Johnson Family Papers

Dublin Core


Johnson Family Papers


The Johnson family, originally from Missouri, came to Texas in 1844, moving several times before finally settling in Hays County. Thomas Johnson and his wife, Catherine Johnson, had six children. Thomas Johnson, a schoolmaster, established the Johnson Institute in 1852, thirty miles north of San Marcos. The Johnson Institute was a private secondary school with a coeducational student body. Three of the Johnson children would later teach there. A family member of particular interest is the daughter, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Ellen Johnson, born on May 9, 1840 in Cole County, Missouri.

The Johnson Family Collection, dating from the years 1859-1887, was donated to Southwestern University by John E. Shelton, grandson of Emma Johnson, sister of Lizzie Johnson. It consists of letters, personal notes, announcements, newspaper clippings, magazines, books, and personal objects from the entire Johnson family. Highlighted here is Lizzie Johnson’s incoming correspondence, which includes invitations to parties, letters from close friends, and marriage proposals. This selection of items gives us an insightful look into how relationships functioned among the white middle class youth in Texas during the latter half of the 19th century. Browse our exhibit “Social Graces on the Texas Frontier: The Lizzie Johnson Papers” for an in-depth exploration of this topic.

You can also find these items on the University of North Texas's Portal to Texas History.


Correspondents of Lizzie Johnson, Emma Johnson, and other members of the Johnson family.


Johnson Family Papers, Special Collections, Smith Library Center, Southwestern University. You can view the finding aid here.

Collection Items

Letter with enclosures from Alice M. Eanes to "Miss Lizzie," dated July 17, 1863
This letter from a former pupil has enclosures including postage stamps and two swatches of brown printed fabric.

Letter to Lizzie Johnson posted from Chappell Hill, dated Dec. 16, 1860
This letter to Lizzie Johnson features an embossed envelope, discusses several recent marriages, and urges Johnson to visit: "Lizzie come and we'll go around fall in love, flirt and I'll talk for you and you do the same for me and we'll get married…

Invitation to a party from P.B. Watkins to Lizzie Johnson, dated Mar. 27, 1868
Request for Lizzie Johnson's company written on embossed stationery.

Letter to Lizzie Johnson posted from Montgomery, dated Aug. 29, 1861
This letter to Lizzie Johnson references the onset of the Civil War (1861-65). The writer expresses surprise that "so dark a cloud would bespread the political horizon of our beloved country. Several companies from near here have left for war."

Letter with enclosures from Mollie Ellen to "Cousin Lizzie,"  dated Mar. 29, 1864
This letter from a female cousin of Lizzie Johnson's features enclosures including a striped swatch of woven fabric and a scrap of paper that reads, "Dont you think I am smart."

Miscellaneous embossed envelope addressed to Lizzie Johnson
This elaborately embossed envelope addressed to Lizzie Johnson features fruits, flowers, and birds on the front. A tiny dog appears on the back of the envelope, just above the seal.

Embossed invitation to the American Ball hosted by the American Party at Austin
This invitation, issued by the "American Party" of Austin, is elaborately embossed with a floral motif. It reads in part, "The invitations are not confined to the members of any Party, but most liberally extended to all. We repudiate party…

Letter to Lizzie Johnson from J.F. Powers, declaring his love
In this letter, which features an embossed seal in the upper-righthand corner, Powers declares his affection for Johnson: "I presume you must have long been aware though I have never before dared to put the thought into words, that I love you. I have…

Letter of marriage proposal with match
This marriage proposal from an unknown suitor features an actual match as well as a drawing of a hand pointing a finger. The note reads, "Accept my hand And we will make a [match]."

Letter to Lizzie Williams (nee Johnson) with "Shaking Salve" recipe
This recipe for "shaking salve" was addressed to "Mrs. Lizzie E. Williams," indicating that it was sent sometime after her marriage to Hezekiah G. Williams in 1879. The recipe calls for ingredients including resin, beeswax, mutton tallow, gum arabic,…
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