Southwestern University Special Collections
Finding Aids


Browse Finding Aid

Biographical Note

Scope and Content


Restrictions to Access

Processing Notes

Finding Aid Menu

Special Collections Home Page



The Johnson Family Papers


Manuscript Collection Number:     0012
Creator:                          John E. Shelton 
Date Created:                     1842-1963
Title:                            Johnson Family Collection
Languages:                        English 

Biographical Note

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.

Lizzie taught at various schools in the Austin area. She also had “unusual financial ability” and was hired in the 1860s to keep the books for some local cattlemen. Using the funds she earned from teaching and bookkeeping, Lizzie started investing in cattle herself and did quite well. Well enough in fact that she was able to register her own brand on June 1, 1871. She then bought a ten-acre plot of land in Austin on which to keep her cattle. She continued to flourish financially, buying a large, two-story house two years later and forming a reputation as a very successful “Cattle Queen.” Lizzie Johnson is thought to be the first woman ever to ride up the Chisholm Trail with her own cattle under her own brand.

On June 8, 1879, Lizzie married Hezekiah G. Williams, though a prenuptial agreement stipulated that Lizzie would keep her own property and control her own financial affairs. Together, the couple would continue to succeed in business, though at the time it was well understood that Lizzie was the real factor behind their success. They became community leaders in Hays County, even involving themselves in politics, trying to move the county seat from San Marcos in 1908.

Hezekiah died in 1914, and Lizzie inherited the bulk of Hezekiah’s estate. This, added to her own property holdings, formulated a rather large collection of assets spanning several businesses located in Travis, Hays, Llano, Trinity, Jeff Davis, and Culbertson counties. Once her husband died, she moved into a building she owned on Congress Avenue in Austin, renting out other floors to tenants and continuing to manage her own affairs. She became somewhat reclusive and had little company in the way of friends or family. She had several eccentric habits noted by Austin citizens— for example, despite her relatively vast wealth, her clothing appeared ragged, and she limited her meals to a bowl of vegetable soup from a local café. Because of these habits, people were surprised to find out after her death on October 9, 1924, that Lizzie Johnson’s estate totaled nearly a quarter of a million dollars. She is buried in Austin.


Taylor, T.U. “Johnson Institute.” Frontier Times. Volume 18, Number 5, Feb. 1941.

Duncan, Roberta S. "Elizabeth Johnson Williams." Handbook of Texas Online. Accessed April 7, 2010.

Scope and Content Note

The Johnson Family Collection 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. The majority of the collection dates from the years 1859-1887. Overall, the collection gives us a clear picture of the family’s experience living in Texas from the mid 19th to early 20th century. Topics included among the collection range from descriptions of daily life in Texas to letters from Civil War soldiers (Lizzie’s brother John Hyde Johnson served in the Confederate Army) to information relevant to general cultural history and race relations.

Box One (ten folders) is comprised entirely of material directly related to the Johnson family, with most items dated from 1860 to 1886. It is almost exclusively composed of correspondence to different members of the family, and is organized according to the receiver, and further according to provenance (friends or other family). Most correspondence in this box was received by either Lizzie Johnson or Emma Johnson, though there are folders for their parents, for their husbands, and for their brother John Hyde Johnson. Topics of interest include the courtship of the two sisters, descriptions of Civil War battles or conditions, specific documents of importance to Lizzie Johnson, and descriptions of racist crimes against African Americans.

Box Two (sixteen folders) consists of miscellaneous material from both the Johnson family in the late 19th century and a small amount of material belonging to the donor, John E. Shelton. Shelton materials are either personal writing or refer to the Johnson Family Collection itself. The Johnson family material is much more diverse and can help demonstrate the social or cultural histories of late 19th century Texas. It includes newspaper clippings, magazines, booklets, random announcements or flyers, poems, stories, and sheet music. Of particular interest is the material on gender (relationships and reproductive anatomy), the sheet music, and material relating to Soule and Rutersville Colleges.

