TABLE OF CONTENTS
Hamby, Harper and Pettway Families Papers
An Inventory of the Collection
The Hambys, Harpers and Pettways were upper middle class families, connected through the marriage of Lewis Meriwether Hamby and Virginia Harper Pettway, who established themselves in Austin in the mid 19th century. Many family members belonged to the United States Armed Forces and were involved with banking, insurance, oil, and real estate ventures. This collection documents several generations of the three families' personal, business, and military affairs. The following biographical sketches concern the collection's seven principal creators and compilers.
William Robert Hamby was born in Paris, Tennessee in 1845. After his father Robert J. Hamby's death in 1853, he moved with his mother, Louise V. Cooke Hamby, to Austin. In 1861, William enlisted as a private in Company B of the Fourth Texas Infantry, Hood's Texas Brigade. William was wounded at the Second Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) in 1862, and was discharged for disability a couple of months later. Following his discharge, Hamby briefly returned to Texas and joined the Kentucky Cavalry at the behest of General Adam R. Johnson. In 1866, William attended Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee, and dropped out after a year to work as a journalist. Soon after, Hamby entered Tennessee politics as a Democratic presidential elector and served as adjutant general in Governor James D. Porter's administration from 1875-1879. While residing in Tennessee, William married Mary Morris (1848-1875) in 1869, with whom he had at least four children: Robert Morris (1871-1949), Paul (1875-1893), Pauline and George. After Mary Morris Hamby’s death in 1875, William married Mary Frances Burns (1855-1900) in 1876. They had at least two children: Louise Vallier Hamby (1877-1953) and James Burns Hamby (1879-1930). William returned to Austin with his family in 1882 and worked as the managing editor and part owner of the Austin Daily Statesman. Hamby was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1888, where he served for one term. During that time, William served as chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs and advocated for veterans’ affairs, establishment of the Railroad Commission, public education improvements, and antitrust legislation. After Mary Frances's death in 1900, William remarried for a third time to Kate Bremond Eggleston, nicknamed “Aunt Kate," and they remained married until William's death in 1915. Following his term of service in the Texas House of Representatives, William served as the director of the Austin Board of Trade and the American National Bank. He also worked as a cashier, an executive position, at the American National Bank from 1890 to 1906. In 1906, William became president of Citizens Bank and Trust and remained so until his death in 1915 in Austin, Texas.
Robert Morris Hamby was born in 1871 in Henry County, Tennessee to William Robert and Mary Morris Hamby. He arrived in Austin, Texas as a child in 1884. Robert married Minnie Jane Meriwether (1877-1951) in Grapeland, Texas in 1895, and they had five children: William Robert (1896-1957), Lewis Meriwether (1903-2002), Carrie Mae (1905-1929), Frank McCall (1908-1985), and Catherine Jane (1914-1991). Robert worked for most of his life in the insurance and real estate sectors, and co-founded a real estate insurance and mortgage loans business called Millican and Hamby in 1902. He also invested in the oil industry, and had an oil lease in Pecos County, Texas. Robert and Minnie resided in several places in Austin, including 1405 Whitis Avenue and 4411 Red River Street. Robert died in 1949 in Austin, Texas.
Minnie Jane Meriwether Hamby was born in 1877 in the Houston, Texas area. Minnie had family throughout East Texas, including Grapeland, Houston and Huntsville, with whom she corresponded regularly. She maintained a property in Grapeland, Texas that she rented for guests; she also sold gumwood and cottonwood timber from it. Minnie was also involved in various local organizations, including the Austin Humane Society, Austin Woman's Club, and University Baptist Church. Minnie died in 1951 in Austin, Texas, after suffering multiple strokes over an eight year period.
