unpublished reports (some written by Sylestine, others by various authors), theses; correspondence, primarily between Sylestine and various state and federal officials and agencies; bylaws and charter of the Alabama-Coushatta tribes; minutes of Council meetings; articles, clippings, brochures and other printed materials; transcripts of historical documents; biographical sketches of several individuals (most are non-Indian and are connected to the Indian Presbyterian Church) maps and sketches of the reservation; transcripts of deeds; Attorney General opinions; church records; census rolls; copies of legislation; and reel-to-reel tapes of songs recorded in 1932 and stories told in 1962 by tribal members.

Report, “History and Present Way of Life of the Alabama and Coushatta Indians of Texas,” 1963. James Ludwell Sylestine Papers. TSLAC.

The last item in the collection is a compiled volume of documents and reports, containing transcripts of letters concerning the Alabama and/or Coushatta Indians; transcripts of early incidents on the reservation; reminiscences of tribal members; excerpts of the histories and lives of the Indians by Sylestine and others—including the condition and needs of the reservation, progress made, the 1936 elections, etc.; and minutes of the tribal and general council meetings.

Off-print, Senate Journal, February 25, 1936, cover. James Ludwell Davis Sylestine Papers. TSLAC.
Senate Resolution 204, tribute to Tic-Ca-Itche, Chief of the Alabama Indians after his passing in 1969. James Ludwell Davis Sylestine Papers. TSLAC.

Throughout his files he refers to the tribes by both the current tribal names—Alabama and Coushatta Indians—and by the more historic or “Indian” names—Albamo and Kossati Indians. These records date from the 1700s to 1989. Most files concern the period from 1900 to the mid 1980s.

Review the Detailed Description of the Records to learn more about the contents of the collection.

Researchers interested in access to the James Ludwell Sylestine Papers or other materials at the State Archives may contact the reference staff at or 512-463-5455.

Continue reading

Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO) Debuts New Website

As Texas Archives Month comes to a close, we are pleased to highlight the new interface for Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO), an essential tool for conducting archival research in Texas repositories. TARO is a website that allows for searching the collections of participating archives, libraries, and museums that have added finding aids to their list, including many from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC). TSLAC Archivist Rebecca Romanchuk has served on the TARO steering committee as chair and in 2021 is serving as the chair of TARO’s Summerlee Foundation New Member Initiative, which supports smaller archival institutions in joining TARO and adding finding aids to its website. We asked Rebecca a few questions about TARO and what to expect from the new look.

What is TARO and how was it developed?

Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO) is a consortial program that provides free public access to collection descriptions or “finding aids” created by the state’s archives, libraries, and museums that describe the primary source documents and objects in their care. TARO was established in 1999 with initial funding from the Texas Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund, one year after the release of the first version of Encoded Archival Description (EAD) developed by a group of American archives professionals. The TARO website was established at The University of Texas Libraries and has continued to reside there; UT Libraries formally became the institutional home for TARO in 2018. TSLAC was one of the seven founding institutions of the TARO project.

TARO has been fortunate to receive both a planning grant and an implementation grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the latter of which will conclude in April 2022 and has resulted in a new searchable web platform for TARO. Additional grant outcomes include reports provided to members to improve controlled access terms in their finding aids that support the website’s search function and continued training for members in creating EAD finding aids.

Who runs TARO?

There are two “steering wheels” for TARO. One is in the hands of UT Libraries as the technical operations center for TARO. UT Libraries assigns five percent of a programmer’s time to keep the system running, address issues, and provide any further development for the web platform. TARO is very lucky to have such responsive and helpful support from UT Libraries! The other is in the hands of the aptly named TARO Steering Committee, consisting of seven elected officers (each an archivist or librarian from a TARO member institution) and a UT Libraries representative, all of whom operate under the current TARO Governance Plan. Several subcommittees have been created to handle key areas of TARO’s activities, create documents and reports as needed, and advise the Steering Committee: Authorized Terms, Funding & Sustainability, Governance, NEH Grant Management, Outreach & Education, Standards, and Website & Technology. Altogether, over 25 people regularly contribute their time to TARO, as work hours supported by their employing institution and as personal time. Their dedication is phenomenal!