Boxes Three, Four, Five, and Six all hold artifacts. Box Three includes a handkerchief box, a paper fan, a pocketbook belonging to Thomas Jefferson Johnson (Lizzie’s father), and ribbons/pins commemorating various events like Confederate veteran reunions and stockyard conventions. Box four includes a metal lunch pail. Box five includes a petticoat worn by Lizzie Johnson, and a quilting guide. Box six includes an umbrella.

The collection also includes many books, which have been integrated into the Special Collections library. In addition to the Johnson Family collection, the library also owns a small piece of lace and the receipts of Lizzie Johnson’s wedding dress and a few other items related to her wedding. These were donated by C.C. Cody III, who was related to Lizzie Johnson through his wife, Gladys Locket, a niece of Lizzie Johnson.


Box and Folder
1.1 Elizabeth Johnson Williams – Incoming Correspondence from Friends 1860-64, 1866-70, 1876-77, N.D

1.2 Hezekiah Williams – Correspondence and Notes 1879, 1882, 1884, 1911, 1914, N.D.

1.3 Elizabeth Johnson Williams – Incoming Correspondence from Family 1860-61, 1863-66, 1868-70, 1872, 1874, 1876, 1878, 1880-82, 1884-85
Includes letter to Lizzie from Brother John Hyde Johnson (April 26, 1863) giving detailed description of Civil War Battle of Ark Post (Virginia?)

1.4 Lizzie Johnson Williams Documents 1871, 1879, 1886
Includes Lizzie Johnson's teaching certificate from State of Texas, and a promissory note for a loan of $1000 from mother Catherine Johnson to Hezekiah and Lizzie Williams

1.5 Emma Johnson Greer – Incoming Correspondence from Friends 1861-62, 1864, 1867-68, 1871, N.D.

1.6 William H. Greer – Correspondence 1868-72, 1885, N.D.
Includes letter to Emma Johnson from William H. Greer (Sept 8, 1868) discussing race situation in South, mentions the KKK. Also includes letter to Emma Johnson from William H. Greer (Aug 1, 1868) describing the murders of negroes.

1.7 Emma Johnson Greer – Incoming Correspondence from Family 1860-61, 1863-65, 1867-70, 1872, 1875, 1879, 1883, N.D.
Includes letter to Emma Johnson from Cousin John (Sept 19, 1863) describing Civil War skirmish and soldier's living conditions.

1.8 John Hyde Johnson – Poems and Stories N.D.
Various poems and stories written by John Hyde Johnson

1.9 Catherine Hyde Johnson – Incoming Correspondence 1868, 1880-83

1.10 Thomas Jefferson Johnson Writings N.D.

2.1 John E. Shelton – Documents 1910, 1925, 1940, 1951, N.D.
Documents concerning the donation of the Johnson Family Papers, as well as stories and poems written by John E. Shelton.

2.2 Envelopes and Stamps N.D.
Various envelopes and stamps

2.3 Unidentified Poems, Stories, Drawings, and Notes 1853, 1865, 1869, N.D.
Includes "'Verses on Courting Cards' - Questions and Answers" (1853), depicting courtship and gender relations

2.4 School Flyers and Announcements 1874, 1876, 1887
Centre Point Male and Female College, Kerrville High School, and Chappell Hill Female College.

2.5 Soule University Material 1861-62
Includes John Hyde Johnson's Certificate of Graduation (1862) and various announcements

2.6 Small Cards (Business, Church, Miscellaneous) N.D.
Business Cards, Church Cards, Miscellaneous Cards

2.7 Random Announcements, Invitations, and Cards 1861, 1863, 1865-66, 1882, 1925, N.D.
Announcements of several dances or balls. Announcements of dinner honoring Civil War Soldiers. Advertisements. Random Cards.

