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Brown and Lane Family Papers: staying connected through correspondence

October 27, 2014

The Brown and Lane Family Papers span the years 1853 through 1992 and include the correspondence of several generations. Correspondence consists of exchanges between family members recalling daily activities, travels, work, relationships, and illness. The close ties between family are evident in the frequency and tone of the letters which were often written daily or weekly when family members were apart and served to keep husbands and wives, parents and children, and siblings emotionally connected when separated geographically. News from loved ones was impatiently anticipated while mail slowly made its way to anxious recipients. Family members were often chastised or apologetic when weeks instead of days passed before responding to a correspondent’s latest offering. Reciprocity was expected and the frequent exchange of letters was part of one’s weekly if not daily to-do list.

Letter from Henry Denison Brown to Jeanie V. Brahan, November 1, 1880

Letter from Henry Denison Brown to Jeanie V. Brahan, November 1, 1880

Henry Denison Brown was one of the most prolific correspondents in the family. When courting his future wife, Jeanie Valliant Brahan, Henry wrote love letters to her daily and grew frantic when she did not hear from her as frequently. All it took was a letter from Jeanie to transform Henry’s day while he was away. Henry married Jeanie in 1881 and they eventually moved to San Antonio where Henry worked as the head teller at Breckenridge Bank. In 1884, Jeanie and Henry had their first child, a daughter Elise Denison Brown. As Elise grew and went off to school, Henry continued his passion for writing letters, corresponding with Elise frequently while she was away at school. Henry often included notes from Martha, Elise’s sister. The affectionate tone of the letters speaks to the strong bonds that existed between father and daughter and connected older and younger sister.

Elise Denison Brown attended the University of Texas at Austin and was the first member of the Iota Chapter of Chi Omega Sorority. While in college, Elise studied Spanish, earning a Master of Arts degree. She put her proficiency in Spanish to good use, working as an interpreter in Mexico City for several years before making her way back home to Texas. Elise turned her attention to entrepreneurial pursuits, becoming one of the first women home builders in San Antonio. Elise and her husband Barton George Lane, Sr. had four children, the eldest Elise Lila Lane and Henry Lane carried on the family tradition of keeping close through letters while living in different parts of the country.

Chi Omega convention at Boulder, Colorado, 1914

Chi Omega convention at Boulder, Colorado, 1914

Postcard showing the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, 1939

Postcard showing the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, 1939

When Henry moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1930s, he shared details of this new chapter of his life with his sister Elise. Studying accounting and law, Henry was a dedicated student who earned his degree as a Certified Public Accountant. Despite his grueling academic schedule, he found time to keep Elise up to date on his life in the city by the bay. Henry had an apartment on Nob Hill from which he could see the lights of the ferries as they glided from the city to the shores of Marin County. Henry described the city in wonderful detail, proclaiming there was simply no where else on earth as beautiful proclamiing that anyone residing elsewhere was being “gipped.” Henry’s love for the Bay Area never waned; he anchored his life there after marrying Sally Brown who hailed from one of San Francisco’s founding families.

While correspondence forms the foundation of the Brown and Lane Family Papers, other items in the collection include Elise Brown Lane’s Chi Omega materials and financial records. Also in the collection are assorted print materials including two handwritten recipe books which contain favorite recipes and homemade concoctions used to remedy common ailments such as rheumatism. The collection is housed at UTSA Libraries Special Collections on main campus and can be accessed by submitting a Request Access to a Collection Form.

Celery, a cure for Rheumatism in handwritten recipe book, undated

Celery, a cure for Rheumatism in handwritten recipe book, undated

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