What repositories are included on the list and how do they join?

TARO currently has 69 member repositories listed on its “About” page, ranging from public and private university libraries and archives to public libraries and museums with archival collections, municipal and religious archives, historical societies, non-profit research collections, and the two state agencies that are official state records archival repositories: TSLAC and the Texas General Land Office. Any organization within Texas that holds archival materials and creates finding aids for them may join TARO through one of two options: self-sustaining member creating its own EAD finding aids, or new member needing grant-funded EAD encoding assistance through TARO’s Summerlee Foundation New Member Initiative (contact the TARO Steering Committee Chair to discuss joining that project).

TARO map of repositories:

What improvements would you like to highlight?

The TARO website we’ve relied on for 20 years has had small behind-the-scenes improvements over that time, but never a full platform overhaul or any site redesign. Its age has been showing for a long while, though TARO members and researchers around the world have continued to benefit tremendously from its existence. The new TARO website is built according to current technical standards, and we think everyone will enjoy the fresh new graphic design and search functions. UT Libraries is continuing active development of the new website through the end of 2021 (any bugs showing up are being worked on) and will scale back to its usual maintenance mode in 2022.

Browsing all finding aids by creator, geographic area, and subject is now possible, so any finding aid from any repository that shares a term in one of those categories will be included in browse results, which helps researchers identify materials that may be closely related and relevant to their interests. TARO members can see where our finding aid data needs to be edited to use an established authorized form of a creator name. For example, “Houston, Sam, 1793-1863” has two additional slight variations of that name in browse results. Each TARO member has been given reports of the creator and geographic names and subject terms used in their finding aids along with the corrected form of those names and subjects, so that we can edit our data to be standard across TARO and improve the search experience.

TARO offers browsing option:

Do all states have something similar to TARO?

There are several state-wide and regional EAD consortiums in the United States, all of whom are participating in a US Institute for Museum and Library Services grant-funded project to research the needs of and develop prototypes for a National Archival Finding Aid Network. It’s been recognized that combining our efforts and support into a national hub for finding aid description would help bring in institutions without the resources to establish their own searchable finding aid websites and provide a centralized research discovery point for described archival materials held by US institutions. Achieving that goal will take some time. Meanwhile, consortiums like TARO continue to operate and improve as they are able to. Please visit some of our fellow EAD consortiums around the country!

Do you have any simple search tips?

The new search options are a lot of fun to try out! There are many angles you can approach a search from. In addition to a simple keyword search (this can be limited to a particular repository), the advanced search option allows you to refine a search by any combination of repository, title, creator, geographic area, and subject. Search results can be faceted by repository, language, and start and end dates. An advanced search can be limited to digital objects that feature a direct link to an online image, document, or recording, which must be encoded in the finding aid using a specific EAD element per item link. TSLAC uses a different method: Our finding aids with digital materials have one link to the Texas Digital Archive collection page from which all the digital items can be discovered, so search by digital object in TARO won’t include our finding aids.

Advanced search limiters in TARO:

If you want to see a particular repository’s finding aids presented in alphabetical order by creator of the materials, as the former TARO website did for each repository’s browse pages, go to the “Browse By” category and select “Repositories,” then click on a repository. A Results Summary page will appear, and a Sort By category option is available there. Choose Creator from the Sort By list and click on the A-Z order option to sort all of that repository’s finding aids in forward or reverse alphabetical order. The Sort By can be chosen for Title instead. There are also options to sort by Start Date and End Date (of the materials) and there are currently mixed results for that; the search function is only as accurate as the data it is searching, and some finding aids may need encoding edits to appear as expected in some searches. Data correction by TARO members is ongoing, and new finding aids are continually added to the website, so keep visiting to see what’s new and improved!

Thank you, Rebecca! We cannot wait to start searching.

Spooky Scenes and Stories from the Stacks: Halloween Edition

Haunted House on West Avenue, Austin, Texas, n.d. William Deming Hornaday photograph collection, 1975/070-197. TSLAC. View in the TDA.

