Santa Anna’s Saddle and Bridle


General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s Saddle and Bridle

On April 21, 1836, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and the Mexican army were defeated at the Battle of Jacinto by the Texas forces led by General Sam Houston. After the battle, Santa Anna tried to elude capture by dressing as a common soldier, but was soon discovered when prisoners saluted their leader. A few weeks later, Santa Anna signed the Treaty of Velasco and removed his troop from Texas.

It was during this time that someone took possession of a saddle and bridle belonging to Santa Anna that found its way into the hands of Sam Houston. There are two versions of how this happened, and they are both based on eyewitness accounts.

The first version of the story says that sometime after the Battle of San Jacinto, Santa Anna presented the saddle and bridle along with other items to Sam Houston. The second version tells a different story. After the battle, items were seized as spoils of war including a large sum of money. This money was divided up amongst the soldiers who used the money to buy the belongings of Santa Anna and others in an auction. An unknown individual purchased the saddle and bridle and gave the items to Sam Houston sometime later. Whether either story is true is up to debate.

What we do know is that the family of General Sam Houston, specifically Andrew Jackson Houston, gave the saddle and bridle to Sam Houston Normal Institute professor J.L Clark whose collection became the basis for the Texana Collection which turned into SHSU Special Collections. Sam Houston Memorial Museum also received many items from the J.L. Clark collection, including the saddle and bridle. To see the saddle and bridle, visit SHSU Digital Collections and view the Sam Houston Memorial Museum digital collection, here: LINK.

*A big thanks to Mikey Sproat from the Sam Houston Memorial Museum for his help with this story!

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I rarely catch fish



Whenever I go fishing, I catch everything but fish. Maybe one of these days, I will actually get lucky and hook a big one.

John W. Thomason loved to fish and hunt. Nature was his greatest inspiration. He loved the outdoors so much that he quit a number of jobs and school so he could increase his time in the outdoors.

See the original here: A Soldier Fishing

See the whole (non-gif) collection at : John W. Thomason drawings

John F. Kelly Papers, 1866-2007


Irish Rebel Songs from the Diary of John F. Kelly

Irish Rebel Songs from the Diary of John F. Kelly

John Felix Kelly was born on August 31, 1845 in Borrisokane, Ireland.  He came to New York in 1865 because of the Irish Potato famine and he was in Galveston, Texas by 1867,.  John F. Kelly then moved to Cincinnati, Texas and married Mary Catherine “Kate” Smith in 1892.  John and Kate had four children.  John was a Catholic and Catherine came from a Protestant family.  After the town of Cincinnati dissolved, John F. Kelly and his family moved to south Walker County.  Kelly built a sawmill several miles North of New Waverly, Texas.  John F. Kelly later died as results of injuries he sustained when a boiler exploded at the mill.

The John F. Kelly Collection (1866-2007; one box) contains the original diary of John Felix Kelly, an early Walker County settler.  His personal diary includes perspectives on events, weather, east Texas terrain, and people.  The diary includes songs, scientific problems, surveying procedures, and medical treatments.  The John F. Kelly Collection also contains photographs, correspondence, and additional documents that relate to John F. Kelly and his family.

View a detailed finding aid of his collection at Sam Houston State University’s Archon page and see just what materials are in the collection.

John F. Kelly Papers, 1866-2007

View digitized material from his collection at Sam Houston State University’s Digital Collections page

John Kelly Diary

Touchdown Sam Houston!



Sam Houston battles it out with the Rice Owls in this game from 1993. It was a close one but Sam Houston came up short with a 13-14 loss. Sam Houston and Rice faced off numerous times in the 1920s , but this game marked only the second time the teams had met since 1948. Sam Houston has not faced off with Rice since. Rice leads the series with a whopping 16-1 record against Sam Houston State.

This clip was taken from footage donated by SHSU Athletics to University Archives.

If you would like to own a personal copy of this game, it, along with numerous other games, can be purchased at this website: Multimedia Store

Snow on the Hill


Snow 1982

Yes Virginia, it does snow on the SHSU campus. When it does it brings out the BearKitten in our BearKats. In this Houstonian newspaper clipping from January 19, 1982, SHSU students are “sledding” down the Old Main Hill. At the top of the hill you can see the Old Main Building which stood where the Old Main Memorial or the “Pit” is now. In less than a month the Old Main Building would be lost to a tragic fire on February 12, 1982.

For more information on the Old Main Building or snow on the SHSU campus come visit the University Archives.

Jim Willett talks about the History of the Walls Unit

Jim Willet talks to the crowd about the history of the Wall (Huntsville) Unit

Jim Willett talks to the crowd about the history of the Wall (Huntsville) Unit

On November 5, 2014, Director of the Texas Prison Museum and Former Warden of the Walls Unit Jim Willett spoke in the Thomason Room at Newton Gresham Library on the history of the Huntsville Unit a.k.a. the Walls Unit. Students, faculty members, and residents of Huntsville were regaled with stories that reflect the complex nature of the oldest prison in Texas. As an example, some escapees dug a hole under the Walls only to run into the wife of the warden who shot at them, leading to their capture. In another story, a judge gave directions that a prisoner be kept in solitary confinement in a cell painted black on the inside and outside without provision for exercise. Notably, the prison officials noticed that the prisoner’s health was deteriorating and made provisions to move the prisoner out of isolation. Willett did a wonderful job presenting the complex history of the Walls, giving the audience a better understanding of a building that looms large in the history of Huntsville, TX.

After his talk, Willett fielded questions from the audience that ranged from asking about his experience overseeing executions, the relationship between prisoners and his family, and the history of property owned by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

The event unfortunately only lasted an hour with Willett still having more stories and facts to detail. Hopefully we can have him back soon. If you could not attend, but would like to know the contents of the talk, you can view our Twitter account at @SHSUArchives or search #WallsTalk.



View the gallery:

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Police Department History Collection, 1865-1986

The materials in this collection represent various police departments reports and histories, namely: Phoenix, Denver, Detroit, New Orleans, San Diego, Baltimore, Indianapolis, New York, Houston, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, Kansas City, Wisconsin, Miami, Atlanta and Boston. There are also some reports that focus on the history of women in police divisions.

View a detailed finding aid of his collection at Sam Houston State University’s Archon page and see just what materials are in the collection.

Police Department History Collection finding aid

History of the Walls Unit

Walls Unit CJ Talk Flyer

On November 5th at 3pm in the Thomason Room, SHSU Special Collections will be hosting a talk by Jim Willet, Former Warden of the Walls Unit and Director of the Texas Prison Museum.

The Walls Unit (Huntsville Unit) began operations in 1849 and is the oldest building in the Texas prison system. The unit remains attractive to this day and currently houses the State of Texas execution chamber.

Willet will discuss the history of the unit and his time overseeing the execution of inmates.

After the talk, attendees will be able to view exhibits featuring items from a number of high profile criminal justice manuscript collections. Staff members will gladly answer questions about these collections and help you find potential resources for research.

If you are interested in Criminal Justice or the history of the Huntsville, then this is the event for you. Because of the size of the Thomason Room, space is limited so get there early for a seat!

If you would like to follow the event online, you can find us at @SHSUArchives or #WallsTalk

Axmen Invade BearKatland!


Houstonian 1928 Lumberjacks

This headline from The Houstonian, November 28, 1928, announces the arrival of our rivals the Stephen F. Austin Lumbarjacks. The BearKats beat the Axmen 19-2 in what was described in the next issue of The Houstonian as the most brilliant game of the season.

To see the entire issue of this, Houstonian, come visit the SHSU University Archives in room 400 of the Newton Gresham Library.