William Robert Hamby, son of Robert and Minnie Jane Hamby, was born in 1896 in Austin, Texas. He entered Camp Funston near San Antonio, Texas (now Camp Stanley) as a trainee in 1917, and served in the United States Army for eight months in France during World War I. In 1919, he married his first wife Eleanor Burke Hamby (1898-1972). They divorced in Reno, Nevada in 1934 and William married his second wife, Lillian "Lil" Weinstock Hamby (1898-1972) that same year. Lillian had a daughter from a previous marriage, Katherine "K. T." Hamby Williams (1923-2016), who William helped raise. William continued his military career through World War II and part of the Korean War before retiring in 1953 as a Colonel. During his military career, William served as the Regiment Commander of the 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment and as a judge in the United States and Philippine War Crimes Trials. William died of a heart attack in Manila, Philippines in 1957.
Lewis Meriwether Hamby, son of Robert and Minnie Jane Hamby, was born in 1903 in Austin, Texas. In 1928, Lewis graduated from the University of Texas with a Bachelor of Science in Architecture, and afterwards worked for the architectural firm Giesecke and Harris in Austin, Texas. In 1931, he married Frances Kathleen Collins Hamby and together they had one child, Robert “Bob” Lewis Hamby (1934-1973). Lewis served as a United States Army reserve officer at Fort Riley, Kansas and was stationed in the Philippines during World War II. Afterwards, Lewis was stationed in Korea and Germany with the United States Army Corps of Engineers. He rose to the rank of Major before his retirement in 1958. After Kathleen’s death, Lewis married Virginia Harper Pettway (1904-1989) in 1976, and they resided together in Austin, Texas. After Virginia's death in 1989, Lewis married for a third time to Lucille McKinley Gray (1908-2003) in 1996. Lewis Meriwether Hamby died in 2002 in Austin, Texas.
Alice Hall Hamby was born in 1910 in Paris, Texas, and married Frank McCall Hamby (Robert Morris Hamby's son) in 1931. She worked as a typist and stenographer in the 1930s-1940s. In 1951, she and Frank moved to Okinawa, Japan, and Alice worked for the Department of Army Civilians as a clerk. She died in 1978 in Orlando, Florida.
Virginia Harper Pettway Hamby was born in Austin, Texas in 1904 to Dr. Henry Winston Harper, a dean of the University of Texas at Austin Graduate School, and Susan Randolph West Harper. Virginia graduated from Austin High School, and received several degrees from the University of Texas: a BA in English, BS in Home Economics, and an MA in Psychology. She was also a member of Chi Omega and Nu Epsilon Tau Tau. Following graduation, she worked as an instructor at Westmoreland College in San Antonio, Texas. Virginia married Richard Winston Pettway, publisher of the Daily Court Reporter, in 1930 in Austin, Texas. In her adulthood, Virginia was involved in many organizations, including the Austin Art Group, Austin Woman's Club, and the First United Methodist Church. Richard passed away in 1970, and in 1976, Virginia married Lewis Meriwether Hamby. She lived at Westminster Manor towards the end of her life, and died in 1989 in Austin, Texas.
The Hamby, Harper and Pettway Family Papers document several generations of the Hamby, Harper and Pettway families, with the bulk of materials created or accumulated by Robert Hamby and Minnie Jane Hamby. The collection consists largely of personal and business correspondence; administrative and legal records of the Hamby family members' banking, insurance, real estate, and oil industry investments; and photographs that show the families at home, traveling, or working.
The collection was previously processed and lacked original order, and is currently divided into ten series based on who created or compiled the materials. The first six series represent the collection's principal creators: William Robert Hamby (1890-1915), Robert Morris Hamby (1870-1949), Minnie Jane Hamby (1899-1950), William Robert Hamby (1904-1949), Lewis Meriwether Hamby (1919-1949), and Alice Hamby (1942-1947). The seventh series Assorted Hamby Family Records (1902-1952) includes correspondence, clippings, and ephemera related to the lives of additional Hamby family members. The eighth series Hamby Family Photographs (1870-1954) consists of over one thousand photographs of various Hamby family members. The ninth series Harper Pettway Family Materials (1888-1980) includes family papers and photographs compiled by Lewis Meriwether's second wife, Virginia Harper Pettway Hamby. The tenth series Artifacts and Bibles (1868-1882) comprises four Bibles, two of which contain genealogical information, and one silver spoon.
