Announcing the 2018 TSLAC Research Fellowship in Texas History

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The Texas State Library and Archives Commission Research Fellowship in Texas History is awarded for the best research proposal utilizing collections of the State Archives in Austin. The fellowship includes a $2,000 stipend.

The application, which should be no longer than two pages, must specify the purpose of the research, collections of interest, need for the money, and a description of the end product (article, book, or exhibition, etc.) that will result from the research. TSLAC may ask the Fellowship Awardee to make a presentation of the results of their research at a TSLAC event. Please include a complete vita with the application. The award will be announced at the Texas State Historical Association’s annual meeting in March 2018. Judges may withhold the award at their discretion.

Individuals should submit an entry form, four (4) copies of a vita in addition to four (4) copies of the proposal to the TSHA Office by December 28, 2017. The entry form can be found here.

Texas State Library and Archives Commission Research Fellowship in Texas History Committee
Texas State Historical Association
3001 Lake Austin Blvd., Ste. 3.116
Austin, TX 78703

Friends of Libraries & Archives of Texas logoTSHA logoThe TSLAC Research Fellowship in Texas History is made possible by the Friends of Libraries and Archives of Texas through a generous donation from the Edouard Foundation.


Did You Know in Texas History: Texas outlaw Sam Bass

By Caroline Jones, Library Assistant

On July 19th 1878, Texas outlaw Sam Bass was mortally wounded in a gun fight against Texas Rangers in Round Rock, TX. He died a few days later in Round Rock on July 21st, his 27th birthday.

According to the Handbook of Texas Online, Bass was born on July 21st, 1851 in Indiana and moved to Denton, TX in the fall of 1870 where he worked for Sheriff William F. Egan as a ranch hand building fences and caring for the livestock. During this time he, also worked for the railroad as a freighter loading goods on to railroad cars between Denton, Dallas, and Sherman. After leaving Egan’s property he began transporting cattle and racing horses, while also accumulating gambling debts he could not afford. It was during this time that Bass began robbing stagecoaches.

Bass used the skills he acquired as a ranch hand and as a railroad freighter to rob stagecoaches and railroad cars in and outside of Texas. By the spring of 1878, Bass and his gang had robbed four trains outside of Dallas- cementing Bass’s reputation as a notorious, Texas outlaw. Part of TSLAC’s collection materials concerning Bass is from a robbery committed in Nebraska. The gang held up a Union Pacific passenger train and stole $60,000 worth of new twenty-dollar gold pieces along with an additional $1,300 and four gold watches from the passengers. The image below is the digitization of a reward for the “Omaha Train Robbers” Bill Heffery, Sam Bass, Jack Davis, James Berry, and Tom Nixon. It can be found here in the Texas Treasures online exhibit.

List of Texas fugitives

Lists of fugitives, 1865-1879, 1898-1899, Lists of fugitives, Frontier Battalion records, Ranger records, Texas Adjutant General’s Department. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

List of Texas fugitives

Lists of fugitives, 1865-1879, 1898-1899, Lists of fugitives, Frontier Battalion records, Ranger records, Texas Adjutant General’s Department. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Before actually robbing the bank in Round Rock, Bass wanted to survey the area to be sure they had an escape route. According to Rangers of Texas, Bass came with three gang members to complete the heist: Frank Jackson, Seaborn Barnes, and Jim Murphy. Unbeknownst to the rest of the gang, Murphy was an informant for the Texas Rangers. So when the gang rode into Round Rock, Commander Major John B. Jones had three Rangers waiting to meet them.

Photo of John B. Jones, Texas Ranger Commander

John B. Jones. 1/102-333, People Collection, Prints and Photographs. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

However, it was local law enforcement officer Morris Murphy, accompanied by Deputy Sheriffs Grimes and Moore, who first approached the bandits. A gun fight broke out in a convenience store, with Barnes killing Grimes, Moore sustaining severe chest wounds, and Bass losing fingers from his right hand. As the gang fled the Rangers appeared, killing Barnes and fatally wounding Bass with a shot to the spine. Jackson rode out of town with a dying Bass, but ultimately had to leave him behind. The next day Bass was found about 3 miles north of Round Rock. He was brought into town and died of his injuries the following day, July 21st.

Even after his death, Bass’s story lived on through the tales of the Texas Rangers, the ballads of cowboys, and in the remaining members of his former gang. As seen in the image below, three years later, Texas Governor Roberts received messages from those interested in capturing the rest of the outlaw gang for a chance at the reward money.