2.8 Unidentified Woman’s Reproductive Anatomy Booklet N.D.
The exact nature of the book is not known, as the front pages are missing. We have no author or date or publisher. This book has two parts. The first provides an overall summary of female hygiene and the second provides “typical cases of female diseases.” This section provides many different case studies and testimonials of various female problems. Throughout the book (especially the second part), the author recommends “McElree’s Wine of Cardui” and Black Draught Tea.
McElree’s Wine of Cardui was a cure for menstruation problems, discovered in 1872, when an Indian woman shared the cure with McElree’s wife. Dr. McElree commercialized and sold the medicine, until he sold the cure to the Chattanooga Medicine Company in 1882. They published several pamphlets advertising its use. While this pamphlet is more of a medical booklet and not an advertisement, it is probable that Chattanooga Medicine Company was involved in its publishing.

2.9 Second Annual Catalogue of Rutersville College 1842

2.10 The Home Circle 1859
Literary Magazine

2.11 The Ladies’ Pearl 1872 (March, May, July, November)
Removed and cataloged with books/periodicals. Four literary magazines.

2.12 Morning, Noon, and Night, 1872
A medical journal supplied to the public. Contains medical advice, though a majority of the magazine is filled with advertisements.

2.13 Frontier Times 1941 (February)
Frontier Times magazine, volume 18 - number 5. Includes articles entitled “Johnson Institute" by T.U. Taylor of Austin, Texas. The article gives the history of the Johnson Institute and the Johnson Family. Starting with Thomas Jefferson Johnson and Catherine Hyde, the author describes the family's immigration to Texas, their founding and management of the Johnson Institute, and also the lives of the Johnson children.

2.14 Newspaper Clippings 1848, 1875, 1890, N.D.
Includes "Statesman Extra—Indianola Swept Entirely Away" (Sept 1875), "Napoleon in his Own Words Portrays Himself and the People of his Time" (N.D.).

2.15 Newspaper Clippings RE: Johnson Family and Johnson Institute 1911, 1960, N.D.
Two obituaries of family members and an Austin American Statesman article about Lizzie Johnson (March 20, 1960).

2.16 Assorted Sheet Music
    1. Nora, 1856 Words by Hope Hawthorn, Music by Henry C. Watson
    2. The Bold Soldier Boy Air, by S. Lover
    3. Vision of Paradise, 1866 Composed by August Pacher
    4. Come Hither, My Baby, My Darling 1868 By E.A. Wiener
    5. Waverly Polka, Redowa 1869
    6. The Rosebud: A Waltz, 1883 Composed by Bessie Merz
    7. The Rosebud: A Waltz, (continued) 1883 Composed by Bessie Merz
    8. Eleanor, Waltz By J. Naar Jr.
    9. A Bird in the Hand, Words by F.E. Weatherly, Music by Joseph L. Roeckel
    10. La Redowa Polka, Unknown

3.1 Handkerchief Box
Box with text reading "Linen Cambric Hkfs" and "Prize Medal for Linens and Handkerchiefs Paris 1867, London 1862"

3.2 Pocketbook
Leather Pocketbook belonging to Thomas Jefferson Johnson, Lizzie Johnson's father. Text on the inside reads "Thomas Johnson's Pocketbook, living in Louis County state of Missouri - this 2 of July 1829."

3.3 Handheld Paper Fan
Paper fan, in poor condition.

3.4 Ribbons and Pins
Ribbons and Pins commemorating various events. Includes: Confederate Reunions Pins, stockyard and cattle related pins from Dallas, Kansas City, Fort Worth and St. Louis, and some local political pins.

4.1 Metal Lunch Pail
Metal Lunch pail belonging to Lizzie Johnson as a youth.

5.1 Petticoat
Petticoat owned by Lizzie Johnson

5.2 Quilting Guide
Two items. One cloth quilting guide and one paper demonstrating a quilting pattern.

6.1 Umbrella
Umbrella. Brownish-black with black lace and wooden handle. Fragile.

7.1 Nightgowns—14 handmade night gowns, dresser scarf, satin material, pin cushion. Inventory from Museum DB in this box. c.1860
14 hand-made nightgowns (one has "Lizzie Johnson" written on the seam); one dresser scarf in poor condition; white satin with lace, pin cushion with "Lizzie" spelled with pins.