The William Robert Hamby series (1890-1914) largely consists of personal correspondence to his son, Robert. In one notable letter, an acquaintance tries persuading William to establish a Knights of Columbus Council in Austin in 1903. Another noteworthy letter is a 2018 purchase by the Austin History Center; in it, Hamby writes to Senator Robert E. Cofer about raising money to erect a monument to Hood's Brigade and asks to obtain an appropriation as a supplement. Other materials of interest in this series include an address by William before the Texas Bankers' Association in 1904, and a press release about William's resignation from the National Bank of Austin in 1905.
The Robert Morris Hamby series (1871-1949) is divided into three subseries: Correspondence (1890-1949), Finances (1870-1949), and Assorted Materials (1871-1949). The Correspondence subseries includes sent and received letters from 1890 to 1949. Roughly half of the received correspondence is from extended family, and the other half documents Robert's operations at Austin Fire Insurance Company, his stock investments, oil and gas leases, and real property ownership. Notable among Robert's personal correspondence are letters and telegraphs that detail James Burns Hamby's (Robert's half-brother) confinement in the Chicago State Hospital in the late 1920s for his mental and physical condition. Moreover, there are also several instances of received correspondence that outline Robert's genealogy. Sent correspondence highlights include Robert's detailed letters to his children and extended family, which comprise the richest biographical content in the collection for him and his immediate family. The Finances subseries consists of bills and receipts, records for various personal and issued insurance policies, and a 1927 Pecos County oil and gas mining lease. The bills and receipts show which Austin businesses Robert and his family relied upon most. Moreover, the Austin Fire Insurance and Milican and Hamby materials in this subseries provides rare insight into the practices of both businesses. The Assorted Materials subseries contains items such as Robert's will and his Slide Rule patent (1913). The assorted ephemera in this subseries includes business cards, Catholic Knights of America meeting notices, and a tribute to William Robert Hamby's editorship of the Austin Daily Statesman, penned by Robert in 1890.
The Minnie Jane Hamby series (1899-1950) is divided into two subseries: Correspondence (1904-1949) and Assorted Materials (1899-1950). The Correspondence subseries comprises mostly personal correspondence related to family matters; Minnie Jane writes about caring for her grandmother and her children. One folder concerns correspondence related to Minnie Jane's property and profits made from said property in Grapeland, Texas. The Assorted Materials subseries includes Minnie's will, various real estate and stock market records, and a Christmas mailing list that gives insight into the Hambys' social circles.
The William Robert Hamby (1904-1949) series primarily consists of correspondence and clippings regarding his military career and family life. His correspondence provides details of his experience stationed in Japan, and Baguio and Manila, Philippines. Of particular interest are his letters regarding Japan's surrender to the United States in 1945, the atomic bomb, the First Filipino Infantry, and life on a military base. This series also contains newspaper clippings about William's military career from 1944 to 1947, and a transcribed 18th century diary of Margaret Lynn Lewis (an ancestor of William) found in his home.
The Lewis Meriwether Hamby (1919-1949) series consists of correspondence, postcards, clippings, and ephemera from 1919 to 1949 related to his military career and travel in Japan and the Philippines. Lewis’s correspondence is primarily addressed to his mother, Minnie Jane, during his time at the Naval Training Base and Camp Bronson in Great Lakes, Illinois, and then while stationed in the Philippines after World War II. While in Illinois, Lewis's correspondence details his daily training schedule as well as discusses visits while on leave to Waukegan and seeing family members who live outside of Chicago. Of particular interest in the other are blank postcards from Japan that were collected during Lewis’s travels with his wife Kathleen, and the blueprints for updates to the U.S. High Commissioner’s Residence in Baguio, Philippines, dated November 12, 1945.