Note from Toney Heis to Governor Roberts regarding the remaining Bass outlaw gang.

Toney Heis to Roberts, November 23, 1881, Records of Oran Milo Roberts, Texas Office of the Governor, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

The legend of Bass outlived him and continues to be a point of folklore and historical research in Texas.

Further Reading:

Texas Treasures: Rangers and Outlaws:

Texas Governor Oran Milo Roberts, 1861-1883 (bulk 1878-1883):

Texas Adjutant General’s Department, Ranger Records:

State Executive Record Books, 1835-1917:

Texas Secretary of State, Fugitive Records:

Title Call No.
Tracking the Texas Rangers : the nineteenth century Z N745.8 G463tr
Rangers of Texas 923.9764 R163
Sam Bass & gang 364.1 M617s
The tenderfoot bandits : Sam Bass and Joel Collins, their lives and hard times 923.41 B293R
Sam Bass: 100 years later, 1878-1978 976.406092 B293S
The Black Sheep 364.922 M264B
Tame the restless wind; the life and legends of Sam Bass 920.7 B293G and 923.41 B293GR
A sketch of Sam Bass, the bandit : a graphic narrative : his various train robberies, his death, and accounts of the deaths of his gang and their history 923.41 B293m 1956
Authentic history of Sam Bass and his gang 920.7 B293B 1950
Sam Bass, the train robber; the life of Texas’ most popular bandit 920.7 B293C


Did You Know in Texas History: George T. Ruby

By Caroline Jones, Library Assistant

On April 26, 1870 George T. Ruby signed his oath to serve as a state senator, surpassing racial barriers as one of Texas’s first African-American politicians.

Black and white image of George Thompson Ruby, an African American senator

George Thompson Ruby of Galveston served in the 1868-69 Constitutional Convention and the 12th and 13th Texas Legislature

Born in New York in 1841, Ruby moved to Galveston in 1866 to work for the Freedmen’s Bureau. While in Galveston he established the city’s first Labor Union of Colored Men. With a liberal arts education under his belt and experience as president of the Union League, Ruby quickly made a name for himself in Galveston and was elected as delegate to the Republican national convention in 1868. He served as the only African-American within the Texas delegation. In this same year he served as one of only ten African-American delegates to Texas’s Constitutional Convention. By 1869, Ruby was elected state senator from the Twelfth District representing Galveston, Brazoria, and Matagorda counties. This is particularly noteworthy as this was a predominantly white district at the time.

Ruby served in the 12th and 13th Texas Legislatures, from 1870 to 1871 and in 1873 respectively. As state senator Ruby served on the judiciary, militia, education, and state affairs committees. Bills he introduced successfully incorporated the Galveston and El Paso, the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio, and the Galveston, Houston and Tyler railroads, as well as the Harbor Trust Company and several insurance companies. Bills he introduced also provided for geological and agricultural survey of the state. Due to a changing political climate in which the Democratic Party dominated the senate, Ruby chose not to seek reelection and finished his term in 1873. He spent the rest of his life in New Orleans, Louisiana. Despite his brief time as senator, Ruby is remembered by some historians as “the most important black politician in Texas during Reconstruction in terms of his power and ability” (tshaonline). His political passion enabled him to exceed racial expectations and provided opportunities for African-American laborers in Galveston and across the state. Ruby is prominently featured in TSLAC’s own “Forever Free” online exhibit as well as our “Texas Treasures” online exhibit.

Ruby’s oath of office is part of our Secretary of State Bonds and Oaths collection. The records were originally transferred to TSLAC by the Texas Secretary of State on an unknown date and reaccessioned in January of 2012. According to the finding aid, Archivist Tony Black discovered this set of records among unprocessed records of the Texas Adjutant General’s Department in November of 1986 and determined they were actually part of the Secretary of State bonds and oaths. The oaths and physical card catalogs from this collection have also been digitized and are available through

George T. Ruby's Oath of Office.

George T. Ruby’s Oath of Office.

See also:

Texas Secretary of State bonds and oaths Finding Aid:

Handbook of Texas Online article:

Forever Free: Nineteenth Century African-American Legislators and Constitutional Convention Delegates of Texas online exhibit:

Early African-American Senators section of the Texas Treasures online exhibit:

Did You Know in Texas History: Texas Centennial Exposition

By Caroline Jones, Library Assistant

On June 6th, 1936 the Texas Centennial Exposition opened at Fair Park in Dallas, TX. The Texas Centennial Commission was created in June 1934 with Dallas outbidding Houston and San Antonio as the exposition grounds and construction to expand Fair Park was underway by October of 1935. The expansion included 180 acres of park grounds and 50 new buildings. In total the exposition cost 25 million dollars, and an estimated 6,345,385 people attended the Centennial Exposition in Dallas.