With Halloween on the horizon, we searched the collections with the filter set to “spooky” to see what mysterious and frightening historical items emerged from the stacks. Our Texas Digital Archive features a couple of haunted houses that appear creepy enough for the title, even if supporting evidence and/or a dramatic backstory are left to the imagination.

Murrell Place, Haunted House, near Paris, Texas, n.d. Fannie Ratchford photograph collection, 1970/101-1083. TSLAC. View in the TDA.

Ask anyone about haunted spots in Austin and the historic Driskill Hotel on the corner of Sixth and Brazos will be mentioned in short order. The legendary hotel still attracts tourists and locals alike. Tales of chairs rocking on their own, the smell of cigar smoke attributed to the original owner Jesse Driskill, and ghostly visions of women who took their own lives are some of the experiences that have become part of the lore.

The Driskill Hotel, 1894. Art Work of Austin, Chicago : W.H. Parish Pub. Co., 1894. View catalog record.

Another Austin site where, over the years, residents and visitors have reported interactions with the supernatural is the Governor’s Mansion. Located across the street from the Texas State Capitol, the Greek Revival style structure is home to the state’s executive and his or her families. Stories have included eerie incidences with lights and sounds and a wandering apparition bearing a resemblance to Governor Pendleton Murrah.

Governor’s Mansion, front view, about 1919. Places Collection,1/103-80, Prints and Photographs. TSLAC. View in the TDA.

The State Archives houses papers related to the Texas Governor’s Mansion, including the Jean Houston Daniel Texas Governor’s Mansion Collection, which is comprised of the materials the authors of the book, The Texas Governor’s Mansion: A History of the House and its Occupants compiled in the course of their research. Jean Houston Daniel, the wife of former Texas Governor Price Daniel, was the great-great-granddaughter of Sam Houston and worked on the book with her husband and the writer Dorothy Blodgett.

Search our library catalog for books with ghost stories from Texas:

Haunted Texas : famous phantoms, sinister sites, and lingering legends

Ghost stories of old Texas

Black cats, hoot owls, and water witches : beliefs, superstitions, and sayings from Texas

Ghost lore : a collection of ghost, phantom and legendary mysteries, chiefly of Texas and of old Mexico

Legends & lore of the Texas Capitol

Chills in the night : tales that will haunt you

El Rinche : the ghost ranger of the Rio Grande

Texas ghost stories : fifty favorites for the telling

Ghost lore : a collection of ghost, phantom and legendary mysteries, chiefly of Texas and of old Mexico

More spooky Texas tales

For more information about the collections held at the Texas State Library and Archives contact or 512-463-5455.

National History Day: Research Resources at the State Archives

The Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) coordinates the Texas History Day educational program each year as the state affiliate for National History Day (NHD). Students in Texas begin their research in the fall on a topic related to the theme announced by National History Day organizers. Participants will then enter regional contests leading up to the statewide event in April, with winners moving on to the national level to compete against contestants from other states in Washington, D.C. Through this history-focused program, students learn critical thinking and problem-solving skills and how to conduct library and archival research. Those of us in the research library and archives community encourage the use of our collections and aim to assist students as they navigate the inventories, catalogs, finding aids, and myriad of tools available for locating source material. The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) recently partnered with TSHA with the workshop, “Teaching with Primary Sources” and TSLAC reference staff offer a resource page each year. In addition, the Texas Historical Records Advisory Board (THRAB) offers a special award in the junior and senior categories worth two hundred dollars.

TSHA produced a video that captures what it means to the students who participate in this educational program:

As mentioned, TSLAC reference staff offers an annual NHD guide and webpage for educators and students seeking information and primary sources at the State Archives at, where the handout is available for download.

This curated list of topics connected to the current NHD theme offers a starting point for delving into the extensive collections at the Texas State Library and Archives. As the central repository for the archives of the Texas government, our materials naturally support researchers interested in the history of the state. (Note: Texas History Day topics do not necessarily relate to Texas History, but students researching Texas History should find our collections useful.) Many of our original documents are already available for viewing online and available to download for research purposes. Check with our reference staff for details on how to find out more about your topics of interest and how to use our guides.

Reference and Research Assistance from the State Archives Contact reference staff for assistance at or 512-463-5455.