The Alice Hamby series (1942-1947) contains mostly correspondence addressed to her mother and father-in-law, Minnie Jane and Robert Hamby. Her correspondence with her family highlights her varied leisure activities including traveling, fishing and shopping. She often sent updates regarding her husband Frank McCall Hamby’s military career, life as a military spouse, and her friendship with her sister-in-law and fellow military spouse, Lillian Hamby. Some of Alice's travels to Germany are represented in the series "Hamby Family Photographs," and her letters from Germany in 1946-1947 lend insight into post-war life for Germans.
The Assorted Hamby Family Records (1902-1952) series consists mostly of correspondence—in addition to certificates, clippings and ephemera—from numerous Hamby family members. The series fills in gaps in correspondence from previous series, especially in the cases of James Burns, Lillian, and Kathleen's letters to Robert Morris and Minnie Jane Hamby. James's correspondence reflects his life and travels prior to his institutionalization and death in 1930. Kathleen Hamby's correspondence describes her family's time in post-war Korea and Japan in the mid-1940s, while K. T.’s correspondence with various family members describes her life in the Philippines in the mid-1940s. Noteworthy among the clippings and ephemera is a genealogy of the Morris family that traces the family back to 18th century Virginia.
The Hamby Family Photographs (1870-1954) series consists of hundreds black-and-white photographs of the Hamby family at home at 4411 Red River street, on vacation, and in various places where family members were stationed. Dozens of photographs depict Lewis and Kathleen Hamby's son Bob as a child at home in Austin, and attending Camp Hy Lake in Tennessee in the 1940s. Notably, many photos depict locations from various Hamby family members' years stationed and vacationing in East Asian countries and West Germany during the late 1940s-mid 1950s. Specific locations represented include Kamakura, Lake Ashi, and Okinawa, Japan; Daegu and Seoul, South Korea; and Heidelberg and Stuttgart, Germany. Many of the photos taken abroad show scenes from everyday life, especially of South Korea, and include street scenes, shops, and people carrying out tasks like car repairs and laundry. The photograph album, which contains photos circa 1910s, encompasses the bulk of the earliest Hamby family photographs.
The Harper and Pettway Family Materials (1888-1980) contain ephemera, correspondence, photographs, and military records that document the families and careers of Richard Pettway and Virginia Pettway Hamby. Photographs depict Virginia Pettway Hamby's father, Dr. Henry W. Harper, who was dean of the Graduate School at the University of Texas at Austin. Richard Pettway's military record is well-documented, and includes officer qualifications records, correspondence, training records, and discharge papers. Richard Pettway was particularly involved by the Austin community, and this series contains correspondence documenting the donations made to local organizations in his honor after his death in 1970. These organizations include The Settlement Club of Austin, Austin Area Garden Hospital, and St. David’s Community Hospital.
The Artifacts (1888-1980) series contains four Bibles and a silver spoon. Of the four bibles, two are family Bibles with births, marriages, and deaths inscribed inside. Minnie Jane Hamby's personal Bible includes a lot of marginalia and inscriptions on flyleaves that document her thoughts on Biblical passages and concepts.
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.
Virginia and Lewis Hamby intermittently donated materials from 1978-1988. Harper and Pettway family materials were assigned the accession number AR.1991.036 in 1991. That accession has been combined with the Hamby Family Papers under the accession number AR.N.008. A letter written by William Robert Hamby in 1909 was purchased from Buckingham Books in 2018.
Hamby, Harper and Pettway Families Papers (AR.N.008). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: 7689
Donation Date: 1978, 1979, 1988
Final processing and finding aid by Alyssa Wynans, Jennifer Perritt, and Ann Marie Blackmon in 2019. Finding aid updated by Jenna Cooper in 2020.