Stephen F. Austin State University

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Public invited to reception at SFA opening The Rusk Family Letters collection

January 18, 2017 - University Marketing Communications
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - A reception announcing the public opening of The Rusk Family Letters - a new collection representing Texas historical figures Thomas J. Rusk and his brother, David Rusk - will be held at 1 p.m. Monday, Jan. 30, in the East Texas Research Center, located on the second floor of the Steen Library on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus.

SFA's Board of Regents approved the purchase of the collection, which contains about 1,000 items, from members of the Rusk family. The family generously donated approximately 600 additional items, and ETRC staff members have been diligently working since then to prepare the materials for public presentation.

"I have finished organizing the purchased materials," said Kyle Ainsworth, ETRC special collections librarian. "Now, I'm organizing and describing the donated materials so that I can integrate them with the purchased items and create one collection."

The collection contains Republic of Texas historical materials that have been in the Rusk family since the 1830s and includes several legal and personal documents of Thomas J. Rusk, a political and military leader of the Republic of Texas who served as its first secretary of war and as a general in the Battle of San Jacinto. He was later a U.S. politician and served as a senator from Texas.

Comprising the majority of the collection are documents addressed to David Rusk, Thomas' brother, who served as a Nacogdoches County sheriff and tax collector during the Republic period. Additional documents in the collection include letters addressed to David's son, John, as well as other family members. There also are important county records, including delinquent tax rolls from the 1830s, several of David's civil and criminal sheriff's docket books, and receipts for the construction of the county's courthouse.

According to Ainsworth, the materials help tell the story of Nacogdoches as well as the Republic of Texas and are an intimate picture of the Rusk family's private lives and public service.

"The highlights of the collection are the 60 letters received by David Rusk from his older brother, several rare maps and appointments signed by various presidents of the Republic of Texas naming David Rusk sheriff of Nacogdoches County," Ainsworth said. "One of the appointments signed by Sam Houston in 1837 is exceptional because David Rusk was the first sheriff Houston appointed in Texas."

In one letter penned by Thomas in 1835, he lets David know that a mail route to Nacogdoches has just been established via Fort Jessup in Louisiana. In another letter, Thomas tells David that he has just arrived at the Capitol, sat in his senate seat and will shortly meet with President James K. Polk.

Four letters addressed to David from various veterans of the Battle of San Jacinto ask him to provide details on how they may obtain a Texas Revolution Service Pension.

"The cursive writing from the 19th century can be difficult to read," Ainsworth said. "During the reception, we will display mostly documents where the noteworthy feature is an important signature that everyone can recognize and appreciate as having value, including signatures from Presidents of the Republic of Texas Sam Houston, Mirabeau Lamar and Anson Jones." The ETRC will exhibit these noteworthy items outside of their offices.

The opening reception coincides with SFA's Board of Regents winter board meeting. There will be several speakers, including SFA President Baker Pattillo.

The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

The Rusk collection will be housed inside the ETRC and available for research beginning Feb. 1 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. The exhibit of noteworthy documents is located outside the ETRC and viewable during library hours, 7 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; and noon to midnight Sunday.

For more information about the reception, contact April Smith at (936) 468-2278. Contact Ainsworth at (936) 468-1590 for additional information about the collection.