7.2 U.S. Army Signal Corps box with assorted memorabilia: calling cards and case, scraps of ribbon and lace, clippings, etc. N.D., 1867, c.1879
Letters from Minnie Walker, Isaiah & Minnie King, hand-written receipt for sewing materials, scraps of ribbon, a scrap of lace from Lizzie Johnson's wedding dress, newspaper clippings (poem "A Man", wedding of M. M. King, Death of Alfred Love—Lizzie's sister, Annie Johnson Lockett daughter Mellie married to Franklin D. Love), portion of lace-paper fan and celluloid base.

SafeSite (off-site storage): Box P132p: 18” x 24” amateur watercolor painting given to Lizzie Johnson as a wedding gift N.D.
Presented to Lizzie Johnson and Hezekiah Williams on their wedding day; on bottom of painting "to Lizzie Johnson by O. J. Greer"; on reverse: biography of Lizzie Johnson Williams, Cattle Queen.


The following is a list of books which belonged to John E. Shelton. A handwritten note in the collection states that the books originally belonged to the Johnson Institute. In June 2004 these books were evaluated and either added to the library's collection or deaccessioned. Cataloged books have a gift plate noting that they were donated by John E. Shelton, and a note was added to the records that the books were originally part of the Johnson Family Collection.

1. First Eclectic Reader, William H. McGuffey, 1857.

2. Second Eclectic Reader, William H. McGuffey, 1865.

3. Independent Third Reader, J. Madison Watson, 1874.

4. School History of the U.S., Emma Willard, 1866.

5. The Life of Mrs. Mary Fletcher, Henry Moore, 1832. [Very poor condition, extreme foxing, and mold. Library has 3 copies—deaccessioned]

6. The American School-Master’s Assistant: Being a Compendious System of Vulgar and Decimal Arithmetic, by Jessie Guthrie, 1811.

7. The National Elementary Speller, J. Madison Watson, 1860.

8. Viri Illustres Urbis Rome, A Romulo ad Agustum, C. T. L’Homond, 1839.

9. The National Third Reader, (fly sheet torn out). [Very poor condition. Library owns copy—deaccessioned]

10. The Young Reader, John Pierpont, 1830.

11. Child’s Third Book, Oliver Angell, 1834.

12. A History of Texas, H.S. Thrall, c. 1876, 1985. [Library owns multiple copies/editions—deaccessioned]

13. The Life of George Washington, American Sunday-School Union, 1842.

14. The Elementary Spelling Book, Noah Webster, 1843
15. The New York Reader, No. 1, 1844.

16. The Third Class Reader, B. D. Emerson, 1843.

17. Musical Grammar, John Callcott, 2d Boston ed., 1830.

18. Geography for Beginners, Peter Parlay, 1847.

19. The Elementary Spelling Book.

20. English Grammar. [Missing title page and multiple other pages, boards off, pages torn, spine eaten—deaccessioned]

21. Geography on the Productive System, Roswell C. Smith, 1866.

22. Tennyson’s Poems, Tennyson, T. Y. Crowell, New York. [Missing title page, poor condition—deaccessioned].

23. The Ladies Pearl, magazine edited by John Shirley Ward, 1872-November, 1872-July, 1872-May, 1872-March.

24. Travels and Researches in South Africa, David Livingston, 1859.

25. Bessie’s Three Teachers, Sunday School Union.

26. Books for Children—Volume III, American Tract Society.

27. Poems, Felicia Hemans.

28. The Life of Melancthon, 1841.

29. Messiah’s Kingdom—A Poem, Agnes Bulmer, 1833.

30. Personal Recollections, Charlotte Elizabeth.

31. Poems, Lydia H. Sigourney, 1841.

32. Lives of Painters and Sculptors, Allan Cunningham, 1831.

33. The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia, by Dr. Johnson, 1842.

34. The Home Circle, (Magazine-Nashville), 1859.

35. Frontier Times, magazine, 1941. [Relevant article—left in collection]

36. Children’s Book, Unidentified (title page ripped out). [Poor condition—deaccessioned]

Restrictions to Access

No Restrictions



Processed by: Fordham, Andrew
Date Processed: 02/2004