Moving History: The Roberts/Farris Cabin, Sam Houston Memorial Museum, and a few thoughts….

Standing by the Reynolds/Farris cabin on the grounds of the Sam Houston Memorial Museum.

Standing by the Reynolds/Farris cabin on the grounds of the Sam Houston Memorial Museum.

Putting together the pieces of the Cabin on the Square

SHSU students help in putting together the pieces of the Cabin on the Square, The Houstonian, 9/11/2001

On Sunday, my daughter, granddaughter, and your SHSU University Archivist headed to the Sam Houston Memorial Museum Park to run off some of my 2-year old granddaughter’s energy.

Heading up the driveway by the Steamboat House there in front of us on a trailer was the Roberts/Farris Cabin; also known as, “The Cabin on the Square.” Fighting the crazy wind blowing I immediately walked towards the cabin and realized two things: I never knew just how small the 176-year-old cabin was and how sad I felt for the little cabin. Taken apart in pieces in 2001, than put back together by history students from Sam Houston State on the square where it finally found a new home only to move again 15 years later. Thankfully, all in one piece this time. Sitting there on a trailer besides the Woodland Home, Bear Bend Cabin, and the old Exhibit Hall, the cabin just looked tired and unhappy.

Not to worry little cabin, you are in BearKat country now. Here we take our motto seriously, “The Measure of a Life is It’s Service.” The people, who work at the Sam Houston Memorial Museum, know how to treat historic buildings big and small. They will have you settled in no time and once again, there will be all kinds of visitors to come visit you to ooh and awe over your simple beauty.

To see more history about the Roberts/Ferris cabin come and visit the Special Collection Department in the Newton Gresham Library.  You can also read, Cabin Fever: The Roberts-Farris Cabin: A Campus, A Cabin, A Community.” A brief account of the Life and Times of the Builders and Residents of a Small Log Cabin in Walker County. This title is available at call number: F392 .W24 C75 2002.

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Outlaw Raymond Hamilton and the Barrow Gang.

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Raymond Hamilton was a notorious outlaw and member of the Barrow Gang in the early 1930s. Born in Oklahoma and raised in Dallas, Hamilton later fell in with the infamous Bonnie and Clyde of the Barrow Gang. He was well-known for participating in the murder of Sheriff Eugene C. Moore in Stringtown, Oklahoma. But it was his escape from the Eastham prison farm in Texas that eventually put Hamilton in Old Sparky, the Texas Electric Chair.

In 1935, Raymond Hamilton was sentenced to death in Walker County, Texas for the murder of Major Crowson, a Texas prison official. Crowson was shot during Hamilton’s escape from the Eastham prison farm. Hamilton and Joe Palmer escaped with the help of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Hamilton claimed that Joe Palmer, another notorious Barrow Gang member killed Major Crowson. The jury determined that there was no way to distinguish which man had killed Crowson during the escape and sentenced both men to die in the electric chair. Above are the official court documents from Walker County on Hamilton’s death sentence.

Stop by SHSU Special Collections in the Newton Gresham Library if you are interested in more information on Raymond Hamilton and other famous Texas outlaws.

Thanks to Trent Shotwell, MLIS, Library Associate for Special Collections in the Thomason Room for contributing this week’s posting.

“The Most Important Product of Spindletop was Men.”

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spindle top 1902

On January 10, 1901, the Spindletop well in Beaumont, Texas blew into history and started the modern oil industry in Texas. Spewing out into the East Texas sky at a rate of 200 feet high and 70,000 barrels per day, this huge gusher keep going till the 19th of January when it was finally brought under control.

This 1902 photograph of the Spindletop field is part of the Sam Houston State University Archives, J. L. Clark Collection. Dr. Joseph L. Clark was a History Professor at Sam Houston State Teachers College. Dr. Clark acquired a copy of this photograph from the Beaumont Chamber of Commerce to possibly use in his 1955, 4 volume book set, “The History of the Texas Gulf Coast; its History and Development.” This photograph never made it into his book.

In his book, Dr. Clark says that the most important product of Spindletop was men.  The Spindletop Oil Field was the training ground for the oil industry at the time. From drillers to geologists to financers, most learned their trade from their experiences at Spindletop.

You can read more about Spindletop (in chapter 30 of volume II) and Texas related history in Clark’s multi-volume title. The main collection of the Newton Gresham Library has a set you can check out at call number F392.G9, vol.1-4.

Powell Family Papers, 1910-2007

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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.

https://archon.shsu.edu/?p=collections/findingaid&id=89&q=

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.

https://archon.shsu.edu/?p=collections/findingaid&id=93&q=

USO Clubs, Paris, Texas 1944

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USOCLUB 1944 Mason

 

The USO (United Service Organizations) Clubs in WWII were a major component of keeping morale up for those in the military, along with their dependents. From java hour, to wives craft club, to a class called Ball and Chain for military couples, to basketball at Paris Jr. College there was something to keep everyone occupied.

This 1944 USO Club program bulletin is from Paris, Texas. The bulletin is part of the Melvin Mason Collection. Dr. Melvin Mason taught English here at Sam Houston State from 1962-1991. In he was drafted into the Army from Roxton, Texas and sent to Chicago for training. WWII ended before he was sent overseas.

Scenes from the Texas Prison Rodeo

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The Texas Prison Rodeo was one of the biggest events every October in Huntsville, TX. It drew people from all around to see inmates participate in the rodeo as well as national acts like Johnny Cash and Ricky Nelson. With changing views on prisoner treatment  and the cost of repairing the stadium, the rodeo was phased out in the late 1980s. Several attempts were made to bring it back, but they have failed so far. As of today, only Angola Prison in Louisiana maintains a prison-based rodeo.

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These images come from a set of collectable cards from the Bryd Family Collection that could be purchased at the rodeo we think sometime during the 1950s.

You can view more prison rodeo pictures here.

Santa Anna’s Saddle and Bridle

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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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John F. Kelly Papers, 1866-2007

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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