The George Pearis Brown Papers   [back to issue]

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  • by Tom Keener  
    Fifth in a series on historical resources for Collin County history.  
    In the early part of the twentieth century, attorney George Pearis Brown and his stenographer, Miss Lovell, traveled the countryside to interview pioneer families who migrated to Collin County between 1846-1880. In an era when portable recording equipment was not readily available, it was a rare asset to have a steno----- grapher carefully recording priceless recollections of pioneers.  
    "This is an extraordinarily important and unique collection of oral interviews conducted in the early 1930s with a focus on early North Texas pioneers of the 1840-1880 period," said North Texas History Center Curator Bryan Lean. "As far as anyone knows, this is the only systematic collection of oral interviews conducted with early North Texas pioneers. It provides an unparalleled opportunity to learn about mid-19th century Texas."  
    Brown never created a publishable manuscript and his papers survived in the form of some 265 pages of typed material. As a Texas Sesquicentennial project in 1985, the Collin County Historical Society published selections of these materials. Funds raised from the sale of this book were utilized to restore a Frank Klepper painting, now prominently displayed at the North Texas History Center. Three hundred copies were published and the plates were inadvertently discarded, which prevented a reprint. All hardback copies were sold within days of publication.  
    A more complete version of the materials, Scrapbook of Traditions, Annals, and History: Collin County from 1846 to 1880, The George Pearis Brown Papers, was published in 2007 by the North Texas History Center. It contains a detailed table of contents and index. This index reflects hours of painstaking effort to organize the texts into a meaningful and readable format. The 2007 edition contains maps that delineate creeks and towns, helping the reader locate the subjects being discussed in the text.  
    This edition is illustrated with period artwork and photographs that enhance the written presentation. The illustrations are from the NTHC collections as well as various libraries and sources throughout North Texas.  
    "I really like the illustrations," declared the book’s editor, the late Helen Hall. "They add so much flavor to the text and help the reader understand many early tools and methods that are no longer around."  
    The Brown papers are one of three known primary sources of information on the stage lines that connected Dallas to McKinney to Bonham and beyond. Texas Almanacs and Plano, Texas: The Early Years also contain information on stages that traversed Collin County. The biggest challenge for Collin County stage coaches was fording the creeks and rivers. Becoming bogged in the mire could delay a trip for days.  
    Further west, stage lines were threatened by robberies or lack of water. Since stages carried U.S. mail, all robberies were investigated by federal marshals and were carefully documented, giving future historians materials for research.  
    Former slaves Carter Smoot, Dave Walker, Alex Welch and Alex Forman give rare glimpses of Collin County slave life before the Civil War. Dave Walker describes how he was traded for horses. Alex Welch tells how he and Munse Welch, son of his Master Frank Welch, played and hunted together. After the war, lifestyles and challenges that ex-slaves faced are identified.  
    A muster roll of Captain Andrew Stapp’s Company Mounted Volunteers is listed. These men joined troops from Denton, Wise and Jack Counties to fight in the Mexican-American War. Later, Secretary of War Marcy designated these troops as the Texas Mounted Volunteers.  
    Pioneer lifestyles are provided in vivid detail. Furniture, foods and tools are depicted. Students of history can glean much about hog killing, children’s toys and games, schools and churches in this book.  
    The collection was edited by Helen Hall and Dr. Donald R. Hoke. "We tried to stay true to what Brown had done," said Helen Hall. "We transcribed the originals and made only minor editing changes. What you read is what they said."  
    The book is available for inspection and research on the second floor of the Allen Public Library, 300 N. Allen Dr. It can be purchased at the North Texas History Center, 300 E. Virginia in downtown McKinney and on the History Center’s web site at Orders may be phoned to the History Center, 972.542.9457. The cost is $34.99, with a 10% members discount. The Annals of Elder Horn can be purchased for $25. During July, Elder Horn’s book is available at a 25% discount.  
    Tell me your story at 214.509.4911 or email tkeener@cityof  
    Tom Keener is the cultural arts coordinator with the Allen Public Library.

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