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Highlights from the Expanded Worsham Family Papers

May 9, 2016

UTSA’s collection of the Worsham Family Papers largely consists of the papers of Israel Worsham (1820-1882), whose family came to Texas (then Mexico) from Alabama in 1829. His parents, Jeremiah and Catherine Landrum Worsham, received Headright grant #5 in Stephen F. Austin’s Colony, and Israel received 320 acres of land in Montgomery County (just north of Houston) in the Republic of Texas in 1839. The papers originally contained financial records, bills of sale and receipts for slave sales, and the research of Israel’s great-great granddaughter, Ella K. Dagget Stumpf. This research led to a biographical entry on Israel in the New Handbook of Texas.

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Receipt for the purchase of fifteen bales of cotton, 1864.

In May of 2015, UTSA Special Collections acquired a donation of additional documents that represent other family members and help provide a more well-rounded representation of Israel’s life. These documents give the collection greater diversity, and include family correspondence, employment contracts with freedmen, and papers documenting Israel’s involvement in the military, politics, the Council of Laborers, and election administration.

The correspondence includes letters exchanged between Jeremiah Worsham, Israel Worsham, and other family members and acquaintances. One particularly interesting letter, dated November 22, 1842, was written to Jeremiah from Israel while Israel was stationed at Camp Leon (in present-day San Antonio) dated November 22, 1842. This letter is from Israel’s service in the Texas militia, written three days before the departure of the Somervell expedition.

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Letter to Jeremiah from Israel at Camp Leon, November 22, 1842.

Israel’s political involvement is documented in the collection by a list of the members of the Sixth Legislature of the Texas House of Representatives and the proceedings of a meeting of delegates at Danville, for which he was present. In addition to his term in the Sixth Texas legislature (1855-56), he served in the Montgomery County Home Guard in the U.S. Civil War. After the war, he represented Montgomery, Grimes, and Brazos counties for the House of Representatives in the Eleventh Texas Legislature (1866). Following the war, he also employed members of the Colguin family (freedmen) on his plantation, which was located on the old Post Road to Houston.

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Employment agreement between Israel Worsham and Israel Colguin, January 1866.

Israel was also a member of the Council of Laborers, a secret society created to protect the interests of farmers in the southern states, similar to The Grange. There are three membership certificates for Israel in the collection, as well as a copies of the order’s constitution, bylaws, and rituals.

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Membership certificate and appointment of Israel Worsham as a Grand Treasurer in the Council of Laborers, January 14, 1876.

In 1880-1881, Israel served as an election judge for Montgomery County Precinct 4. The collection contains two copies of election returns from Montgomery County and one document appointing him as an election judge.

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Appointment of Israel Worsham as Presiding Officer of Election, February 1881.

Israel and his wife, Emily Womack Worsham, had five children: Ophelia Frances, Alice Tabitha, Mattie Myrtella, Josephine, and Jefferson Davis Worsham. Israel died in 1882 and was buried in the family cemetery on his plantation.

The Israel Worsham Family Papers are housed at UTSA’s Main Campus and can be viewed by appointment in the John Peace Library Special Collections Reading Room. The collection guide for the papers is available online.

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