Happy 136th Anniversary Sam Houston State University!

The Sam Houston Normal Institute was signed into being as the first teacher-training institution of Texas on April 21,1879 by Texas Governor Oran M. Roberts. The school itself did not open for students until October 10, 1879.

Have you ever wondered what those first students studied and what text books they used? The image above was scanned from the very first 1879-1880 Sam Houston Normal Institute Catalogue. To see what the original catalogue looked like click here:

SHNI Bulletin 1879

To find out more about the establishment of Sam Houston State University or the first students come visit the SHSU University Archives. University Archives is open M-F, 8-5.

The Mae Wynne McFarland Research Collection

McFarland Civil War Letters 1

Transcript of letter from Ella Scott to Jane Inglis


The Mae Wynne McFarland Research Collection is composed of five series: Personal Materials, Walker County/Huntsville, Texas History, War of 1812, and Women and Charitable Organizations. Although each series has interesting points, the most interesting, in my opinion, can be found within the Texas History series.
The Texas History series holds ten boxes of information on subjects such as the Texas prison system, early Texans, and several Texas counties. Amongst this variety of topics, are copies of letters from people who lived and fought during the Civil War. Most of the letters concerning soldiers are accompanied with biographical information.

One interesting set of letters is from Ella Scott of Waverly, Texas to Jeanie English of Montgomery, Texas. While only Ella’s side of the conversation is available, much can still be learned about the mindset of youth during this time. For one letter in particular, Mae Wynne McFarland notes that she didn’t copy it for historical value, but rather “to show that the youthful feminine was the same as today and that ‘war and rumors of war’ had not altered the girlish outlook at that time.” This idea is portrayed throughout the letters, as most are filled with gossip of marriage and engagements of mutual friends of Ella and Jeanie. Ella confesses that she would have to wait until after the war to wed because she wanted a war hero for a husband.

Another letter is just an example of similar stories men dictated on paper to loved ones back home. It is a letter from Charley Waters to his father, Mr. P. B. Waters. Charley describes several points of fighting and rest, mentioning that he was even able to aid three wounded comrades. Exhaustion and uncertainty consumed the men, regardless of rank. Mae Wynne McFarland was able to obtain a copy of this particular letter from Mrs. E. W. Bragg, the sister of Charley Waters, and her granddaughter Mrs. Philippa Kynette.

The Mae Wynne McFarland Research Collection is open for research and available in SHSU Special Collections. Please see the finding aid, here: https://archon.shsu.edu/?p=collections/findingaid&id=92&q=


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Happy National Library Week!


This gallery contains 3 photos.

  Over the years, the University Archives has seen a lot of photographs of the three buildings that were used or are in use as libraries here on campus. In honor of National Library Week the SHSU University Archives would like … Continue reading

Sam Houston Celebration Collection, 1900-1993


Sam Houston Bicentennial Birthday celebration ephemera

The Sam Houston Bicentennial Collection consists of correspondence, articles, clippings, catalogues and materials relating to the Bicentennial celebration.  This collection is housed in two archival boxes, arranged in two series. Series one contains correspondence related to seeking additional Sam Houston materials, clippings and articles about Sam Houston the man. Series two has materials relating to Sam Houston’s Bicentennial celebrations. Materials in both series are dated 1992 and 1993.

The materials that make up the first series are a part of efforts made to acquire Sam Houston (the man) related materials. Correspondence between Mr. Paul Culp and various University and College libraries make up a large part of this series. There are also catalogues and other lists showing Sam Houston-related holdings. The second series consists entirely of materials related to Sam Houston’s Centennial Celebrations including brochures, invitations and newspaper clippings. Many of these items have biographical information about Sam Houston the man including timelines of his life and accomplishments, as well as information about the celebrations themselves which took place all over Huntsville, Texas in 1993 (two hundred years after Sam Houston’s birth.)

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


William R. Powell Health Services and Counseling Center



William Powell

The Texas State University System Board of Regents approved at the February 19 & 20, 2015, board meeting the naming of the Health Services and Counseling Center after the late William R. Powell. The new building will be named the William R. Powell Student Health Services and Counseling Center.

William Powell was the first African-American Administrator of Sam Houston State when he was hired in 1972. Dean Powell was instrumental in the development of the Student Judicial System and the original University Counseling Center. He also helped start the Theta Mu Chapter on the SHSU campus.

