Powell Family Papers, 1910-2007



The Powell family were early East Texas residents that moved to Huntsville in 1896.  Benjamin Harrison Powell II married Eleanor Inez Meachum Powell and they had seven children.  Benjamin H. Powell II was a Montgomery County judge that later worked for the Huntsville law firm, Powell, Ball, & Randolph.  The youngest of the seven Powell children was Anna Irion Powell who later went on to receive the Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Texas and taught High School in Brownwood and Cleburne, Texas from 1914 until 1918.  Anna Irion Powell then began teaching for North Texas Normal Institute and later in 1923 completed her Master’s degree at the University of California, Berkley.  In 1929 Anna Irion Powell received her Ph.D. in History from the University of Texas.  Anna moved back to Huntsville to live with her sisters Inez and Louise in the Gibbs-Powell home in 1963.  Louise Powell died in 1963 and Inez Powell died in 1971.  Anna Irion Powell died in 1983 and is buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Huntsville, Texas.

The Powell Family Papers (1910 – 2007; .5 box) include family correspondence, newspaper clippings, biographical information, Sam Houston State Teachers College materials, and documents concerning the Powell family of Huntsville.  The correspondence in the collection is between SHSTC (Harry Estill and others) and Mrs. Ben H. Powell.  The Powell Family Papers also include the obituaries of several Powell family members and their funeral programs.  The collection contains the autobiography of Anna Irion Powell and documents relating to conferences and programs with which she was involved.  Much of the collection relates specifically to Anna Irion Powell.  The collection also includes a roster of Walker County men serving military service to the United States to be transported to San Antonio.

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


Texas Department of Corrections Ephemera Collection, 1881-2013


The Texas Department of Corrections Ephemera collection (1881-2013; one box) contains newspaper clippings and booklets concerning the state prisons of Texas.  The collection’s main focus is the Texas Department of Corrections.  The newspaper clippings in the collection come from the Huntsville Item newspaper and various other Texas publications.  The booklets in the collection are primarily informational materials printed and distributed by the Texas Department of Corrections.  The collection materials concern many Texas prison subjects including: prison personnel, prison administration, facilities, inmates, death row, and prison industry.

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


Alton Keefer Farris collection, 1907-2003


Selection from an Alton Ferris ledger

Selection from an Alton Ferris ledger

Alton Keefer Farris was born on November 6, 1931 to Alton Boone Farris and Erma Keefer Farris in North Zulch, Texas. He graduated from Huntsville High School and moved on to receive a degree in education from the Sam Houston State Teachers College. Mr. Farris served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He was also a teacher and principal at the Pine Prairie and Huntsville school districts. His last job was as a Recreational Consultant for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He served as a deacon at the Chapelwood Missionary Baptist church and was a supporter of the Shriners organization. Mr. Farris also worked as a Notary Public and Justice of the Peace for the Huntsville area. He married Naomi Voyles and they had two children, Ruth and Alton Keefer Farris, Jr. Mr. Farris died on June 1, 2006.

The Alton Keefer Farris Collection consists of various financial records including checks, receipts and invoices. Also included are legal documents including subpoenas and property records.

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


Mark Twain Correspondence and Ephemera Collection, 1874-2002


Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain) was born November 30, 1835 in Florida, Missouri to John and Jane Clemens.  The Clemens family moved to Hannibal, Missouri near the Mississippi River when Samuel was 4 years old.  His father died in 1847 leaving the Clemens family financially unstable for years to come.  After completing the fifth grade, Samuel left school to work as a printer’s apprentice for a local newspaper.  By the age of 18, Samuel Langhorne Clemens had traveled to New York and Philadelphia writing articles for several newspapers.  He worked as a riverboat pilot beginning in 1857 and spent several years traveling the Mississippi River.  Later, Clemens was in the Confederate army for a short time and then moved to Nevada where he began writing under the pen name Mark Twain.  He toured Europe by steamboat and his collection of travel letters was later reworked into his first popular book, The Innocents Abroad, released in 1869.  Samuel Clemens married Olivia (Livy) Langdon in 1870 and the couple had three daughters.  Clemens wrote most of his popular works from his family home in Hartford, Connecticut.  These works included: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Life on the Mississippi, The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The Clemens family moved to live in Europe in 1891.  Samuel later lost two daughters and his wife before his death on April 21, 1910.  Mark Twain was one of America’s premier writers and his works have reached worldwide recognition for their humor and historical significance.

The Mark Twain Correspondence and Ephemera Collection contains original correspondence from Samuel Langhorne Clemens.  The letters and postcards consist mostly of thank you letters and correspondence concerning travel accommodations for a trip to Europe.  The collection includes original photographs and postcards of Mark Twain.  The collection also has numerous newspaper clippings and ephemeral booklets relating to Mark Twain.  In addition, a complete memory training game created by Mark Twain is a featured item.  The Mark Twain Correspondence and Ephemera Collection is associated with the SHSU Special Collection’s Mark Twain rare book collection which includes approximately 500 volumes.


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


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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Promoting Finding Aids on Social Media @ Society of Southwest Archivist 2014


On May 29, 2014, Scott Vieira, James Williamson and Felicia Williamson presented “Promoting Finding Aids on Social Media: What Worked and What Didn’t Work” at the Society of Southwest Archivists Annual Conference in New Orleans. The presentation centered on the findings of our yearlong project during which we attempted to determine whether social media sites could be used to promote the use of finding aids from our Archon website (https://archon.shsu.edu). We also wanted to know if certain sites were better the others at promoting the use of our finding aids to conduct in depth archival research.


social_speccolmontageTo determine this, we selected 9 social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr, Myspace, Google +, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and HistoryPin) and a blog (WordPress). For six months, we managed all ten sites — adding content, increasing the number of followers and promoting SHSU Archives and Thomason Special Collections. At the end of the six month period, we began our research phase by posting one finding aid a week on each site with a description of the collection. Using Google Analytics, we tracked the progress of the finding aids week by week including how many times each finding aid was viewed and various demographic details about the viewers (point of origin of the click, etc.)

Our presentation generated a great deal of positive feed back at SSA and we are happy to share our PowerPoint, which can be viewed at the link below. We are currently working on a journal article to be published (we hope!) next year.

Marketing Finding Aids_SSA _Final_05232014


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