TABLE OF CONTENTS
Whitis Family Papers
An Inventory of the Collection
Charles Wesley Whitis was born on January 8, 1828, in Tennessee. He moved to Lockhart, Texas in 1854 where he practiced law, taught school, and traded cotton. In 1857, he married Florence Rogan, the niece of his law partner. They had nine children together: Willie, Rufus, Mary, John, Florence, Ellen, Gertrude, Charles Wesley Jr., and Thomas.
After the Civil War, Whitis moved his family from Lockhart to Austin. He formed a partnership with James H. Raymond and they bought the private banking firm of Swenson Brothers. In 1870, Charles bought the property that Mirabeau B. Lamar received from the Republic of Texas in February 1846. He purchased the 68 acres of land from General William Selby Harney who had bought the land from Lamar in 1849 after the Mexican War. After Charles Wesley Whitis died in 1877, the City Council changed the names of two of the streets that ran through the land -- Berlin Street and Mathilde Street -- to Whitis Avenue. Florence Whitis died in 1905.
Around 1900, Mary (nicknamed "Mollie") and Gertrude Whitis established the Whitis Avenue School as a college preparatory school. At the end of the 1920-1921 school year, the school property was sold to the Masons who erected Scottish Rite Dormitory on the site. Gertrude Whitis continued to board women attending the University of Texas at a residence on 27th Street.
Mary "Mollie" Whitis married Arthur Llewellyn Eno, a professor, and they moved to Charlotte, Vermont. She died in 1931. Gertrude Whitis died in 1955. Griffith Rogan was the father to Francis Rogan Whitis and grandfather to Mary, Gertrude, and their siblings. He moved to Austin to live with the Whitis family in 1869, and died in 1880. The family’s relationship to Joseph J. Manor is unknown.
Barnes, Lorraine. “Whitis School Papers Given to Public Library.” The Austin Statesman, November 14, 1955.
“Member of Pioneer Whitis Family Dies.” The Austin American, June 26, 1955.
The Whitis Family Papers are organized into two series that document the Whitis family members and the Whitis Avenue School. The family members represented are Joseph J. Manor, Griffith Rogan, Charles Wesley Whitis, Rufus Whitis, and Thomas P. Whitis.
It is unclear the relationship of Joseph J. Manor to the Whitis family. There is a small amount of correspondence dated between 1845 and 1865. One letter is authorization by Anderson Harrell of the Travis County Court in 1845 for Manor to operate a dry goods store. There is also correspondence from C.C. Banks of Travis County concerning the town of Webberville where it appears the Manor family resided (possibly as farmers). Additionally, there is a letter addressed “Dear Cousin” sent from Rock Island Military Prison in Illinois. Of note is a contract from 1867 between Joseph J. Manor and Sam Henderson, a freedman, which allocates twenty acres of land and provisions to Henderson.
Griffith Rogan was the father of Florence Rogan Whitis, who was married to Charles Wesley Whitis. Rogan’s materials consist of five diaries dated from 1858-1880 where he recorded the daily weather and some family and local events. He moved to Austin in 1869 to live with the Whitis family, so the entries from that time on are of greatest interest. Along with the original volumes are transcripts of each of the diaries.
The materials of Charles Wesley Whitis and his immediate family include correspondence, deeds, and receipts dated between 1851 and 1905. Of note is a letter written by Florence Whitis to her son John in 1890. Gertrude Whitis collected news clippings, music programs, postcards, and souvenirs from 1886-1913 and 1938-1941. The music programs are for concerts by Robbins Music School at Millett's Opera House and date from 1886-1898. Rufus Whitis, another son of Charles W. and Florence, is represented in the collection through a scrapbook of receipts documenting his purchases from 1879 to 1880. Another son, Thomas P. Whitis, kept a photograph album from 1929 to 1930 with images of various locations in and around Austin, including Hamilton's Pool, Bull Creek, Pedernales River, Jacob's Well, Barton Creek, and their house at 408 West 33rd Street. Family photographs that are dated 1898 to 1948 contain candid portraits, local house pictures, nature views, and various travel pictures which include images of Littlefield Farms, San Antonio missions, and the Denton courthouse. There are six nitrate negatives that include images of New Sweden Church.
The Whitis Avenue School series primarily contains a run of annual catalogs for each school year from 1900 to 1920. The catalogs outline the instructors, location, courses, dormitories, expenses, and a register of students. Additionally, there are information circulars for 1902-1903 and 1903-1904 that outline much of the same material as the catalogs, though do not contain the register of students. There is also an undated English workbook that belonged to a Whitis School student John Donnan, Jr.
Open to all users
The Austin History Center (AHC) is the owner of the physical materials in the AHC collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the AHC before any publication use. The AHC does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.
In 1955, Mary Whitis Bell settled the estate of her aunt Gertrude Whitis and donated the family papers to the AHC.
Whitis Family Papers (AR.A.021). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/1955/074
Donation Date: 1955
Processing and finding aid by Kelly Hanus in 2018.