Aerial black and white photo of the Texas Centennial.

From “Texas Centennial and Dallas Exposition: over 100 illustrations” from TSLAC-Main Collection.

The exposition was open from June 6 to November 29, 1936. Although centennial celebrations were happening across the state, the Handbook of Texas Online states the event at Fair Park as the “central exposition.” One of the highlights of the Texas Centennial Exposition was the Hall of Negro Life. According to the Handbook of Texas Online, this was the first instance of the recognition of black culture at a world’s fair. It is estimated that over 400,000 people came through the hall, viewing the contributions of thirty-two states, the District of Columbia, and works from individuals like W. E. B. Dubois and Samuel A. Countee. The hall exhibited advances in economics and industry, murals, music, literature, performances, and more.

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Texas Writers’ Project Records

By Susan Floyd, Archivist

1940 Typescript of San Antonio's Fiesta.

San Antonio: Fiesta! typescript, 1940. City and town historical materials, Texas Writers’ Project records, 1962/218-9. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

In February, we published a finding aid for records relating to a New Deal program: the Texas Writers’ Project, an undertaking of the Work Projects Administration. Originally established as the Works Progress Administration on May 6, 1935, the WPA was a federal relief agency created by an executive order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In Texas, the WPA employed 600,000 in a wide variety of projects based on local needs and workforce skills. These projects included construction, vocational training, childcare, garment manufacturing, gardening and food production, healthcare, libraries and archives, recreation, and the arts.

The Texas Historical Records Survey and the Texas Writers’ Project, both organized in 1935, were two major WPA-led archival and literacy programs. The Writers’ Project, directed by author and newspaperman James Francis (J. Frank) Davis, employed researchers and writers to compile guides to the state and its regions focusing on cultural, geographic, and historical points of interest. The Project’s best-known publication was Texas: A Guide to the Lone Star State (1940). Writers also worked on major publications such as America Eats; Hands That Built America (sometimes also referred to as Hands that Built the Nation); and, together with the Texas Historical Records Survey, The Western Range: The Story of the Grasslands.

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On This Day in 1836: Cynthia Ann Parker is captured in a Comanche Raid

By Caroline Jones, Library Assistant

On May 19, 1836, a young Cynthia Ann Parker was taken captive during the Comanche raid of Fort Parker. She lived as a Comanche woman for 25 years, marrying a Comanche warrior and having three children, until she was recaptured by Texas Rangers on December 19, 1860 in the Pease River Battle (also referred to as the Pease River Massacre by some scholars). In researching Parker I not only found her life story compelling, but both the variety and the credibility of the sources of her story intriguing and at times conflicting.

Cynthia Ann Parker was born to Lucy and Silas Parker in Crawford County, Illinois. The Parker clan made the journey to Texas and constructed Fort Parker along the Navasota River around 1835. According to Grace Jackson’s biography Cynthia Ann Parker, three generations of Parker’s lived at Fort Parker, along with several other families who followed them to Texas from Illinois. Having left the fort during the Battle of San Jacinto, all returned on April 25, 1836 after the Texan victory. On May 18th, Texas Rangers protecting the fort were disbanded and sent home to their families. The next day, Fort Parker was raided by the Comanche, killing many and taking five captive, including Cynthia Ann and her younger brother John.

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month

By Jessica Tucker, Archivist

According to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, 1 in 5 adult Texans will experience a mental health concern at some point this year. Of those, the Mental Health Committee Report & Recommendations (issued by the Texas Judicial Council in October 2016) approximates 1 million Texans will experience serious mental illness.

The Texas State Archives has many records related to mental health services in Texas, including the Texas Board for Texas State Hospitals and Special Schools records, 1950-1965; Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation records, 1967-1983; and Volunteer Services Council for the Austin State School records, 1957-1988, to name just a few. Another example is the fascinating and wide-reaching Josephine T. Lamb collection, 1931, 1942-1969, undated, bulk 1954-1966.

Image of An Act for the Erection and Support of a Lunatic Asylum from the 6th Texas Legislature

1 An Act for the Erection and Support of a Lunatic Asylum. 6th Legislature, Adjourned Session (1856), Texas Secretary of State legislative bills and resolutions filed (General and Special Laws). Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

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