He retired from Sam Houston State in 1987. After his retirement from SHSU he went back to work at Jarvis Christian College as Vice President of Student Affairs until he retired yet again in 1993. William Powell died on March 12, 2013 and is buried in Brooke Cemetery, Walker County, Texas.

The Huntsville Item article above is from June of 1993 and it about Williams R. Powell and his wife, Doris, and how important education was to not only him but his entire family.

To learn more about William R. Powell come visit the SHSU University Archives.

The Huntsville Item article is courtesy of The Huntsville Item.

Human Soil Consumption Correspondence, 1960-1967


A zine on geophagy in prehistoric Iran

The Human Soil Consumption Correspondence (1960-1967; one legal folder) consists of correspondence and a newsletter concerning soil consumption.  The handwritten correspondence relates to soil ingestion in Southwest America.  The Coprolite News newsletter concerns the archeological discovery  of geophagy in Iran.  The correspondence also includes a letter concerning the collection’s acquisition.

View a detailed finding aid of this collection at Sam Houston State University’s Archon page.


Miss Sam Houston 1965


Miss Sam Houston 1965

The Miss Sam Houston pageant has been crowning lovely ladies for over 50 years. This photograph from The Alcalde shows the Miss Sam Houston court from 50 years ago in 1965. Janet Melaun of Dallas, who was a music education major, was chosen from 19 candidates. The theme for the pageant was “007” from the James Bond movies which were very popular at the time.

Come visit the University Archives to learn about Miss Sam Houston pageant history and other SHSU beauty contests over the years. The University Archives is in room 400 of the Newton Gresham Library.

Chinese Archery


Here are some photographs of Jack Thomason, son of Col. John W. Thomason, practicing the Chinese form of archery. Jack spent 1930-1933 in China while his father was stationed at the Legation in Beijing. While not in school, Jack would participate in Dragon Patrol, a Boy Scout organization, where he and his classmates would explore outdoor activities in China.

To view more of the John W. Thomason photographs: click here


Citation A L’Ordre De L’Armee



This WWI poster comes from the collection of John Warren Smith. Smith’s uncle Boyce O. Smith was a solider in WWI and served in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany and took part in the St. Michael Offensive and Meuse-Argonne Offensive as part of the 5th regiment. He received this citation for his service. After being discharged, he returned to Huntsville and worked as a teacher until his death in 1933.

The poster reads : 

Citation in the Order of the Army

5th Regiment of the Marines, American (Under the orders of Colonel Logan Feland)

“This regiment took a glorious part in the operations engaged in by the 4th (French) Army in Champagne, in October 1918. On October 3, 1918, it participated in the attack on the strongly intrenched German positions between Blanc Mont and the Medeah Farm, and pushing forward as far as St. Etienne-a-Arnes, made an advance of 6 kilometers. It took several thousand prisoners, captured cannon, machine guns and important war material. This attack combined with that of the French Divisions resulted in the evacuation of both banks of the Suippe, and of the Massif(high ground) of Notre-Dame-des-champs.”

Order No. 14.712 “D”-March 21, 1919

At General Headquarters

The Marshall

Commander-in-Chief of the Armies of the East


View more of the John Warren Smith Papers, 1836-2009 : here

View Finding Aid for the John Warren Smith Papers, 1836-2009  : here

Mark Twain game

Guest Column by Trent Shotwell

Mark Twain's Memory-Builder

Mark Twain’s Memory-Builder

Mark Twain was one of America’s premier writers and his works have reached worldwide recognition for their humor and historical significance. SHSU Special Collections currently has a large and unique collection of the novels and writings of Mark Twain. The collection includes roughly 500 of Mark Twain’s books and even some of his personal correspondence. The books include many first editions and limited printings. This correspondence includes letters and postcards that are mostly thank you letters concerning travel accommodations for one of Mark Twain’s trips to Europe. The collection also has newspaper clippings and ephemeral booklets relating to Mark Twain. In addition, a complete memory training game created by Mark Twain is a featured item.

Check out the finding aid to this collection, here: https://archon.shsu.edu/?p=collections/findingaid&id=80&q 


Mark Twain Memory-Builder board and pieces

Mark Twain Memory-Builder board, game pieces, and fact sheet

Mark Twain Memory-Builder fact sheet

Mark Twain Memory-Builder fact sheet