by Benna Vaughn, Manuscripts Archivist
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, The Texas Collection was the recipient of eight separate donations of materials from John N. Rowe, III. These donations collectively became the John N. Rowe III papers. Rowe, renown numismatist and collector from Dallas, began collecting bank notes as a small boy, and what began as a hobby became a life-long passion. This collection represents that passion and is steeped in Texas and Mexican history.
It isn’t every day that an archivist works with a collection that causes “oohhs” and “aahhs” with every turn of the page. The John N. Rowe, III papers are such a collection. It contains so much early Texas and Mexican history that it is hard not to stop and read every document. One of the most fascinating items in the papers is dated October 11, 1835, written to General Stephen F. Austin, and begins like this:
Bexar has fallen! Our brave citizen volunteers, with a persevering bravery and heroic valor, unparalleled in the annals of warfare, have triumphed over a force of twice their number and compelled the slaves of despotism to yield, vanquished by the ever resistless arms of freemen soldiers.
Now, if you are a Texan, that’ll wake you up in the morning! And just holding the letter, turned dark and torn in places, gives you goosebumps. It brings alive the feeling and zeal of the Texas Revolution.
The Bexar letter is not the only fascinating document in the Rowe papers. There are documents signed by Moses Austin, Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, David G. Burnet, Thomas Jefferson Rusk, and James Fannin, to name a few. The Fannin letter is written from Cuba in 1832 to his sister in Connecticut, and it talks about his memories of the death of their father at great length. Signed, “Your brother – J.W. Fannin,” he also mentions how warm it is in Cuba and how much fruit is available. Two more interesting documents in the Rowe papers are Muster Rolls from Company E, First Regiment Infantry, Army of the Texas Republic. These are in remarkably good condition and are consecutively dated from February-June 1840.
The Spanish documents in the Rowe papers are interesting as well. They generally span the 1800s with a few from 1758. One large portion of documents are to and from a Senor Conde de Perez Galvez, written in 1808. Another section of documents deals with Puerto Rico and are from the 1850s. Mexican states such as Veracruz, Santa Rosa, Monclova, Zacatecas, Coahuila, and Puebla are also represented in these papers and would be fascinating to a Latin American scholar.
The John N. Rowe, III papers capture snapshots of Texas and Mexico at a period of great growth and development. It will be of interest to anyone studying early Texas and the Southwest in general.